Saturday, 2 February 2013

Common Kestrel

order : Falconiformes      Genus & Species : Falconidae     Family : Falco tinnunculus

An adaptable bird of prey, with its strong wings, lightweight body and fanned tail, the common kestrel hovers in the air, pinpointing prey with its superkeen eyesight. They found in Europe and Asia , parts of the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and much of Africa. 

Habitat : A bird of open country, the kestrel hovers over meadows, fields, coastal heaths and other grassy areas. Highways and airports, with their wide grass verges, make ideal hunting grounds. The kestrel avoids forests, wetlands and mountains, but sometimes occurs at up to 15,000' in the mountain ranges of central Asia. In sub-Saharan Africa, it also lives in savannah. The kestrel usually nests in a large hole on a cliff or inside a tree trunk. But it readily nests and roosts in quarries and on electricity pylons, radio masts and buildings, including barns, churches and power stations. 
Food & Hunting : Adapting its plan of attack to suit every occasion, the kestrel preys mainly on voles, shrews and field mice. It usually hunts over areas of long grass, stopping every now and then to hover above the ground until it spots a prey animal.With perfect timing, the kestrel dives and seizes the mammal in its talons. At other times, it ambushes prey from a suitable perch, such as a dead tree or fence post. The kestrel hunts at dawn and dusk or even on moonlit nights. Certain prey, such as moths, slugs and earthworms, are easier to find at dusk. In urban areas, small birds such as sparrows top the kestrel’s menu. 
Behavior : Although it is far from social, the kestrel lives in dense concentrations. It does not defend a large territory and, when food is plentiful, pairs may nest near one another. Occasionally, two kestrels join forces at dusk to hunt bats that are leaving daytime roosts. By working together, the birds can cut off the bats’ escape. Even in areas where the bird is sedentary, young kestrels disperse in late summer to find home ranges of their own. 
Breeding : The common kestrel is one of the first birds of prey to begin breeding each spring. This ensures that chicks hatch before the grass has grown too long and small mammals become difficult to find. Some pairs stay together all year-round, while others meet again in late winter. They engage in mock chases and aerobatics.The male also offers his mate gifts of food to cement their relationship.  The female incubates her 3–6 eggs for a month , then guards the chicks, while the male brings food. At first, he passes food to the female to tear up and give to the young, but later he simply deposits it, and the young feed themselves. Being larger enables the female to defend her nest, and to fend off young males in search of a mate. 

Bill : The short, notched and hooked bill can deal with a wide range of prey. It is strong enough to rip voles apart and pluck birds, yet delicate enough to hold insects and earthworms. 
Eyes : Forward-facing eyes provide the kestrel with binocular vision — essential for judging the position of prey accurately. A bony extension above each eye, known as the supra-orbital ridge, shades its eyes from glare. 
Legs & Feet : To help it reach out and grab prey at full stretch, the kestrel has very long, powerful legs that are feathered above the knees. On each foot, four strong toes bear curved talons that sink into prey to hold it tight. 
Tail : When hovering, the kestrel spreads its 12 tail feathers like a fan for additional lift and steering. 

Weight : Male 5–7.5 oz.; female 6–9 oz.
Length : 13-14"
Wingspan : 28-32"
Sexual Maturity : 1-2 years
Breeding Season : Varies with location

The kestrel is an extremely rare visitor to Alaska and the east coast of North America. Most are young, inexperienced birds that are blown across vast stretches of ocean by severe storms.

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