Do not be tricked by its small size and adorable appearance, the Grey Kestrel is an African bird of prey that actively hunts during twilight. Aside from its charming appearance, here are a lot of exciting things that you should know about this bird!
Read further to know more about the Grey Kestrel!
What is the Grey Kestrel?
The Grey Kestrel, or also known as the Falco ardosiaceus, is an African raptor that belongs to the family Falconidae, together with Black Caracara, Red-throated Caracara, Forest Falcons, Spot-winged Falconet, and Typical Falconets. The Grey Kestrel’s closest relatives are the Dickinsons’ Kestrel and Banded Kestrel.
Grey Kestrels are endemic to the west and central regions of the African continent. Sightings of this bird species were also recorded in east countries such as Kenya, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Tanzania, and the northern parts of southern countries such as Zambia, Namibia, and Malawi.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, the Grey Kestrel’s population has a large range across the African continent and hence does not need to be qualified as vulnerable species. Therefore, the IUCN listed the species as Least Concern.
Its seven levels of scientific classification are as follows:
Species: F. ardosiaceus
The physical description of a Grey Kestrel
In general, the Grey Kestrel is a relatively small, grey bird of prey with bold yellow streaks on the face. Male and female Grey Kestrels look the same, but the latter is slightly larger and heavier than the former.
A Grey Kestrel has a flat-topped head and short wings. The head is relatively paler than the other parts of its body. Yellow outlines surround its dark eyes. It also has a yellow marking that starts between the eyes, passing through its beak, and down to its chin. Its feet and short legs are yellow in color too.
Its plumage is generally slate grey with light scaling patterns formed by the edges of their feathers. Its wings are short and pointed, and its tips are black in color. The underparts of the Grey Kestrel are pale grey.
This bird grows between 28-33 cm long with a wingspan of 58-72 cm. It can weigh an average of 300 grams. The Grey Kestrel can be confused with a Sooty Falcon, a grey bird with a more rounded head and bigger wings.
On the other hand, juvenile Grey Kestrels are brown in color, unlike their slate grey parents. Instead of yellow outlines, green outlines surround their eyes.
Grey Kestrel’s distribution and habitat
The Grey Kestrels reside on burnt forests and woodland savannas with towering trees or palms. They prefer habitats with a nearby source of water. Like common birds, they perch on poles and branches.
The behavior of a Grey Kestrel
Grey Kestrels are deemed crepuscular birds, meaning they are most active during dusk and dawn. Like other Falconidae species, these small falcons can perform rapid aerial chases with their prey.
At the dawn of the breeding season, both male and female Grey Kestrels perform an aerial dance. Together, they soar up high, and then one bird will suddenly dive on its partner. Copulation usually happens in a nest, and during this period, they both exude territorial characteristics. The pair do not form their own nest. Instead, they use an unoccupied nest or an old nest. The pair may even frighten other birds so they can steal their nests.
Breeding season varies according to their range. Breeding season occurs during the first four months of the year in West Africa, while it happens between August and October in Angola, Tanzania, and Kenya.
During the cold season, Grey Kestrels migrate to the northern part of the continent. On the other hand, they fly south during the hot season.
Grey Kestrel’s hunting and diet habits
This small falcon’s diet consists of insects like grasshoppers and small reptiles like chameleons, lizards, and snakes. It also feeds on little birds, bats, earthworms, grogs, rodents, and arthropods such as myriapods and crabs. Occasionally, it eats oil palm fruits.
When hunting, they usually observe prey from a high perch, mostly during the warmest hours of the day, where animals and insects are most active. When an opportunity presents itself, the Grey Kestrel immediately flies away from the perch and catches its prey on the ground or low branches.
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