Australian Bush Birds
Nankeen Kestrel  -  Falco cenchroides
Nankeen Kestrel
Nankeen Kestrel on a high perch searching for prey on the ground below. Note the rufous back. The black outer wings are folded covering the tail. Under parts are white with a faint rufous wash and marked by short, dark, vertical lines. Mildura, Vic.
Nankeen Kestrel
Nankeen Kestrel face with yellow eye ring and cere (above the bill). The grey crown of this male is visible. Thin grey tear stripe down from front of eye is not readily seen on the white face in this example. Pale rufous wash on the upper breast with numerous short, vertical streaks on the underside. Mildura, Vic.
The Nankeen Kestrel - Falco cenchroides - is a small falcon (30 to 35 centimetres long, wingspan 66 to 78 centimetres); males 163 grams, females 173 grams.

Nankeen Kestrel - page 2
Male and female are similar in appearance with colour differences on the crown, tail and back.

Upper parts are rufous with fine sparse black spotting on the back (heavier in females), head is grey in males and rufous in females. Face is white with a thin black (or grey) tear stripe down from front of the eye. Outer flight feathers are almost black with buff white on inner vanes. Rump and tail in males is plain pale grey with a black bar near the white tip. Females have a rufous tail streaked with narrow horizontal black bars with a black bar near the rufous tip. Under parts in both sexes is white, sometimes with a faint rufous wash on the breast and flanks. Short, dark, vertical streaks on the breast are lighter in the male, becoming more prominent in the female. Feet yellow-orange, eye is black-brown, eye-ring and cere (above the bill) yellow.

Immature birds are generally coloured like females

Flight of the Nankeen Kestrel, compared to other falcons is more wandering, often changing direction, stopping to hover. Soars on flat, blunt tipped wings and widespread tail. Hovers into wind with quick, shallow wingbeats or hangs with wings flexed and uplifted. Not as fast as other falcons and usually preys on creatures living on the ground. Hovers, for minutes at a time, at 10 to 20 metres height searching the ground for prey. Alternatively, it rests on a high perch scanning the ground for prey. Drops suddenly and steeply to take prey in ground cover with closed wings.

Eats mostly inverterbrates particularly grasshoppers and crickets. Also east small mammals (mice), birds up to starling size and reptiles (mainly skinks and small dragons). Takes insects in flight but rarely chases small birds

Nankeen Kestrel
Nankeen Kestrel under parts are white; the black bar near the tail tip of this male is visible. Mildura, Vic.
map map Common, nomadic and abundant, Nankeen Kestrels follow flushes of their prey and appear in numbers during mice or insect plagues. Fluctuates in numbers. Often seen along roads perched on fences and power poles. Found over all the Australian mainland as well as being a non-breeding visitor to northern and eastern Tasmania. Most common in open woodland and agricultural land, also common in treeless inland areas away from roads. In fact, can be found in any habitat except dense forest where they cannot hunt. They usually move north in winter and south in summer along the eastern seaboard; sometimes reaching New Guinea on migration. Established pairs hold territory year round. Kestrels have recently colonised Lord Howe, Norfolk and Christmas Islands and may be colonising New Zealand.

Breeding takes place from July to December, peaking in September and October; pairs usually 'nesting' in isolation or sometimes semi-colonially in concentrated breeding locations amid extensive hunting habitats.

Nankeen Kestrel - page 3
No nest is built; eggs are laid in a depression or scrape most often in a tree hollow or on a cliff but a wide variety of sites may be used including mine shafts, old machinery 2 to 31 metres above the ground, ledges on buildings. Kestrels defend their nests by swooping at, and striking, intruders.

One to six, usually three to five, eggs are laid; very pale, buff or pink with blotches of brown-red; round, about 38 by 31 millimetres. Incubation takes 28 days, by the female alone. The male does all the hunting at first, passing prey to the female for herself and the young. Both parents hunt in the week or so before fledging. The young fledge in about 26 days. Young are dependant for a two months after which they disperse or migrate far from the nesting area (up to 800 kilometres has been recorded although 10 kilometres is more usual). Young sometimes breed themselves after one year.

 ¶  Genus Falco is the only genus in Family Falconidae and contains other Falcons and the Australian Hobby.