The Common Kestrel

The Common Kestrel

The Common Kestrel Male

Appearance and Behaviour

Length: 32-35 cm (13-14 inches); male wing: 246 mm /10 inches (232-258 mm / 9-10 inches), female wing: 256 mm / 10 inches(228-272 mm / 9-10 inches); wingspan: 71-81 cm (28-32 inches); male tail: 163 mm / 7 inches (151-175 / 6-7 inches), female tail: 171 mm / 7 inches(154-184 / 6-7 inches); beak: 14 mm (0.55 inches). Weight: 156 g male (117-204), 193 g female (136-255).

Male: bluish grey head nape and tail; mixture of both whitish and blackish on the throat; yellow talons and orbital circle; ginger–feathery-coat spotted with black; black flight-feathers; tails barred in black and ends with a slight white border; abdominal part of the body turns to creamy colour, speckled vertically with brownish; yellow paws.

Common kestrel (Eurasian kestrel) – Female

Female: the head, the neck and the tail are ginger; bluish-grey beak; brown eyes.

Inhabiting semi-wooded and open areas, but not hesitating to settle in towns as well, the Common Kestrel (Eurasian Kestrel) is the most widespread of the raptors in the western palearctic region although, too often persecuted or poisoned, it is still absent from large areas. Well known for his “holy spirit” flight, he is indeed the only master of the art of aerial straddle.

Hunting on the lookout, it comes to fix in the air between 10 and 40 meters high above the meadow, brings the body and tail to the vertical, or almost, lowers its head, and, eyes riveted on the ground, beats wings to maintain its position. On the other hand, the common kestrel is forced into the effort to adjust its wings when the wind changes direction constantly, and maintain the fixed point, well maneuvered with a minimum of effort and therefore expenditure of energy, waiting from that position the little movement of any prey, and the bird drops sideways into the grass to catch it.

The Common Kestrel's sound sample

Silent for much of the year, the Common Kestrel (Eurasian Kestrel) does not really regain its voice until the time of mating, when it then asserts itself as one of the most talkative birds. The usual call, which the bird probably owes its name to, is metallic and high-pitched. Used in the event of an alert, in particular it speeds up when an intruder arrives or when a predator approaches the nest.

Food

It is the small rodents which, with 64 to 95% of the prey brought to the nest, constitute the bulk of the kestrel diet, the location and especially the season can greatly modify these proportions, then comes the insects, the share of which varies from 16 to 25%, but which in some cases represents 76% of the prey identified in the vomited-balls. These quick statistics show the positive effectiveness of the Common Kestrel (Eurasian Kestrel) towards agriculture and farmers. Shrews, small birds, earthworms, lizards and a few frogs complete the menu, the average daily ration having been evaluated at 2 or 3 prays per adult. The digestion of the prey results in the rejection of small gray balls (length: 20-36 mm, diameter: 10-15 mm) (length: 0.80-1.46 inches, diameter: 0.40-060 inches) these balls are very similar to those of the little owl.

Common kestrel‘s eggs

Undemanding as to the choice of site, in case these birds are not persecuted, and in case where they not build nests, the Common Kestrel (Eurasian Kestrel) can therefore adapt to the most diverse situations. Sometimes using tree cavities, sometimes rocks or cliffs, this raptor also frequently establishes itself in ancient crow nests. All human constructions, recent or even old, also retain many nesters. This is how the Common Kestrel (Eurasian Kestrel)commonly inhabits ruins, bell towers, abandoned barns and castles where several couples sometimes occupy the same wall. In town and in the suburbs, the towers give the bird the height of the perfect view these birds need.

It is therefore in a corner, well sheltered and secret or, on the contrary, open but allowing easy surveillance, that the female in the second half of April deposits her 4 to 6 eggs laid on the same nest. Rather rounded, their colour varies from pale ochre to creamy white, more or less spotted with reddish brown and reddish brown. Medium size of the egg: 31 x 39 mm (1.22 x 1.53 inches), weight: 21 g. started before the end of the laying, incubation varies from 27 to 31 days and is ensured by the female alone, the male taking care of the supply of his companion. The female distributes the prey to the chicks, piece by piece. At 20 days old, the young birds are able to shred the food brought by the parents themselves. They fly by reaching the age of 27 or 32 days but they are not independent until a month later, that is to say in July August.

Migration

Shortly after, the young disperse and, soon followed by the adults, all migrate south and southwest. This is particularly the case for birds of northeastern Europe, which snow and cold force harshly to abandon their territory. During the trip, they come to grow where the nesters are sedentary. Many birds reach North Africa (Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco) via Gibraltar (Morocco), before embarking on the crossing of the Sahara. On the way back, like so many other migratory raptors coming up to Europe to nest, many birds use Cap Bon (Tunisia) rather than Gibraltar (Morocco).

Distribution

The Common Kestrel (Eurasian Kestrel)is widespread throughout the western palearctic region, with its range extending as far as Manchuria and southern China, excluding the Himalayas. Absent from India and Burma as a breeder, it appears there to spend winter. It also breeds in northern Africa.

Represented by other subspecies, the Common Kestrel (Eurasian Kestrel is known in Madeira, the Canary Islands, the Cape Verde Islands and throughout Africa except for the Sahara and tropical forests.

A final word

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