Falco rupicoloides (Greater kestrel) 

Grootrooivalk [Afrikaans]; Kakodi (generic term for sparrowhawks, goshawks, kestrels and falcons) [Kwangali]; Seotsanyana (applied also to other kestrel species and to Amur falcon) [South Sotho]; Phakalane (generic term for some of the smaller raptors) [Tswana]; Grote torenvalk [Dutch]; Crécerelle aux yeux blancs [French]; Steppenfalke [German]; Peneireiro-grande [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 rupicoloides (Greater kestrel)  Falco rupicoloides (Greater kestrel) 

Greater kestrel, World of Birds, Hout Bay. [photo Neil Gray ©]

Greater kestrel. [photo Lorinda Steenkamp ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs in isolated patches of West Africa, with a separate population in Zambia, Angola and southern Africa. Within southern Africa it is fairly common across Namibia, Botswana and inland South Africa, scarce in Zimbabwe and largely absent from Mozambique. It generally prefers open, arid and semi arid habitats, such as grassland, Karoo shrubland and cultivated land.

Distribution of Greater 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.  

Predators and parasites

  • Predators of chicks and eggs

Movements and migrations

As it occurs in arid areas it is nomadic, moving in response to local conditions such as prey abundance and rainfall.


It mainly eats insects supplemented with other small animals, hunting from a high perch or by hovering in the air, so that can single out a prey item. Once it has done so it dives and takes the animal off the ground, rarely hawking prey aerially. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • Monogamous, territorial solitary nester, probably with a long pair bond.
  • It typically uses the nest of another bird, especially crows and ravens but also large raptors such as Tawny eagles and Lappet-faced vultures. It is typically placed in a tree or man-made structure, for example a windmill, utility pole or pylon.
  • Egg-laying season is from March-June, peaking from September-October.
  • It lays 1-7 eggs, which are mainly incubated by the female for about 32-33 days.
  • The chicks are brooded constantly for the first few days of their lives, after which brooding becomes more intermittent before stopping completely. The young are fed by both parents; the female catches insects around the nest while the male hunts larger prey further afield. They leave the nest at about 32-35 days old, becoming fully independent at least 26 days later.


Not threatened, in fact its range has probably increased due to clearing of woodland and the spread of electricity pylons and telephone lines across the Karoo, which are used as nesting sites by crows and raptors, and reused by the Greater kestrel.


  • 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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