The Australian kestrel or nankeen kestrel (Falco cenchroides) is one of the smallest falcons, and unlike many, does not rely on speed to catch its prey. Instead, it simply perches in an exposed position, but it also has a distinctive technique of hovering over crop and grasslands. This bird is thought to be a very close relative of the common kestrel, and probably also the spotted kestrel. It seems to have evolved of ancestral common kestrels dispersing to the Australian region in the Middle Pleistocene—less than 1 million years ago—and adapting to local conditions.



A very common and easily seen raptor, the nankeen kestrel is found in Australia, New Guinea, and nearby islands, and is an irregular visitor to New Zealand. It occupies any type of land that is not too densely vegetated, but in particular temperate grasslands and open woodlands. In the tropical north and the sandy deserts of the west, it has a patchy and seasonal distribution.

Like many Australian birds, it has no clear migratory pattern: in the grasslands of the south, established pairs are resident year round, but many other birds migrate north during the austral winter, or roam the arid interior following food supplies.



A small, slim falcon (about 31 to 35 centimetres or 12 to 14 inches long), the nankeen kestrel is rufous or brown above and white or off-white below, with a black tail tip. Plumage varies considerably in detail, and some birds can look very scruffy, but the slim build, small size and distinctive straight-winged hovering habit make identification easy. It can be seen in Western Australia on coastal cliffs and windy conditions. Also seen on phone lines and power lines. (The only other Australasian raptors to hover are the elanid kites which are much lighter in colour and a little larger, and the brown falcon, which is much larger and more heavily built, and hovers only with difficulty). Altogether, it looks just like a pale, less patterned, and smaller derivate of the common kestrel, which it indeed is (see Gloger's Rule, Bergmann's Rule).

Diet is varied, with a large number of insects, but also small birds and reptiles, and in particular, small rodents, mostly mice. Nankeen kestrels are adaptable and hunt in a number of different ways: of these, simply perching in an exposed position (such as on a dead tree or a telephone pole) and watching for prey is the most common, but it is their habit of hovering motionless over crop and grasslands that is most distinctive.



Typically seen singly or in pairs, they can aggregate into loose flocks of up to 30 when conditions are right. Pairs are typically monogamous and may or may not disperse to different areas during the non-breeding season. The nest is any convenient structure: a tree hollow, cliff ledge or disused corvid's nest, for example, and is not modified or added to by the kestrels.

Three to seven eggs are laid in late winter (usually about four) and incubated by the female alone. Hatching takes place after 26 to 28 days, and the male brings food while the female continues to incubate until the young are close to fledging, at which time the female leaves the nest to hunt for them too. Multiple broods are raised in good seasons.



