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BAGGY WILDLIFE: Find out more about the Kestral which swoops over the headline

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: May 08, 2014

  • SOARING: A kestral. Copyright northeastwildlife.co.uk

  • GROUND LEVEL: Frog by Joe Cornish/National Trust Images.

  • SEABIRDS: At Baggy Point you may spot a herring gull or a fulmar. Picture: Jon Bowen

  • MAJESTIC: Baggy Point glows in the sun. Picture: Jon Bowen

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Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)

Other names: windhover, mouse falcon, blood hawk and windsucker

Identification: small, chestnut brown bird of prey that is frequently seen hovering over Baggy Point. The male has a blue-grey head. That of the female is brown. Yellow feet and yellow ring around eye.

Easily mistaken for: peregrine falcon which swoops around Baggy like a Top Gun fighter jet and can dive at speeds of 200mph. The peregrine has a square tail that is as short as it is wide. The tail of the kestrel is longer and narrower.

Favourite haunts: grassland, farmland.

Favourite snack: short-tailed voles but will eat other small rodents, frogs and lizards.

Top speed: can swoop onto prey at 65mph.

Special powers: manoeuvrability and special vision.

While hovering kestrels have the extraordinary ability to keep their head totally still, even in the strongest of winds while their body moves around. This allows them to pinpoint and catch small mammals by sight alone.

Kestrels are able to see well into the ultra-violet spectrum. This enables them to track voles through grass very easily especially in May when the grass is shorter, as voles mark their trail with urine, which reflects ultra-violet light. This sends out a big beacon to the kestrels and at the end of the trail, there is the vole itself or its nest.

Current activity: During May, the kestrels are either sitting on eggs or feeding their newly hatched chicks. Kestrels do not build their own nests. They use old nests of other large birds such as crows and pigeons, or the eggs are laid in a hole in a tree, a crevice in a wall or cliff face.

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