Barn owl versus kestrel

April 20, 2015 • 12:11 pm

by Matthew Cobb

This tremendous video from a nestcam set up by Robert E Fuller shows a barn owl and a kestrel fighting over who will occupy the nest site. Hard to know who I want to win – they are both gorgeous birds. Fuller is a wildlife artist based in Yorkshire – you can see some of his art at his website,

My only complaint is that there’s no sound on the cam, but it’s clear that both animals were making a tremendous racket. Now the $64,000 question – who do you think will win and, having viewed the video, who did win?

h/t @rowhoop on Tw*tter

33 thoughts on “Barn owl versus kestrel

      1. Kestrel was certainly more aggressive. The owl on the other hand seemed timid, but the kind of timid that a old kung fu master may feign before taking an aggressor down hard!

  1. I think the kestrel was the most aggressive and surely making all the noise we could not hear. But the Owl was not leaving.

  2. Seems to me that the kestrel showed the owl who’s boss. Sure, no sound, but you can see that the kestrel was reading the riot act.

    1. Yeah, now I see where “breaking off” comes from. That kestrel looked like it had a lot to say.

  3. It looked to me like the kestrel took the first rounds but that the owl took the later rounds. The owl took the kestrel down hard twice after which the kestrel became much more cautious about attacking.

    But there were two kestrels. And after the owl left one of the kestrels perched again in the opening. I’d sure like to know who is still using the nest.

    1. I, too, would very much like to know this.

      I love owls, & found that quite hard to watch: the owl seemed so timid & frightened! Yet s/he gave as good as s/he got when the opportunity arose.

      Surprisingly, that the kestrel appeared to tire very rapidly as compared to his/her opponent. In this case, it could be due to being such an active aggressor, but I wonder if it is typical of kestrels (as compared to owls) generally, &, if so, whether it arises from differences in hunting style &/or physiology. Does anyone know?

  4. I figured the kestrel would be victorious and clearly the kestrel was handing out a beating, but the owl went the distance, despite unequal odds and was the last to leave. however, why, after all that fracas did it leave and who was it exactly who showed up in silhouette just as the video ended? it looked slightly kestrel-ish to me, so I think the kestrel won in the end.

      1. what I wondered was if barn owls search out a good nest site then seek a mate, who chooses based on the nest quality. I couldn’t find any direct info, but that they are monogamous, and may return to the same nesting cavity, so perhaps this was a young male, no mate as of yet and maybe if he was part of a mated pair there would have been a partner to aid in the cavity defense, as with the kestrels. Anybody know one way or the other?

    1. LMAO! That’s perfect fight music.

      Of course I can’t be unbiased about the kestrel vs. owl fight. 😉

  5. It seemed to me that both had some pretty good take downs of the other, but over time the kestrel had the upper hand. It was doing most the attacking, and was constantly vocal, while the owl was almost always backed up and just trying to hold out. There was a 2nd kestrel that appeared from time to time.
    But at the end, it seemed strangely undecided. The kestrel left, then the owl, then the kestrel came back, and who knows what happened next.

  6. There seems to be agreement that the falcon was more aggressive but the cuter of the two, the owl, stood its ground and during the scuffle, never left the nest site. The falcon left several times. I had almost concluded that the owl had won until, near the end of the video clip, it left and the falcon returned.

    I wonder what the time span was as the video appears to have been edited.

  7. Fascinating video. Hard to watch without turning the empathy button off.

    Looked even enough. Barn owls should be able to kill larger prey on average than a kestrel.

    Anthropocentric hat on… I think the owl was thinkin, “don’t force me to hurt you.”


    1. I would have thought kestrels would have a better power grip, even if they don’t use it as much as those falcons that depend on large prey.
      Couldn’t really see what was going on in the clinches, but once or twice the shocked look on their faces after breaking made me wonder if there’s an avian version of the ‘Christmas hold’.

  8. Much respect for the owl. I did wonder whether the kestrel pair were tag-teaming the owl to wear it down. Hard to tell what markings the one at the entrance had. Had there been 1 of each or even a pair of both, the fight would have belonged to the owl.

  9. Like several others, I thought the kestrell was/would win especially with help outside. I can just imagine that’s the Mrs. outside and I can hear the nagging if he lost so he was maybe more motivated 🙂

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