A couple of weeks ago when I was wren-watching on the cliffs above Coogee beach, I noticed a Nankeen Kestrel perched further along just below the cliff-top. Before I could move closer, three people clambered over the safety fence above, and the bird took fright and flew off.
I consoled myself with the thought that I already had some decent photos from a few years ago. They were taken at Pearl Beach, and featured this kestrel:
I first saw the kestrel in the distance, perched on a large rock at one end of the beach:
I walked closer, pausing every so often to take a photo in case the kestrel flew off:
Although the kestrel knew I was there, it didn’t seem much concerned as I got nearer.
Eventually I went around the rock so that I was standing just below it. The kestrel looked at me again:
Deciding I was still harmless, it settled back to a relaxed survey of the beach:
Then two people came scrunching along the path above me, and the kestrel took off, heading back down the beach. I thought that was that, and returned to the beach myself. However five minutes later the kestrel reappeared in front of Lion Island.
It seemed to be clutching something as it headed back past me to its rock.
When it landed, I could see that it had indeed caught something:
I went back to a higher vantage spot behind the rock, and from there I could see that it was holding a large cicada:
It bent down to its meal:
Cicadas are not very nourishing however, being mostly wing and chitinous exoskeleton, and the kestrel soon found itself spitting out an unappetising bit:
It bent down for the next morsel:
At that point, I left it to enjoy its meal.
I’ve written about kestrels previously. They’re small falcons found in most parts of the world, though the American kestrels are, despite their name, more closely related to other falcons than to the old-world kestrels. Nankeen Kestrels (Falco cenchroides) are the Australian representatives, and are our smallest falcons, smaller even than the Australian Hobby.
Kestrels range all over Australia, but prefer open country suited to their hunting behaviour. They tend to hover or slowly patrol at a height of around 10–20 metres, from where they can readily spot prey and swoop on it. Their typical menu includes the smaller vertebrates (lizards and mice) and larger invertebrates. Unlike other falcons, they rarely hunt in flight.
Nankeens are readily identified by their small size, the “teardrop” mark below the eye and the distinctive brown colouring of their upper wings and body. This colour was named “nankeen” after a variety of cotton from Nankin (also known as Nanking or Nanjing) in China.
The kestrel in these photos was a female, distinguishable by its brown head and upper tail; males are grey in these areas.
I began this blog by saying I’d recently sighted a kestrel at Coogee. This was the only view I got.