Spotted in Dane Valley Woods: Kestrel


Kestrels (Falco tinniculus) are familiar British falcons, due to their ability to adapt to changing environments and their distinctive flight patterns.

Their sex can be distinguished from their plumage; males tend to have blueish grey hoods and rumps, whereas females are more chestnut brown, however, both have a dark band across their cheeks and speckled brown over their bodies.

Kestrels are notorious for their graceful hunting, hovering motionless in mid-air whilst keeping their heads perfectly still as they search for prey. This has lead to them also being known as wind-hoverers. These falcons fly extremely slowly, spreading their feathers to allow a constant flow of air over their wings as they face into oncoming winds, which generates enough lift for them to hover. To watch the kestrel’s flight and see its extraordinary ability to lock its head perfectly when it hunts watch this clip by Attenborough:

Kestrels usually feed on small mammals (and perhaps in Dane Valley Woods’ case, small lizards, which is rare, but does still occur in Northern latitudes when feeding nestlings) and particularly invertibrates in the Winter. They usually raise 2-3 chicks, although lay 3-6 eggs and they can live for around 16 years. Although they are classified under least concern under IUCN conservation status guidelines, the RSPB lists them as amber species, meaning a moderate decline has occurred in the past, which they attribute to changes in farmings methods since the 1970s.

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