Australian Kestrel
Date Location Count
2019-10-18 13:24Coral Bay2
2019-10-15 12:22Little Lagoon, Denham1
2019-10-14 09:17Monkey Mia1
2019-10-15 15:35Port Hedland Racecourse and Greater Sportsground1
2019-10-09 10:15Thirsty Point waterfront/park (Cervantes)1
2019-10-08 16:05Cervantes1
2019-10-12Nambung National Park--Pinnacle Desert1
2019-10-19 16:35Gantheaume Point1
2019-10-10 16:11Roebuck Plains Station (BBO and Jabiru Paddocks)2
2019-10-16 14:00Busselton Jetty1
2019-10-17 15:24Wagin Wastewater Treatment Plant1
2019-10-09 14:32Parkeyering Nature Reserve--Wait-Jen Walking Track1
2019-10-21 16:00William Bay National Park--Elephant Cove1
2019-10-21 08:37Stirling Range National Park--Bluff Knoll1
2019-10-19 06:20Cheynes Beach Caravan Park and Arpenteur Nature Reserve1
2019-10-18 14:45Waychinicup National Park--Bald Island Rd1
2019-10-09 06:40Halls Creek1
2019-10-13 05:15Halls Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant1
2019-10-12 05:15Lake Argyle2
2019-10-08Fitzgerald River National Park1
2019-10-17 06:08Yulara2
2019-10-18 10:35Ellery Creek Nature Park1
2019-10-10 13:00Maloney Creek/Stuart Hwy2
2019-10-17 10:10Hugh River--Stuart Hwy crossing1
2019-10-11 06:02Barkly Homestead1
2019-10-09 13:16Pt Sinclair2
2019-10-09 17:28Glendambo1
2019-10-19 10:56Gawler Ranges National Park1
2019-10-17 12:42Lake Gilles Conservation Park--access road at -33.03628, 136.602081
2019-10-08 07:42east Mulligan Highway--swamp midway W and E Normanby R1
2019-10-14 06:57Mount Carbine Reservoir1
2019-10-16 16:00Maryfarms1
2019-10-12 14:51East Mary Rd, MaryFarm at -16.57139, 145.194441
2019-10-18 09:01Yorkeys Crossing2
2019-10-11 13:00Julatten2
2019-10-09 08:12Mount Molloy1
2019-10-09 07:39Mt Molloy township1
2019-10-20 00:00Australian Arid Lands Botanic Gardens
2019-10-14 14:03Pickford Rd at -16.91674, 145.387571
2019-10-19 08:08Pickford Rd between Mulligan Hwy and Mareeba Wetlands gate1
2019-10-21 12:07Pickford Rd at Two Mile Creek1
2019-10-14 07:30Cattana Wetlands1
2019-10-08 11:00Flinders Ranges--Stokes Hill1
2019-10-17 14:03Telowie Gorge Conservation Park1
2019-10-11 11:00Flinders Chase National Park--Platypus Walk
2019-10-11 16:00Seal Bay Conservation Park1
2019-10-09 07:00Port Gawler Conservation Park1
2019-10-14 15:43Cape Jervis1
2019-10-15 08:36O'Halloran Hill Recreation Park1
2019-10-13 06:58Altona CSR Landcare Reserve1
2019-10-18 16:00Mount Compass Wetlands1
2019-10-17 08:55Ross River Dam Borrow Pits Kelso1
2019-10-19 08:00Brookfield Conservation Park2
2019-10-17 17:17Kinchina1
2019-10-21 08:00Pt Sturt Rd--private property (restricted access)1
2019-10-21 09:00Tolderol Game Reserve2
2019-10-14 13:40Stephens Creek Reservoir1
2019-10-09 10:10Murray-Sunset National Park--Lindsay Island1
2019-10-09 06:57Crick Park, Menindee1
2019-10-17 10:16Meridian Rd Swamp1
2019-10-19 09:19Dunning Wetland (South Mildura)1
2019-10-08 09:52Hattah-Kulkyne National Park1
2019-10-21 11:44Trinita Road1
2019-10-10 07:27Wyperfeld National Park--Desert Walk1
2019-10-10 12:38Wyperfeld National Park--Wonga Camp Ground1
2019-10-17 09:30Bronzewing Flora and Fauna Reserve1
