About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Can I have a Kestrel House and a Birdfeeder?

I have several bird feeders and 3 bluebird houses in my yard (usually filled with barn swallows), which I really enjoy. I also have kestrels in my area and love watching them...would it be a crazy/stupid idea to also have a kestrel house? Would the kestrels feed on my finches and swallows???

The American Kestrel is the smallest falcon in North America. As a cavity nester they will use holes in trees, crevices in cliffs or buildings, or artificial nest boxes. The habitat for the kestrel and screech owl are similar and the nest boxes made for them are identical. Wild Birds Unlimited has the nest boxes available or you can build your own. Plans can be found on the Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC) Website.

The box should be 10 to 30 feet above ground in trees along the edge of a woodlot, on a lone tree in a field, on a barn, or mounted on a pole. Space the boxes one mile apart.

Kestrels hunt by perching, watching, and then flying down. Their habitats are open country, farmlands, and even urban environments.

Kestrels in Mid-Michigan usually go south for the winter. Females migrate before males and pick out the best wintering territories, but they both return to the same breeding territory in the spring. Males may perform a "dive display", in order to court a female and he may give her tasty morsels of food during courtship feeding. The photo shows the male kestrel presenting a grasshopper to his female.

The average kestrel is 9" nose to tail, has a 22" wingspan, and only weighs 4.1 oz. Their diet consists mainly of rodents, insects, and small reptiles. But, when one gets really hungry, or the opportunity presents they will occasionally eat a bird. They are not a serious threat to any of the larger bird species. But American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) is commonly known in as the "Sparrow Hawk" because it will hunt smaller birds like sparrows.

So the answer to "will the kestrels feed on my finches and swallows" is maybe, but they won’t decimate the bird populations in your area. There is a natural balance.


Dwayne said...

It would be Tree Swallows that would be nesting in Bluebird houses.

Wild Birds Unlimited Mid-Michigan said...

Yes, I didn't comment on that but it is much more likely that you have tree swallows in the bluebird boxes.

As their name implies, barn swallows usually nest in barns and other outbuildings, as well as under bridges and in culverts.

They generally make their own nests out of mud pellets, grasses, feathers or other soft materials. They are easily distinguished from other American swallows by it's deeply forked tail and rust colored underparts.

Thanks for pointing this out.