Irish Name: Pocaire gaoithe
Scientific name: Falco tinnunculus
Bird Family: Raptors
Conservation status


Widespread resident throughout Ireland.


A species of falcon. A small bird of prey with long, relatively narrow wings and tail. Has a short, hooked bill for eating meat. Usually, hovers, with a fanned tail, when hunting for its prey, when it manages to keep its head stationary despite its rapid wing beats. Male and female birds have different plumages but both sexes are recognised by their brown back and inner upperwings which contrast with their dark upper outer wings. Confusion with Sparrowhawk is possible but Kestrel has narrower, straighter wings and flies using less gliding in its flight. Males have one, terminal band on the upper tail and show a blue-grey upper tail and rump; females have a series of bands on a brown upper tail. Males have a blue-grey finely streaked head and females a brown streaked head. Both sexes have finely barred underwings with dense spotting on the body. Immature birds are similar to adults, but first summer males and juveniles can be separated from adults, please refer to a field guide.


Repeated quickly, a series of short sharp notes.


Mainly small mammals, but will also take insects and invertebrates and sometimes birds. Can see small mammal 'runs', which it scans for signs of movement.


A widespread breeder throughout the country. Nests in trees, buildings or in cracks in cliffs. Will use old crows nests. Found in wide variety of open habitats including coasts, moor land, farmland, wetlands, roadside verges and town parks.


Largely resident within breeding territory. Some birds move within the country, especially down from the uplands.

Monitored by

Countryside Bird Survey and BirdTrack.

Blog posts about this bird


BirdWatch Ireland staff meet ministers to demand action over shocking wild bird declines

On World Curlew Day, the Curlew is a symbol of successive government failure to protect our wildlife. BirdWatch Ireland’s top scientists are today, on World Curlew Day, meeting Ministers of State Malcolm Noonan and Pippa Hackett to discuss alarming wild bird declines. Experts on farmland birds, waterbirds and seabirds will tell the ministers that successive governments have ignored biodiversity and that they must seize the moment to turn around the fate of so many species. Last week BirdWatch Ireland and RSPB Northern Ireland jointly published the Birds of Conservation Concern in Ireland 2020-2026 list. Using a traffic-light system, it reviewed the conservation status of 211 regularly occurring bird species in Ireland. The findings revealed a shocking 46% increase in the number of bird species on the Red List, the highest threat category, since the last review in 2013. Altogether 63% of bird species on the island of Ireland are now in serious trouble, a truly shameful and unacceptable situation that must urgently be addressed by government. Ministers will hear that the catastrophic declines of farmland birds, especially breeding waders like the Curlew and the Lapwing, are a consequence of successive agriculture and forestry policies which have prioritised intensification and afforestation at the cost of homes for biodiversity. Dr. Anita Donaghy, BirdWatch Ireland Head of Species and Land Management said: “On World Curlew Day we are still waiting on government to implement the recommendations of the Curlew Task Force published in 2019. We cannot delay anymore. “We have reached a tipping point in the future of many of our wild bird populations. The declines in the Kestrel, the beautiful and formerly common farmland bird of prey that hovers while hunting rodents, are grave. They indicate that our countryside is becoming ever more inhospitable for nature. This must be resolved in AgriFood Strategy 2030, the CAP Strategic plan and in the Forestry Programme for once and for all. “Successive governments have targeted funding on intensification and forestry premia, and much less so at supporting farmers to save the habitats of threatened species on their farms.” Dr. Lesley Lewis of BirdWatch Ireland, co-author of the Birds of Conservation Concern in Ireland paper said: “Ireland’s waterbirds are declining at rate higher than those in most other EU member states. Government must now put in place a multilateral and all-of-government approach with biodiversity at the heart of decision making. Otherwise the trend will be for more species to join the Red List and to head for extinction here” Dr. Stephen Newton, BirdWatch Ireland Senior Seabird Conservation Officer said: “Post Brexit, Ireland is the most important EU member state for the 4 Red-listed seabird species Puffin, Razorbill, Kittiwake, and Leach’s Storm Petrel. We must meet national and EU targets to cut emissions and also ensure that offshore renewables safeguard threatened species. To do this we need a lot more funding for research into species ecology”. Oonagh Duggan, BirdWatch Ireland’s Head of Advocacy said: “Failure to adequately fund the National Parks and Wildlife Service has hindered species and habitat conservation at every level. Government ambitions to meet climate targets can be supported by ambitious restoration of habitats, but significantly increased staff numbers and funding is required within the NPWS so it can be fit for purpose for this task."

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