The UK Kestrel Sighting Count
Spotters guide to Kestrels

Here are some tips to seeing a Kestrel in the wild


Introduction

The Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) is resident in the UK throughout the year. It is also known as the 'Windhover' because of its distinctive style of hunting, which involves hovering in the air before swooping down on its prey. The first references to the Kestrel in Britain date back to Anglo-Saxon times and it has since become a cultural icon of art and literature.

Effortlessly at height hangs his still eye / His wings hold all creation in weightless quiet / Steady as hallucination in the streaming air / While banging wind kills those stubborn hedges (Ted Hughes, The Hawk in the Rain).

Features

Length: 34 cm I Wingspan: 76 cm I Weight: M: 190 g F: 220 g
Mature males have warm, red-brown coloured wings and a grey head and tail. The female is slightly larger and has a duller brown plumage with many dark speckles and bars.

Environment

The Kestrel is generally seen hunting across farmland, areas of scrub, marsh and moorland. Its preference for open spaces and habit of perching on poles and wires makes it easy to spot. It can be found in both urban and rural areas.

Feeding

The Kestrel typically hunts small mammals, birds, insects and even lizards. Kestrels are equipped with excellent eyesight which allows them to spot a potential meal from a great height while hovering.

Nesting

Kestrels do not build their own nests preferring to use old nests of other birds, hollows in trees or artificial nest boxes to raise their young. However, they have also been known to use scrapes on the ground, ledges on cliffs and buildings and even nest boxes installed for other birds.

Breeding

Clutches of between 4 and 6 eggs are laid during April and May. Incubation lasts 26 to 34 days and is generally undertaken by the female during which time the male hunts for himself and his mate. The Kestrel chicks are brooded by the female for the first two weeks. They fledge after 27 to 32 days but remain dependent on their parents for up to a further four weeks whilst they learn to hunt for themselves.

Spotters guide to Kestrels Spotters guide to Kestrels Spotters guide to Kestrels