Does anyone have any experience with banding their kestrel chicks?

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krchap's picture
Does anyone have any experience with banding their kestrel chicks?


I live in suburban Denver, CO and have 5 kestrel chicks that are 3,4 and 5 days old respectively. There is a nearby raptor research and rehabilitation group that has offered to come band the chicks when they are two weeks old. I'm intrigued about doing this, but am also worried about stressing out the chicks and the parents and want to weigh the pros and cons. Do any of you have experience with banding your chicks and do you have any advice? I only want to do it if there is a clear scientific benefit for doing it--don't want to do it just for the "gee whiz" factor.  Thoughts?

Kirstin Chapman 

Arvada, CO

Nu-Sun Cinema
Nu-Sun Cinema's picture

2 weeks is much to young. Banding should be done approximatly at 20 days old.

Reason why ! At about 20 days old the nestlings will be full grown in size ( just need more feather development)

and this will ensure proper band fitting.

The nestlings should not be disturbed in any way after 23 days old. If disturbed it may cause premature fledge.

Hope we helped and have a nice day,

Nu-Sun Cinema, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.



AKP-Matthew's picture

Hi Kirstin -

We appreciate your concerns regarding banding, and your desire to only do so if there is clear scientific merit. Rest assured that there is! Rather than remain with the scientist(s) doing the banding, all North American bird banding data goes into a central database. This means that if the birds that were banded in your box are seen again anywhere else—whether that's along their migration, on their wintering grounds, or in a box down the street next year—scientists can use this information to gain insight into kestrel movements, year-to-year survival, and much more. They can also see if these have changed in recent years in response to climate change or other factors.

But does banding cause undue stress for the nestlings and adults? Well, banding day probably isn't the kestrels' favorite, but studies have shown that responsble banding (i.e., banding that minimizes handling time and occurs at the right time of year and stage of the breeding cycle) doesn't seem to have any long-term effects on the birds or the ultimate success rate of the nest. Bottom line—there's a lot to gain from responsible banding, and little to lose! While of course the decision is ultimately yours, we'd encourage you to have the nestlings in your box banded to further your box's contribution to science.

We're assuming based on your location that the organization in question is the Colorado Avian Research and Rehabilitation Institute (CARRI). AKP partner Kestrel Friendly is a pair of community scientists that also live in your general area, and they worked with CARRI last year to have the nestlings in their box banded. If you wanted, you could try messaging them and I'm sure they'd be happy to give you more information about their experience.

One last note: while Nu-Sun is correct that the nestlings don't reach full body size until they are about 20 days of age, they can be banded as soon as the legs reach full size, which occurs sooner. The AKP recommends that nestlings be banded at between 15 and 23 days of age. Earlier than that, the bands can slip down and inadvertently cause injury. Older than 23 days and the nestlings may prematurely leave the nest due to the disturbance.

AKP Staff