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Lesser Kestrel

From Opus

MalePhoto by ricardo gCastro Verde, Alentejo, Portugal, February 2003
Photo by ricardo g
Castro Verde, Alentejo, Portugal, February 2003
Falco naumanni


[edit] Identification


  • length: 29-32 cm (11.5-12.3 in)
  • wingspan: 58-72 cm (23-28.5 in)

Identifying perched female Lesser Kestrels can be difficult as they're very like female Common Kestrel, but they tend to have a 'cleaner' paler cheek which gives a more gentle look, the two central tail feathers often (but not always) project a little & the wings are longer too (reaching closer to the tail tip).

Male Photo by sevillekAlora, Andalucia, Southern Spain, June 2007
Photo by sevillek
Alora, Andalucia, Southern Spain, June 2007

In flight they're more slender and usually have a less densely marked underwing. Also look at the wing tip: if outermost primary (p10) and the one three in (p7) are equal length, then you are looking at Common Kestrel, if p7 is shorter, then it is Lesser Kestrel. However it's generally easiest to wait a few moments for the more distinctive male to turn up!

The adult male is a distinctive little critter with a lovely powder blue head (often lacking any sign of a moustachial stripe which, when present, is always much fainter than in Common), the back unmarked rufous and the wings have a grey panel encompassing the greater secondary coverts and all primary coverts. The underwing is an almost unmarked white and the chest a gorgeous lightly marked salmon-pink.

Again in flight it looks slimmer and flies with more grace. On some birds the central tail feathers project even more markedly than most books illustrate. (Moulting Common Kestrels can show this feature but not to quite the same shape as in Lesser Kestrel). See also wing feature described above.

 Female on rightPhoto by Gabriel RassonLarissa, Greece, April 2004
Female on right
Photo by Gabriel Rasson
Larissa, Greece, April 2004

[edit] Distribution

Europe, Asia and Africa. Now rare and declining over most of European range.

Breeds in central and southern Iberia, including Gibraltar, patchily in north-east Spain and southern France, Sardinia, Sicily and the southern tip of Italy and irregularly in South-East Europe. More widespread and numbers higher in Greece and Turkey and from the Ukraine and southern Russia east into Asia. In North Africa found in scattered parts of north Morocco, north Algeria and Tunisia and in the Middle East in Syria, possibly still Lebanon, Jordan and Israel although numbers have declined considerably. In many areas breeding is irregular or sporadic but numbers have increased in Portugal and southern France with the provision of nest-boxes. Breeding range extends westwards from the Caspian to western Sinkiang, Mongolia and Hopeh in northern China.

A summer visitor to most of breeding range, wintering throughout sub-Saharan Africa and India, rarely also Burma. In India, it is regularly sighted in the Thar desert, specifically in the Tal Chappar grassland in Rajasthan. Small numbers remain to winter in southern Spain, especially the Guadalquivir Valley, and also North Africa and southern Turkey. A broad-front migrant but regularly seen at Gibraltar. Most leave Europe August-September and return late February-April.

Vagrants recorded north to Britain, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland also on the Canary Islands. British records (c.18) have occurred mainly in spring and have ranged from the Isles of Scilly north to Fair Isle. In the east recorded as a vagrant on Tsushima Island, Japan.

[edit] Taxonomy

This is a monotypic species[1].

[edit] Habitat

Dry open country, semi-desert, grassland and cultivated land.

Nests usually in old buildings. often under tiles of a roof or similar places.

They accept nest-boxes located in high places in the buildings like a tower in a church.

[edit] Behaviour

[edit] Diet

Feeds mainly on insects.

[edit] Vocalisation

Call: "chay-chay-chay"

Listen in an external program

[edit] References

  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2016. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2016, with updates to August 2016. Downloaded from
  2. Birdforum thread discussing separation of Lesser vs Common Kestrel

[edit] External Links


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