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Saw this bird on a post by a field in south east London, UK. We think it may be a kestrel from the colouring, but most kestrel photos online look more delicate than this one. Does anyone know what species this is?

bird of prey on post in field

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  • Some kind of falcoon would also be my guess.
    – PMF
    Oct 9, 2022 at 12:16

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I can't give a definitive answer, but it is probably a female kestrel, doing what kestrels do, which is to scan for small mammals either from a perch or on the wing.

The male's colours are more subdued.

From the colouring and my Collins Complete Guide to British Birds it could be a red kite or a merlin, but there are fewer than 2,000 breeding pairs of each of those, while there are over 50,000 pairs of kestrels, and they are a common sight. The red kite does not spend much time on the ground.

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    I agree. Red kites are surprisingly big and the tail is wrong ("rufous, deeply notched" says the book I have here). Even they don't have such clear markings on the back - nothing else (in the UK) does in those colours.
    – Chris H
    Oct 9, 2022 at 19:48
  • @ChrisH yes, the red kite does have notched tail visible in flight, but I don't know how it looks when folded. Oct 9, 2022 at 19:50
  • My Collins is in the van, so I looked in my RSPB/Dorling Kindersley which has a nice clear picture perched (to which the caption I summarised points)
    – Chris H
    Oct 9, 2022 at 19:53
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    I've seen a few red kites near here but never perched - either in flight or on the ground. I think they prefer to scan the ground from the air rather than perches
    – Chris H
    Oct 9, 2022 at 19:55
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    The kite has a different head that is "longer" and more "eagle shaped", if that makes sense. IMHO this is clearly a kestrel, and a male one at that. I just read up on this a gain, and it seems the male ones have the more prominent colour schemes, while the females are a bit more brownish.
    – fgysin
    Oct 28, 2022 at 8:07

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