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European kestrel


Kestrels show a pronounced sexual dimorphism in their plumage. The most striking distinguishing feature between male and female kestrels is the head colouration. Males have a gray head, while females are uniformly reddish brown in colour. Males also have small black and sometimes diamond-shaped spots on their reddish-brown backs. Their uppertail coverts, as well as the rear back and tail feathers are also light gray. The tail feathers has a distinct black terminal band with a white fringe. The underpart is pale cream and only very lightly mottled or streaked with brown. The underbelly and underwing coverts are nearly white.

The adult female is darkly cross-banded on the back. Unlike the male, the tail feathers are brown and also show several transverse stripes and a distinct terminal band. The underpart is also darker than on the male and shows heavier spotting. Juvenile birds are similar to females in their plumage. However, their wings appear rounder and shorter than adult kestrels. In addition, the tips of the primaries have lighter fringes. Ceroma and eye ring, which are yellow in adult birds, are light blue to greenish yellow in juveniles.

In both sexes, the tail is rounded as the outer tail feathers are shorter than the middle tail feathers. In adult birds, the wing tips reach the end of the tail. The legs are rich yellow, the talons black.


typical habitats of the European kestrel

The kestrel is an adaptable species that can be found in a variety of habitats. In general, kestrels avoid both dense closed forests and completely treeless steppes. In Central Europe, it is a common bird of the cultivated landscape, which can live wherever there are shrubs or forest edges. Basically, it needs open areas with low vegetation for hunting. Where trees are absent, it uses the poles of power lines as nesting sites. 

In addition to the presence of nesting opportunities, it is primarily the availability of prey that influences which habitats are occupied by the kestrel. If prey is sufficiently available, it shows great adaptation to different heights. 

synanthropic birds

The kestrel has also captured urban landscapes as a habitat. It benefits from the fact that hunting and breeding habitats do not have to be identical. However, falcons breeding in cities often have to fly far to hunt mice. For example, kestrels breeding in the tower of the Frauenkirche in Munich fly at least three kilometers per mouse. Studies suggest that kestrels tolerate a distance of up to five kilometers to their hunting grounds. A number of individuals breeding in the city, however, show a change in their hunting pattern and prey spectrum.

An example of a city populated by kestrels is Berlin. The Berlin kestrel expert group of the Naturschutzbund Deutschland has been studying these animals in the urban habitat since the late 1980s. On average, the population in Berlin fluctuates between 200 and 300 breeding pairs and collapses sharply, especially after hard winters. The population is supported by the provision of nesting aids in public buildings such as churches, schools or town halls. "Natural" nesting opportunities in wall niches are mainly found in old buildings. Yet these are increasingly being renovated. Modern high-rise buildings usually have only a few wall holes and cavities to provide nesting opportunities for kestrels. Accordingly, about 60 percent of the birds in Berlin now breed in nesting aids that have been provided specifically for them.

The city presents dangers for the animals. Falcons regularly collide with cars or crash into windows. Young falcons can fall out of the nesting niche and are found weakened. Up to 50 animals are cared for annually in the two stations of the Berlin kestrel expert group.

The text is a translation of an excerpt from Wikipedia (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turmfalke). On wikipedia the text is available under a „Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike“licence. Status: 17 December 2021