Nankeen Kestrel breeding

Nankeen Kestrel, Laratinga wetlands, Mt Barker SA

Nankeen Kestrel, Laratinga wetlands, Mt Barker SA

This morning I was working out in the garden early before the heat of the day. I had been doing some mowing after all of the rain we’ve had over winter and spring. I’d just switched off the mower, that noisy beast, when I heard a familiar bird call overhead.

Three Nankeen Kestrels were flying low over head, two of them chasing after the first while calling. I recognised the call as that of the young birds begging for food. They are a regular breeding species here in Murray Bridge, South Australia but I don’t often get to hear or see the young ones. It’s good to see this species thriving here.

Nankeen Kestrels are found throughout Australia but they are uncommon in Tasmania I understand. They are one of our raptor species and are the smallest of the kites found in Australia. The Letter-winged Kites and the Black-shouldered Kites are just marginally larger.

This species is most commonly encountered along country roads in rural Australia. They can been seen hovering 5 to 10 metres above the ground or hanging motionless on a stiff breeze while searching for a feed. Their diet consists usually of mice, grasshoppers, insects and small lizards.

Their preferred habitat is grasslands, plains, farmlands as well as roadside verges, but they are equally at home in the built up CBDs of towns and cities.

Perhaps the most spectacular view I’ve had of this species was an individual soaring at eye level within metres of where I stood on a visit to the control tower of Melbourne Airport.

Nankeen Kestrel, Laratinga wetlands, Mt Barker SA

Nankeen Kestrel, Laratinga wetlands, Mt Barker SA


5 Responses to “Nankeen Kestrel breeding”

  1. Ken Rolph says:

    Can I borrow your kestrel? Do you think it would eat a koel?

    Birds are a bit off the list of favourite things here at present. We have a koel scouting the lorikeet nests. He is still calling at 3 am. The lorikeets are also off the list. Normally we have 2 to 4 eating off a stand. But the melaleuca is in flower at present and yesterday we have over 2 dozen of them in there. Feeding and screeching. Screeching and feeding.

    Where are those silent birds someone was asking about? We’ll have one. We’ll have a flock.

  2. Seb says:

    ROFL @ Ken

    Koels are a practical joke from God against humans surely!

    This was the first raptor I ever positively identified as a child. I still get a little rush every time I see these beautiful birds hovering!

  3. Trevor says:

    Hi there Ken and Seb,

    Thanks for your comments.

    Here in South Australia we are blessed by NOT having Koels I reckon. I can understand why they drive some people absolutely crazy.

    Mind you – we’ve had a raven tapping loudly with its huge beak on our bedroom window just metres from our sleeping heads at dawn. Not a pleasant alarm call at all. It was obviously attacking its own reflection in the glass, thinking it was an interloper in its territory.

    Lorikeets are sometimes a noisy bunch here too but not as bad as in the street in Artarmon, Sydney where my son lives. It is sometimes hard to talk with him on the phone around sunset, their screeches coming over the line very clearly indeed.

  4. Eve says:


    A couple of kestrels are starting a nest across our yard. They have mated 4 times that we have seen. Last time being 2 days ago. Any idea how long before the female will lay her eggs? Does the number of eggs she lays depend on the number of times she mated? Any way we can tell when the eggs are laid? The pair established themselves in a little spot above the door of our container and we have to go in there every now and then, I hope it won’t be a problem…

    Thanks for your help


  5. Trevor says:

    Hi there Eve,

    Sorry about the delay in replying to your comments. I get so many on my three sites that some slip through without me noticing.

    And I’m sorry that I don’t really know the answers to your questions because my reference books don’t cover them. I suspect that the number of eggs is not dependent on the number of mating attempts. Once should be enough. I guess that they just like it! LOL

    The only way to tell if there are eggs in the nest is to look – or observe the bird sitting. Looking into the nest is not recommended as it could disturb them and they could abandon the eggs. What is more, hawks, kestrels etc often nest high up in tall trees and climbing them can be hazardous!

    From your description though, it appears that the kestrels you are observing are close to the ground. How did they go? Did your presence disturb them? If it did, it is likely that they nested nearby in another situation. They tend to be quite territorial.

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