Kestrel, RSPB St Aidan's
Kestrel, RSPB St Aidan's

There are kestrels in Yorkshire, and they can be seen over fields, near roads, and above moors, heaths and marshes. One place where they are reliably found and relatively easy to photograph is RSPB St Aidan's.

Kestrels: classification

Kestrel in flight, RSPB St Aidan's

Kestrels are birds of prey within the genus Falco (falcon). Their Latin name is Falco tinnunculus.

They are small to medium size raptors, known for hovering while looking for prey.

Kestrels: distribution

Collins Bird Guide

Collins Bird Guide shows the common kestrel present all year round in Britain and Ireland, and further south in France, Spain, Germany, Italy, the Balkans, Eastern Europe, Turkey and North Africa.

It also breeds further north, in Scandinavia, but migrates south from there in winter.

Kestrels: description & behaviour


Kestrel hovering
Kestrel hovering

Kestrels are most often seen hovering.

According to Discover Wildlife, they fly into and at the same speed as a headwind. A kestrel gains lift from its extended wings, and by fanning its tail feathers. The kestrel is more suited to this behaviour than other falcons because its feathers are stiffer.

Paul D Frost adds that kestrels can dip their heads further down than other kestrels, and keep them very still even while beating their wings; and that hovering is energy-intensive, but kestrels are 10-15 times more successful hunting that way than from a perch.

Male and female kestrels

Male kestrel
Male kestrel

The easiest way to tell the difference between male and female kestrels is by the colour of the head. The male (photo above) has a grey-ish head, whereas the head of the female (main photo at the top of the page) is a brown-ish colour.

Females are slightly larger than males (Wikipedia).

Kestrels' diet

Field vole
Field vole

Kestrels eat voles and insects (Collins Bird Guide), as well as lizards (Wikipedia).

Voles and other small rodents leave urine along the trails they use, and kestrels' ability to see ultraviolet enables them to identify the urine and therefore the trails.