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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

2 Answers 2

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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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I can confirm a bird species for you

This is a Typical Falcon of the genus Falco

The bird you have taken a photo of is a Eurasian Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)

enter image description here

Differentiating Species

The location and photo has narrowed it down to only a few possible species. Only two of these look remotely like the Eurasian Kestrel

1) The Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)

Peregrines are slate-grey rather than brown, with a white underside decorated by dark bars, a white throat and cheeks, and a black mask.
Source: https://www.lancswt.org.uk/blog/charlotte-varela

Peregrines are slightly bigger as well, and tend to look a lot darker than a Eurasian Kestrel

enter image description here

2) The Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) A sparrow hawk is another less likely possibility, but they are easily told apart, as a sparrow hawk has piercing yellow eyes. Also, the heavy banding on the back of the kestrel, and lack thereof on the Sparrowhawk, easily mark it out

enter image description here

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  • Welcome to the Outdoors Stack Exchange. We appreciate your answers, but more information on why you think your ID matches the ID in the question would make your answers much better. This information helps the asker understand the ID and makes it clear for other readers why your answer is a good one or not.
    – bob1
    Apr 20 at 21:33
  • @bob1 Thank you! I did not think I needed that as it is fairly clear to me. I apologize for my lack of consideration. I added further details :)
    – Arrow
    Apr 20 at 23:45
  • You have to remember that 1) most people (myself included) on here aren't birders, and 2) could be from anywhere in the world (I'm in the Southern hemisphere for instance); and 3) the first photo you posted (in the original answer) looks nothing like the photo from the question - other than being an raptor with brown colouration; you certainly can't see the barring on the back like in the question, nor is the pale edging on the tail feathers obvious. So the explanation is very helpful. The updates make them excellent answers.
    – bob1
    Apr 21 at 0:44
  • Those are excellent reminders, thank you! I highly encourage you to try birding, it is very relaxing. Maybe give ebird a try. I have a feeling you would enjoy it ;)
    – Arrow
    Apr 21 at 1:07

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