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Nankeen Kestrel

(Falco cenchroides)
Alternate name(s): "Australian Kestrel", "Windhover", "Mosquito-hawk"; Misnomer: "Sparrowhawk*"
Aboriginal name(s): Race "cenchroides": "martiet" (WA); "minmin"

Size: 30-35 cm; wing span 60-80 cm
Weight: 120-255 g


Description     Classification     Distribution     Sightings     Photos     Breeding     Nest     Eggs     Behaviour     Food     Call/s

Physical description

Click here for a physical description

Taxonomy, classification

See Nankeen Kestrel at Wikipedia .

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range


Click here for sighting information


Race "cenchroides"

Not the photos you want? Or are you after even better quality? Have a look here .



Frontal view of an adult male Nankeen Kestrel; note the grey cap
[Eulah Creek, NSW, December 2008]

Lateral view of a male Nankeen Kestrel (photo courtesy of V. Collins)
[Near Narrabri, NSW, November 2020]

Lateral view of a male Nankeen Kestrel
[Narrabri, NSW, July 2012]

Lateral view of a male Nankeen Kestrel...
[Narrabri, NSW, July 2012]

... now with its head turned
[Narrabri, NSW, July 2012]

Near-dorsal view of a male Nankeen Kestrel

Frontal view of a male Nankeen Kestrel banking to land (photo courtesy of V. Collins)
[Near Narrabri, NSW, November 2020]

Lateral view of a male Nankeen Kestrel in flight
[Narrabri, NSW, July 2012]

Male Nankeen Kestrel in flight seen from underneath
[Narrabri, NSW, July 2012]


Near-frontal view of a female Nankeen Kestrel; note the brown crown (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Dundowran Beach, Hervey Bay, QLD, May 2018]

Near-lateral view of a female Nankeen Kestrel seen against a dark background, which makes its light colour stand out clearly

Close-up lateral view of a female Nankeen Kestrel on a fence post
[Harparary, NSW, July 2011]

The same female Nankeen Kestrel as above, now with its head turned
[Harparary, NSW, July 2011]

Female Nankeen Kestrel, left (note the rufous head), and male, right, on a power pole (photo courtesy of E. Scott)
[Fairy Hill, northern NSW, June 2017]

Female Nankeen Kestrel seen from underneath
[Near Bellata, NSW, September 2011]

Dorsal view of a hovering Nankeen Kestrel (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Ensay South, East Gippsland, VIC, August 2015]

Pair of Nankeen Kestrels high up in a dead tree; the male is the bird on the right, the female on the left

Nankeen Kestrel being swooped by both a Pied Currawong and an Australian Raven


Lateral view of a juvenile which was seen hunting off our power line
[October 2011]

View from below of a juvenile Nankeen Kestrel
[Eulah Creek, NSW, February 2011]

Breeding information

Breeding season: Jul - Nov Eggs: 3 - 4 Incubation period: 28 - 29 days Fledging age: 28 - 31 days

Twitcher's tip

Note that, by the time they fledge (i.e., leave their nest), the young of all species of raptors - apart from the tail and wing feathers (which are still growing) - are already full adult-size.


"bungobittah", "malunna" = nest [Aboriginal]

Type: Tree hollow* Material: Wood dust, gravel Height above ground: 5 - 20 m

* Nankeen Kestrels usually build nests in tree hollows, but will also re-use disused basket stick nests by other species. They are also known to nest in depressions in cliff hollows or on rock ledges.

To see a different kind of Falcon nesting in a River Red Gum, click HERE.

View from above into the nesting hollow of a pair of Nankeen Kestrels, with two near-fledging age chicks in it; note the remnants of a lizard and the otherwise clean gravel lining (photo courtesy of R. Brinsley)
[85 km West of Wentworth, NSW, 2007]

Two nosy little Nankeen Kestrels having a good look at the photographer; their nest is in a River Red Gum
[O'Brien's Creek, Narrabri Lake, NSW, November 2011]

Male Nankeen Kestrel sitting in the opening of its nesting hollow
[Harparary, NSW, October 2012]

Female Nankeen Kestrel looking into its nesting hollow (photo courtesy of R. Druce)
[Maules Creek, NSW, 2012]


"boyanga", "booyanga", "derinya", "dirandil", "koomura", "ngampu", "nooluk", "pateena" = Egg; "dirundirri" = eggs [Aboriginal]; "gawu" = eggs [gamilaraay]

Size: 37 x 30 mm Colour: Light-brown, heavily speckled with darker brown/black/reddish speckles Shape: Tapered oval

Clutch of 4 Nankeen Kestrel eggs in a re-used Chestnut-crowned Babblers' nest (photo courtesy of D. Johnston)
[Inland NSW, 1980ies]


Social behaviour: Territorial Mobility: Sedentary Elementary unit: Pair

Like many other raptors, Nankeen Kestrels sometimes hunt hovering in updrafts on hill or mountain slopes. The photo below shows how the wings can be angled when there is too much air lift for a bird to fully extend them while maintaining position.

Nankeen Kestrel hovering in a strong updraft; this bird was seen hunting next to its partner in the same updraft
[Mt. Kaputar NP, NSW, April 2011]

Nankeen Kestrels have been by us to hustle raptors as powerful as (and nesting in the same tree with) a Whistling Kite.

Spotted Harrier getting in the way of a Nankeen Kestrel
[Eulah Creek, NSW, July 2013]

For unknown reasons this female Nankeen Kestrel overpowered a Common Starling, but then released it again
(photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Benambra, East Gippsland, VIC, December 2017]

On 2 July 2014, shortly after the winter solstice, calls were recorded of a male Nankeen Kestrel pursuing a female, presumably in an attempt to woo her, to which the female responded in softer calls.

Food, Diet

Adults: Small rodents, insects Dependents: As adults Water intake: None

All raptors are carnivores. Nankeen Kestrels prey on small rodents, such as mice, lizards and large insects, e.g. locusts.

During the first few weeks, raptors feed their chicks with pieces of meat. Later on in their development, the chicks learn to tear apart their parents' prey.

Male Nankeen Kestrel with a mouse it has just caught (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Ensay South, East Gippsland, VIC, June 2016]

Male Nankeen Kestrel with a substantial meal
[Near Narrabri, NSW, September 2019]

Female Nankeen Kestrel with its prey, a small lizard
[Near Narrabri, NSW, 2006]

Female Nankeen Kestrel diving into tall grass trying to make a catch (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Ensay South, East Gippsland, VIC, May 2015]


For this species we have recorded the following call(s)/song. The interpretation of their meaning is our own; comments and suggestions for improvement are welcome.

nankest_20200216.m4a cenchroides
Contact calls (in-flight) © MD
nankest_20140622.mp3 cenchroides
Contact calls © MD
nankest_20160910.mp3 cenchroides
Contact calls (in-flight) © MD
nankest_20170110_1.mp3 cenchroides
Welcome/mating(?) call © MD
nankest_20160126.mp3 cenchroides
Upset (swooping Brown Goshawk) © MD
nankest_20160126_2.mp3 cenchroides
Upset (about Brown Goshawk) © MD

More Nankeen Kestrel sound recordings are available at .

These pages are largely based on our own observations and those of our contributors. The structure of these bird pages is explained HERE. For more salient facts on any bird species please refer to a field guide.

Would you like to contribute photos or sound recordings to this site?
If interested, please CLICK HERE. Credits to contributors are given HERE.