Falco naumanni (Lesser kestrel) 

Kleinrooivalk [Afrikaans]; Kakodi (generic term for sparrowhawks, goshawks, kestrels and falcons) [Kwangali]; Seotsanyana (applied also to other kestrel species and to Amur falcon) [South Sotho]; Kleine torenvalk [Dutch]; Faucon crécerellette [French]; Rötelfalke [German]; Peneireiro-das-torres [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Falconiformes > Family: Falconidae

Falco naumanni (Lesser kestrel)  Falco naumanni (Lesser kestrel) 

Lesser kestrel female, Garingboom, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Lesser kestrel male, Garingboom, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Distribution and habitat

Breeds in eastern Europe, Asia Minor, Mongolia, Iran and northern China, heading south in the non-breeding season to sub-Saharan Africa, excluding the west African lowland forest. In southern Africa it is locally common in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa (excluding much of the arid Karoo and east coast), largely absent from Mozambique. It generally prefers warm, dry and open habitats while largely avoiding disturbed areas, although it sometimes occupies cultivated land.

Distribution of Lesser kestrel in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Movements and migrations

Palearctic breeding migrant, leaving its breeding grounds from August-September and eventually arriving in southern Africa in the period from October-November, leaving again around March.


It mainly eats arthropods, foraging from a perch or while hovering above the ground. In the run up to its departure foraging activity becomes more intense so that it can build up fat; for some reason the females hunt more actively than the males during this time. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


Globally Vulnerable, as its total population has decreased by at least 20% in the period from 1993-2003, and continues to do so. This is thought to have been caused by habitat loss, disturbance by agriculture, afforestation and urbanisation, as well as poisoning by pesticides (especially those used against locust swarms), persecution and removal of trees at roosting sites.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 



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