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Common Kestrel
Falco tinnunculus

Status: Lower risk

Population Trend: Stable.

Other Names: Alexander's Kestrel (alexandri), Eurasian Kestrel (tinnunculus), European Kestrel (tinnunculus), Kestrel (tinnunculus), Neglected Kestrel (neglectus), Old World Kestrel (tinnunculus).

Falco tinnunculus
click to enlarge
Distribution: Afrotropical/Indomalayan/Palearctic. Breeds throughout Eurasia from Scandinavia and BRITISH ISLES east to the Sea of Okhotsk, SOUTH KOREA, and JAPAN south through the Mediterranean region and coastal northern Africa east through the Arabian Peninsula to PAKISTAN and southeastern CHINA (Hunnan, Yunnan), and, disjunctly, southwestern INDIA; most of sub-Saharan Africa, except for the the most arid regions, south to southern ANGOLA and TANZANIA; MADEIRA, CANARY ISLANDS, CAPE VERDE ISLANDS, SOCOTRA; northern populations winter to central Africa, the Indian subcontinent, and patchily in the Malaysian Peninsula, PHILIPPINES, northern SUMATRA, and northern BORNEO; vagrant in North America (ALASKA, CANADA, UNITED STATES), BERMUDA, West Indies (MARTINIQUE), and South America (FRENCH GUIANA). more....

Subspecies: 11 races. F. t. alexandri: Southeast CAPE VERDE ISLANDS; F. t. archeri: SOMALIA, coastal KENYA and SOCOTRA; F. t. canariensis: MADEIRA and western CANARY ISLANDS; F. t. dacotiae: Eastern CANARY ISLANDS; F. t. interstinctus: TIBET east through northern Indochina and southern and central CHINA to KOREA and JAPAN; winters south to INDIA, Malay Peninsula, and PHILIPPINES; F. t. neglectus: Northern CAPE VERDE ISLANDS; F. t. objurgatus: Southern INDIA and SRI LANKA; F. t. perpallidus: Northeastern SIBERIA to northeastern CHINA and KOREA; F. t. rufescens: West and central Africa east to ETHIOPIA and south to southern TANZANIA and northern ANGOLA; F. t. rupicolaeformis: Northeastern Africa and Arabia; F. t. tinnunculus: Europe, North Africa and Middle East east to northeastern SIBERIA, MONGOLIA, and SOVIET FAR EAST, and south to ISRAEL, northern IRAQ, and northern INDIA. more....

Taxonomy: The kestrel complex is placed in the subgenus Tinnunculus and molecular analyses confirm that it represents a separate clade from other falcons (Seibold et al. 1993). The Common Kestrel and the Australian and Moluccan Kestrels, F. moluccensis may represent clinal variation within the same species or a superspecies (Groombridge et al. op cit.), which is consistent with a presumed spread of kestrels from Europe to Asia to Australia. Based on a phenotypic analysis, Boyce and White (1987) hypothesized that ancestral kestrels expanded their range from Africa to Eurasia and diverged after the glacial period. Bildstein and Zalles (2005) suggested that the insular endemic races may have derived from "migration dosing," which occurs in areas of misdirected migration, stranding isolated individuals unable to return to their usual breeding grounds.more....

Movements: Partial migrant (Bildstein 2006), and there is also local post-breeding dispersal in respnnse to rainfall changes. Northern European and Russian populations migrate to southern Europe and Africa as far south as the Gulf of Guinea (Brown and Grice 2005). Upland birds in northern and western England tend to winter at lower elevations and more southern locations, mainly southeastern England (Brown and Grice op cit.), and some juveniles disperse to mainland Europe (Mead 1973). Birds breeding at higher elevations in Armenia descend in winter to semi-desert areas at 570 m above sea level (Adamian and Klem 1999). Within southern Africa, a northerly and easterly winter movement away from the breeding grounds is believed to take place (van Zyl et al. 1994). There is some trans-Saharan migration in northern Africa (Mayaud 1982, Dejonghe 1989). The four insular endemic subspecies are sedentary (Bildstein and Zalles 2005). more....

