Appearance and behavior. Small, pigeon-sized, relatively wide-winged and long-tailed trowel. Slightly larger than the red-footed falcon and derbnika, a bit smaller than the hoblock The shape is slim, feather “pants” on the legs are almost undeveloped. The body length is 32–39 cm, the weight of males is 115–252 and 154–310 g of females, the wingspan is 65–82 cm.
Description. The general color is ocher-red with dark speckles, the bottom is lighter than the top. Primary primary feathers and their covering feathers are dark brown on top, the underside of the wing is covered with small dark speckles. An adult male differs from a female in a brighter mantle, a smaller amount of dark pestrin drop-shaped, and from the top arrow-shaped, a monotonous gray “hood” on the head, a monochromatic gray tail with a black apical strip framed with a narrow white border.
The female has a cap, back and tail red, with a frequent dark pattern, longitudinal on the cap and transverse on the back. Nadhvoste and sides of the tail, as a rule, are grayish, the tail with narrow transverse stripes and a wider apical strip, which is also bordered with white. Males at the age of 1-2 years are similar in color to the female. The young ones are similar to the female, but dimmer, with larger longitudinal and not drop-like specks on the chest and belly.
The orbital ring, ceres and legs in adult birds are yellow, in young - pale, with a bluish or greenish tint. Compared with other small falcons, the common kestrel has the widest wings, with obtuse apexes. When soaring and planning, the bird often unfolds a long tail with a clearly visible (especially in the male) black preapical strip. From all falcons, except for the steppe kestrel and the female of the steppe derbnik, it also differs in red tones on the back and upper part of the wings, and the contrast between the red bases of the wings and their dark ends is well visible from above.
The kestrel female differs from the female of the steppe jerk in general proportions and the wide apical stripe on the tail. At any age, birds of both sexes differ from the steppe kestrel with rounded, not wedge-shaped, tail, dark, rather than whitish claws, narrow dark “whiskers” on their cheeks. An adult male is also a great development of dark pestrin on the back, belly, chest and wings, the lack of a bluish-gray band on the wings.
Vote. High and frequent "cues cues cues ", In begging for food females and sletki - longer and vibrating"cree-and-and. ».
Distribution, status. Distributed almost throughout Eurasia and Africa. In the mountains, it can be found up to an altitude of 4,500 meters above sea level. In the south of the range and most of Europe settled, from Russia and moderate parts of Asia migrates to snow-free regions for the winter, including the Ante-Caucasus, the Black Sea region, the Caspian Sea. The number and success of nesting species depend on the number of rodents. In the European part of Russia, the species was quite common, but in recent years there has been a general decline in numbers, the reasons for which are unknown.
Lifestyle. The typical inhabitant of open dry spaces, in the forest zone, is tied to the edges and farmland. Willingly settles in anthropogenic landscapes, down to the cities. The feeding is dominated by small rodents, in the south - lizards and insects, less often catches birds. It hunts low over the ground, waving flight is not fast, sometimes it plans or hovers with its wings and tail wide open. Characteristic hunting technique - hang on fluttering wings over prey, then dive down. Often he looks out for voles and mice from poles and wires.
Arrives in early spring. It nests in nests of corvids in trees, in niches of cliffs, on rocks, in buildings, in artificial nest boxes, occasionally in burrows, niches and hollows. Semi-colonial settlements are known. In clutch, usually 3–6 eggs of a rusty color typical of falcons, only the female incubates for about a month, feeding the chicks lasts 27–35 days.
The first downy outfit of chicks is white, the second is grayish-white. In the nest, parents are less restless and aggressive than other falcons. Young birds are able to multiply the next year after birth, not yet having acquired the final adult outfit. Flies off for wintering in September-November. Some individuals overwinter in the middle lane, mainly in the settlements.
