The common kestrel looks very noble and beautiful, and this is not surprising, because the bird is a representative of the falcon family. This feathered person is not at all familiar to many, therefore it will be interesting to understand the origin of such an unusual bird name, give a description of the feathered appearance, characterize its habits, disposition and life activity in general.
Origin type and description
The common kestrel is a bird of prey belonging to the falcon family and belonging to the falconiformes order. Kestrel is the name of several varieties of birds from the genus of falcons. In total, more than a dozen species of this bird are distinguished. Only a couple of them live on the territory of our country: the steppe kestrel and the common kestrel, which will be discussed.
Video: Common kestrel
The origin of the name of this bird is interesting, about which there is more than one version. In Russian, the name of the feathered one sounds like “kestrel”, in Belarusian – “keletal”, in Ukrainian – “boriviter”. The word “kestrel” means “empty”. The dictionary of Russian synonyms offers such a synonym for this word as “dummy”. In connection with this value, there is an erroneous assumption that the bird was so called due to the fact that it is not adapted to falconry, although this is not so, it is considered to be a hunter.
Another version is more plausible, according to which the name “kestrel” came from the method of hunting in open areas (pastures), where the root “pas” is taken as the basis, so the name used to sound like “pastel” and meant “looking out”. The Ukrainian name of the bird says that while soaring in the air, the bird moves towards the wind, overcoming its gusts. Scientists divide all kestrels into four large groups, without uniting them into one family clan, because. consider that they do not have one common ancestor.
The following groups are distinguished:
- common kestrel;
- true kestrel;
- African gray kestrel;
- American (passerine) kestrel (the group consists of one species).
The first group includes such varieties of kestrel as: Madagascar, Seychellois, Mauritian, common, Australian (grey-bearded), Moluccan. If we give a brief description of the appearance of the common kestrel, then we can say that it is very similar to a falcon, only very miniature. The length of the bird’s body varies from 30 to 39 cm, and the weight – from 160 to 300 grams.
Interesting fact: The common kestrel was the bird of the year 2006 in Switzerland, 2007 in Germany and the symbol of the Russian Bird Conservation Union in 2002.
Appearance and Features
The common kestrel is a medium-sized feathered predator. It should be noted that females are larger than males. Their average weight is 250 grams, while males have much less weight – about 165 – 200 grams. The wingspan of these birds reaches 76 cm. The color of the plumage of the male and female also differs. The color of the female is uniform, and the color of the male’s head differs from the tone of the entire body, it has a light gray slightly bluish tint. The female has a brownish head, in tone with the whole body.
The male has small black specks resembling the shape of rhombuses in the back area, which has a brownish tint. The lumbar region of the male, his tail plumage also has a light gray tint. The very end of the tail is decorated with contrasting black stripes with a white trim. The undertail is colored beige or cream and has a pattern in the form of dashes or specks of a brownish tone. The inner side of the wings of the male kestrel is almost white.
Mature females have dark stripes in the back area, which are located across the body. The brown tail is also lined with transverse stripes and has a contrasting border. The ventral part has a darker tone compared to males, there are much more spots on it. Juveniles are similar in appearance to females, only have shorter and rounded wings. The color of the cere and the area around the eyes also varies: in mature birds it is yellow, and in young birds it is greenish-blue.
The tail, both in males and females, has a rounded shape, because. the middle feathers are longer than the outer feathers. The tips of the wings in mature individuals extend to the very tip of the tail. The limbs are dark yellow, and the claws on them are black. In general, the physique of the kestrel is quite harmonious and fine. Large round eyes and a hooked, but neat, beak stand out well on the head. By all appearance and body it becomes clear that this is a bird of prey of noble falcon blood.
Where does the common kestrel live?
The area of settlement of the common kestrel is very extensive; it has chosen not only different countries, but also different continents. The bird lives in the spaces of Europe, Africa, Asia. This species of kestrels inhabited almost the entire Palearctic region (the territories of Europe, Asia just north of the Himalayas, northern Africa, extending to the southern borders of the Sahara).
The kestrel adapts well to a variety of climatic conditions and landscapes, preferring flat terrain. Birds bypass both very dense forest thickets and completely treeless steppe regions. On the territory of Central Europe, birds can often be found on the edges, in copses and even in cultivated landscapes. The kestrel is most often deployed in open spaces with low shrub vegetation, where the food supply abounds.
