Kestrels breed in Malta and Gozo

July 6, 2018 9:40 am

Two pairs of Common Kestrels have bred in the Maltese Islands this year – one on the western side of Malta and another pair on the western coast of Gozo.

All five young Kestrels in the Malta nest (All photos by Denis Cachia)

The pair in Malta was first observed on the 24th of May and confirmed breeding the following day when the nest was located. It contained five young, about one-week old when discovered. The breeding site was regularly monitored by a BirdLife Malta volunteer birder for more than four weeks until all the young fledged successfully by the 25th of June.

Meanwhile in Gozo, a second nest was found by the same volunteer on the 19th of June with chicks already well grown. A second visit to the nest two days later confirmed that it contained four young that were preparing to fledge soon.

Four juvenile Kestrels at Gozo site

The breeding pairs were both actively seen bringing prey to their young during the observation periods including birds (mainly Spanish Sparrows but also a Short-toed Lark) as well as rats, skinks, a gecko, and an Egyptian Grasshopper.

When the chicks were young, the adults fed them by tearing the prey into smaller pieces for them to swallow. As they grew, the adults then began leaving the prey on the floor of the nest so that the young birds could learn to feed on their own.

The Common Kestrel is a scarce breeding bird in Malta. BirdLife Malta notes that the decrease in illegal hunting on the species in recent years is encouraging an increase in the frequency of breeding records. The Maltese Islands can support many more pairs of Common Kestrels if the birds are better protected and nest-sites not disturbed.

Read the Maltese version of the press release here. Watch the footage here or click on the video below.

Young Kestrels changing their downy feathers to proper feathers

Downy Kestrel young

Adult female Kestrel with bird prey