Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)


[order] FALCONIFORMES | [family] Falconidae | [latin] Falco tinnunculus | [authority] Linnaeus, 1758 | [UK] Kestrel | [FR] Faucon crecerelle | [DE] Turmfalke | [ES] Cernicalo Vulgar | [NL] 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

The Kestrel is a small, chestnut brown bird of prey that is frequently seen hovering over grassland. The hooked bill is a bluish colour with yellow cere. The legs are yellow. The male (or tercel) Kestrel has black-spotted chestnut brown upperparts, and a blue-grey head and tail. The tail has a single black bar at the tip. Underneath, the breast and belly are buff coloured with black spots. The female (or falcon) is darker than the male and the back, mantle and wings all have black barring. The tail has black barring along its length. The creamy underparts are more heavily streaked in black than the male. Occasionally, the head and tail may be tinged with grey. Juveniles are like females.

Listen to the sound of Kestrel


Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 68 cm wingspan max.: 78 cm
size min.: 31 cm size max.: 37 cm
incubation min.: 27 days incubation max.: 29 days
fledging min.: 27 days fledging max.: 29 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 7  


Eurasia, Africa, Asia : widespread.


European populations are among the most urbanized raptor species and occur in a wide variety of habitats, including parks, orchards, small woodlands, gorges, and ravines. In Morocco, it occurs at inland and coastal cliffs and in towns, open forests, eucalyptus plantations, palm groves, cultivated areas, and semi-arid desert steppes. The southern African race (rupicolus) inhabits a wide variety of habitats from arid to mesic, but shows a particular preference for mountainous and hilly areas. Often perches on high cliffs, telephone poles, electric lines, electricity pylons for hunting. Occurs singly or in pairs, and not particularly wary of man.


Generally a solitary nester, but loose colonies of 5-50 nesting pairs occur in Morocco and Tunisia in very favorable habitat.
Kestrels use old nests of other birds or nest in holes in trees, cliff ledges or even man-made structures, such as motorway bridges. 3-5 eggs are laid around late April to May, with about two days between each egg. Incubation, done only by the female, takes 26-30 days. Once hatched, the chicks grow at a very fast rate. Food is fetched by the male and brought directly to the nest; or left close by, the male then calls to the female to get her to collect the food. The young are fully fledged in 4-5 weeks after hatching, but stay with the parents to be fed for up to 4 more weeks, before they have all their hunting skills, including the ability to hover.

Feeding habits

Kestrels feed on small mammals, such as voles, shrews and mice, birds as large as Starlings, and invertebrates, such as beetles, grasshoppers and worms. In gardens, they will take meat scraps. In addition to having exceptionally good eyesight, Kestrels can also see ultra-violet light. This is useful in locating voles because they leave a trail of urine wherever they go and the urine glows in ultra-violet light.

Video Kestrel


copyright: Jesus Laborda


This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 10,000,000 km2. It has a large global population estimated to be 5,000,000 individuals (Ferguson-Lees et al. 2001). Global population trends have not been quantified, but populations appear to be stable (Ferguson-Lees et al. 2001) so the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Falco tinnunculus is a widespread breeder across most of Europe, which accounts for
less than a quarter of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is
large (>330,000 pairs), but underwent a moderate decline between 1970-1990.
Although trends were stable or increased in many countries during 1990-2000, key
populations in the United Kingdom, France and Russia declined, and the species
underwent a moderate decline (>10%) overall. Consequently, it is evaluated as
Kestrel status Least Concern


Mainly migratory in north and east; partially migratory or dispersive (especially juveniles) elsewhere in Europe. Endemic insular races alexandri and neglectus (Cape Verde Islands), and canariensis and dacotiae (Canary Islands) all believed sedentary. Migrants include major trans-Saharan element. Winter range extends from Britain and Ireland, southern Fenno-Scandia, Poland, Ukraine, and Caucasus, south to Gulf of Guinea, Angola, Zambia, Malawi, and less desiccated parts of Near East and Arabia.
On continent, autumn migration mainly south to south-west. Juveniles begin to wander from mid-July, but main movements begin August on northern edge of range, and continue through September and October in Europe. Noted crossing Straits of Gibraltar mid-August to early November, with peak passage there last week of September and well into October. Return movement, often in loose flocks associated with Lesser Kestrel, begins southern areas in February, and most have left tropics by late April. Exact timing of movements south of Sahara probably dependent on rains and their effect on insect food. Peak passage at Cap Bon (Tunisia) late March to late April. Northernmost breeding areas in Siberia reoccupied from end of April.

