Nest box on side of barn?

9 posts / 0 new
Last post
dwschmidt
dwschmidt's picture
Nest box on side of barn?

Hi,

Total newbie here. Info on NestWatch indicates the side of a structure is a suitable location for a nest box. Have had kestrel in the area, but not as frequently in recent years. I'm in a rural area of central Maryland. We have an ESE facing side of an old barn that has open fields around it. I am wanting to install a nest box there. First, is that reasonable? Second, I think recommended height above ground is 10-30 ft. If I put the nest box on the outside, I can get it up at least 15 ft with a ladder. My new thought is to make an entrance hole in the barn siding and then actually mount the nest box on the inside side of the barn side, lining up the entrance hole of the nest box with the entrance hole through the siding. That would make the wood thickness at the entrance hole about 2 inches, hope that is not an issue. If I do it this way, I can monitor very easily because I can go up into the hay loft and the nest box would be at approximately chest or head level so easy to reach without needing a ladder. I have a method that I think will work to line up the entrance holes.

thoughts?

thanks much,

Duane.

matthewdanihel
matthewdanihel's picture

Hi Duane -

Yes, the location you've described sounds perfectly suitable for a kestrel box. As for your plan on the specific mounting method, that sounds reasonable as well. While kestrels would steer clear if you had a full-on tunnel leading into your box, a thickness of 2" is perfectly fine and actually adds a bit of protection from any aerial predators that might try to reach in and snag a nestling. We recommend a slightly different height range than Nestwatch—8'-20' high with 10' being the ideal height—but whatever works for your intended setup sounds like it will be well within acceptable range for kestrels.

Be aware that it's getting on the later side to be installing a box, as males have already claimed territories and identified their potential nest sites in most of North America. There's still a chance you'll get kestrels this year, of course, but don't be too surprised if it takes 2-3 years before you get your first kestrel tenants, especially with you being located in the mid-Atlantic region where the population has experienced the highest declines.

Welcome to the wonderful world of American Kestrel monitoring! If you have any other questions, please don't hesitate to reach out here or by emailing us at kestrelpartnership@peregrinefund.org. Thank you for your efforts, and we look forward to partnering in kestrel conservation.

Matthew
AKP Staff

dwschmidt
dwschmidt's picture

Matthew,

Thanks for the reply. I will adjust my planned height to try to get closer to 10ft above ground, likely will be something like 12-15, which sounds within range of desirable as you said. I had read other threads and do understand that most likely it is too late to get any nesting this season. I will go ahead and install it and then not have to remember the right time of year later so will be easier for me.

Duane.

matthewdanihel
matthewdanihel's picture

Sounds like a plan to us! We'll keep our fingers crossed that a pair of kestrels makes liars out of us and shows up this season. Even if they don't, we'd welcome monitoring data from you this year if you were willing to provide it. Data on unused boxes, or boxes used by other species such as European Starlings, are just as valuable, if not more so, to our data analysis, as they allow us to examine factors such as nest selection criteria, local population trends, and interspecific competition.

Best of luck, and again, welcome to the American Kestrel Partnership!

Matthew
AKP Staff

Mijorero
Mijorero's picture

I also live in MD and just put up my first kestrel box on a fence post far from my barn because I must have at least 40 starlings living in my large bank barn and dairy barn. If you have starlings it will be a full time job scraping their nest out of your box. If you don't have starlings I'm jealous! Good luck!!!!

Susan T
Susan T's picture

I'm new to all of this. My preferred location (woods with some open areas) is not ideal. How much open area adjacent to woods is necessary?

Thanks!

Rich Carpenter
Rich Carpenter's picture

Susan,

Let me preface this with saying I don't know much about kestrels.  What little I do know is from watching them use my wood duck boxes.  I have those nest boxes located from open area, to treed, but not dense to pretty much closed canopy cottonwood riverbottom forest. I place wood duck nests with south or southeast facing entry hole, with a clear path thru trees to the entry where there are lots of trees around.  Over the 30 years I've been playing with wood duck boxes, I've had kestrels using boxes in all locations and at times leaving boxes in the open unused and selecting one that's almost in a "jungle" except for planed entry lane.  So perhaps the neat little birds will homestead your nest box even if not in as open an area as perhaps is ideal.  No doubt you'll get some better and more specific input from those with much better kestrel knowledge than I have from watching them share my wood duck boxes with the ducks, screech owls, house wrens and the occassional flicker. Starlings are invited out; all other species welcome to the boxes.  Good luck. Sure fun to spy one them. Seems like they are similar to wood ducks in that if the box has a top opening lid, they'll sit tight to quietly peek or take a picture, but zip out of the side opening boxes the instant the door is open.
Rich
 

Susan T
Susan T's picture

That's good news, Rich. I think I'll give it a go. Thanks.

matthewdanihel
matthewdanihel's picture

Hi Susan -

First and foremost, welcome to the American Kestrel Partnership!

American Kestrels prefer to be able to see their entire territory from any one perch, so typically they only nest in open areas that are the size of their breeding territory or larger. How big this territory is, however, depends on a number of factors: the quality of the habitat, the availability of prey, the size of the local kestrel population, etc. Research on territory sizes is surprisingly scant, with various published estimates ranging from a few hundred acres up to several square miles. It's also worth noting that a 2009 study demonstrated that kestrels prefer to nest in large areas of appropriate habitat that are at least several times larger than their breeding territories.

We certainly don't mean to be overly negative here, but we do want you to temper your expectations. If the open areas in your preferred location are on the small side, your prospective nest site will likely be less attractive than others in your general region, and American Kestrels don't usually nest in newly installed boxes for 2-3 years anyway. Additionally, it's worth noting that Rich lives in a state in the western US where kestrels are still relatively common, but if you're in an area where the species is more rare (for example, New England or the mid-Atlantic states), the remaining birds tend to be much pickier about where they nest.

All of that having been said—birds don't read field guides. As Rich's experience shows, there are exceptions to every rule, and there's always a chance you'll end up with a kestrel pair no matter where the box is. Wherever you end up placing your box, we hope you'll monitor it for potential tenants and report your observations to our database. Observations from community scientists such as yourself are an invaluable resource in our efforts to identify and reverse the causes of kestrel population decline on a continent-wide scale.

If you ever have any questions, please don't hestitate to ask, either here in the forum or by emailing us at kestrelpartnership@peregrinefund.org. We look forward to partnering with you in kestrel conservation.

Matthew
AKP Staff

accipiter