50 Common Kestrel Facts (with Photos, ID & Information)

The Common Kestrel is a small bird of prey that belongs to the Falconidae family. They are found in Europe and Asia, but are mainly found on the European continent. This article will explore 50 Common Kestrel facts you didn’t know, such as: its physical features, diet, predators, population size & threats to survival. We hope you enjoy!​​​​​​​

Overview of the Common Kestrel

  • Identification: The Common Kestrel is a medium-sized falcon found throughout Northern and Western Eurasia. Males: The adult male Kestrel has blue-gray feathers on its head and tail, with a chestnut brown plumage with black spots on the back. Its throat, breast and belly are buff colored with thin black streaks. They have a black downward hooked beak with a yellow cere, and yellow legs with black talons.
  • Females: The adult female Kestrel has brown feathers on its head and tail, with a chestnut brown plumage with black spots on the back. Its throat, breast and belly are buff colored with thin black streaks. They have a black downward hooked beak with a yellow cere, and yellow legs with black talons.
  • Length: 13-15″ in (32-39 cm).
  • Weight: Male: 135-253 g (4.8-8.9 oz)  Female: 153-315 g (5.4-11.1 oz.).
  • Wingspan: 25-35 in (63.5-88.9 cm).
  • Order: Falconiformes
  • Family: Falconidae
  • Genus: Falco
  • Species: F. tinnunculus
  • Binomial Name: Falco tinnunculus (Carl Linnaeus 1758).
  • Scientific Name: Falco tinnunculus
  • Range: They are mostly found in North America and Europe. The range for this bird stretches from Western Europe to Central Asia, and Africa.
  • Migration:  Most Kestrels are permanent residents except for the birds living in Northern latitudes. The ones living in the North will migrate south during the winter to warmer climates where there is more food available for them to eat.
  • Habitat: Common kestrels are usually found near open grasslands, farmlands, wetlands, marshes, tundra, taiga,  shrubland, fields,and forested areas.
  • Diet: Insects such as cicadas, grasshoppers, beetles, fish, lizards, frogs, snakes, rabbits, squirrels, mice, voles, and small birds.
  • Global Population: est. 4000000-6500000 individuals.
  • Extent of occurrence: 116,000,000 km2   (44787850.4 square miles).
  • Conservation Status: Listed Least Concern (Population decreasing).
  • Breeding Period: – In Eurasia: Late April or early May.  In the Tropics & South Africa: August to December.
  • Incubation Length: 26-32 days.
  • Nestling Period: 28-31 days.
  • Clutch Size: 3-7 eggs.
  • Number of Broods: 1 Broods.
  • Nesting Spots: The Common Kestrel is a cavity nester, preferring holes in trees, or cliffs. In urban environments, common kestrels will often nest take up residence in man-made structures such as buildings or bridges if given the opportunity. They have also been known to reuse old woodpecker holes or abandoned crow nests. 
  • Nesting Habits: When they find a nesting cavity, the female bird will scrape up a small depression in the ground of the nest and lay their eggs here. The female kestrel normally lays a clutch of 3-6 speckled brown eggs in late April or May. After the female has laid a few eggs, she will begin incubation, which takes 27-29 days. During this period the male will go hunting and provide food for the female and chicks.​​​​​​​ 
  • Newborns: Newborn chicks have white downy feathers when they hatch. They begin to fledge little by little around four weeks of age and slowly hop from branch to branch, and make first flights, slowly increasing distances from the nest, and exploring their surroundings, but return to their nest for another couple of weeks. Adults continue feeding the chicks for a month after they fledge, throughout this time they will master catching their own food.​​​​​​​
common Kestrel on twigs
Photo by Sheikh Nafis from Pexels

