Grey Kestrel (Falco ardosiaceus)

Grey Kestrel

[order] FALCONIFORMES | [family] Falconidae | [latin] Falco ardosiaceus | [authority] Vieillot, 1823 | [UK] Grey Kestrel | [FR] Faucon ardoise | [DE] Graufalke | [ES] Cernicalo Pizarroso | [NL] Grijze Torenvalk


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Falco ardosiaceus AF c, w, sw


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

The grey kestrel is a fairly small and stocky bird of prey with, as its common name suggests, entirely slate grey plumage, which contrasts strongly with its bright yellow eye ring, cere, legs and feet. The head is large, with a heavy black beak and brown eyes, the wings are fairly short and pointed, and the ends of the primary flight feathers are blackish. Potentially confused with the sooty falcon, Falco concolor, the grey kestrel is more heavily built, with shorter wings, which do not reach the end of the tail when the bird is perched. Male and female grey kestrels are similar in appearance, but males are slightly smaller than the females, while juveniles can be distinguished by the brown wash to the plumage, the paler abdomen, and pale green facial skin.

Listen to the sound of Grey Kestrel

[audio: Kestrel.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

recorded by Bram Piot

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 30 cm size max.: 33 cm
incubation min.: 28 days incubation max.: 32 days
fledging min.: 28 days fledging max.: 32 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 3  
      eggs max.: 5  


Africa : Central, West, Southwest. Most of sub-Saharan Africa, from Senegal east to Ethiopia and Eritrea, and as far south as Namibia, Zambia and Malawi


Common in moist palm savanna and woodland and also found in openings in secondary and primary forest. Forages over cultivated areas and open and burned grasslands. Spends most of its time perched on telephone and electricity lines or on a snag in the top of a tall tree, scanning the ground for prey. Usually occurs singly, or in pairs, although foraging flocks may occasionally form in the vicinity of swarming termites.


Nests mostly in old Hammerkop nests, or in holes in trees. It has been suggested that the distribution of the former nests is a limiting factor for the Gray Kestrel, but the single breeding record from Namibia was a nest in a tree cavity; the eggs were laid in mid-September. Clutch size is 2-4, incubated for about a month; young fledge afer a month.

Feeding habits

Preys mainly on rodents, small birds, small reptiles, insects, and other invertebrate prey, which it takes from the ground after a dive from an exposed perch, or less ofter after an aerial pursuit. Unlike other kestrels, except for Dickinson’s Kestrel, it does not hover

Video Grey Kestrel


copyright: Josep del Hoyo


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.
Grey Kestrel status Least Concern


The grey kestrel is mostly sedentary, but may make some seasonal movements in parts of West Africa

Distribution map

Grey Kestrel distribution range map

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