British Wildlife Centre Species Collection 

 Kestrel - Falco tinnunculus

The kestrel is one of Britain's most common birds of prey, easily identified hovering low over the ground searching for prey. It hovers by flying into a light headwind, making continuous adjustments of its wings and tail while it hangs on an rising draught of air. This allows it to keep its head perfectly still and spot the slightest movement on the ground below. When prey is in sight, it drops vertically to the ground, grabs it in its talons and killing it with a swift bite. Prey is mostly small mammals such as voles, but kestrels are adaptable and will switch to beetles, earthworms or even snails. They frequently use pylons or telegraph poles as vantage points to spot prey, saving themselves the effort of hovering.

In more northerly and westerly areas they often migrate south at the end of the breeding season, but return the following spring to form their territories. In winter many more kestrels visit from the Netherlands and Scandinavia.



Origin: Native.

Size: Height 33 - 39 cm. Weight 120 - 300g
Description: Light brown upper parts, paler under parts. Long pointed wings and long tail. Adult males over 2 years old have grey head. Frequently seen hovering.

Habitat: Open country.

Young: 3 - 6 eggs laid at two day intervals, incubated by the female and hatched after 27 - 30 days. Young fledge at about 27 - 34 days old.

Nest: In a tree hollow, cliff ledge or hole in a wall or building.

Diet: Voles and mice, large insects, earthworms and small birds (particularly house sparrows).

Population: Pre-breeding season estimated 100,000

British distribution


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