Keep an eagle eye out for kestrels

The public is invited to help raptor ecologists at Flinders University’s BirdLab work on observing and conserving the ‘charismatic’ Nankeen kestrel, a small native bird of prey, which lives in urban areas of Adelaide.  

During their nesting period, tall buildings and lamp posts with nooks and cavities replace hollow logs and high trees in urban environments, says Flinders University PhD candidate Taylor Headland, who is leading the investigation into the ecology of Nankeen kestrels across urban and rural South Australia.  

PhD candidate Taylor Headland is observing kestrel behaviour and habitats around South Australia.

“Little is known about these charismatic species, although it’s commonly found all around Australia,” he says.  

“We hope to understand what kinds of urban habitat these birds use, how and where they hunt, and what their nesting successes look like. 

“Not surprisingly, these birds are most secretive once their eggs are laid and only when the male delivers prey to the incubating female can you hear the typical falcon call.” 

Mr Headland says the kestrel has evolved to strike prey by literally hovering mid-air, with their head completely still, in order to scan an area for lizards and insects – and then swoop down quickly to take their next meal.  

Perched Nankeen kestrels are often quite visually distinguished by their rufous colour and small but powerful stature. 

In urban areas especially kestrels also feed on mice and small birds such as swallows and starlings.  

Photo courtesy Craig Greer Photography.

Sightings of Nankeen kestrel nests – and particularly any suspected kestrel activity in the urban centre of Adelaide – can contact with information regarding the location and any other details.  


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College of Science and Engineering Research Students