Society for the Preservation of Raptors (Inc)



Australian Kestrel (Falco cenchroides)

Australian Kestrel (Falco cenchroides)The Australian (or Nankeen*) Kestrel is Australia's smallest falcon and one of our most frequently sighted raptors.  It is often seen hovering over road reserves and fields, watching for small terrestrial mammals, insects and reptiles.  Once they have their prey in sight, they plunge head first toward the ground, pulling out of their dive at the last moment to strike with their feet.

Kestrels have specially adapted eyes which enable them to see ultra violet light.  This ability allows them to see scent and urine trails which are invisible to humans, and gives them the advantage when hunting to know where to expect to find their prey.

Adult male kestrels are identifiable by their grey heads and tails, while adult females have a brown head and rufous tail.  The female birds are generally larger than the males.

The image at left is a composite, showing a perching male and a diving female.

Like all falcons, Kestrels have large eyes, a short notched bill, powerful feet and are extremely quick and agile.

* Nankeen: the Australian Kestrel is also called the Nankeen Kestrel for the distinctive reddish-brown colour on its wings and mantle.  The colour is named for "nankeen," a kind of cloth widely traded in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, which has a similar red-brown pigment.
Original photographs courtesy of Mr Luke Jenkins and Ms Dianne Hunter
Photocomposite by Nancy Tang

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