The bird can perfectly adapt at different heights, the main thing is that there is enough food there, so the mountain ranges are not at all alien to it. For example, in the Alps, birds live at an altitude of up to three and a half kilometers, and in Tibet they can be found at a five-kilometer mark. Birds prefer to nest in trees, but in their absence, they build nests on poles of high-voltage lines and simply on the surface of the earth. can be seen within the boundaries of cities (especially European ones), the bird is registered in human villages or occupies the ruins of old houses.
The most striking example of the settlement of the kestrel in the urban environment is Berlin, these birds are already considered typical residents there. Since the end of the eighties of the last century, ornithologists began to study the vital activity of these birds in urban habitats.
Now you know where the common kestrel bird lives. Let’s see who she hunts and what she eats.
What does the common kestrel eat?
Menu kestrel depends on the places of its permanent residence, therefore it is very diverse and consists of:
- medium-sized song birds (for example, sparrows);
- chicks of a wild rock dove;
- small rodents (mainly voles);
- water rats;
- all kinds of insects (grasshoppers, locusts, beetles).
It should be noted that invertebrates and insects are fed, most often, by young animals, and mature birds eat them when they can’t find any other food.
An interesting fact: To make up for their energy costs, a kestrel per day must absorb such an amount of food that is equal to one-fourth of its body weight. In the stomachs of dead birds, two half-digested mice were often found at once.
The kestrel has two main hunting tactics: it attacks either from a perch (poles, fences, branches), or directly from the fly. The first hunting option is most effective in the cold season, and the second – in the warm season. The tactic of fluttering flight is very characteristic of this bird, the falcon freezes in the air in one place, making energetic flapping of its wings. Such an energy-consuming flight of a bird most often performs over those areas where it has noticed a lot of prey. When the prey is overtaken, it is held by sharp bird claws digging into the body, then the kestrel uses the technique of finishing off the caught prey with its beak in its occipital region. Such hunting maneuvers are familiar to many raptors.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
Every day, the common kestrel circles its hunting grounds. When the air current is favorable, she glides high above beautifully. These falcons are able to fly even in a closed space where there is no movement of air masses, and when they soar, the birds turn towards the wind. Bird eyes notice ultraviolet rays and the marks of urine left by rodents that stand out in this light. The brighter the glow comes, the shorter the distance to the potential victim, having seen it, the feathered bird begins to dive down rapidly, grabbing it with its claws.
The ability to stay in a fluttering flight is a distinguishing feature of the kestrel from other medium-sized falcons. During this flight, the kestrel opens its tail like a fan and makes frequent intense wing beats. Thus, the bird hangs at a height of 10 to 20 m and looks out for its snack. From the outside, it looks quite beautiful and bewitching.
Interesting fact: The visual acuity of the kestrel is more than two and a half times higher than that of a human. If people had such vigilance, they could easily read the entire table in the ophthalmologist’s office from a distance of ninety meters.
The sound range of kestrels is very diverse. Males can produce about nine different vocal signals, while females can produce about eleven. The frequency, vibration, volume and pitch depend on the particular situation for which the signal is emitted.
With the help of ringing, scientists have found that, depending on the place of permanent residence, the kestrel can be:
The processes of bird migration are influenced by the availability of food in the areas of feathered settlement. Migratory birds carry out their flight low, they do not rise above a hundred meters, but more often they fly much lower than this mark (within 40 – 50 m). Even inclement weather is not able to stop the movement of a purposeful kestrel. Brave birds can overcome the alpine ranges, because they do not experience much dependence on the direction of air mass flows. If the situation requires it, then bold feathered predators fly even over the tops of snow-covered ice mountains. This testifies to their hardy and stubborn character.
Social structure and reproduction
On the territory of Central Europe, the wedding bird season is observed from March to April. At this time, the males make demonstration flights to attract the attention of their partner. These air dances are characterized by sharp turns, turns around its axis, rapid glides, interrupted by the flapping of proudly spread wings. All these somersaults are accompanied by inviting exclamations, which should lure the young lady and mark the boundaries of bird possessions.
The female herself calls her partner for intercourse, she flies closer to him and screams like a hungry chick, showing her readiness for mating. After the completion of this process, the feathered cavalier rushes to the nesting place and calls the lady of the heart with the help of a sonorous chitter. Sitting on the nest, he continues to poke and begins to scratch the nest, making an even deeper depression in it with his claws. When a female flies up, the cavalier jumps excitedly, bouncing up. He does this so that the partner chooses exactly his nest, the obviousness of the choice is influenced by the treat prepared in advance by the gentleman.
