The Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
aka 'Common Kestrel'. A familiar sight with its pointed wings and long tail, hovering beside a roadside verge. Kestrels have been recently declining as a result of habitat degradation due to continuing intensive management of farmland. They have adapted to man-made environments and can survive right in the centre of cities.
The kestrel is fully protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which makes it an offence to kill, injure or take an adult kestrel, or to take, damage or destroy an active nest or its contents.
- What does it look like?
- Kestrels have a proportionately long tail, which distinguishes them from other falcons, but can sometimes be confused with a sparrowhawk. See the Kestrel Photo Gallery for some amazing photographs.
- Where does it live?
- Breeding: It is one of the commonest countryside birds of prey, found from coast to hilltop, nesting almost everywhere there is a suitable nest site with areas of open, rough ground to feed over. In towns and cities they will feed over parks and gardens. Kestrels nest either in holes or on ledges. These may be in natural places such as on cliffs or in trees where birds use either tree holes or the nests of other birds such as crows. They frequently also use man-made sites such as church spires and other tall buildings and even more unusual locations including pylons, cranes and even a window box!
- Wintering: Found in most habitats, although some upland birds move into lowland areas to avoid colder weather. Many kestrels from north-west Europe winter in the UK (while only very few British birds migrate to the continent for the winter).
- When / Where to see it:
- Kestrels are found in a wide variety of habitats all year round, from moor and heath, to farmland and urban areas. The only places they do not favour are dense forests, vast treeless wetlands and mountains. They are a familiar sight, hovering beside a motorway, or other main road. They can often be seen perched on a high tree branch, or on a telephone post or wire, on the look out for prey.
- What does it eat?
- Small mammals and birds. The kestrel is the only raptor in Britain to hunt by persistent hovering. The only other raptor that sometimes hovers is the buzzard.
- What does it sound like?
- A shrill 'kee-kee-kee'