Kestrel Falcon

Here is the descriptive sheet of the Falcon Kestrel

(Falco tinnunculus-Falconidae)

Note: This page gathers the knowledge I have acquired through my personal observations and my bibliographical research.

DescriptionFoodReproductionDistribution and Migration To know


Everyone has already seen a bird go up in the air, facing the wind, the falling tail open like a fan, then dive down on the ground, and well… Here it is, this incredible raptor, the only one in Europe able to fly in “Holy Spirit”, is the Kestrel Falcon that is hunting its prey!

Photo of a Falcon Kestrel in flight “Saint-Esprit” (Photo by Louis L.)

The Hawk Kestrel is a small raptor that measures between 32 and 35 cm, similar to the size of a city pigeon. The male weighs about 200g and is smaller than the female, which weighs about 240g. It has long wings and tail elongated.

The kestrel bears its name because of its characteristic cry < Ki Ki-ki. It is heard more in the spring by emitting alarms or warning sounds. This is the way the male warns of his arrival at the nest.

Sound of the Falcon Kestrel:

The Kestrel Falcon is the most common of hawks, like all species of raptors, it is protected in France, according to the Law of 10 July 1976 (Implementing decree of 17 April 1981) on the protection of nature. Unfortunately, its population continues to decline as it is a victim of pesticides, bird traffic and hunting. It has happened that peasants slaughter this bird lest it hunt their chickens, which is impossible since it must be able to carry its prey to consume it safely in the height of the trees.

To distinguish Fauconneau, male and female, we can look at the waist, but especially the plumage:

mâle femelle fauconneau faucon crécerelle comparaisonDifference in plumage between the young Falcon, the female and the male (Photos Cyril B.)

The young Falcon, which resembles the adult female, has a dark brown plumage crossed out of black all over the body, including rump and tail. His head is slightly paler.
Whereas the male, who will obtain his adult plumage around the age of two and a half to three years, is lighter, spotted (and not ‘ striped ‘) of black. His head and his tail are gray.

The three have the black cream-striped breast, the hooked beak whose base is yellow.


In rural areas, the Kestrel Falcon is a valuable auxiliary for agriculture. Indeed, its favourite prey is small mammals such as mice, voles, and common calves. It also consumes lizards and sometimes large insects.

It can be seen attacking birds bigger or bigger than him, but this is only for the purpose of protecting his territory and keeping away any danger of his offspring.

In urban areas, the diet was studied by the Corif (ornithological Centre Île-de-France) at the level of Notre-Dame-de-Paris: 2021 balls of rejection were collected and analyzed by Jean-Pierre Quéré, researcher of INRA. It emerged that 2/3 of the prey consumed were rodents, mainly field voles. As there are apparently no in Paris, they will certainly look for them in the suburbs and in the woods of Boulogne and Vincennes.
The remaining 1/3 is made up of small passers which are mostly sparrows, whereas usually small birds only appear for about 5% in the diet of kestrels.

In winter, the male and female spend a quarter of the day hunting. During the breeding season, the male brings the prey to the nest for the whole family.

Mouse to feed the nestlings (Photo Cyril B.)


The couple begins to be heard at the nesting site by the end of January. They will perform acrobatic flights, couplings and the male will bring offerings to the female in the location he will have chosen for the future nest. There will be only one litter per year.

Mating of the Kestrel Falcon (Photo by Zuzana S.)

The Kestrel Falcon occupies old corvids nests, holes in the trees, cavities in the cliffs and more and more often it approaches the man by settling in wall cavities, nests built by man or even in flower pots On balconies.

Example of an unusual location for a Kestrel Falcon Nest (Photo Francisco)

No material will be provided: the eggs will be laid on the gross soil of the nest, so often on rocks or stones.

Example of laying on the stone (photo Cyril B.)

You will also be able to attract falcons to your home by building a wooden nest and choosing a location in height, and with a clear view so that parents can monitor their offspring at a distance. Place the nest before the month of January, as it is during this month that the Kestrels Falcons are looking for a nest.

Example of nest and location for the Kestrel Falcon (Photo Joseph L.)

The start date of spawning varies from 1 to 3 weeks from one year to the next, from one region to another, from one couple to the other. Usually in early April, 3 to 6 eggs (very seldom 7) with a size of 38 x 28 mm, are laid with an interval of 2 to 3 days. The number of eggs will be proportional to the amount of food that the couple finds in their hunting territory.
The brooding will begin before the spawning is completed. On a clutch of 6 eggs, the female will begin to hatch from 4 to 5 eggs. In this way, there will often be a difference in age between the last chicks that are born later than the first. This difference can be fatal for the weakest if the intake of food is not sufficient.

The eggs have a beautiful red color spotted brick. In most cases, the last egg laid will be clearer than the others.

Example of the last Egg (center) clearer than previous (photo Cyril B.)

The mating will continue several days after the end of the spawning, with the objective of securing a replacement clutch if it would happen to the first (destruction by a predator, for example).

The female will ensure the brooding, replaced by the male after he has brought the meal. The relay performed by the male can last from 5 minutes to 1 hour. The female does not hunt during this period.

Once the nestlings are born, the female feeds the young, warms them if necessary and stays nearby to keep the predators away. Depending on the age and experience of the male, he or she will participate in the beaked of the nestlings.

The small ones are born with a layer of down that they will retain until the appearance of the plumage. They open their eyes after a few hours and are able to stand on their paws after 1 week.

First meal for nestlings aged a few hours (photo webcam 2017)

By the age of 2 weeks, the nestlings will need more food, so the female will resume hunting.

The parents will, as they go, let the little ones feed themselves by leaving the nest with lumps or whole prey.

Both parents have a crucial role and importance throughout the reproductive period. The death of one of the two members of the couple would result in the loss of the offspring.

The youngsters will fly away after having spent about 30 days in the nest, encouraged to go out by the parents who wait outside with the meal.
Once they have been baptized, the young will stay with the parents for at least one month, and until the fall for some. They will learn to hunt and once emancipated they shall disperse. It is said that only 40% of the range will survive the second winter.

The males will have their definitive plumage between 2 and 3 years. And it is at this age, for the most part, that they will form their couple to reproduce themselves in turn.

The couple is united for life. Depending on the region, parents can stay at their nesting site year-round. Otherwise they migrate to a more conducive environment for hunting.

Distribution and Migration:

The Falcon Kestrel is present in France all year round. It is partly sedentary, except in the northeast and in the mountains (1, 000m above sea level), where it deserts nesting sites. Some couples, more sedentary, will gladly winter near the nesting sites as long as the climatic conditions are not rigorous. The birds of central and northern Europe are diurnal partial migrants moving south from the end of August to the beginning of November.

Kestrel lives in Europe, Africa and Asia. The populations of Western Europe are rather sedentary.

The yellow corresponds to the regions where the species nests.
The blue one or the species is present in winter.
The green to the regions where it exists all year round.


The kestrel perceives the ultraviolet reflected by the urine emitted by rodents to mark their passage.

Possible confusions are with Falcons crécerellettes swivels Falcons, Squires Falcons, hawks, or nightjars.