Unlike the Eurasian Kestrel, the larger Greater Kestrel sits-and-waits, not for voles and birds, but for grasshoppers and other invertebrates.
By Rex Graham
Grass fires are irresistible. Greater Kestrels catch so many fleeing grasshoppers, wind scorpions and other invertebrates, small mammals and lizards that they cache food on the ground. They eat it later (after shaking off the ants).
With a wingspan of up to 33 inches (84 cm) the Greater Kestrel is one of the biggest kestrels. The slightly smaller, more colorful Eurasian Kestrel uses updrafts, limited hovering and other modes of aerial hunting at higher altitudes to catch voles, mice and other small mammals, birds and large beetles. Foraging that way requires more energy than sit-and-wait hunting for invertebrates, which, gram-for-gram, offer the same nutritional value as vertebrates.
Greater Kestrel hunting strategy
The lower-altitude Greater Kestrel is often attracted to roadside perches. They don’t scavenge road kill with the crows. Instead, they use the perches as part of an energy-efficient strategy to hunt for grasshoppers, wind scorpions and spiders and termites.
Lizards and other large prey are often presented by males to females spending long hours incubating eggs and attending to chicks. “Vertebrate prey rose in importance during the courtship, incubation and, to a lesser extent, nestling periods,” South African researchers wrote in the Journal of African Ornithology.
The Greater Kestrel is a non-migratory resident of beautiful, arid landscapes of eastern and southern Africa, typically with a few scattered trees or other perches. Ornithologists who study them have the enviable task of spending long hours with binoculars and spotting scopes in grassy, mid-elevation foothills, river valleys and high ridges. Researchers collect pellets regurgitated under roosts and hunting perches to gain a detailed understanding of the kestrels’ diet.
Birds of Africa
Take a trip, save money, see amazing birds
We believe that the more we watch, photograph, study and enjoy individual birds and groups of birds, the better for all birds, all wildlife and all humans.
- Our partner birding tour companies, birdwatching lodges and regional birding guides share our vision. They are knowledgeable, reliable and experienced with local birding conditions, customs, travel, and health and safety issues.
- These businesses offer our followers 5% discounts on the lowest listed-price of their services. The discounts apply to everybody in your party.
- There are no processing fees. It’s a simple offer based on a shared vision, without the usual marketing spam or gimmicks.