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Rock Kestrel - BirdForum Opus

Immature female
Photo © by max1
West Coast National Park, Western Cape, South Africa, 31 October 2017
Falco rupicolus


Adult female in flight
Photo © by Binty
Cape Point, South Africa, 29 June2014

27–35 cm (10½-13¾ in) - Female is larger than male.

  • Black spotting on rufous upperparts.
  • Light underwing, lightly barred.
  • Gray head and tail
  • Male has broad black subterminal tail-band tipped with white.
  • Female is browner with narrow black tail bars in addition to broad black subterminal band and more streaking on crown.
  • Juvenile has head brownish, more heavily streaked with buff tips to flight feathers.

Similar Species

Male Lesser Kestrel has unspotted back, gray greater coverts and unmarked silvery-white underwings. Greater Kestrel is larger with brown head, barred, not spotted upperparts and mostly white underwings.


Africa: from northern Angola to Democratic Republic of the Congo, southern Tanzania and South Africa.


This is a monotypic species[1].
This species was formerly considered a subspecies of the Common Kestrel from which it differs in its genetic distinctiveness and reduced sexual dimorphism.


Wide variety of habitats including fynbos, desert and cliffs; usually close to rocky outcrops.

Adult male
Photo © by CollinBax
Durbanville, Cape Town, South Africa, 19 August 2009



Forages by hovering over open country, pouncing on prey on the ground. Also hunts from a perch.


Mostly of small mammals, birds, reptiles and insects.


Monogamous. Nest is usually a scrape on cliff ledge but sometimes uses crow's nests or man-made structures where natural sites are unavailable.


Metallic high-pitched kik-kik-kik. Also kreee-kreee notes.


Generally sedentary with local movements.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2017. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2017, with updates to August 2017. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Gill, F and D Donsker (Eds). 2015. IOC World Bird Names (version 5.3). Available at http://www.worldbirdnames.org/.
  3. Hockey, PAR, WRJ Dean, and PG Ryan, eds. 2005. Roberts' Birds of Southern Africa. 7th ed. Cape Town: John Voelcker Bird Book Fund. ISBN 978-0620340533
  4. Orta, J., Boesman, P. & Marks, J.S. (2018). Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/53213 on 8 July 2018).
  5. Sinclair, I., Hockey, P.A.R., and Arlott, N. (2005). The Larger Illustrated Guide to Birds of Southern Africa. Struik, Cape Town. ISBN 978-1775840992
  1. BF Member observations

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