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The name kestrel, (from French crécerelle, derivative from crécelle i.e. Ratchet) is given to several different members of the falcon genus, Falco. Kestrels are most easily distinguished by their typical hunting behaviour which is to hover at a height of around 10–20 metres (33–66 ft) over open country and swoop down on prey, usually small mammals, lizards or large insects. Other falcons are more adapted to active hunting on the wing. In addition, kestrels are notable for usually having much brown in their plumage.
Kestrels require a slight headwind in order to hover, hence a local name of Windhover for Common Kestrel.
Plumage often—but unusually for falcons—differs between male and female, and (as is usual with monogamous raptors) the female is slightly larger than the male. This allows a pair to fill different feeding niches over their home range. Kestrels are bold and have adapted well to human encroachment, nesting in buildings and hunting by major roads.
Kestrels do not build their own nests, but use nests built by other species.