Habitat and Habits: European populations are among the most urbanized raptor species and occur in a wide variety of habitats, including parks, orchards, small woodlands, gorges, and ravines, but avoid dense forest. In eastern and northern Asia, it occurs in taiga and forest tundra to open plains, steppe, agricultural, and suburban areas (Brazil 2009). In Morocco, it is found at inland and coastal cliffs and in towns, open forests, eucalyptus plantations, palm groves, cultivated areas, and semi-arid desert steppes (Thévenot et al. 2003). Kestrels often perches on high cliffs, telephone poles, electric lines, electricity pylons for hunting. Occurs singly, or in pairs, and not particularly wary of man. more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: Feeds mainly on insects, but also takes a wide variety of small birds, rodents, and reptiles, including snakes. Hunts by hovering, or from a perch on a snag or telephone pole or wire, plunging or parachuting to the ground to capture prey on the ground. Herklots (1967) described how individual kestrels gathered at fires and searched for prey by hovering in hot air currents ahead of the line of flames. more....

Breeding: Generally a solitary nester, but loose colonies of 5-50 nesting pairs occur in Greece, Morocco, and Tunisia in very favorable habitat (Handrinos and Akriotis 1997, Thévenot et al. 2003), sometimes alongside Lesser Kestrels (Isenmann et al. 2005). Nests in natural tree cavities, crevices or holes in a cliff faces or in rock quarries, holes in buildings, nest boxes, windowsills and flower pots on window sills, on bridges, old crow or raven nests placed high in a tree or on a pylon, or even on the ground in predator-free environments. Clutch size is 3-5 eggs (ranging from 2-7). Incubation is by the female, who is fed by the male. The incubation period was given as 28 days for Europe by Cramp (1985). more....

Conservation: One of the most common and familiar raptor species throughout most of its vast range, and Cade (1982) characterized it as "probably the most numerous species of Falco in the world." However, there is cause for concern in Europe, including the United Kingdom, where Breeding Bird Survey indices declined by 20% between 1995 and 2008, followed by a further decline of 36% between 2008 and 2009 (Risely 2010). Reasons for the decline are not clear, but it may be related to agricultural intensification of farmland habitats and the resulting decline of small mammal poulations. Categorized globally as a species of "Least Concern" by BirdLife International. more....

Population Estimates: The European population was estimated at 300,000 to 440,000 breeding pairs by BirdLife International/European Bird Census Council (2000), and this was later revised to 330,000 to 500,000 (BirdLife International 2004). more....

Important References: 
BirdLife International/European Bird Census Council. 2000. European bird
  populations: estimates and trends. BirdLife Conservation Series no. 10.
  BirdLife International,Cambridge, UK.
Cade, T.J. 1982. Falcons of the world. Cornell University Press, Ithaca,
Cavé, A.J. 1968. The breeding of the kestrel Falco tinnunculus L., in the
  reclaimed area Oostelijk Flevoland. Netherlands Journal of Zoology
Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2001. Raptors of the world. Houghton
  Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Orta, J. 1994. Common Kestrel. Pp. 259-260 in del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott,
  and J. Sargatal (eds). Handbook of birds of the world. Vol. 2. New World
  vultures to guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Piechocki, R. 2008. [The Common Kestrel]. Neue Brehm-Bücherei no. 116.
  Westarp Wissenschaften, Hohenwarsleben, Germany. (In German)
Rejt, L. 2007. [Breeding biology of urban kestrel Falco tinnunculus in
  Warsaw]. Ph.D. dissertation, Museum and Institute of Zoology, Polish Academy
  of Sciences, Warsaw.
Village, A. 1990. The kestrel. T & AD Poyser, London.
Village, A. 1998. Falco tinnunculus Kestrel. BWP Update 2:121-136.

Sites of Interest:
Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology
Conducts a project on comparative research between tropical and temperate populations of the Common Kestrel focused on the consequences of life history strategies.
Common Kestrel photos.
Contains original information and nice photos.
Species account, with an emphasis on European populations.

Agostini, Nicolantonio
Alzaoby, Yousef
Charter, Motti
Dorogi, Sándor
Fiuczynski, Klaus Dietrich
Gurung, Surya
Kang, Seunggu
Kim Chye, Lim
Ma, Ming
Newton, Ian
Rangasamy, Dhanapal
Rodríguez, Airam
Saharudin, Muhd Hakim
Sandor, Attila
Schröpfer, Libor
Severinghaus, Lucia Liu
Smith, Keith B.
van Zyl, Anthony
Verma, Saurabh

Last modified: 11/13/2010

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2021. Species account: Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 28 Nov. 2021

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