Nest Box questions

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SpringHill
SpringHill's picture
Nest Box questions

Hello:

Im currently building my first kestrel nest box and have a couple of questions.

I am building the "Art Gingert plan", with a slightly wider roof for shade/weather. Im planning to mount it on a cedar pole ~15' high, in an open area. There are lots of fallow fields, hay fields, pasture, in the area and I have seen Kestrels around so I think that the habitat is good.

Im thinking of putting it on the edge of a  paddock, (with horses in it) a couple of hundred feet from the house/people (I like this location as I could see it from my back porch) or, if that is a bad idea, I could put it farther away from the busy area.

When looking at the pictures on this site I see a lot of the boxes have perchs on/near the box, should I attach a perch, or leave a branch on the pole for a perch?

I am considering attaching cloroplast or sheet aluminum to the roof to increase the longevity. Is this a bad idea?

For bedding, should i use wood chips or wood shavings?

Thanks in advance for considering these questions, and feel free to critique/suggest anything that I have proposed. 

I'm looking forward to this project.

matthewdanihel
matthewdanihel's picture

Hello, and thanks for reaching out! We'll be happy to help.

Your location plan sounds fine to us - several hundred feet from the home should be plenty far enough to avoid any undue disturbance unless there is regular activity considerably closer than this. Be advised that American Kestrels prefer nest boxes with the opening facing southeast, so hopefully that works with your current mounting plan. You might also consider placing a predator guard to prevent predators such as snakes or raccoons from scaling the pole.

Whether or not you have perches near the box is up to you. Perches near the box can make things a little easier for the parents as they switch places at the box during incubation or feeding duties, and some folks opt to include perches so they can get more natural-looking photos of the birds, but they are certainly not necessary. Just make sure the opening to the nest box isn't obstructed, as this can be a safety hazard.

As long as the extra material on the roof is securely attached and there aren't any fasteners sticking into the nest cavity or onto the roof that could cause injury, go for it!

We recommend placing a 1-3 inch layer of non-toxic wood shavings or bark into nest boxes as bedding. Avoid pine shavings, as these can exude toxic oils.

Be advised that many new kestrel boxes aren't occupied until two or three years after they are installed, so please don't get discouraged if you don't have any tenants this season. (It's also on the later side - we recommend new boxes be installed by the end of January, as nest selection and courtship is getting underway by this point in much of North America.) Regardless of whether you have a kestrel family, another species, or no activity whatsoever this year, we hope you'll consider reporting the activity on your new box. Even when no kestrels are present, this data gives us value insight into local pouplation trends, site selection habits, and more.

Welcome to the American Kestrel Partnership! We're glad to have you with us. If you'd like more information, this guide has more in-depth information about the monitoring process and about how to make your box as kestrel-friendly as possible. If you have any other questions, please don't hesitate to ask!

Matthew
AKP Staff

lballenjr
lballenjr's picture

A follow-up on your comment above to avoid pine shavings: Are toxic oils a natural occurence in all pine shavings? The package I bought only mentions "natural, virgin wood fibers". Should I remove the pine shavings I put in the nesting box? Would cedar shavings be all right? 

Thanks for any help you can give me.

matthewdanihel
matthewdanihel's picture

Pine shavings (and shavings from other softwood trees) naturally contain aromatic hydrocarbons, phenols, and other compounds that make them smell great, but are known to cause respiratory problems and liver issues in mammals and birds under repeated exposure. Cedar is the most problematic of the bunch and should be avoided. The effects of pine are more under debate, with some sources claiming that kiln-dried pine is safe, but we recommend steering clear of any softwood shavings (cedar, pine, spruce, fir, etc.) to be on the safe side. Aspen shavings are a more expensive, but readily available and much safer alternative.

Matthew
AKP Staff

SpringHill
SpringHill's picture

Thanks for the info Matthew.

I have decided to add an additional piece of plywood over the roof as a second roof that can be replaced if/when it rots. Yes I am planning on facing the house SE and wrapping the pole with a couple of feet of aluminum sheeting to stop predators from climbing. Still wondering if horses around the nest box location would be a problem?

Interesting about the pine shavings. Has there been any research on Black Walnut? I know that it can cause Laminitis in horses if used in bedding so probably should be avoided. I have access to lots of old dead elm so I think that I will break up the loose bark and use that as bedding. 

Thanks again

matthewdanihel
matthewdanihel's picture

We wouldn't expect the horses to cause any issues. They shouldn't mess with the birds or the box, and the birds shouldn't care about the horses. Other partners have nests in similar locations, and we've never heard of any resulting problems. If you're worried about a fledgling getting trampled, that's an unlikely scenario. Unlike songbirds, which are still pretty immobile when they leave the nest and can hop around in the open for the first 2-3 days after fledging, young kestrels can usually fly well enough to get out of harm's way from the moment they leave the box.

We haven't been able to locate any research either way on the effects of black walnut shavings on birds, and the anecdotal evidence we've found from seems to be a mix of folks saying "don't use it, better safe than sorry" and "we used it and nothing bad happened," neither of which are compelling arguments. Elm bark will work great as bedding, so we'd say to go with that plan if you haven't done so already.

Good luck with the upcoming season! If you have any other questions as the season unfolds, please don't hesitate to reach out here or by contacting us directly at kestrelpartnership@peregrinefund.org.

Matthew
AKP Staff

Nu-Sun Cinema
Nu-Sun Cinema's picture

Hi Springhill,

We have been building Kestrel nest boxes for many years. We also do a HD 2 camera live stream.

Here is a link to our kestrel Korner lots of information there.

http://www.nu-sun.com/html/kestrel_korner.html

And a link to our nest box build, near the end you will see the one of the best nesting materials.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvvJb00XI-I

Thank you,

Nu-Sun Cinema www.nu-sun.com

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

SpringHill
SpringHill's picture

Hi Nu-Sun

Thanks for the info, i will look for the aspen shavings next time I am at the pet store.

mellis18
mellis18's picture

Does anyone know how to keep starlings from taking over their kestrel box??? We had a pair of kestrels two years ago but last year starlings tookover. I want to evict them!!!

Rich Carpenter
Rich Carpenter's picture

See my reply in the Starling Takeover thread, for one approach.

Rich