Kestrel, a European falcon, of the genus tinnunculus (Vieill.), much resembling the
Kestrel (Tinnunculus alaudarius).
American sparrow hawk. This bird (T. alaudarius, Briss.) has the form and proportions of the falcons proper, except that the tarsi are longer and the toes less stout. The length is about 14 in., and the extent of wings 28, the female being a little larger than this; the closed wings are about 2 in. shorter than the tail. In the male, the general color above is light grayish blue, the back and wing coverts pale red with triangular dark spots; the tail with a subterminal broad black bar; the lower parts light yellowish red, with long longitudinal dark lines and spots. In the female, the upper parts are light red, with transverse dark bars and spots; the young resemble the female. The kestrel hovers in search of prey at a height of 30 or 40 ft., from which it pounces upon small birds, mice, moles', reptiles, and sometimes worms and beetles, which it finds in the open fields; from its peculiar manner of hovering, it has received the popular name of wind-hover; it occasionally pursues birds in open flight. When not in search of food, the flight is high, with rapid flaps and occasional sailings.
Silent when hovering after prey, it is very noisy in the breeding season; it breeds on cliffs near the sea, in trees in the woods, in ruined buildings or high towers in towns, and in the deserted nests of the crow family; the eggs, three to five, are reddish white, with irregular dots and patches of dull brownish red. This is one of the most common birds of prey in Great Britain, in almost all districts except the interior heaths. When taken from the nest, kestrels may be trained to pursue quails, snipes, larks, and birds of similar size. Their numbers are greatly diminished during winter, and they are said to migrate to northern Africa. Though • persecuted by gamekeepers often for the sins of the sparrow hawk, it is of positive benefit to man by destroying great numbers of mice. It is found throughout Europe. There is a smaller kestrel (T. cenchris, Naum.), with longer wings and fewer spots, in eastern and south-em Europe. The kestrel swallows small mammals whole, but removes the feathers from its bird prey.
There is considerable variation in the plumage.