Interesting fact: If the kestrel’s nest is not located in a tree, then it looks like a cleared platform or a small depression. Often the kestrel uses other people’s abandoned nests for its masonry.
During the nesting period, birds can unite in groups of up to several dozen pairs. In a kestrel clutch, there can be from 3 to 7 eggs, but more often there are 4 – 6. The incubation period lasts about a month. Both the male and the female incubate the eggs alternately. Newborn chicks are covered with white fluff, which quickly turns gray. The claws and beak of babies are painted white. At the age of one month, the chicks try to make their first flights, and when they are two months old, they start hunting on their own. Birds become sexually mature closer to the age of one. The life expectancy of a kestrel is about 16 years, but the mortality among chicks is very high, so that only half of the young live up to a year.
Natural enemies of the common kestrel
Although the kestrel is a predator, it has enemies in natural conditions, defenseless and inexperienced chicks are especially vulnerable, and clutches are also often ruined. As already mentioned, birds living on the forest edges often borrow other people’s nests, namely, magpies, rooks and crows. Just, these birds are considered to be the natural enemies of the kestrels. They make predatory attacks not on mature birds, but on chicks and egg clutches. Kestrel nests can be destroyed by weasels and martens, who are not averse to having a bite, both chicks and eggs.
The enemy of the kestrel is also a person who can destroy the nest only because of curiosity. People, conducting their violent activities, often force birds out of their habitual inhabited habitats, although these birds have managed to adapt to life next to humans, settling in cities and towns. About thirty years ago, the kestrel suffered from hunters, now hunting for it is a rarity.
The enemies of the kestrel are often harsh natural conditions that lead to the death of many birds. The mortality of birds is very high, those that remain to winter in areas with a cold climate suffer the most. Falcons perish, for the most part, not from frost, but from hunger, because in winter it is not easy to find food. Only 50 percent of chicks overcome the one-year age limit, which cannot but be alarming.
Population and species status
The populations of some species of kestrel are extremely small, so they are under protection. As for the common kestrel, its population is considered the most numerous in comparison with other types of kestrel. According to IUCN estimates, the number of this bird in Europe varies from 819 thousand to 1.21 million individuals, which is from 409 to 603 thousand bird pairs. There is evidence that the number of birds that have chosen Europe is about 19 percent of the total number of these birds, which, according to various sources, ranges from 4.31 to 6.37 million mature individuals.
In the second half of the last century, there was a steady decline in bird numbers, but now, according to scientists, there is stability in the population, which cannot but rejoice. Still, there are a number of negative anthropogenic factors that have a bad effect on the life of the kestrel, because of which it is under protection in certain regions of our country. Such factors include the occupation of land for pastures, deforestation and logging, the occurrence of large fires, the use of pesticides in cultivated fields, where birds often hunt for all kinds of rodents.
Conservation of the Common Kestrel
It was previously mentioned that certain species of kestrel are endangered (Mauritian and Seychelles) and are listed in the IUCN Red List. And the common kestrel, although considered the most common and numerous, is listed in the Red Books of individual regions in Russia, because. in these places, her livestock has declined greatly.
Since 2001, the common kestrel has been listed in the Red Book of Moscow, the species has the status of vulnerable in this area. The main limiting factors are the growth of the city limits, the reduction of meadow areas and open spaces suitable for the resettlement of birds. Experts note that according to the data of 2010, the number of kestrel has increased markedly, which is very encouraging.
The common kestrel is also listed in the Red Books of the Murmansk and Ryazan regions, and is under protection on the territory of Buryatia. Everywhere the species is ranked in the third category, the status of which says that the bird is rare and few in number, the state of the population of which is close to threatening. At the international level, this species of birds is included in Appendix II of the CITES Convention, Appendix II of the Bonn and Berne Conventions.
Among the necessary protective measures, the following can be listed:
- creation of nature reserves and reserves;
- inclusion of discovered nesting sites in protected areas;
- regulation of economic activities in nest locations;
- complete ban on hunting;
- increase in penalties for ruining nests and hunting activities;
- hanging nest boxes within the city and in protected areas ;
- explanatory preventive measures among local residents.
Drawing conclusions, it remains to add that the common kestrel is, in fact, an unusual and interesting bird that is very reminiscent of the noble falcon , reduced sizes. In all its form, pride and become are felt. The benefits of the kestrel for people are undeniable, because it saves cultivated fields from numerous rodents and pests, so we should show more respect for the feathered bird so that its bird life is serene and happy.