Variation of brood sex ratio was studied in a Finnish population of Eurasian Kestrels Falco tinnunculus breeding in an unpredictably variable environment. From those young that survived until 2–4 weeks of age, blood was collected and their sex determined from polymorphic DNA profiles produced by hybridisation with a human minisatellite probe. The sex ratio was male‐biased during a year of food (vole) scarcity. Furthermore, in broods without mortality, contrasting seasonal trends in sex ratios emerged. In this subsample, the proportion of males increased with later laying date during years of low and moderate food supply, whereas the opposite was true in a year of relatively high food supply. These trends may indicate circumstances that favour the raising of different sex. The proportion of males in the brood was negatively correlated with body condition of both male and female parents, also reflecting an adaptive condition‐dependent sex‐ratio adjustment, or alternatively the inability of the parents to meet the requirements of the more energetically expensive female offspring. We discuss the limitations that unpredictable conditions during brood raising can impose on adaptive sex‐ratio manipulation, particularly in species with sexual size dimorphism and consequent differences in the cost of raising the two sexes.

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