The name kestrel is given to several different members of the falcon genus, Falco.
Plumage typically differs between male and female, and (as is usual with monogamous raptors) the female is slightly larger than the male. This allows a pair to fill different feeding niches over their home range.
Kestrels are notable for usually having much brown in their plumage.
Kestrels are bold and have adapted well to human encroachment, nesting in buildings and hunting by major roads.
Diet / Feeding
Kestrels are most easily distinguished by their typical hunting behaviour which is to hover at a height of around 10–20 metres (33–66 ft) over open country and swoop down on prey, usually small mammals, lizards or large insects. Other falcons are more adapted to active hunting on the wing.
Kestrels require a slight headwind in order to hover, hence a local name of windhover for Common Kestrel.
Their ability to spot prey is enhanced by being able to see ultraviolet which is strongly reflected by vole urine.
Nesting / Breeding:
Kestrels do not build their own nests, but use nests built by other species.
The most basal "true" kestrels are three species from
Africa and its surroundings which lack a malar stripe (a line angling back from the bird's chin,
separating the cheek from the throat) and in one case have—like other
falcons but unlike other true kestrels—large areas of gray in their
Lesser Kestrel, Falco
naumanni, found in southern Europe, India, and most of Africa except for the Sahara and
equatorial forest areas
African grey kestrels (a more distant group)
enigmatic is a group of 3 predominantly gray species from Africa and Madagascar.
These are usually considered kestrels due to their general shape and habits, but
are probably more quite distinct from the true kestrels.
Grey Kestrel, Falco ardosiaceus, found in
Central to Southern Africa
The American Kestrel is the only New World species termed "kestrel".
Actually, the molecular data of Groombridge et al. (2002), as well as
morphological peculiarities (like grey wings in males and a black ear-spot) and
biogeography, strongly support the view that this species, among the Falco
falcons, is not a kestrel at all in the phylogenetic sense but perhaps closer to
Most species termed kestrels
appear to form a distinct clade among the falcons, as suggested by comparison of
mtDNA cytochrome b sequence data
(Groombridge et al. 2002) and morphology. This seems to have diverged from other
Falco around the Miocene-Pliocene boundary (Messinian to Zanclean, or about
Approximately during the Gelasian (Late Pliocene or
Early Pleistocene, around 2.5–2 mya), the main lineage of true kestrels
emerged; this contains the species characterized by a malar stripe. This too
seems to have evolved in Africa and subsequently spread across the Old World
until they reached Australia some time during the Middle Pleistocene, less than
one million years ago. This group contains several taxa found on Indian Ocean
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