Kestrel

Scientific name: Falco tinnunculus

Did you know: The Kestrel, a familiar sight hovering beside road verges, can spot small prey from a distance thanks to its keen eyesight, which is sensitive to near-ultraviolet light.

What Do Kestrels Look Like? (how to identify them)

The Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), a bird of prey from the falcon family, exhibits a striking appearance. 

Measuring 32-39 cm in length with a wingspan of 65-82 cm, they are smaller than many raptors but larger than most songbirds. Males and females differ slightly in size and plumage; females tend to be larger and have a brown head and barred brown tail, while males have a grey head and tail.

Differences Between Male And Female Kestrels

Male Kestrels display a blue-grey cap and tail, with fewer black spots and streaks compared to females, whose tail is brown with black bars. Both genders have a black malar stripe, a feature common among their close relatives.

What Do Kestrels Eat?

Kestrels primarily feed on small mammals, birds, worms, and insects. They are known for their unique hunting technique of hovering at heights of 10-20 metres before making a steep dive toward their prey. Their diet varies seasonally and includes a significant amount of voles and mice.

Where Do Kestrels Live? (inc. migration info)

Kestrels thrive in a variety of open habitats like fields, heaths, shrubland, and marshland. They are adaptable and can be found in urban and suburban areas as long as there is sufficient vegetation. Kestrels are sedentary in most of their range but may migrate south in cooler temperate regions.

Bird Calls & Songs (the unique voices of Kestrels)

Kestrels are not particularly vocal but are known for their shrill, piercing calls. Their calls are often heard during hunting and serve as a means of communication between individuals, especially during the breeding season.

Fun Kestrel Facts (kid friendly)

  • Kestrels can see ultraviolet light, which helps them track down hidden prey.
  • They hover in mid-air when hunting, a skill known as “windhovering.”
  • Kestrels are the most common bird of prey in Europe.
  • Unlike many raptors, Kestrels are often seen in urban areas.
  • They can live up to 16 years in the wild.
  • Kestrels do not build their own nests but use those built by other birds.
  • They are known for their pointed wings and long tail during flight.
  • Kestrels are sometimes used in falconry.
  • Their scientific name is Falco tinnunculus.
  • They can catch several voles in succession and store them for later consumption.

Kestrel Images

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Male
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Female
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Hatchling
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Nestling
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Chick
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Fledgling
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Juvenile

Facts About The Kestrel

Diet: Small mammals and birds, worms and insects.
Bird Family: Falcons
Length: 32-35cm
Wingspan: 71-80cm
Weight: 156-252g
Scientific Name: Falco tinnunculus

The Kestrel Can Be Seen In The UK During The Following Months

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December