2019-10-19 16:35Little Desert Nature Lodge1
2019-10-12 08:15Lake Hindmarsh2
2019-10-17 14:15Little Desert National Park--Nhill-Harrow Rd at Jungkum Tk1
2019-10-16 17:42Nangeela State Forest2
2019-10-20 10:00Wathe Flora and Fauna Reserve3
2019-10-11 15:33Mount Arapiles-Tooan State Park--Centenary Park Camping Area1
2019-10-16 11:30Lake Tyrrell2
2019-10-15 11:56Lake Tyrrell Wildlife Reserve--Baileys Road and Lookout1
2019-10-20 13:05Swan Hill Sewage Treatment Plant1
2019-10-20 07:35Goschen Bushland Reserve1
2019-10-18 09:19Lake Charm1
2019-10-13 07:28Tragowel Swamp1
2019-10-11 09:00Mount Korong Nature Conservation Reserve1
2019-10-10 10:00Kelly's Landing Rd--marsh1
2019-10-12 15:50Terrick Terrick National Park--Grassland Section
2019-10-13 05:56Kinka Wetlands, Kinka Beach1
2019-10-19 18:30Warwillah Station at -35.02222, 144.889445
2019-10-13 12:15Terrick Terrick National Park--Terrick East Grassland1
2019-10-12 10:06Merin Merin Swamp State Game Reserve1
2019-10-18 16:00Twelve Mile Creek Fishing Reserve (Marmor)1
2019-10-08 15:46Aird Road Wetland1
2019-10-20 10:47Chat Alley1
2019-10-20 12:45Lake Cargelligo Road at Gleesons Rd1
2019-10-18 10:30Great Otway National Park--Aire River Campground1
2019-10-19 15:14Lake Eppalock--Old Bendigo Road1
2019-10-11 14:00Wensleydale Station Rd at Wormbete Station Rd, Wensleydale1
2019-10-20 14:16Kiacatoo swamp1
2019-10-20 09:00Mt Rothwell Biodiversity Interpretation Centre1
2019-10-11 09:25Hospital Swamp--Baenschs Lane1
2019-10-08 09:00Western Treatment Plant (Werribee)--Point Wilson Rd at Beach Rd1
2019-10-20 07:08Organ Pipes National Park1
2019-10-20 06:55Western Treatment Plant (Werribee)1
2019-10-11 09:30Jacana Wetland1
2019-10-21 11:12Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve1
2019-10-21 10:05Perc White Reserve1
2019-10-20 17:09Mornington Peninsula National Park--Koonya Beach1
2019-10-18 07:00Patterson Station1
2019-10-17 11:55Karkarook Park2
2019-10-19 08:20Waterways Estate
2019-10-13 08:20Dandenong Valley Wetland1
2019-10-09 11:00Mornington Peninsula National Park--Cape Schanck1
2019-10-20 08:37Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo1
2019-10-15 16:20Dubbo Sewage Treatment Plant1
2019-10-17 13:45Lake Broadwater Conservation Park1
2019-10-13 17:41Anzacs Beach2
2019-10-17 07:53Bimbi State Forest1
2019-10-18 12:08Kaimillenbun1
2019-10-12 13:23Stockyard Point1
2019-10-09 12:00west end of wetland (Wooroolin)1
2019-10-14 13:59Lake Albert, Wagga Wagga1
2019-10-21 12:10Maclagan4
2019-10-11 13:45Devon Park Boundary Rd, Oakey1
2019-10-18 07:00Mosquito Creek Rd1
2019-10-18 09:05Lake Coolmunda1
2019-10-11 13:00Wilthorn Kelvinhaugh Rd, Kelvinhaugh1
2019-10-13 10:00Burrendong Botanic Garden and Arboretum1
2019-10-16 09:23Loveday Cove (Lake Cooby)1
2019-10-16 09:17Charles Sturt University, Orange1
2019-10-20 13:00Glen Riddle Recreation Reserve. Barraba.1
2019-10-10 11:18Mandurama1
2019-10-08 10:00Tumut STW and Town Common1
2019-10-13 10:09Neville Cemetery1
2019-10-14 12:08Lake Clarendon1
2019-10-14 09:49Greyfriars Rd, Forest Hill2
2019-10-15 15:28Atkinsons Dam2
2019-10-12 12:25Banool Road2
