home   about   search

biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Falco rupicolus (Rock kestrel) 

[= Falco tinnunculus

Kransvalk [Afrikaans]; Intambanane, Uthebe-thebana [Xhosa]; uMathebeni, uTebetebana [Zulu]; Kakodi (generic term for sparrowhawks, goshawks, kestrels and falcons) [Kwangali]; Seotsanyana (applied also to other kestrel species and to Amur falcon) [South Sotho]; Rukodzi (generic name for a small raptor such as falcon or sparrowhawk) [Shona]; Kavakavana, Xikavakava (terms also applied to Amur falcon) [Tsonga]; Phakalane (generic term for some of the smaller raptors) [Tswana]; Torenvalk [Dutch]; Faucon crécerelle [French]; Turmfalke [German]; Peneireiro-vulgar [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Falconiformes > Family: Falconidae

Falco rupicolus (Rock kestrel)  Falco rupicolus (Rock kestrel) 

Rock kestrel, West Coast National Park, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Rock kestrel feeding on a bird it caught, Parklands, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs from Angola, southern DRC and Tanzania south to southern Africa, where it is common in Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho and central Mozambique. It occupies a wide variety of habitats, generally favouring open semi-arid and arid environments, such as grassland, Karoo and desert as well as urban centres; in the breeding season it usually stays in areas around cliffs, which it uses for breeding and roosting.

Distribution of Rock kestrel in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Predators and parasites

It has been recorded as prey of Bubo capensis (Cape eagle-owl).

Movements and migrations

In the breeding season it generally stays in the south and west, but once finished it heads north-east to Botswana, Zimbabwe and north-eastern South Africa, probably due to an increase in rainfall and prey abundance.


It mainly eats small birds, lizards, mammals and arthropods, either hunting from a high perch or by hovering so that it can spot prey. Once it has done so it glides to the ground to catch the animal. It also hawks prey aerially, which is much more exhausting for it but generally gives greater rewards. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • Monogamous, territorial and usually a solitary nester, although a small quarry in the Western Cape is sometimes used by about 12 breeding pairs spaced approximately 30 metres apart.
  • The nest is typically a simple scrape in a hole or crack, alternatively nesting on a ledge of a cliff, quarry, road cutting or building. It may also use the nest of another bird, such a crow or raven, placed on a cliff, tree or man-made structure such as a utility pole.
  • Egg-laying season is from September-January, peaking from a August-October in the south-west and September-November in the south-east.
  • It lays 1-6 eggs, which are mainly incubated by the female for about 26-32 days.
  • The chicks are brooded and protected by the female while the male provides food for the whole family. The young leave the nest at about 30-36 days old, becoming fully independent up to about 42 days later.


Not threatened.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.