Kestrel – 2003-07 breeding

Falco tinnunculus – CUDYLL COCH – Breeding resident

Comparison with previous atlas:

1984-882003-07
Breeding confirmed2621
Breeding probable3015
Breeding possible10060
No of tetrads occupied156 (of 478)96 (of 490)
Percentage of tetrads32.6%19.6%

The number of tetrads in which Kestrels were recorded, all categories, decreased from 156 to 97 between the two atlas survey periods. This 38% decline is likely to be genuine; the Kestrel is an obvious bird and is unlikely to be overlooked. The decrease has also occurred across all three categories. Using the confirmed and probable figures combined, the estimate for the breeding Kestrel population in Pembrokeshire is 30 to 35 pairs. This figure is backed up by the results of a dedicated census in 2008 which returned 31 breeding territories. A decline has also been recognised across the UK, particularly so in the southwest, and this decrease has also been accompanied by a decrease in productivity with fewer chicks fledging per nesting attempt (BTO nest record scheme).

A study in Kielder Forest, Northumberland, showed that predation by Goshawks caused a severe decline in the breeding Kestrel population (S. Petty 2003). The reasons for the decline in Pembrokeshire’s Kestrels are not known for certain but an investigation which began in 2008 showed early signs that predation of nesting adults was occurring and brood size for 10 nests was significantly lower than the national average. It is also suspected that competition for nest sites with the larger and dominant Peregrine is an issue, particularly at coastal cliff and inland quarry sites.

A nest box scheme in Pembrokeshire was initiated in 2007, in an attempt to alleviate potential nest site competition but it is too early at the time of writing to assess its effect on the Kestrel breeding population.  Given the widespread decline in the west of UK, it would seem that the Kestrel’s future is insecure in Pembrokeshire.

Paddy Jenks

More about the Kestrel in Pembrokeshire