Rock Kestrel (Falco rupicolus)

Rock Kestrel

[order] FALCONIFORMES | [family] Falconidae | [latin] Falco rupicolus | [authority] Daudin, 1800 | [UK] Rock Kestrel | [FR] Cacatoes corella | [DE] Turmfalke | [ES] Cernicalo Vulgar | [NL] Zuid-Afrikaanse Torenvalk


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Falco rupicolus AF s Africa


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

It differs markedly from the other subspecies of the F. tinnunculus complex. In particular, the females have what in other subspecies are typically male characteristics such as a grey head and tail, and spotted rather than barred upperparts. The Rock Kestrel has less heavily marked, brighter chestnut upperparts and its underparts are also a bright chestnut that contrasts with the nearly unmarked white underwings. Females tend to have more black bands in the central tail feathers than males. The open mountain habitat also differs from that its relatives.

wingspan min.: 65 cm wingspan max.: 82 cm
size min.: 32 cm size max.: 39 cm
incubation min.: 27 days incubation max.: 31 days
fledging min.: 27 days fledging max.: 35 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 5  


Africa : South Africa. NW Angola and S Zaire to S Tanzania, and south to South Africa.


The Rock kestrel, the most common of the small falcons in southern Africa, is found throughout the region, although it is more common in the dry west and in the south. It seems able to adapt to a wide variety of vegetation types and habitats, but is most often seen in rocky areas. It is a conspicuous bird as it often perches on electricity poles along the roadside.


Rock kestrels are monogamous, building a nest by creating a simple scrape on a cliff ledge. They also sometimes use the nests of crows and may nest on the ledge of a building. The female lays a clutch of one to six reddish-cream eggs that hatch after an incubation period of approximately 30 days.

Feeding habits

They hunt mainly in open areas from elevated perches such as telephone poles, or may hover while in flight to inspect the ground below. Prey is caught on the ground and they feed mainly on small mammals, birds, insects and reptiles.


Not yet recognized or under investigation by birdlife.


Probably sedentary

Distribution map

Rock Kestrel distribution range map

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