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17/10/2018

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Tasmania's Next Iconic Walk

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Australian Kestrel, Falco cenchroides

Description

The Australian Kestrel, like the Australian Hobby, F. longipennis, is a relatively small raptor only reaching up to 36cm in size. However the Australian Kestrel is a more slender bird with a weight of only 170g. It is often called the Nankeen Kestrel due to its distinctive reddish-brown color on wings and mantle. Nankeen was a type of red-brown cloth traded in the eighteenth century. The underparts of the Australian Kestrel are pale buff streaked with black with fine bars under the tail and a broad black band at the tip. The wings are also black tipped. Females, which are larger, are more heavily marked. They have more red-brown on the crown and tail than males which tend to be more greyish.

Like all falcons they have a short notched bill, large eyes, powerful feet and are very quick and agile.

Habitat

They occur in a wide range of habitats and prefer lightly wooded and open grassland areas.

Diet

Australian Kestrels, like the brown falcon, will often sit on exposed perches waiting for prey rather than relying on speed like most other raptors. They feed on small mammals and reptiles, dropping closer to the ground and hovering with rapid, wing beats until they are close enough to pounce on. They also eat small birds and insects which they can catch in mid air. Their practice of hovering motionless over crop and grasslands is quite distinctive. Kestrels have eyes adapted to see ultra violet light so they can pick up scent and urine trails. 

Breeding

Brown Goshawks breed during July to December, laying up to four eggs, which the female incubates. Chicks hatch after 33 days and spend a further 5 weeks in the nest. They nest in tall trees, choosing the tallest possible and usually near a waterway, making a platform of sticks lined with fresh eucalypt leaves. Both parents defend the nest and will often return to the same nest the next season.

Call

The call is a rapid, shrill, "keekeekeekeekee" and a slower, wavering "keer keer keer".

Distribution
Australian Kestrels nest in a variety of sites including caves, building ledges, tree hollows and occasionally on the ground in small dirt scrapes. They also use abandoned nests of other birds and will often use the same site for successive years in the same pairs. Up to seven eggs can be laid in late Winter but usually they have three or four. Females incubate the eggs whilst the males catch the food.