Common Kestrel Facts

  • Common Kestrels are small falcons that are commonly found across North America.
  • The Common Kestrel was first described by Carl Linnaeus in 1758.
  • Kestrel chicks reach their full adult body size in about 20 days of age. ​​​​​​​
  • Both male and female kestrels will grow to their adult plumage at one year of age.
  • The oldest kestrel on record was almost 24 years old.
  • Female kestrels are able to produce one clutch of 3-7 eggs per year, but it may take them 11 days to lay them all.
  • The lifespan of a kestrel is reduced by 50% for every 100 m closer it lives to the nearest road.
  • There are many predators of both adult and young kestrels, including coyotes, red-tailed hawks, golden eagles, large owls and raccoons.
  • Kestrels are commonly used by beginners to falconry.
  • Kestrels are controlled by the Migratory Birds Treaty Act, which prevents them from being harmed or hunted.
  • Kestrels are very territorial; they will attack other kestrels of the same gender that come too close to their nesting area.
  • Male kestrels must display their dominance over females in order to attract one for mating; females select males based on their behavior and quality of territory. 
  • Both male and female kestrels will actively attack intruders with a high-pitched screech intended to scare off predators.
  • When hunting, the Common Kestrel will soar approximately 12–25 m (39–82 ft) above the ground, and catching small prey by quickly swooping down from above with a technique called a “stoop”.
  • The Common Kestrel is also known as the Eurasian Kestrel, European Kestrel, or Old World Kestrel.​​​​​​​
  • Common Kestrels are sexually dimorphic with females being substantially larger than males. Females average about 25% bigger in body mass and more than 50% heavier.
  • The Common Kestrel’s wingspan can range from 25 to 35 inches (63-89 cm), and it weighs between 5 and 11 ounces (142-311 g).
  • Kestrels are a type of bird that typically mate for life. They have a monogamous mating system, which means they only take one partner during their lifetime. These monogamous pairs also make nests together, incubate eggs together, and feed the young chicks from both parents. Kestrels’ ability to form lifelong partnerships with another kestrel provides them with increased chances of reproductive success.
  • Females will lay an average of 3 eggs per year, which incubate for about 28 days.
  • The Common Kestrel’s wings are stiffened by tiny feathered “quills” that are attached to the third finger of each wing.
  • Common Kestrels typically eat 4-8 voles per day, depending on the season and their energy requirements.
  • This bird has two forms of camouflage: visual and auditory. The coloration of their feathers allows them to blend into their surroundings for protection from predators. Additionally, they can emit an distinctive “kii-kii-kii” sound that deters predators who may be a threat.
  • Common kestrels are diurnal hunters. They feed on insects, small mammals, and birds in the air. Their diet consists of about 70% rodents, 20% birds, and 10% other animals. Kestrels do not have a preference for particular species when it comes to prey items; they will eat whatever is most abundant or easiest to catch at the time. 
  • Common kestrels typically hunt from high perches during the day with their eyesight that is 4x as strong as a human’s.
  • Kestrels can live to be 16 years old in the wild, but the average age is only 3 to 4 years old. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Do kestrels eat blackbirds?

Yes, they do. They are an opportunistic predator, and will eat any prey that is available. Their diet consists of small mammals such as rodents, rabbits, and hares; insects like grasshoppers and beetles; birds such as pigeons and songbirds; reptiles including lizards and snakes; amphibians such as frogs; invertebrates like snails or earthworms.

How fast can a kestrel dive?

Kestrels are very skilled at catching prey on the ground. This skill is most likely due to their long, sharp talons and amazing agility. They can dive at speeds of up to 60 mph (96 km/h) and snatch up an unsuspecting bird or mouse! 

How fast can a Common Kestrel fly?

They can fly at horizontal speeds up to 40 mph (64.4 km/h) in short bursts, but this is not sustainable for any length of time. Their typical flight pattern is to glide with the wind, alternating from side-to-side as they catch updrafts or thermals. They can also hover or soar to conserve energy while waiting for prey to come by. 

How far can a kestrel see its prey?

Kestrels vision is 4 times better than a human. They can spot their prey from 50 meters away. Kestrels also use this skill to find food while flying over grasslands, mountains, or forests where there is no prey visible on the ground. The kestrel’s keen eyesight is so strong that they can even see small movements made by an animal below them.

What are kestrels predators?

A kestrel has many predators such as peregrine falcons, northern goshawks, eagle owls, sparrowhawks, are just some of the most dangerous to kestrels. Some animals such as raccoons, weasels, badgers or foxes may not have the same ability to fly, but they can still catch a Kestrel if they are in the right position.