Common Kestrel – Falco tinnunculus
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Class: Aves
- Order: Falconiformes
- Family: Falconidae
- Genre: Falco
- Species: Falco tinnunculus
The body is rusty, about 35 cm long, with blackish spots on the back and chest. Males have a bluish head and tail and a blackish moustache at the corner of the mouth.
The Common Kestrel has a very wide range, occurring in almost all of Europe, Asia and Africa, from the UK to China and as far south as southern Africa. The vast majority of the European population is sedentary, but northern and western populations are migratory, wintering in southern Europe and sub-Saharan Africa. The European population represents 19% of the world population, with 409,000-603,000 breeding pairs. In Europe, a decline of up to 25% over three generations is estimated. In Romania, the redstart is widespread throughout the country and populations can be sedentary or partly migratory, depending on the conditions of the year. Romania’s population of red-winged teal is estimated at 20,000-50,000 breeding pairs.
Living environment and biology of the species
The Common Kestrel occupies almost all habitats from sea level to 3,000-3,500 m altitude (in the Caucasus), including parks, orchards, small patches of forest, agricultural and suburban areas, rocky areas, settlements, river valleys. In Romania, together with the common titmouse, it is the most common diurnal raptor, nesting in almost all types of habitats, except in closed forests and regions totally devoid of trees. The vast majority of birds in Romania move south in winter. Few individuals, predominantly males, remain to winter in the country.
It feeds mainly on insects, but also on a wide variety of small rodents, birds and reptiles, which it captures by following them from a height, flying from a fixed vantage point or from the air. It is able to see ultraviolet radiation reflected from urine droplets that mark the trails of mice, which it hunts with great efficiency. It is a monogamous species.
It mostly nests singly, but under favourable and colonial conditions. Cases of bigamy have also been recorded, probably as a consequence of colonial nesting. The nest is installed in tree ledges, crevices or holes in walls, cornices, in old crow, raven, magpie nests. The nest is usually built from branches and other hard plant parts and can be used for several years at a time. The nesting period is from April-May to August in the northern hemisphere. The clutch usually consists of 4-5 eggs, sometimes 6, which are laid mainly by the female, but also by the male. Incubation time is 21-25 days. The chicks leave the nest after 28-32 days, but stay with the parents for another 30 days, sometimes even into the autumn months.
Threats and conservation measures
Threats include: habitat loss and alteration. disturbance caused by forestry. alteration of trophic resources, pollution and illegal use of poisons, poaching in the vicinity of nesting sites. Conservation measures include prohibition of any activity that causes disturbance to the species’ breeding, feeding and resting habitats, including new urban development in habitats important to the species. No new wind farms should be built near breeding and feeding areas. It is important to avoid strong herbicides, which reduce the diversity of food species, leading to bioaccumulation of these treatments, which secondarily cause bird poisoning.
A mosaic landscape should be maintained and developed, and corridors maintained between areas of wild grassland including trees, tree lines and clumps of trees. Grassland should be maintained and no burning should be allowed. Bird safety is also ensured through the management of telecommunication cables. An inventory of breeding, migration, feeding and agglomeration areas important for the conservation of the species is required.
It is also useful to promote studies on the biology of the species, to obtain information on the use of poisons and their effects on the species. The use of poisoned bait should be banned, as should the illegal devastation of nests. Against poaching, cooperation between environmental organisations, hunting organisations, the gendarmerie and the Environmental Guard is essential. It is also recommended that artificial nests be installed in habitats suitable for the species.
- Fântână Ciprian, Kovács Istvan, Benkő Zoltán, Daròczi Szilárd, Domșa Cristian, Veres-Szászka Judit (editors), 2022, Atlas of bird species of community interest in Romania, 2nd edition – Love birds, save nature!, Project financed by the European Regional Development Fund through the Large Infrastructure Operational Programme 2014-2020, Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests – Biodiversity Directorate, scientific coordination Romanian Ornithological Society and Association for the Protection of Birds and Nature Milvus Group, produced by EXCLUS PROD SRL, p. 172.
Radu Dimitrie, 1983, Small Ornithological Atlas – Birds of the World, Albatros Publishing House, Bucharest, p. 139.