What Do Kestrels Eat? (All You Need To Know)

Kestrels (Falco tinnunculus), also known as the common, European and Eurasian kestrel, are one of the most beautiful birds in the UK and across Europe. Watching a kestrel hover so elegantly above the ground as they search for food is such a privilege. But you may be wondering what food kestrels are hovering around for. Well, let’s see what’s on the menu for a kestrel, shall we?

Kestrels eat mostly small mammals like voles and mice. They will also eat insects and worms, though.

Kestrels are very remarkable birds. You can see kestrels hunting wherever you live. They have adapted brilliantly to the man-made world around them and, as we’ll see below, can hunt in almost any environment.

If you live in the countryside, you can often see kestrels hovering over fields, and grass verges hunting for small mammals. However, they have adapted their hunting techniques for the city as well. In the city, most kestrels eat insects, but they can also hunt for bats and small birds too.

Kestrel with mouse prey

Kestrel with mouse prey

What do kestrels eat in the winter?

Kestrels don’t change their diets too much throughout the year. If there aren’t many mammals around, they may enjoy some insects or worms. They may also prey on non-migratory small birds like blue tits, for example.

Do kestrels eat garden birds?

Kestrels are known to occasionally eat small garden birds. They are an adaptive predator, so whatever small prey their environment provides, they can hunt. The prey does need to be much smaller than them, of course, but small birds are on the menu for kestrels.

Common Kestrel hovering in the air, on the lookout for prey

Common Kestrel hovering in the air, on the lookout for prey

What birds do kestrels eat?

Kestrels can hunt and kill birds up to the size of a pigeon. Of course, kestrels want to hunt the easiest thing to catch and kill in their area. So, the chances of seeing a kestrel catch a pigeon are rare. If they are going to hunt for birds, it’s likely going to be small species like tits and finches, for example.

How do kestrels find food and hunt?

Kestrels hover about 20-30 feet off of the ground. They can keep their head amazingly still while they hover and scan the ground for any movement. They can then pinpoint any small mammals and dive in for the kill. They will grab their prey with their talons, and in one quick bite, it has gone to the countryside in the sky.

Kestrel hunting an unsuspecting mouse

Kestrel hunting an unsuspecting mouse

What do baby kestrels eat?

Baby kestrels will eat just about everything the parents provide. The male kestrel does a lot of the hunting during the breeding season and will often stockpile food in a hole in a tree trunk and then bring it all back to the nest for the young.

Can you feed wild kestrels?

There isn’t really a need to feed wild kestrels. Kestrels are some of the best hunters we have in the UK, and they get by just fine on their own. If you want to attract kestrels, it is best to leave your grass to grow long to attract mice, voles and insects, or find a bird sanctuary in your area already doing the same.

Kestrel in flight

Kestrel in flight

What do kestrels drink?

Kestrels don’t really need to drink; they don’t sweat, so they don’t waste too much water. The grizzly answer is that they get most of the liquid they need from their prey. They may occasionally drink some water, but it’s a rare sight.

What eats kestrels?

Kestrels are very occasionally taken by larger birds of prey, but it is a very rare sight. Any bird of prey larger than a kestrel is looking for an easy meal. Kestrels are fantastic flyers and will put up a fight to any bird who tries it.

European Kestrel eating an insect

European Kestrel eating an insect

Kestrel Diet FAQs

How do you attract Kestrels?

The best way to attract kestrels in your area is to have a piece of land that is untouched and overgrown. This will attract mice, voles and insects and then kestrels. Kestrels hunt with their eyes, so leaving dead prey around isn’t going to do much.

Do kestrels eat pigeons?

Kestrels have been known to hunt, catch and kill pigeons, yes. They are on the larger side of what these birds can hunt, but they can do it.

Do kestrels eat cats?

There’s no evidence that kestrels can kill cats; they simply aren’t big enough. Birds of prey go for the easiest option they can find when hunting. Cats are almost never the easiest option.

Kestrel waiting with prey for female to return

Kestrel waiting with prey for female to return

Do kestrels eat squirrels?

There isn’t much evidence to suggest that kestrels do eat squirrels, but they certainly could hunt them if they needed to. Squirrels are a good size for kestrels. Of course, the squirrel would have to remain on the ground long enough for the kestrel to spot it and dive down, but it could happen.

Do kestrels eat robins?

Kestrels do eat small birds, so it is highly likely that they could prey on robins if they deem them to be easy to catch.

Do kestrels eat sparrows?

Kestrels have been known to eat sparrows, yes. It all depends on what prey is in the area and what the kestrel fancies for lunch.

Common Kestrel in flight, with open wings

Common Kestrel in flight, with open wings

Do kestrels eat rats?

There isn’t too much evidence regarding rats and kestrels. We know that kestrels feed mainly on small rodents, so there is a chance they could take a rat or two. Perhaps kestrels in cities hunt rats, but we can’t say for certain, sadly.

Do kestrels eat swallows?

A kestrel’s main diet is small mammals. They do take small birds sometimes, and so they might hunt swallows. However, swallows won’t be the easiest thing to catch, so if there is other prey in the area, they will take that instead.

Do kestrels eat bats?

Yes, kestrels have been known to take bats and can do so quite effectively as well.

Kestrel perched on a post

Kestrel perched on a post

Do kestrels eat starlings?

Kestrels can take small birds, so if there is a starling they like the look of, they will likely try and catch it.

Do kestrels eat rabbits?

No, rabbits are a bit too big for kestrels. It would be a lot of work for a kestrel to get one in its lunchbox.

Do kestrels eat fish?

There have been a few sightings of kestrels hunting fish, yes. It isn’t a common sight, but kestrels do have the hunting ability to prey on fish. If you see it, you’re a very lucky person!

Do kestrels eat carrion?

There is some evidence to suggest that kestrels do eat carrion, but it is usually placed in an area where kestrels have been seen hunting. That’s not to say that kestrels won’t eat roadkill, but if you do see this, it might be that the kestrel cannot hunt due to a damaged wing or something like that.

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