Kestrel in flight

Despite the midday light it was spectacular to watch Australia’s smallest falcon, the Nankeen Kestrel, hovering, diving and eating its prey on the wing.


Nankeen Kestrel 1 - Kim Wormald

Nankeen Kestrel (Falco cenchroides) – male
1/2000, f/5.6, ISO 1600


Nankeen Kestrels are Australia’s smallest falcons, females are larger than males but the average size of the species is about 34cm and 170g. This kestrel can easily be identified as a male due to his grey head and tail. Females are marked quite differently, as I show later in the post.


Nankeen Kestrel 3 - Kim Wormald

 Nankeen Kestrel (Falco cenchroides)
1/2000, f/5.6, ISO 1600


It has been suggested that Kestrels have remarkable vision that enables them to see ultra violet light and thereby track urine trails and find prey. More recent studies are questioning this and speculating that songbirds can have superior UV vision and that UV cues are ‘of little or no importance to raptors‘ – maybe one day soon we’ll know more.

Nankeen Kestrel 2 - Kim Wormald

Nankeen Kestrel (Falco cenchroides)
1/1000, f/5.6, ISO 800


Kestrels are beautiful marked raptors with striated underparts, a black band across the tail and yellow ceres, eye-rings and feet. They have a distinctive dark ‘tear drop’. They hover and study the ground for prey before diving to catch a small mammal, reptile or a large insect. They often eat their prey in flight after rapidly diving and quickly changing direction to capture prey in their talons. They are capable of catching insects, and occasionally birds, on the wing.



Nankeen Kestrel 4 - Kim Wormald

Nankeen Kestrel (Falco cenchroides)
1/1250, f/5.6, ISO 1600


Not only was this kestrel out and about in the middle of the day but it also flew in circles to cover areas of grass and rock, because of this the lighting and backgrounds of the images are quite different. Sometimes the bird was backlit while other times it was in direct sunlight, and to add another variable sometimes the sun went behind clouds. I kept changing the exposure but it was tricky to get enough information in the darker areas without over-exposing the lighter areas.



Nankeen Kestrel 5 - Kim Wormald

Nankeen Kestrel (Falco cenchroides)
1/1250, f/5.6, ISO 1600


The kestrel was a fair distance away in these images so they have been quite heavily cropped but I think there is enough detail captured for the images to be pleasing. Hopefully next time I’m able to watch a kestrel the lighting will be less contrasty and the bird will be closer.



Nankeen Kestrel

Nankeen Kestrel (Falco cenchroides)
1/1000, f/5.6, ISO 800


This is an image of a female Nankeen Kestrel that I took some time ago. Her head and tail are rufous rather than grey, and her tail has more barring – it’s unusual for female birds to be more striking in appearance than males, but I think she’s stunning.

Happy birding, Kim


Update on the Victorian duck shooting season

After last week’s great news about Animals Australia’s ‘Duck Shooting Destroys Families‘ bus ads, the news this week is horrendous.

Jaala Pulford, Minister for Agriculture, gave a gazetted commitment that Lake Elizabeth would be closed for the duration of the 2016 duck shooting season due to the presence of Blue-billed Ducks. This commitment was given half an hour before ‘an urgent injunction application was set to be heard by the Victorian Supreme Court’, see AA’s press release here . Minister Pulford has reneged on this commitment and Lake Elizabeth was quietly opened to shooters on Wednesday of this week. The Coalition Against Duck Shooting and Animals Australia were prepared for the change and had a team at the lake at first light on Wednesday. Five police vehicles were in attendance, along with six shooters – only twenty shots were fired – duck shooting is a dying sport.

Lake Elizabeth is part of the Kerang RAMSAR wetlands, if you are able to be part of the team at Lake Elizabeth this weekend please contact the Coalition Against Duck Shooting at – it’s great when duck rescuers outnumber the shooters.


~ Thank you for visiting and commenting

~ If you would like to join subscribers who receive a weekly email letting them know that lirralirra has been updated please use the ‘subscribe’ box above right


20 comments to Kestrel in flight

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>