The common kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) is a bird of prey species belonging to the kestrel group of the falcon family Falconidae. It is also known as the European kestrel, Eurasian kestrel, or Old World kestrel.

An European Kestrel

Kestrels measure 34 – 38 centimetres (13 – 15 inches) from head to tail, with a wingspan of 70 – 80 centimetres (27 – 31 inches). The average adult male weighs around 155 grams (5.5 ounces) with the adult female weighing around 184 grams (6.5 ounces). Female kestrels are slightly larger than male kestrels. The Kestrel is a small, chestnut brown bird of prey. Their hooked bill is a bluish colour with yellow cere. Their legs are yellow.

The male (or tercel) Kestrel has black-spotted chestnut brown upperparts and a blue-grey head and tail. Their tail has a single black bar at the tip. Underneath, the breast and belly are buff coloured with black spots. The female kestrel (or falcon) is darker than the male and their back, mantle and wings all have black barring. Their tail has black barring along its length. The creamy underparts are more heavily streaked in black than the male. Occasionally, their head and tail may be tinged with grey. Juvenile kestrels are similar in appearance to the female kestrels.

Kestrels are found in a wide variety of habitats, from moor and heath, to farmland and urban areas. The only places they do not favour are dense forests, vast treeless wetlands and mountains. They are a familiar sight, hovering beside a motorway or other main road. They can often be seen perched on a high tree branch or on a telephone post or wire, on the look out for prey.

Kestrels nest in holes in trees or on a ledge on cliffs or buildings and simply line the hole or ledge with sticks and straw. Kestrels do not build their own nests, but use nests built by other species.

An European Kestrel flying

Kestrels feed mainly on small mammals, such as voles, shrews, mice and birds as large as Starlings. However, kestrels are adaptable birds and will switch to invertebrates such as beetles, earthworms, grasshoppers or even snails. In gardens, they will take meat scraps.

In addition to having exceptionally good eyesight, Kestrels can also see ultra-violet light. This is useful in locating voles because they leave a trail of urine wherever they go and the urine glows in ultra-violet light.

Kestrels can be easily identified by their hunting behaviour, hovering low over grassland in search of prey. Kestrels have keen eyesight enabling them to spot small prey from a distance. They are able to hover at a height of around 10 – 20 metres over open countryside.

Kestrels hover effortlessly for long periods of time by flying into a light headwind and making continuous small adjustments to its wings and tail while it hangs on an rising draught of air.

While hovering, the Kestrels head is kept perfectly still giving it the ability to spot the slightest movements on the ground. When suitable prey is in sight, the Kestrel drops vertically towards the ground, swooping to grab its prey in its talons and killing it with a swift bite. Kestrels can often be found hunting along the sides of roads and motorways. Kestrels also frequently use pylons or telegraph poles as vantage points to spot prey, saving themselves the effort of hovering.

Kestrels are bold and have adapted well to human encroachment, nesting in buildings and hunting by major roads.

An European Kestrel landing

European population between 330,000 and 500,000 pairs. This makes the Eurasian Kestrel one of the most common raptors in Europe.

The Kestrel is often used as a symbol that the bearer recognizes life’s opportunities and acts upon them at the most precise and correct moment (like the Kestrel does in hunting its prey). Kestrels gifts include accuracy of movement, speed and grace, mental concentration, acting at the correct moment, patience, precise action.

Kestrel are the smallest member of the falcon family, and like all birds of prey they are strongly connected to the accuracy of movement. Their most prominent feature are speed and grace in hunting. They perch high above their prey and when the time is right they swoop down, hover in the air and attack. Amongst most birds, hovering is uncommon – this represents the natural skill to use flight to the maximum advantage. In kestrel people this advantage shows through the strengthening of ones intuitive agility. Kestrel people frequently have the urge to sit or be placed in a position with expansive views. They have a strong desire to spend time alone, and need to feel a sense of independency to keep a relationship healthy. Suited well to any kind of work that entails planning, they also make great diplomats and strategists.

An European Kestrel waiting for the right moment to attack

Sources:

Kestrel Bird

http://www.europeanraptors.org/raptors/eurasian_kestrel.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_kestrel#In_culture

http://www.heraldryclipart.com/symbolism/k.html

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