Leaving out kestrel boxes over winter

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johnsonej's picture
Leaving out kestrel boxes over winter


I have a small group of 5 kestrel boxes I set up throughout open space in Lake County, Illinois (northern edge of state) this past February. I am looking for the latest advice on whether to leave the boxes out as winter roosts or bring them in for the winter. Regardless, I plan to clean them out and make any needed repairs but am interested in folks' latest thinking on the topic.


Rich Carpenter
Rich Carpenter's picture

I can't claim this as latest thinking. ; )  I have a lot of wood duck boxes, and several are in constant use by kestrels season to season.  Nests are left out year around. In winter screech owls like to use them for roosts, but  move out by time kestrels or wood ducks have returned in spring.  Once in a while one of the little owls will nest in a box, but don't use same one year after year like kestrels. If squirrels a problem and don't want to clean all that out in spring before they nest, taping (or tacking) thin aluminum flashing over the entry hole keeps them out.

AKP-Matthew's picture

We usually recommend that folks leave their boxes out if possible, especially in areas where kestrels can be found year-round. We published a study in 2017 that found that during the non-breeding season kestrels compete with each other and with other species for access to nest boxes, infrequently roost together in boxes, and often use nest boxes for roosting individually on cold winter nights. The paper can be read here if you're interested. There's not necessarily any harm in taking boxes down if you're concerned about damage from harsh winter weather, vandalism, or other factors, but given that leaving the boxes up both saves you time and effort and helps the birds out, leaving them would be the ideal solution for all involved if possible.

AKP Staff