Common Kestrel

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Is the Common Kestrel right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Eurasian Kestrel; Kestrel; Windhover; European Kestrel

Scientific name: Falco tinnunculus

The basics:
The Common Kestrel is the widespread Old World kestrel that was recommended to beginners in traditional English falconry. It's larger than the American Kestrel, but it's still considered a smaller falcon, and today many experts advise against a beginning falconer starting out with this species because of the challenges of managing its weight properly.

Because of the licensing and expertise required to be a responsible owner of a bird of prey, the following information is offered only as a hint of what you will need to learn to work with Common Kestrels. There is no substitute for hands-on training, which we strongly recommend that you pursue before trying to acquire any bird of prey.

In the wild, this successful species can be frequently seen hovering in mid-air in search of quarry.

Common Kestrels have only one narrow moustache mark, while American Kestrels have two well-defined marks. Adult males have gray heads and gray tails, and they can be much smaller than the browner females.

Male: 180 grams (6.3 oz.)
Female: 223 grams (7.9 oz.)

Average size:
Male: 32 centimeters (13 in.)
Female: 39 centimeters (15 in.)

7 - 10 years

Behavior / temperament:
Despite its history as a beginner's bird in the early centuries of falconry, the Common Kestrel presents some behavior challenges. Third generation falconer Jemima Parry-Jones wrote in her book, Training Birds of Prey, “they make quite fun birds to take for a walk or to have as a pet...Generally they are first class at coming to the fist and sitting in trees and not much else!” These smaller falcons will be happy to conserve their energy if they think they can get away it.

Although a smaller falcon, the Common Kestrel is still a longwing and should not be shortchanged on space to spread its wings. A good pen, aviary, or mews will provide shade from direct sunlight in the summer, protection from extremes of winter weather, and good security to lock out thieves. A roof that completely covers the structure is stronger and offers more protection from high winds. Like most birds of prey, they will enjoy some clean, shallow water for bathing.

The Common Kestrel is a carnivore that needs to consume some whole prey in order to allow its digestive system to work properly. In the wild, they are known for kiting – hovering in one place, while they look for small rodents, which make up most of their prey. However, they are adaptable, and Kestrels on islands or other areas short on rodents can successfully capture items like small birds or reptiles. They have been bred successfully on a captive diet that includes such items as day old chicks and mice. With smaller falcons, you need an excellent scale and the training to understand what their weight should be and what to do about it – something you should get from hands-on experience with a more advanced falconer or rehabilitator, not from a short article. They should also be provided with water.

Written by Elaine Radford


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