Falco tinnunculus tinnunculus Linnaeus, 1758 ♀
Common names: Common kestrel [En], Faucon crécerelle [Fr], Torenvalk [Nl], Turmfalke [De], Gheppio comune [It], Cernícalo vulgar [Es], Βραχοκιρκίνεζο [Gr], Bayağı kerkenez [Tu]
IUCN Status: LC (Least Concern)
Megalochori, SERRES ● Greece
Description: Common kestrels measure 32–39 cm from head to tail, with a wingspan of 65–82 cm. Females are noticeably larger. Like the other Falco species, they have long wings as well as a distinctive long tail.
Their plumage is mainly light chestnut brown with blackish spots on the upperside and buff with narrow blackish streaks on the underside; the remiges are also blackish. Unlike most raptors, they display sexual colour dimorphism with the male having fewer black spots and streaks, as well as a blue-grey cap and tail. The tail is brown with black bars in females, and has a black tip with a narrow white rim in both sexes. All common kestrels have a prominent black malar stripe like their closest relatives.
The cere, feet, and a narrow ring around the eye are bright yellow; the toenails, bill and iris are dark. Juveniles look like adult females, but the underside streaks are wider; the yellow of their bare parts is paler. Hatchlings are covered in white down feathers, changing to a buff-grey second down coat before they grow their first true plumage.
A number of subspecies of the common kestrel are known:
• F. t. tinnunculus Linnaeus, 1758 – Temperate areas of Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia north of the Hindu Kush-Himalaya mountain ranges
• F. t. rufescens Swainson, 1837 – Sahel east to Ethiopia, southwards around Congo basin to S Tanzania and NE Angola.
• F. t. interstinctus McClelland, 1840 - East Asia from Tibet to Korea and Japan, south into Indochina.
• F. t. rupicolaeformis C. L. Brehm, 1855 - Arabian Peninsula except in the desert and across the Red Sea into Africa.
• F. t. neglectus Schlegel, 1873 - Northern Cape Verde Islands.
• F. t. canariensis Koenig, 1890 - Madeira and western Canary Islands. The more ancient Canaries subspecies.
• F. t. dacotiae Hartert, 1913 – Eastern Canary Islands: Fuerteventura, Lanzarote, Chinijo Archipelago. A more recently evolved subspecies than canariensis.
• F. t. objurgatus Baker, 1929 – Western, Nilgiris and Eastern Ghats of India; Sri Lanka.
• F. t. archerii Hartert & Neumann, 1932 – Somalia, coastal Kenya, and Socotra
• F. t. alexandri Bourne, 1955 – Southwestern Cape Verde Islands.
Biology: In the cool-temperate parts of its range, the common kestrel migrates south in winter; otherwise it is sedentary, though juveniles may wander around in search for a good place to settle down as they become mature.
Common kestrels eat almost exclusively mouse-sized mammals: typically voles, but also shrews and true mice supply up to three-quarters or more of the biomass most individuals ingest. On oceanic islands (where mammals are often scarce), small birds—mainly passerine—may make up the bulk of its diet while elsewhere birds are only important food during a few weeks each summer when inexperienced fledglings abound. Other suitably sized vertebrates like bats and swifts, frogs and lizards are eaten only on rare occasions. Seasonally, arthropods may be a main prey item.
When hunting, the common kestrel characteristically hovers about 10–20 m above the ground, searching for prey, either by flying into the wind or by soaring using ridge lift. Like most birds of prey, common kestrels have keen eyesight enabling them to spot small prey from a distance. Once prey is sighted, the bird makes a short, steep dive toward the target.
The common kestrel nests in cavity, preferring holes in cliffs, trees or buildings; in built-up areas, common kestrels will often nest on buildings, and generally they often reuse the old nests of corvids if are available.
The clutch is normally 3–6 eggs. Incubation lasts some 4 weeks to one month, and only the female hatches the eggs. The male is responsible for provisioning her with food, and for some time after hatching this remains the same. The family stays close together for a few weeks.
Most common kestrels die before they reach 2 years of age; mortality up until the first birthday may be as high as 70%. The biological lifespan to death from senescence can be 16 years or more.
Habitat: It is a diurnal animal of the lowlands and prefers open habitat such as fields, heaths, shrubland and marshland. It does not require woodland to be present as long as there are alternative perching and nesting sites like rocks or buildings. It will thrive in treeless steppe where there are abundant herbaceous plants and shrubs to support a population of prey animals. The common kestrel readily adapts to human settlement. It is found from the sea to the lower mountain ranges.
Distribution: This species occurs over a large range. It is widespread in Europe, Asia, and Africa, as well as occasionally reaching the east coast of North America.
Wikipedia, Common kestrel