2019-10-14 14:35Watsons Road - west end paddock2
2019-10-20 06:25Danthonia1
2019-10-18 09:53Wee Jasper valley1
2019-10-21 06:35Rosewood Wetland on Bremer Rd2
2019-10-14 09:15Capertee National Park1
2019-10-14 10:43Bendemeer1
2019-10-11 10:25Flat Rock Reserve, Tarana1
2019-10-19 07:14Capertee Valley1
2019-10-18 09:10Stony Creek Nature Reserve2
2019-10-08 12:58Uriarra Loop Track2
2019-10-17 08:00West Belconnen Pond1
2019-10-19 15:49Priors Pocket (Moggill)1
2019-10-17 09:31Stromlo Forest Park (west)2
2019-10-10 09:15Narrabundah Hill Nature Reserve1
2019-10-13 09:45Cooleman Ridge Nature Reserve2
2019-10-14 16:19National Arboretum--main dam1
2019-10-20 09:30Murrumbidgee Discovery Track--Kambah Pool-Red Rocks Gorge1
2019-10-18 06:30Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve1
2019-10-08 10:45Nundle4
2019-10-10 09:16Urambi Hills Nature Reserve2
2019-10-11 08:46Lake Lyell1
2019-10-15 06:45Goorooyarroo Nature Reserve2
2019-10-15 09:40Wollemi National Park--Coorongooba Camping Area1
2019-10-09 11:21Point Hut Road dam (Gordon)1
2019-10-20 08:37Mt Ainslie Nature Reserve--Campbell Park1
2019-10-21 12:20Jerrabomberra Wetlands Nature Reserve1
2019-10-13 14:52Commissioners Creek Travelling Stock Reserve1
2019-10-14 09:47Boboyan Road at -35.64194, 149.009462
2019-10-12 07:31Gigerline Nature Reserve--Tharwa Sandwash1
2019-10-20 08:04Jerrabomberra Grasslands Nature Reserve1
2019-10-20 08:25Glendale Depot1
2019-10-12 14:18Naas Road at Apollo Road1
2019-10-20 12:30Namadgi National Park--Yankee Hat car park and track1
2019-10-16 08:25Gambles TSR, Sutton Road, Sutton1
2019-10-12 12:45Old Boboyan Road at -35.7479, 148.98821
2019-10-16 10:40Molonglo Gorge1
2019-10-08 10:00Googong Dam--Western Foreshores1
2019-10-17 17:26Cooney Cottage (Restricted access)2
2019-10-13 10:26K2C Illilanga (Restricted Access)1
2019-10-16 08:40Goulburn Wetlands1
2019-10-13 09:50Goulburn Maturation Ponds (restricted access)1
2019-10-18 11:00Borough Creek at Stewarts Crossing Road1
2019-10-19 09:30Richmond Lowlands1
2019-10-10 13:00Onus Lane, Richmond Lowlands1
2019-10-21 12:45Freemans Reach turf farms1
2019-10-20 06:21Marlo1
2019-10-18 14:16Snowy River Mouth Walking Track1
2019-10-18 14:17Mots Beach (Marlo)1
2019-10-10 16:03Louth Park1
2019-10-11 13:00Rookwood Cemetery1
2019-10-17 08:11Warnervale Airfield1
2019-10-19 08:21Tallawarra Ash Pond 3, Yallah (Restricted Access)1
2019-10-21 08:00Maddens Plains1
2019-10-12 10:16Woolooware Bay Shared Pathway and Viewing Platform1
2019-10-20 08:06Korrungulla Wetlands, Primbee1
2019-10-12 14:09Swamp Rd, Dunmore (south end)1
2019-10-14 13:21Mill Stream Lookout (Botany)1
2019-10-20 16:26Eastlakes golf course1
2019-10-08 07:30Long Reef Aquatic Reserve1
2019-10-10Princes Highway at Toolijooa Road1
2019-10-13 14:48Kioloa Coastal Campus (ANU)1
2019-10-19 09:44Shoalhaven Heads Inlet1
2019-10-21 12:56Kiama1
2019-10-21 13:00Bass Point (Shellharbour)1
2019-10-19 09:30Coogee Beach1
2019-10-08 17:37Kamay Botany Bay National Park--Doughboy Head1
2019-10-13 12:32Blue Haven Estate Wetlands (Old Bar)1
2019-10-14 22:15Lord Howe Island1