Kestrel, or Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
Kestrel falcon (steppe, common): description
Kestrel steppe and ordinary are very similar to each other. The steppe falcon is much smaller, but at the same time much more beautiful. Photographers prefer to shoot this bird in flight, especially the male. He has incredible bright wings. The kestrel is bright red, without any spots and variegated dots. The head is bluish-gray in color, and on the wedge-shaped tail there is a black border. The striking difference between the steppe falcon is white claws. Kestrel can hang in the sky for a long time. But for this it constantly flutters its wings. And the steppe falcon hangs motionless. Yes, and live these birds prefer colonies. They like to feed on insects, while the common kestrel catches and eats rodents, less often large insects.
This bird is found in Africa and Eurasia. And in Russia, one of the most popular falcons living in the Southern Urals, Altai, Transcaucasia is an ordinary kestrel. The habitat and lifestyle of the falcon are well studied. The bird is spread almost throughout the whole territory of our country, except for the tundra. He likes, of course, more floodplain banks of large rivers, forest-steppe and small forest belts. Dense forests are not for her, as it produces food in open space.
In recent years, civilization is actively absorbing the natural habitat of the small falcon, so it “moved” and perfectly settled in the megalopolises of Europe. And the proximity of a person does not frighten him at all.
The Kestrel is an ordinary bird of a rather modest color. The small falcon feeds on lizards, mice, and sometimes large insects. In pursuit of prey, it can fly almost above the ground and look out for prey for a long time. Having noticed that, the bird often starts to flap its wings, hangs up and swoops sharply down.
Strong claws on the paws and keen vision come to the aid of the bird in obtaining food. In the Kestrel, vision is sharper than in humans, more than 2.6 times. If people had the same, then the checklist of the oculist could easily be read from 90 meters! Experts say that the small falcon perfectly sees ultraviolet radiation. This gives him the opportunity to recognize the remnants of urine of rodents on the ground or grass. Due to which an ordinary kestrel can effortlessly track down and kill these animals with little effort. The Falcon family is the family to which the kestrel belongs. The detachment she has, as you know, Falcon, and the genus - Falcons.
Female and male
This bird has a pronounced sexual dimorphism. It is easy to distinguish the female from the male by the color of the head. The male has light gray shades of head feathers. The head is a simple brown color. On the back there are poorly visible black spots, mostly in the form of a diamond. The tail and part of the back near the tail are covered with bright light gray feathers. The end of the tail is edged with black stripes with a white edging. Beneath it are cream feathers and barely noticeable patches of light brown. Feathers of the belly and wing are almost white.
The female differs from the male by a beautiful transverse dark stripe running across the back. She has a brown tail with a lot of transverse stripes and a clear edging at the end. The abdomen is streaked from below and much darker.
The young male kestrel first resembles the female in color. Only the wings are slightly shorter and more rounded. Fly feathers are decorated with light rims. Thickening of the beak and the eye ring in the young - from pale blue to light green, and in adults - yellow. The tail is rounded because the tail feathers are short. Wings of adult individuals cover tail feathers, on dark-yellow legs very dark claws. The mass of the common kestrel is slightly more than 200 grams, the male barely reaches 300. The average length of the male is 34.5 cm, and the female is 36 cm. The wingspan of such a small bird is impressive - 75-76 cm.
Where is the nest?
From winter habitats the small falcon arrives in mid-April - early May. The nest is twisted in pairs. Less often, several more pairs can be found nearby or even a colony, but not more than 10 birds.
Kestrel ordinary nest prefers on not very open edges and even on power lines. Less commonly, her home can be found on small cliffs or rivers, on steep banks. The structure of the nest is not involved, like most falcons, but finds unoccupied nests abandoned by magpies, rooks or ravens. Sometimes the family of kestrels can be found in a hollow on a stand-alone tree, and it doesn't matter that the hollow was non-empty. The bird easily chases the hosts and settles itself. The selected nest is symbolically completed by several branches.
Laying eggs and incubating
Depending on the weather, the common kestrel starts laying eggs towards the end of April. The female incubates about five brightly speckled eggs in ocher shades. But ornithologists found nests with 8 or more eggs. The masonry kestrel happens only once a year. In rare cases of the death of all eggs, the bird can still make one laying. Only the female incubates the offspring. The male works on sustenance.
