Bird of the Day: Kestrel

One of our most familiar raptors, most of us have seen a kestrel hovering over verges as we drive along dual carriageways. There is a pair living in the copse behind my house but I never see juveniles or youngsters; there is a very successful buzzard family living there too so perhaps they are squeezing out the smaller birds.

I have written previously about this bird in a blogpost here so I won’t repeat myself regarding the painting, but when I was looking up to see if they were a falcon or a hawk, I realised I didn’t know the difference. I get a bit confused, especially as the designations occasionally get changed anyway as more information about the evolutionary past of birds comes to light. I grew up knowing a robin as a type of thrush (as it is classified in my Collins Guide), but it is now apparently a chat…

Basically, the broadest division is between falcons (tapering wings) and everyone else (broader, more rounded wings), and then owls are in another section. In the UK, falcons consist of the peregrine, kestrel, hobby and merlin, and their Latin names helpfully start with Falco as they are all from that genus, and are consequently in the equally informative Falconidae family. Sparrowhawks, harriers, kites, eagles and buzzards have different genera but all come under the Order Accipitriformes, which confusingly used to be lumped in with Falconiformes. King Philip Came Over For Green Soup is a good mnemonic for Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species, and if you (like me) you enjoy the natural history of birds, I can highly recommend The Secret Life of Birds by Colin Tudge.

So, a kestrel is a falcon, and feeds on small rodents, beetles, worms and the like. I have painted this one in characteristic ‘windhover’ mode:

This painting is now sold.

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