Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) is possibly the most familiar of the Falcon family in the South West of England. It’s unmistakable hovering flight when hunting is a skill to be marvelled at. It’s head almost motionless as it awaits an opportunity to dive on any unsuspecting prey even on the most blustery of day’s.

A very handsome looking bird, the male slightly smaller than the female, has a distinguishing grey head, rump, upper tail coverts and unbarred tail. The back and scapulars are a brick red colour with darker markings from head and scapular all down the back. Yellow scaly feet are fully armed with razor sharp black talons.

In comparison the female is a duller brown and speckled all over with a barred tail – both have a straw coloured speckled breast with very dark wing tips

A call of fast short notes are often heard,  ‘kee-kee-kee-kee…’, whilst the Young and female will be heard to beg with  a trill, ‘keerrrl…’ repeated on occasions.

Kestrels in decline elsewhere, appear to be doing well in their traditional haunts along the coast. Wherever we monitor Peregrine’s, we will usually observe the presence of at least a pair of Kestrels in close proximity. Nesting slightly later, they utilise crevices and crags on the slopes and cliffs.

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Image Tom Shanta

As with all birds, keeping feathers in top condition is all important, not only bathing in shallow water to clean themselves, birds will also keep feathers clean and also rid themselves of parasites by taking a dust bath as shown below.

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Images Mark Adams

Birds  will cower close to the ground while taking a dust bath, vigorously wriggling their bodies and flapping the wings. Dispersing the loose substrate into the air birds spread one or both wings allowing the falling substrate to fall between the feathers reaching the skin. The dust bath will usually be followed by thorough preening.

Three young waiting to be fed by their parents in this disused building. Clutches can vary, with up to five chicks not uncommon. This means parents will be busy hunting and feeding, as these young have voracious appetites.

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Image Peter Welsh

 

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