Lesser Kestrel - another uncommon highlight reported from north-east Bulgaria

On Monday April 23rd 2012, a kestrel with particularly pale underwing was noted feeding on the coastal grassland close to Cape Kaliakra. In addition to the pale plumage, we were drawn to investigate this bird further due to its apparent atypical feeding behaviour - namely, fluttering flight, very short bouts of hovering (only 2-3 seconds in duration) and constantly diving to the grass to catch what appeared to be insects. On closer inspection, it was immediately apparent that this was no ordinary common kestrel (Falco tinnunculus).

The bird´s head and nape were pale grey and completely unmarked with no streaks. In addition, the head showed no obvious moustachial stripe; in fact the cheeks had a very washed out appearance, with a pale patch behind the eye.

The breast and belly were a very warm buff colour, which extended as far back as the vent. Through the telescope, the rufous colouration of this bird was very striking. The sides of the breast showed some streaks, but these appeared minimal.

In flight, the underwing was uniformly pale, except for a slight dark patch around the carpel joint. There appeared to be no contrast between the secondaries and the underwing coverts, but there was an obvious dark tip to the primaries, with a dark edge to the leading primary.

In flight, the back was rusty in colour and seemingly unmarked. The upperwing coverts and scapulars displayed some signs of streaks but these appeared very minimal. On the ground, these streaks could be noted on the closed wing; however, they again appeared minimal giving the appearance of a largely unmarked bird.

The bird was watched at close range for about 20 minutes and the attached pictures were taken to confirm identification. Given the aforementioned plumage characteristics, coupled with the flight and feeding behaviour, we are left in no doubt that we were watching a first summer, male Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni).

Andrew Impey & Pavel Simeonov - Branta-Tours

Lesser Kestrel

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