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24 September 2013

Young Kestrels disperse

By now, all our Kestrel nests have been empty for some weeks, and this years' fledglings will have dispersed away from their nesting areas. Some will travel tens of kilometers, some much further. One adventurous Kestrel ringed in Co. Kerry in 2009 was found later that year in the north of France. They are also generally more widespread in autumn and winter as young birds wander in search of food, and eventually their own territories.

During a boat trip to look for unusual seabirds in August of this year, a young Kestrel was seen flying over the boat, traveling in a north easterly direction, from the open ocean toward the Blasket Islands, some 5 km distant. Where this bird had come from is anyone's guess, but it would be nice to think a French bird might have made it to Ireland!

Juvenile Kestrel, hunting along a beach near Castlegregory, Co. Kerry, 24th September 2013 (M. O'Clery)

If you get a close look at a Kestrel at this time of year it is possible to differentiate young birds from adult females (though they look very similar). Look for the frosty whitish tips to the outer wing feathers, much less pronounced on adult females. They can be clearly seen in this photo (Photo: Michael O'Clery).