KESTREL. Falco tinnunculus
‘The Knaves Falcon’
IDENTIFICATION. The plumage of male and female Kestrels differ from each other quite markedly. The males have slate grey heads and long slate grey tails. The upper wing and back are a black spotted rust colour.
Females are of similar size to the males, but with brown barred plumaged instead of the grey (See Kestrel Pics). The black moustache on the face is more apparent on the male.
Characteristic pointed wings distinguish it from the broader winged Sparrowhawk. The distinct hoovering flight sets it apart from other falcons.
IN FLIGHT. The Kestrel is perhaps best known for its roadside hover. As its eyes look down for prey, fast wing beats and subtle body and tail changes ensure that the head is held motionless. Stepped stoops draw the falcon closer to the prey before it dives onto its quarry. Direct flight is relatively slow and interspersed with sideways glides, soaring and dips.
DISTRIBUTION. Widespread being common in both town and country. Often seen hovering above motorways looking for prey.
WHEN SEEN. All year round.
FOOD. Mainly small mammals, earthworms and insects. Occasionally small birds. It is believed that Kestrels eyes pick up the phloresence in rodent urine to help track its prey (this may explain why Kestrels can be seen hoovering over an apparently empty motorway).
BREEDING. April - May. 3 to 5 eggs laid in rough nest on cliff, tall building or hole in tree. Abandoned crows nests may also be used. Young hatch after 4 weeks, flying 1 month later.
SIZE. 34cm (13in)
Famed by the film ‘Kes’, Kestrels are commonly thought to be good falconry birds for beginners. However this is untrue. The small size of a Kestrel makes them prone to going underweight when flown and therefore easily killed if not flown by an experienced falconer. The larger Lanner Falcon or Common Buzzard may be a better proposition for a novice falconer.
Best left to hover by the road side and harass mice.
NB. If you buy one of these raptors it should be fitted with a closed leg ring and have an Article 10 form with it (any queries check with DEFRA).