Common Kestrel

Common Kestrel

Details About The Common Kestrel

  • General Information

    An old-world bird, the Common Kestrel is present all throughout Europe and is occasionally found in Asia. The plumage is a light chesnut brown with black spots scattered throughout. This kestrel is one of the few raptors that displays sexual dimorphism, which is the expression of gender through coloring. Female kestrels have brown tails with black bars, while males have blue grey caps and tails. The cere feet and eye ring are a bright yellow. Smaller than most raptors, kestrels are only somewhat bigger than songbirds. Kestrels are extremely territorial and may be found chasing away larger birds.

    Latin Name: Falco tinnunculus
    Class: Aves
    Order: Falconiformes
    Family: Falconidae
    Length: 13-15 inches
    Weight: 4.8-11 ounces
    Wingspan: 26-32 inches
    Common Name: Eurasian Kestrel
    Etymology: falco (Latin)- refers to sickle-shaped talons or the shape of the wings in flight; tinnunculus (Latin) - to jingle, ring, or echo.

  • Flight, Voice & Habitat

    When hovering, the Common Kestrel has a distinctive silhouette with the wings tapering to a point. It often hovers when searching for prey, before swooping down on it in short rapid flight. It is a powerful flier, performing rapid and gliding flight over long distances.

    The Common Kestrel is vocal during the breeding season with series of kik-kik-kik-ki; the call is higher in male ksetrels. In flight, it gives some kik-kik. Alarm call is a high-pitched kii-kii-kiikii. The contact call between parents and young at nest is a repeated shrill ki-yiyi.

    The Common Kestrel frequents numerous kinds of open or slightly wooded areas with tall grass and low shrubs such as grasslands, steppes, cultivated fields, wetlands with some vegetation. This species is also present in villages, towns and big cities, nesting on monuments.

  • Nesting

    Breeding season varies according to the distribution. Pair-bonds are probably for life, although the  migratory birds often change mates, but some pairs also migrate together. The Common Kestrel usually nests in holes or ledges on  cliff or rock faces, buildings or carries. It may also use holes in trees, such as the abandoned nests of other birds, and mainly Corvids. It may sometimes nest in small colonies of up to some tens of pairs. 

  • Distribution

    Common Kestrels breed in Western Palaeoarctic, and in large parts of Asia and Africa.

  • Food

    The Common Kestrel is an efficient hunter feeding mainly on small mammals (voles, mice) which are about 90% of the diet. They are caught by hovering flight above the ground, waiting for the right moment before swooping down onto the prey. It also consumes some passerines, lizards and insects.

  • Current Resident Birds

    Derby, a male Common Kestrel, joined the team in 2014 from the Center for Birds of Prey in Charleston, SC. Common Kestrels have a large range including Europe, Asia, and Africa and specialize in hunting small mammals. Derby was named for a county in England, Derbyshire, that boasts extensive nature preserves.

  • Fun Facts & Other Interesting Information

    Common Kestrel, Falco tinnunculus. The name "kestrel" is derived from the French “crécerelle,” which refers to a bell. The Latin word "tinnunculus" is derived from "tinnire" which stands for jingle, ring or echo like a bell. You can ring MY bell, little kestrel!

    The kestrel is sometimes seen as a symbol of the power and vitality of nature. This World War I poem invokes the superhuman characteristics of the kestrel, when hoping for prowess in battle.

    "The kestrel hovering by day, And the little owl that call at night, Bid him be swift and keen as they, As keen of ear, as swift of sight."