Chicks appear a month later. Immediately hear well and see. Having appeared on the light, the little falcon's chicks are covered with the most delicate white down and the same white beak and claws. In case of possible danger, they fall on their back, exposing sharp claws upwards, or simply lie on the bottom of the nest. Parents are both actively engaged in the offspring. The appetite of the kids is "serious". Food requires a lot and often. In one day, while raising the offspring, two parents kill more than twenty small rodents! At this blessed time, they bring invaluable benefits to farmers and gardeners. And they say that the "empty" bird. Wrong, because its contribution to the preservation of the harvest is great! The young kestrel slowly changes the color of plumage to an adult. At this time, the chicks are already interested in the surrounding life and require even more food.
After 45-50 days the young falcon is ready for the first flight. At this time, you can see "gymnastic exercises" on the edge of the nest. Soon the kestrel chicks will be on the wing and will go with their parents to the wintering grounds at the end of September - beginning of October.
The number and enemies
In recent years, the common kestrel has been subjected to large-scale banding. Due to this, ornithologists found out that a bird can be nomadic, markedly migratory or sedentary. This behavior of the kestrel is affected only by the food supply in its habitats. The main migration path falcon run to southern Europe. Very often they were seen in Spain, Poland, Belgium, Germany and even in North Africa.
This bird has no enemies, well, unless it is a man. In the seventies of the last century, it was possible to surrender her paws for a good reward. The number of common Kestrel has fallen sharply. The reason for this - a great confidence of birds to humans. Since the beginning of 2000, the number of the Kestrel is kept at the same level.
Description of the kestrel
Kestrel - the common name of 14 species of the genus Falco (falcons) living in Eurasia, America and Africa. In the post-Soviet space, two species settled - the common and steppe kestrels.
According to one version, the Slavic name "kestrel" comes from the adjective "empty" because of the unsuitability of the bird for falconry. In fact, birds involved in falconry (often in the US), so the version can be considered false. Closer to the truth, the Ukrainian nickname (and its interpretation) “borivіter”: when hovering, the bird is always turned to face the headwind.
This is a small beautiful falcon with a proudly planted head and harmonious forms, wide wings and a long rounded tail (due to the shortened external steering feathers). The kestrel has large round eyes, a neat hooked beak and dark yellow paws with black claws. Body size, color and wingspan vary in different species / subspecies, but in general the kestrel does not grow more than 30–38 cm with a weight of 0.2 kg and a wingspan of up to 0.76 m. In adult individuals, the ends of the wings reach the tip of the tail. The smallest kestrel is the Seychelles.
The length of its body does not exceed 20 cm, and the wingspan is 40–45 cm. The overall plumage is brown, ashy, brown or reddish. Dark specks are observed on the upper feathers. One of the most striking is the American (passerine) kestrel, the males of which surprise with contrasts. In their plumage red-red, light gray, white and black are combined (females are painted more modestly).
Important! Young birds have shorter and rounded (compared to adults) wings, and the plumage color resembles females. In addition, juveniles have light blue / light green ceres and strokes around the eyes: in older birds, they are usually yellow.
The kestrels (steppe and common) familiar to Russia are very similar to each other, except that the first is slightly inferior to the second in size and has a longer wedge-shaped tail. And the wings of the kestrel a little bit narrower.
Character and way of life
Every day, the kestrel flies around its hunting grounds, rapidly flapping its wide wings. With a favorable air flow (and even eating prey), the kestrel switches to planning. These falcons are able to fly in still air, for example, in a closed room, and when hovering in the sky they turn to face the oncoming breeze. The kestrel eye notices ultraviolet and urine marks (brightly shown in its light), which are left by small rodents.
The more intense the glow, the closer the prey: upon seeing it, the bird swoops down and digs its claws into it, slowing down already near the ground. Almost all the kestrels can hover in an unusually spectacular trembling flight (this ability distinguishes them from most other small falcons).
In this case, the bird turns the tail with a fan and slightly lowers it down, often and quickly flapping its wings. Wings that move a large volume of air work in a wide horizontal plane to ensure the hang (at a height of 10–20 m), which is necessary for looking out for the victim.
