The Male Kestrel: An essay of photos


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In my last post I showed photos of a female Kestrel, and then discussed some of the identifying characteristics that we could see. Today, I will be showing my photographs of male Kestrels, and describing some of the ways in which they differ from the female.

Male Kestrel: The most obvious difference from underneath is the tail

When a kestrel is in flight, it is not uncommon to see it from underneath, so we will start with some of the more obvious differences that can be see there. First is the tail. The female has a series of even stripes of alternating red and black. The male however has an almost entirely red tail, with only a single, wide, black band, at the very end, followed by a thiner, white terminal band. The outer two tail feathers (which will be a little harder to notice, are alternating black and white for their entire length.

A female Kestrel for comparison

Other differences you will notice are on the chest. The male will have either a clean, unmarked chest (often a cream color), or he will have scattered black dots. The female will have a streaked chest (the streaks running from a head to tail orientation). The males underwings are an even patterning of black and white, the females are reddish brown and tan.

The male is on the right

Male and female Kestrels are also different from the topside. While the female is always a little larger than the male, the greatest differences you will be able to notice are in coloration. You can see a little in this photograph of the two birds next to each other. The wings for example. The female’s wings are red and black. The male’s are have a bluish color and are mostly black at the tips, with some white. The center of the male’s back is a brighter red than the females, and has only a little black mixed in. (A female’s back isn’t so brightly colored, and is much more mottled between the black and red.)

The back of the male, as it feeds one of its nearly fledged female chicks. Kestrels are cavity nesters

Again, you can also notice the coloration of the tail of the tail from the backside, and not just from underneath. Back, wings, and tail will generally be your easiest field marks. Learn them, and you will have an easier time telling the male from the female. I’ve included more of my photographs in the slideshow at the top. Look at them, and see what differences and traits you can notice.

Male kestrel carrying a Western Fence Lizard (a.k.a. a blue belly lizard)


About Galen Leeds Photography

Nature and wildlife photographer, exploring the world on his feet and from his kayak. Among other genres, he is one of the leading kayak photographers in Northern California. To learn more about him, visit him on his website-
This entry was posted in kestrel, nature photography, Photo Essay, photography, raptors, wildlife photography and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to The Male Kestrel: An essay of photos

  1. Your images of the Kestrals in flight are beautiful. Do you have any helpful tips on shooting birds in flight?

  2. Cee Neuner says:

    I so enjoyed your slideshow!!! Fabulous images! Your inflight images are awesome!

  3. Chris Knowles says:

    Amazing photographs! Watched a kestrel swoop down and take a sparrow at my feet one day at the old bakery in Bolinas. It shocked the socks off a couple of city folks who were sitting near by. They had never seen such a thing. The kestrels loved those fat, slow sparrows.

  4. Maggie Rufo says:

    I love these action-filled photos of the magnificent Kestrel! Thank you!

  5. Mark Goodwin says:

    I love your work Galen and although I haven’t spent much time here yet, the Kestrels knock me out!
    Thank you for sharing


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