Greater Kestrel (Falco rupicoloides)

Greater Kestrel

[order] FALCONIFORMES | [family] Falconidae | [latin] Falco rupicoloides | [authority] Smith, 1829 | [UK] Greater Kestrel | [FR] Crecerelle aux yeux blancs | [DE] Steppenfalke | [ES] Cernicalo Ojiblanco | [NL] Grote Torenvalk


Monotypic species


Members of the genus falco are mostly medium-sized falcons, but vary from the large peregrine falcon to the small American kestrel. The wings are long and pointed and used almost continuously during flight. The bill is short, powerful, and with a distinct ‘tooth’ on each side. Most falcons of this group have a black teardrop-shaped ‘mustache’ mark on each side of the head. Falcons are fastflying birds of open country and are famous for attaining high speeds as they dive from high altitudes to knock birds out of the air.

Physical charateristics

This species shows three distinct races. 1) Falco rupicoloides rupicoloides of South Transvaal, north to Tanzania and Angola. The head and neck are pale rufous, with broken black stripes running back from the cere. The back, shoulders and scapulars are rufous, strongly barred with black. The rump, upper-tail coverts, and tail are pale slaty grey. The tail has up to six black bars and a whitish tip. The wing quills are a dusky colour, the inner webs being banded with pale rufous. The underside is mostly pale fawn, with brown stripes on the breast and belly. The eyes are white, the bill blue-grey with a yellowish base, and the cere and feet yellow.
Immatures are like the adult, but their flight feathers are tipped with buff. The nestling is a pale pinkish buff, with a dark brown eye. 2) Falco rupicoloides arthuri of Northern Tanzania and Kenya as far north as Lake Rudolf is similar, but smaller. 3) Falco rupicoloides fieldi of Somalia and Kenya north of Lake Rudolf is significantly paler, almost straw-colour, and smaller. It occurs only in desert country and on the southern edge of its range co-exists with Falco rupicoloides arthuri

wingspan min.: 80 cm wingspan max.: 89 cm
size min.: 33 cm size max.: 36 cm
incubation min.: 32 days incubation max.: 33 days
fledging min.: 30 days fledging max.: 34 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 5  


Africa : East, South. The range of the Greater Kestrel is Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and Somalia


It is found in open plains and semi-desert Acacia bush, at altitudes up to 7,000 feet. A bird of open Acacia plains and river valleys, it is usually alone or in pairs. It appears rather sluggish in its habits, spending a lot of its time perched in trees, bushes, or on telegraph posts, although it also soars and hovers over open country like other kestrels, sometimes flying swiftly when hunting or when disturbed. It is uncommon in East Africa, but more numerous in South Africa and Somalia.


It nests in trees, usually using the nest of another bird (often that of the Cape Rook), but sometimes making its own. It also uses nests placed high in Acacia trees – small structures of sticks hidden in thorny branches. These are about a foot across, lined with fibres, grass, and oddments, sometimes heavily overgrown with cobwebs. It has been known to use old nests of the Secretary Bird. Between three and five are laid, although there is much loss to ravens. Laying time varies through the range. The eggs are incubated for about a month and the young fledge after yet another month. The female supoorts the young on more moth post-fledging.

Feeding habits

The Greater Kestrel survives on a diet of insects, small mammals, and reptiles including small snakes, caught on the ground.

Video Greater Kestrel


copyright: Brooke Clibbon


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Greater Kestrel status Least Concern


It is sedentary throughout its range, although it may be subject to some local movements.

Distribution map

Greater Kestrel distribution range map

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *