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Rock Kestrel
Falco rupicolus

Status: Lower risk

Population Trend: Stable.

Other Names: 

Falco rupicolus
click to enlarge
Distribution: Afrotropical. Northern ANGOLA, southern ZAIRE, and southern TANZANIA to southern SOUTH AFRICA. more....

Subspecies: Monotypic.

Taxonomy: Until recently, this form was regarded as a subspecies of the Common Kestrel, F. tinnunculus). However, analyses of the molecular sequences of the cytochrome b gene by Groombridge et al. (2002) showed that the genetic distance between the Rock Kestrel and other Common Kestrel subspecies is comparable to several inter-species values, e.g., it is more divergent from the other races than the Australian Kestrel, F. cenchroides. This is compatible with marked differences in plumage and ecology between Rock and Common Kestrels. Based on these multiple lines of evidence, F. rupicolus is treated as a full species here.

Movements: Breeding is concentrated in the southwestern portion of the range, and there is likely post-breeding movement to the north and northeast, possibly in response to rainfall patterns and their effect on prey availability (van Zyl et al. (1994). Local movements may also occur in Botswana, but it is thought to be mainly sedentary there (Penry 1994). Some movements also occur in Zimbabwe, with many birds wandering durng winter, or after droughts (Irwin 1981).

Habitat and Habits: Inhabits a wide variety of open habitats from arid to mesic, but shows a particular preference for mountainous, hilly, and rocky areas (van Zyl 1997, Dowsett et al. 2008), unlike African races of the Common Kestrel. In populated areas in Botswana, it perches on power poles and wires, uses tall buildings and mine rock dumps for soaring on upcurrents, and may use these structures as nest sites in the future (Penry op cit.). more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: Feeds mainly on insects, but also takes a wide variety of small birds, rodents, and reptiles, including snakes. Hunts by hovering, or from a perch on a snag or telephone pole or wire, plunging or parachuting to the ground to capture prey on the ground. more....

Breeding: Nests in cavities in rocky cliffs and occasionally on buildings. The incubation period is 30 days, and the nestling period is 34 days (Tarboton 1990). more....

Conservation: As a part of the Common Kestrel, categorized as a species of "Least Concern" by BirdLife International.

Important References: 
Brown, L.H., E.K. Urban, and K. Newman. 1982. The birds of Africa. Vol. 1.
  Academic Press, London.
Cade, T.J. 1982. Falcons of the world. Cornell University Press, Ithaca,
Groombridge, J.J., C.G. Jones, M.K. Bayes, A.J. van Zyl, J. Carillo, R.
  Nichols, and M.W. Bruford.
2002. A molecular phylogeny of African kestrels
  with reference to divergence across the Indian Ocean. Molecular
  Phylogenettics and Evolution 25:267-277.
Jenkins, A.R. 2005. Rock Kestrel Falco rupicolus. Pp. 546-547 in P.A.R.
  Hockey, W.J.R. Dean, and P.G. Ryan (eds.), Roberts birds of southern Africa,
  VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town, South
Mendelsohn, J.M. 1990. Observations on the breeding of Rock Kestrels in
  Windhoek, Namibia. Gabar 8:24-28.
Orta, J. 1994. Common Kestrel. Pp. 259-260 in del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott,
  and J. Sargatal (eds). Handbook of birds of the world. Vol. 2. New World
  vultures to guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Steyn, P. 1982. Birds of prey of southern Africa: their identification and
  life histories. David Phillip, Cape Town, South Africa.
van Zyl, A.J. 1993. Foraging of the South African Rock Kestrel (Falco
  tinnunculus rupicolus
). Pp. 151-162 in M.K. Nicholls and R. Clarke (eds.),
  Biology and conservation of small falcons: Proceedings of the 1991 Hawk and
  Owl Trust Conference. Hawk and Owl Trust, London.
van Zyl, A.J. 1997. Breeding biology of the Common Kestrel in southern
  Africa (32S) compared to studies in Europe (53N). Ostrich 70:127-132.
van Zyl, A.J. 1997. Rock Kestrel. Pp. 264-265 in J.A. Harrison et al.
  (eds.), The atlas of South African birds. Volume 1: Non-passerines. BirdLife
  South Africa and Avian Demography Unit, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Sites of Interest:
Contains valuable original information and nice photos.

van Zyl, Anthony

Last modified: 9/27/2010

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2020. Species account: Rock Kestrel Falco rupicolus. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 25 Sep. 2020

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