kes·​trel | \ ˈke-strəl How to pronounce kestrel (audio) \

Definition of kestrel

: any of various small chiefly Old World falcons (genus Falco) that usually hover in the air while searching for prey: such as
a : a common Eurasian falcon (F. tinnunculus)
b : an American falcon (F. sparverius) having a reddish-brown back and tail and bluish-gray wings

Keep scrolling for more

Did You Know?

There are several birds of prey that are called kestrels. Kestrels are noted for hovering while hunting their prey of large insects, birds, and small mammals. Kestrels are mainly Old World birds, but one species, the American kestrel, often called sparrow hawk in the US, is common throughout North and South America. It is about 12 in (30 cm) long, white or yellowish below, and reddish brown and slate-gray above, with colorful markings on the head. The common kestrel of the Old World is larger and less colorful.

Examples of kestrel in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Johnston and his colleagues identify it as likely being a kestrel, a kind of falcon, the most commonly mummified raptor from ancient Egypt. Matt Simon, Wired, "Ever Seen Inside a Mummified Cat? Well Now You Have," 20 Aug. 2020 Based on bone measurements, researchers concluded the bird was a Eurasian kestrel. Claire Bugos, Smithsonian Magazine, "Scientists ‘Digitally Unwrap’ Ancient Egyptian Animal Mummies," 22 Aug. 2020 Researchers found the cat was less than five months old, and separation of its vertebrae suggest it was strangled to death, while the bird was identified as a Eurasian kestrel, thanks to virtual bone measurement. Jack Guy, CNN, "Scientists have 'digitally unwrapped' some Egyptian animal mummies, including a kitten and cobra," 21 Aug. 2020 Raptors like the kestrel were associated with solar deities, while cats were associated with Bastet, the goddess of fertility and domesticity. Matt Simon, Wired, "Ever Seen Inside a Mummified Cat? Well Now You Have," 20 Aug. 2020 Buongiorno, too, you kestrel in the blue, ignorant of tech genius and real estate. W. S. Di Piero, The New Yorker, "Aubade," 23 Mar. 2020 The island is home to more than two hundred species of birds, including kestrels, great horned owls, and little blue herons. Elisabeth Eaves, The New Yorker, "The Risks of Building Too Many Bio Labs," 18 Mar. 2020 Kestrel profile: Pam Starr’s photo looks like a painting, a profile of an American kestrel on a post flecked with snow in Sierra Valley (north of Reno). Tom Stienstra,, "The 8 best wildlife photos from 2019 in California," 18 Jan. 2020 This new-for-2019 rangefinder has it’s own internal ballistics calculator, and is also Bluetooth compatible with your phone and the kestrel elite weather meter. Tyler Freel, Outdoor Life, "The 2019 Rifle Shooter’s Holiday Gift Guide," 13 Nov. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'kestrel.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of kestrel

15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for kestrel

Middle English castrel, from Middle French crecerelle, from crecelle rattle; from its cry

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about kestrel

Time Traveler for kestrel

Time Traveler

The first known use of kestrel was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Statistics for kestrel

Last Updated

15 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Kestrel.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Oct. 2020.

More from Merriam-Webster on kestrel Encyclopedia article about kestrel

Comments on kestrel

What made you want to look up kestrel? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Here Be Dragons: A Creature Identification Quiz

  • monster werewolf photo
  • Which is a synonym of werewolf?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!