Common Kestrel – Bird of the 2016th Year

kestrelThe annual public voting “Bird of the Year” has come to its end. With 1,008 votes Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) was awarded the title of “Bird of the 2016th Year”.

As in the previous year, five bird species were nominated: White Wagtail, Common Kestrel, Red-backed Shrike, Pygmy Cormorant and Little Owl. The top 3 were Common Kestrel (1,008 votes), White Wagtail (456 votes) and Red-backed Shrike (451 votes).

A total of 2,307 voters participated in the voting, both from Yerevan and the rest of the marzes (regions) of Armenia.

The participants could vote using online voting system on ASPB website, as well as ballot papers were made available in the rural areas where access to Internet is not available.

Common Kestrel is a bird, the size of a pigeon. The body length is 32-35 cm, wingspan – 71-80 cm, and the body weight – 136-314 g. Their plumage is mainly light chestnut brown with blackish spots on the upperside and buff with narrow blackish streaks on the underside; the remiges are also blackish. Unlike most raptors, they display sexual colour dimorphism with the male having fewer black spots and streaks, as well as a blue-grey cap and tail. The tail is brown with black bars in females, and has a black tip with a narrow white rim in both sexes. Juveniles’ color is similar to the females, but in contrast to females they have short and roundish flight feathers. Kestrel has a sharp voice. This species is widely spread in Europe, Asia (western regions) and in Northern Africa.

Interestingly, some of the species do migrate, the others prefer to overwinter in their nesting grounds, depending on the site and food availability. In Armenia this species occurs all year round. It prefers semi desert, mountain steppe and sub-alpine areas. It can also be seen along river gorges, as well as near human settlements. Common Kestrel feeds predominantly on rodents, but sometimes preys on bats, lizards, frogs, insects and earthworms, as well as sparrows and pigeon chicks. This species does not build nest and uses tree hollows, cliffs, and sometimes nests of birds. Nesting begins in April and lasts through May. Generally, kestrels lay 3-6 eggs and brooding by the parents lasts for about 4 weeks.

Initially chicks are hatched completely white, including their white beak. With time, the plumage becomes darker. One month later chicks are completely fledged and are able to fly, but still stay with their parents and learn hunting skills. They attain sexual maturity by the following breeding season. Their maximum life span is 15 years.

Intensive land use for agricultural needs and application of pesticide leave a negative impact on the species reproductive success and affect adults directly.

Interesting facts:

1. Common Kestrel’s eyesight is 2.5 times sharper than that of human beings.
2. Adult individuals take 6-8 mice per day.
3. It can chase the prey at a height of 10-20 meters, circling in the same area by flapping the wings repeatedly.
4. Kestrels have an ability to perceive ultraviolet lights.

“The Bird of the Year” initiative aims to draw public attention to birds and their habitat conservation issues.

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