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John Smallwood

Associate Professor, Biology

BA, Miami University
MS, Miami University
PhD, The Ohio State University
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BIOL 213, Introduction to Ecology
BIOL 430, Ornithology


BIOL 574, Behavioral Ecology
BIOL 575, Avian Biology
BIOL 595, Conservation Biology


I am fascinated by birds. They comprise a spectacularly diverse group of animals, from hummingbirds to ostriches, woodpeckers to ducks, and penguins to warblers. Fossil evidence demonstrates that birds are the living descendants of dinosaurs.

Birds are the most mobile creatures in the Animal Kingdom. The world speed record is held by the Peregrine Falcon, which can stoop at more than 200 mph. Arctic Terns breed within the Arctic Circle, but fly to the Antarctic for winter, a yearly round trip of over 24,000 miles. A Bar-tailed Godwit, a kind of shorebird, recently was tracked as it flew from Alaska to New Zealand, an 8-day, 7,270-mile nonstop journey over open water, and they can't swim! Even an unexceptional sparrow can fly continuously at about 30 mph for a couple of days, covering more than 1000 miles.

Birds see in color and they also have the most complex vocalizations; they use both these attributes in an extraordinary repertoire of individual and social behaviors. I am especially interested in the behavior of birds of prey. Unlike their vegetarian relatives, predatory birds make a living by capturing meals that do their very best to escape. Thus, raptors represent a highly specialized group of animals that are very good at what they do.

Most of my research has focused on the American Kestrel, the smallest and most widespread falcon in the Western Hemisphere. I am interested in all aspects of its behavior and ecology. They live in open habitats, such as meadows and pastures, and they nest in cavities excavated by other species. Since 1990 I have been studying populations of kestrels that breed in nest boxes I erected in New Jersey and Florida.


(*student advisees)

For full-text copies of many of the following papers, visit

BIRD, D. M., and J. A. SMALLWOOD. 2023. Evidence of continuing downward trends in American Kestrel populations and recommendations for research into causal factors. Journal of Raptor Research 57:131-145.

*SNYDER, E. R., and J. A. SMALLWOOD. 2023. Reproductive success increases with age in American Kestrels, especially in males. Journal of Raptor Research 57:193-200.

*DEL CORSO, M., and J. A. SMALLWOOD. 2023. The effect of local weather conditions on American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) reproduction. Journal of Raptor Research 57:201-209.

SMALLWOOD, J. A., T. E. ELY, and C. E. HALLETT. 2023. The use, and misuse, of the subterminal black tail band to age female American Kestrels. Journal of Raptor Research 57:320-324.

CALLERY, K. R., J. A. SMALLWOOD, A. R. HUNT, E. R. *SNYDER, and J. A. HEATH. 2022. Seasonal trends in apparent survival and reproductive trade-offs reveal potential constraints to earlier nesting in a migratory bird. Oecologia 199:91-102.

McCLURE, C. J. W., J. L. BROWN, S. E. SCHULWITZ, J. SMALLWOOD, K. E. *FARLEY, J.-F. THERREIN, K. E. MILLER, K. STEENHOF, and J. A. HEATH. 2021. Demography of a widespread raptor varies across disparate regions. Ibis 163:658-670.

SMALLWOOD, J. A., and D. M. BIRD 2020. American Kestrel (Falco sparverius), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (A. F. Poole, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY USA. bow.amekes.01.

SMALLWOOD, J. A. 2016. Effects of researcher-induced disturbance on American Kestrels breeding in nest boxes in northwestern New Jersey. Journal of Raptor Research 50:54-59.

BROWN, J. L., M. W. COLLOPY, and J. A. SMALLWOOD. 2014. Habitat fragmentation reduces occupancy of nest boxes by an open-country raptor. Bird Conservation International 24:364-378.

*LESKO, M. J. and J. A. SMALLWOOD. 2012. Ectoparasites of American Kestrels in north-central New Jersey and their relationship to nestling growth and survival. Journal of Raptor Research 46:304-313.

KORKY, J. K. and J. A. SMALLWOOD. 2011. Geographic variation in Northern Green Frog larvae, Lithobates clamitans melanotus, in northwestern New Jersey. Bulletin of the Maryland Herpetological Society 47:1-10.

SMALLWOOD, J. A, M. F. CAUSEY, D. H. MOSSOP, J. R. KLUCSARITS, B. ROBERTSON, S. ROBERTSON, J. MASON, M. J. MAURER, R. J. MELVIN, R. D. DAWSON, G. R. BORTOLOTTI, J. W. PARRISH, JR., T. F. BREEN, and K. BOYD. 2009. Why are American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) populations declining in North America? Evidence from nest box programs. Journal of Raptor Research 43:274-282.

SMALLWOOD, J. A. and M. W. COLLOPY. 2009. Southeastern American Kestrels respond to an increase in the availability of nest cavities in northcentral Florida. Journal of Raptor Research 43:291-300.

SMALLWOOD, J. A., P. WINKLER, G. I. FOWLES, and M. A. CRADDOCK. 2009. American Kestrel breeding habitat: the importance of patch size. Journal of Raptor Research 43:308-314.