It is interesting! Kestrel vision is sharper than humans vision, 2.6 times. A man with such vigilance could, from top to bottom, read Sivtsev's table, having moved 90 meters away from her. Males emit at least 9 different sound signals, and females - already 11. Sounds vary in frequency, pitch and volume, depending on the occasion that caused the kestrel to scream.
The banding helped establish that the kestrel (depending on the range) can be sedentary, nomadic, or expressed as a migratory bird. Migratory behavior of the species is determined by the abundance or scarcity of food supply. Migrating kestrels fly low, usually not rising above 40–100 m and not interrupting the flight even in bad weather. Kestrels can fly over the Alps, which is explained by their low dependence on the ascending air currents. If necessary, the packs fly over glaciers and peaks, but more often they plot a route along the passes.
Female kestrels are larger and heavier than males, on average, by 20 g. In addition, female individuals are prone to gaining weight during the breeding season: at this time, the female's weight may exceed 100 g. The larger the female, the more numerous its clutch and healthier offspring. In males during the year, weight almost does not change.
Important! Sexual dimorphism is traced in the color of the plumage, especially covering the bird's head. The female is colored uniformly, while the male's head is colored differently than the body and wings. Thus, in the male kestrel the head is always light gray, and in the female it is brown in color, like the whole body.
Also, the upper plumage of males is usually more colorful than on females, showing increased spotting on the lower (darker than males) part of the body.
Common Kestrel Group
- Falco punctatus - the Mauritian Kestrel,
- Falco newtoni - Madagascar kestrel,
- Falco moluccensis - Moluccan Kestrel, common in Indonesia,
- Falco tinnunculus - the common Kestrel inhabits Europe, Asia and Africa,
- Falco araea - Seychelles kestrel,
- Falco cenchroides - gray-bearded or Australian kestrel, found in Australia / New Guinea,
- Falco tinnunculus rupicolus - a subspecies of the common kestrel, isolated into a separate species Falco rupicolus, lives in South Africa,
- Falco duboisi reunion kestrel - an extinct species that lived on about. Reunion in the Indian Ocean.
Group of african gray kestrels
- Falco dickinsoni - Dickinson's Kestrel, also known as the black-backed falcon, is common in East Africa as far as South Africa,
- Falco zoniventris - Madagascar striped kestrel, endemic to Madagascar,
- Falco ardosiaceus is a gray kestrel, found from Central to South Africa.
The fourth group is the only species of Falco sparverius that inhabits North and South America - the American or sparrow kestrel.
Kestrels have scattered across the globe and are found in Europe, Asia, America, Africa and Australia. Пернатые легко адаптируются к разным ландшафтам, преимущественно равнинным, избегая как излишне густых чащ, так и безлесных степей. Пустельга селится на открытой местности с низкой растительностью, где в изобилии водится мелкая дичь (объект птичьей охоты). Если кормовая база богатая, птицы быстро приспосабливаются к различным высотам. При отсутствии деревьев пустельга гнездится на опорах линий электропередач и даже на голой земле.
It is interesting! In Central Europe, birds are settling not only woods / edges, but also cultivated landscapes. Kestrel is not afraid to be close to people and is increasingly found in the city, settling in residential areas or in ruins.
The steppe kestrel lives in the steppes and semi-deserts, where it nests in bulk mounds, ruins of stones and ruined stone clutches. In the European part of Russia, it selects for nesting ravines, beams (with landslide cliffs) and river valleys, on the banks of which there are outcrops of mother rocks. In the mountains of Southern Siberia and in the southern Urals, birds fly to river valleys, beamed sides, ridge slopes, rocky outcrops of the remaining mountains, ledges on plateau-like heights and ridges on hills.
The Kestrel, like many feathered predators, sticks its claws at the sacrifice, finishing off with a blow to the back of the head. Hunting is done from prisada (pillars, trees, palisokov) or from the fly. Hunting from prisady often occurs and is more successful in cold weather, in a quivering flight - in the warm season (21% of successful attacks against 16% in winter).
