The Nankeen Kestrel is widespread in Australia, though it occurs only sporadically in Tasmania. Kestrels usually occur in open country, such as grasslands and farmland, and avoid dense forests unless they have been opened up by clearing. They hunt a variety of prey, including small mammals (especially mice), small birds, lizards and insects. Small items may be eaten while flying, but larger prey is taken back to a perch.
The Nankeen Kestrel is a slender falcon and is a relatively small raptor (bird of prey). The upper parts are mostly rufous, with some dark streaking. The wings are tipped with black. The underparts are pale buff, streaked with black, and the under tail is finely barred with black, with a broader black band towards the tip. Females tend to be more heavily marked and have more rufous on the crown and tail. Males have a greyish crown and tail, although the extent varies between individuals. Females are larger than males. Young Nankeen Kestrels closely resemble the adult female, with heavier markings.
Territorial birds give excited, shrill chatter keekeekeek and upslurred chittering. Display call a two-note sharp killy-killy. Bird call recorded by: Marc Anderson
Nankeen Kestrels are found in most areas of Australia and are also found on islands along Australia’s coastline, as well as New Guinea .
Preferred habitats are lightly wooded areas and open agricultural regions and tend to be absent from dense forests. The Nankeen Kestrel’s success as a bird of prey can be largely contributed to its tolerance for a wide variety of habitats and its ability to feed on a variety of foods and nest in a range of sites.
Kestrels are often attracted to plagues of mice, capturing their prey on the ground by dropping onto them.
The Nankeen Kestrel’s diet is varied. It mainly feeds on small mammals, reptiles, small birds and a variety of insects. Prey is located from a perch or by hovering a short distance above the ground on rapid wing-beats, using its fan-shaped tail as a rudder and keeping the head and body kept still. Once prey is spotted, the bird drops nearer to the ground until it is close enough to pounce. Some insects and birds may be caught in mid-air or snatched from tree branches.
The Nankeen Kestrel nests in a wide variety of sites, including tree hollows, caves, ledges on the outside of buildings, and occasionally on the ground. The nest consists of anything from a simple scrape in the dirt of a ledge or tree hollow, to a nest of sticks or mud that has been abandoned by another species of bird. Pairs of Nankeen Kestrels usually stay together over successive breeding seasons, and will often use the same nest site or territory year after year. Usually, only one brood of young is raised in a year. The female does the bulk of the incubation, while the male supplies the food.