Common Kestrel

Breeding Season

| key features

• One of the most abundant and adaptable falcons

• A superb flier that can swoop, soar, dash and glide with equal and effortless grace

• Hovers in the air while scanning the ground for prey, then drops like a stone for the kill i • Takes advantage of human alterations made to its habitat

[ where in the world?

A huge range includes i most of Europe and Asia (apart from the far north and east), parts of the . Middle East and

Southeast Asia, and ! much of Africa

An adaptable bird of prey, the kestrel has bounced back from a population crash in the 1960s to become a common sight in both natural and man-made environments.

A bird of open country, the A Fringe benefits kestrel hovers over meadows, The kestrel stays near fields, coastal heaths and other woodland edges, grassy areas. Highways and airports, with their wide grass verges, make ideal hunting grounds. The kestrel avoids forests, wetlands and mountains, but sometimes occurs at up to 15,000' in the mountain ranges of central Asia. In sub-Saharan Africa, it also lives in savannah.

The kestrel usually nests in a large hole on a cliff or inside a tree trunk But it readily nests and roosts in quarries and on electricity pylons, radio masts and buildings, including barns, churches and power stations.

conservation

Today, the common kestrel is the most abundant bird of prey in Europe and across much of the rest of its range. Its total numbers have recovered to 1-2 million pairs since the 1950s and 1960s, when pesticides led to a population crash.

food & hunting

Adapting its plan of attack to suit every occasion, the kestrel preys mainly on voles, shrews and field mice. It usually hunts over areas of long grass, stopping every now and then to hover about 30' above the ground until it spots a prey animal.With perfect timing, the kestrel dives and seizes the mammal in its talons. At other times, it ambushes prey from a suitable perch, such as a dead tree or fence post.

The kestrel hunts at dawn and dusk or even on moonlit nights. Certain prey such as moths, slugs 4 and earthworms, are easier to find at dusk In urban areas, small birds such as sparrows top the kestrel's A menu.

Common Kestrel Male Nest

view to a kill

Q Ground surveillance.

A kestrel hovers over a grassy roadside, wings wide open and tail fanned for control.

Q Ground surveillance.

A kestrel hovers over a grassy roadside, wings wide open and tail fanned for control.

Q Target located.

Spotting a vole, the kestrel loses a little height, hovers once more, then drops again.

Q Target located.

Spotting a vole, the kestrel loses a little height, hovers once more, then drops again.

Q Clean sweep.

When the vole is just a few yards below, the kestrel drops silently and grasps its victim.

Q Clean sweep.

When the vole is just a few yards below, the kestrel drops silently and grasps its victim.

Q Gripping stuff

Moments later, the bird takes off with the vole in its bill, and flies to a perch to feed.

Q Gripping stuff

Moments later, the bird takes off with the vole in its bill, and flies to a perch to feed.

Common Kestrel Nest Images

A. Changing room Kestrel chicks turn from white to gray. They depend on their parents for 2-4 weeks after fledging.

breeding

The common kestrel is one of the first birds of prey to begin breeding each spring. This ensures that chicks hatch before the grass has grown too long and small mammals become difficult to find.

Some pairs stay together all year-round, while others meet again in late winter They engage in mock chases and aerobatics.The male also offers his mate gifts of food to cement their relationship.

The pair may line its nest hole with twigs and straw, but does not spend long on construction. The female incubates her 3-6 eggs for a month or so, then guards the chicks, while the male brings food. At first, he passes food to the female to tear up and give to the young, but later he simply deposits it, and the young feed themselves. Being larger enables the female to defend her nest, and to fend off young males in search of a mate.

behavior

Although it is far from social, the kestrel lives in dense concentrations. It does not defend a large territory and, when food is plentiful, pairs may nest near one another. Occasionally two kestrels join forces at dusk to hunt bats that are leaving daytime roosts. By working together, the birds can cut off the bats' escape.

Many kestrels do not travel far; although large numbers migrate from Central Europe across Africa, as far south as Angola and Zimbabwe. Even in areas where the bird is sedentary (does not migrate annually), young kestrels disperse in late summer to find home ranges of their own.

A. Suspender The kestrel has superb control when hovering, searching for prey below.

A. Changing room Kestrel chicks turn from white to gray. They depend on their parents for 2-4 weeks after fledging.

# The kestrel is an extremely rare visitor to Alaska and the east coast of North America. Most are young, inexperienced birds that are blown across vast stretches of ocean by severe storms.

# It is possible to find out what a kestrel has eaten by examining the pellets that it coughs up. The pellets contain things that the bird can't digest, such as bones, fur, feathers and insect wings.

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