32 - 39cm
65 - 82cm
136 - 314g
5 - 15 yrs
The common kestrel is a member of the falcon family belonging to the kestrel group. It is sometimes known as the European or Eurasian kestrel, although in Britain (where it is the only kestrel species found) it is often simply called “the kestrel”. It is often depicted in culture as a symbol of power or majesty, and famously featured in the novel “A Kestrel for a Knave” (a.k.a “Kes”).
They are largely a uniform chestnut-brown in colour with blackish flecks on both the upper and undersides, although there is some variation in the sexes. In males, the black streaks are far prominent and they possess a greyish “cap” on their head. The female’s tail is barred, but both sexes have a white band and black tip.
What Does it Look Like?
What Does it Sound Like?
Its vocalisations appear to be combinations of the same basic “kik” or “kiik” sounds that vary in pitch, length and frequency depending on the situation and intended meaning. It is particularly vocal during the breeding season, where the male can be heard repeating the sound in a higher pitch. The contact call is “ki-yiyi” and the alarm call is shrill “kii-kii-kiikii”.
It hovers characteristically against the wind whilst it searches for prey using its keen eyesight, before diving steeply to catch its target. Primarily, these are small rodents such as voles, shrews and mice which together make up to 75% of the prey consumed. Other catches may include small fledgling birds, bats, frogs and insects.
What Does it Eat?
Where Does it Nest?
They are cavity nesters and will seek out holes in cliffs, trees or buildings. Anywhere between 3 to 7 eggs are laid and incubated by the female whilst the male provides food, however both parents share brooding duties once the eggs hatch. Mortality is high, with many chicks dying before their second birthday. Pairs may only raise 2 or 3 chicks successfully.
Despite often being called the European kestrel, it has an incredibly large range that extends beyond Europe into parts of Asia, Africa and a few oceanic islands. It prefers lowland, open habitats such as fields, heaths and shrubland. It has adapted well to urban settings and can often be seen hunting by roadsides and nesting in buildings.
Where Does it Live?
What is its Status?
It is considered of least concern by the IUCN, which estimates the mature population as 1- 2 million individuals. However, this population is trending downwards, primarily as a result of intensive farming practices which affect the open habitats used by kestrels. Farmers are encouraged to reduce pesticide usage and maintain natural features, such as roosting sites.
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