One of the smallest Falcons, the Kestrel is a familiar sight hanging in the air over motorway verges and in open spaces in both town and country. It only needs the slightest headwind to hover effortlessly while it waits patiently for a hapless vole or mouse although urban Kestrels have developed a taste for sparrows. Excellent eyesight – which can also track the ultra-violet urine tracks of its rodent prey – make it a formidable hunter.
Both male and female have rich chestnut mottled plumage but the male has a grey head and tail with black tip while the female’s tail and wings are brown and black barred.
The Kestrel breeds at one year of age if it can find a mate and raises a brood of four to six eggs between March and July. Nests are built on very high ledges often on cliffs or the edges of buildings and are used year after year. Sometimes it will use disused nests in trees, left behind by other birds. They are short-lived birds and a high proportion do not reach maturity.
Widespread across the world the Kestrel was until recently our commonest bird of prey but its place has been usurped in recent years by Buzzards and Sparrowhawks.
Average lifespan: 4 years
Classified in the UK as Amber under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015).