MILLER, K. E. and J. A. SMALLWOOD. 2009. Breeding site fidelity of Southeastern American Kestrels (Falco sparverius paulus). Journal of Raptor Research 43:369-371.

VARLAND, D. E., J. A. SMALLWOOD, L. S. YOUNG, and M. N. KOCHERT. 2007. Marking techniques. Pp. 221-236 in Raptor research and management techniques (D. M. Bird and K. L. Bildstein, Eds.) Hancock House Publishers, Blaine, WA.

KORKY, J. K., and J. A. SMALLWOOD. 2006. Morphological variation near range ends of larvae of the Natterjack Toad Bufo calamita laurenti (Anura: Bufonidae) in the Republics of Ireland and Poland. Bulletin of the Irish Biogeographical Society 30:11-27.

SMALLWOOD, J. A., V. *DUDAJEK, S. *GILCHRIST, and M. A. SMALLWOOD. 2003. Vocal development in American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) nestlings. Journal of Raptor Research 37:37-43.

SMALLWOOD, J. A., and D. M. BIRD. 2002. American Kestrel. A chapter in The birds of North America (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, DC, and the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology.

SMALLWOOD, J. A., C. *NATALE, K. STEENHOF, M. MEETZ, C. D. MARTI, R. J. MELVIN, G. R. BORTOLOTTI, R. ROBERTSON, S. ROBERTSON, W. R. SHUFORD, S. A. LINDEMANN, and D B. TORNWALL. 1999. Clinical variation in the juvenal plumage of American Kestrels. Journal of Field Ornithology 70:425-435.

*NEUBIG, J. P., and J. A. SMALLWOOD. 1999. The "significant others" of American Kestrels: cohabitation with arthropods. The Wilson Bulletin 111:269-271.

SMALLWOOD, P. D., and J. A. SMALLWOOD. 1998. Seasonal shifts in the sex ratio of fledgling American Kestrels (Falco sparverius paulus): the Early Bird Hypothesis. Evolutionary Ecology 12:839-853.

SMALLWOOD, J. A., and C. *NATALE. 1998. The effect of patagial tags on breeding success in American Kestrels. North American Bird Bander 23:73-78.

*MILLER, K. E., and J. A. SMALLWOOD. 1997. Juvenal plumage characteristics of male Southeastern American Kestrels (Falco sparverius paulus). Journal of Raptor Research 31:273-274.

*MILLER, K. E., and J. A. SMALLWOOD. 1997. Natal dispersal and philopatry of Southeastern American Kestrels in Florida. The Wilson Bulletin 109:226-232.

SMALLWOOD, J. A., and P. J. *WARGO. 1997. Nest site habitat structure of American Kestrels in northwestern New Jersey. Bulletin of the New Jersey Academy of Sciences 42:7-10.

MEYER, K. D., and J. A. SMALLWOOD. 1996. Peregrine Falcon. Pp. 52-60 in Rare and endangered biota of Florida, vol. 5, birds (J. A. Rodgers, Jr., H. W. Kale, II, and H. T. Smith, eds.). University Presses of Florida, Gainesville.

SMALLWOOD, J. A., and K. D. MEYER. 1996. Merlin. Pp. 616-623 in Rare and endangered biota of Florida, vol. 5, birds (J. A. Rodgers, Jr., H. W. Kale, II, and H. T. Smith, eds.). University Presses of Florida, Gainesville.

SMALLWOOD, J. A. 1990. Kestrel and Merlin. Pp. 29-37 in Proceedings of the Southeast Raptor Management Symposium (B. A. Giron Pendelton, ed.). National Wildlife Federation, Washington, DC. 245 pp.

*MITHTHAPALA, S., J. SEIDENSTICKER, L. G. PHILLIPS, S. B. U. FERNANDO, and J. A. SMALLWOOD. 1989. Identification of individual leopards (Panthera pardus kotiya) using spot pattern variation. Journal of Zoology 218:527-536.

SMALLWOOD, J. A. 1989. Age determination of American Kestrels: a revised key. Journal of Field Ornithology 60:510-519.

SMALLWOOD, J. A. 1989. Prey preferences of free-ranging American Kestrels, Falco sparverius. Animal Behavior. 38:712-714.

SMALLWOOD, J. A. 1988. A mechanism of sexual segregation by habitat in American Kestrels (Falco sparverius) wintering in south central Florida. The Auk 105:36-46.

SMALLWOOD, J. A. 1988. The relationship of vegetative cover to daily rhythms of prey consumption by American Kestrels wintering in southcentral Florida. Journal of Raptor Research 22:77-80.

SMALLWOOD, J. A. 1987. Sexual segregation by habitat in American Kestrels (Falco sparverius) wintering in southcentral Florida: vegetative structure and responses to differential prey availability. Condor 89:842-849.

SMALLWOOD, J. A., M. WOODREY, N. J. SMALLWOOD, and M. A. KETTLER. 1982. Foraging by cattle egrets and American Kestrels at a fire's edge. Journal of Field. Ornithology 53:171-172.


Ornithology, ecology, animal behavior, conservation biology.

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3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
12:30 pm - 2:00 pm