Distribution map

Kestrel distribution range map


Title Behaviour of female Eurasian Kestrels during laying: are there time constraints on incubation?
Author(s): Wiebe, K. L., Jnsson, K. I., Wiehn, J., Hakkarainen, H. & Korpimki, E. 2000
Abstract: To investigate time, energy, and temperature const..[more]..
Source: Ornis Fennica 77:1-9

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Title Sex and testosterone effects on growth, immunity and melanin coloration of nestling Eurasian kestrels
Abstract: Sex differences in testosterone levels and sex-bia..[more]..
Source: Journal of Animal Ecology 76 (1), 201-209

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Title Paternity assurance in two species of colonially breeding
falcon: the kestrel Falco tinnunculus and the red-footed
falcon Falco vespertinus
Author(s): Rottraut Ille et al.
Abstract: Mate-guarding and frequent within-pair copulations..[more]..
Source: Etologa, 10:11-15 (2002)

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Title Inter-sexual differences in the immune response of Eurasian kestrel nestlings under food shortage
Author(s): Juan A. Fargallo, Toni Laaksonen, Ville Poyri and Erkki Korpimaki
Abstract: When resources are limited, parents should decide ..[more]..
Source: Ecology Letters, (2002) 5: 95101

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Title Influence of hatching order on growth rate and resting metabolism of kestrel nestlings
Author(s): Sylvie Massemin, Erkki Korpimaki, Ville Poyri and Thierry Zorn
Abstract: Hatching asynchrony in altricial birds may result ..[more]..
Source: JOURNAL OF AVIAN BIOLOGY 33: 235-244, 2002

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Title Size-mediated dominance and begging behaviour in Eurasian kestrel broods
Author(s): Juan A. Fargallo, Toni Laaksonen, Erkki Korpimki, Ville Pyri, Simon C. Griffith and Jari Valkama
Abstract: Resource allocation from parents to their offsprin..[more]..
Source: Evolutionary Ecology Research, 2003, 5: 549-558

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Title Year- and sex-dependent effects of experimental brood sex ratio manipulation on fledging condition of Eurasian kestrels
Author(s): Laaksonen, T., Fargallo, J. A., Korpimki, E., Lyytinen, S., Valkama, J. & Pyri, V. 2004
Abstract: 1) Offspring sex ratio may be an unpredictable com..[more]..
Source: Journal of Animal Ecology 73: 342-352

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Title Intermittent Gliding in the Hunting Flight of the Kestrel, Falco Tinnunculus
Author(s): J. J. Videler, D. Weihs and S. Daan
Abstract: The hunting flight of the kestrel (Falco tinnuncul..[more]..
Source: J. exp. Biol. 102, 1-12, 1983

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Title First evidence of sex differences in the duration
of avian embryonic period: consequences for
sibling competition in sexually dimorphic birds
Author(s): Guillermo Blanco, Jesus Martnez-Padilla, Jose A. Davila, David Serrano and Javier Vinuela
Abstract: Parental favoritism in birds would be enhanced if ..[more]..
Source: Behavioral Ecology Vol. 14 No. 5: 702-706

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Title Between cohort variation in dispersal distance in the European Kestrel Falco tinnunculus as shown by ringing recoveries
Author(s): Adriaensen F., Verwimp N. & Dhondt A.A.
Abstract: Ringing recoveries of European Kestrels from north..[more]..
Source: ARDEA 86 (2): 147-152

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Title Breeding biology and nest characteristics of the Eurasian Kestrel in different environments on an Atlantic island
Author(s): J. Carillo & E. Gonzlez-Dvila
Abstract: We studied reproductive parameters, nest-site char..[more]..
Source: Ornis Fennica 82:55-62. 2005

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