In addition, diving from a height is practiced in special cases: for example, for a sudden attack on a large group of small birds occupying agricultural land. The composition of the daily diet of the kestrel is determined by its living conditions, depending on climate and terrain.
Animals, which kestrel hunts:
- small rodents, especially voles,
- small songbirds, including house sparrows,
- chicks of wild gray pigeons,
- water rats,
- lizards and earthworms,
- insects (beetles and grasshoppers).
It is interesting! To compensate for the energy consumption, kestrels should eat poultry equal to 25% of their mass every day. On autopsy, an average of a couple of half-digested mice were found in the stomachs of dead birds.
Insects and invertebrates are eaten by groups that do not yet know how to produce larger animals, as well as adult kestrels with a deficit of small mammals.
Reproduction and offspring
In Central Europe, mating kestrels, with intermittent flapping of wings, half-turns around the axis and sliding down, are observed from March to April. The flight of the male, accompanied by a calling cry, has two objectives - to attract a female and stake out the boundaries of the plot.
More often, the female invites to mate, which lands closer to the male and makes a cry that resembles the sound of a hungry chick. After the intercourse, the partner flies to the nest, summoning her friend with a ringing shout. Continuing to poke, the male sits on the nest, scratching and deepening it with claws, and when a female appears, it begins to jump excitedly up and down. For the female to sit on the selected nest, the male cajole her with a pre-caught treat.
It is interesting! A kestrel's nest outside the tree looks like a shallow fossa or a cleared area where from 3 to 7 variegated eggs lie (usually 4–6). Females sit tightly on clutches, leaving them only in danger: at this time they circle over the nest, emitting a characteristic alarming crackling.
The steppe kestrel prefers to build nests in niches, cracks of clay cliffs and rocks, between stones or on hilly slopes. Kestrels' nests are found in the ruins of stone buildings (among the steppe) and in the cavities of the concrete beams covering the summer camps of cattle. Spanish populations often equip nests in residential areas, climbing into niches under the roof. The steppe kestrel forms colonies (from 2 to 100 pairs), with an interval between nests of 1–100 m. The distance between different colonies is from 1 to 20 km.
Bringing the chicks in the forest, the kestrel (like the rest of the falcons) doesn’t bother itself with building a nest, occupying those left by magpies, crows and rooks. This trio of birds is considered to be natural enemies of the kestrel, and not adult individuals, but clutches and growing chicks.
Also kestrel nests ruin martens and people. Last for idle curiosity. Thirty years ago the kestrels fell on the hunters' front sight, but now it rarely happens. But in Malta the kestrel was completely destroyed by shooting.
Population and species status
In 2000, the kestrel appeared in the “Globally endangered birds of the world” for the most part because of 2 species whose existence is under threat. These species (Seychelles and Mauritian Kestrels) are also listed in the IUCN Red List.
The Mauritius Kestrel, with a total of 400 individuals (as of 2012), is considered an endemic of the island of Mauritius and is recognized as an endangered species due to a negative demographic trend. The Seychelles kestrel is also classified as an endangered species. The population of 800 birds does not resort to migrations and lives exclusively in the Seychelles archipelago.
The IUCN Red Book estimates the world population of the steppe kestrel at 61–76.1 thousand individuals (30.5–38 thousand pairs) and assigns it the status of “least vulnerability”.
It is interesting! Contrary to the severe decline recorded in the second half of the last century, the species has gained stability and even increases in some parts of its range. However, in the Red Book of Russia, the steppe kestrel is designated as endangered species.
The most numerous species is the common kestrel, whose European population (according to the IUCN) ranges from 819 thousand to 1.21 million birds (409–603 thousand pairs). Since the European population accounts for about 19% of the world total, the population of the entire population is approaching 4.31–6.37 million adult birds.
In West Africa, anthropogenic factors leading to habitat degradation caused the kestrel to disappear:
- mass grazing,
- timber harvesting
- extensive fires
- pesticide use.
The loss of livestock in Europe is also associated with the intensification of agriculture and, in particular, with the use of organochlorine and other pesticides. Meanwhile, the kestrel belongs to the most useful birds: in the fields it actively exterminates locusts, field mice and hamsters.