Bird Nest Box Program

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While driving the county’s hard surface roads you may occasionally notice a wooden nest box attached to a utility pole. Depending on its size, it could be for an American kestrel, Eastern bluebird or wood duck.

The IRVM program maintains 4 wood duck, 30 kestrel and 22 bluebird nest boxes throughout Dallas County. The boxes are made from either cypress or cedar woods which are highly resistant to rot and insect damage. They are numbered on tin flashing that is wrapped around the poles below the boxes. This also protects the nests by not allowing rodents and predators, such as weasels, to climb up the poles and invade the nests. IRVM personnel take care of the wood duck and kestrel boxes while the bluebird boxes are looked after each year by a volunteer. If interested in becoming a bluebird trail monitor, please click here.

Eastern Bluebird
Eastern Bluebird
(Roger A. Hill)
Eastern Bluebird
Eastern Bluebird
(IA DNR Wildlife Diversity)
Eastern Bluebird eggs in a bird box
Eastern Bluebird Eggs
(IA DNR Wildlife Diversity)

Every year in early March, wood duck and kestrel boxes have to be prepared for the nesting birds. The previous year’s residue and any starling nests are discarded. Then, about 3 inches of fresh wood shavings are placed in them.

American Kestrel with band
American Kestrel w/ band (Dallas Co. IRVM)
Wood Duck
Wood Duck (Minnesota DNR)
Kestrels begin establishing their territories in mid-March and lay their eggs from mid to late April. Throughout the spring, on days that are not conducive for spraying weeds, nest boxes are monitored.  Around May 10th, monitoring involves banding any adult kestrels found, or recording any band numbers found on birds that may have already been banded in previous years. The number of eggs in each box is also recorded. Again, any starling nests that are found are discarded and replaced with fresh wood shavings. Boxes are monitored again around June 7th.  At this time, the number of hatchlings in each box is recorded and any hatchlings that are mature enough to handle are banded.

kestrel eggs kestrel incubating eggs kestrel incubating young
Kestrel eggs             Adult incubating eggs

Adult with newly hatched young

Data from the nest boxes including the number of boxes occupied, eggs present, nesting success along with all band numbers found and placed on the birds are reported to the Iowa DNR Wildlife Diversity Program to assist with population and other biological studies of the kestrel.

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