Eleonora's Falcon, Falco eleonorae

Names

English: Eleonora's Falcon
Scientific: Falco eleonorae
German: Eleonorenfalke
Spanish: Halcón de Eleonora
French: Faucon d'Eléonore

Taxonomy and Subspecies

Monotypic. No supspecies. Closest relative is the Sooty Falcon Falco concolor [Bauer et al. 2005].

Size

Length: 41-43 cm
Wingspan: 85-100 cm
Weight: 330-450 g

Maximum Age

16 years in the wild. [Mebs & Schmidt 2006]

Habitat

Breeds on small and uninhabited islands in the Mediterranean. Before the breeding season, Eleonara's Falcons can sometimes be found inland.

Distribution

Breeds on islands in the Mediterranean and on the Canary Islands.

Migration

Migratory. Most birds spend the winter in Madagascar. A smaller number winters on the Mascarene Islands and even in East Africa [Mebs & Schmidt 2006]. Exact route used during migration not yet known. Leaves the Mediterranean between the middle of October and the beginning of November. Arrives at the Mediterranean in April.

Breeding and Reproduction

Breeds later than any other European raptor. The breeding period is from the end of July until October [SEO 2007]. The reason for the late breeding is the abundant food supply (migratory songbirds) during this period. Millions of songbirds migrate from Europe to Africa and cross the Mediterranean.
Normally, 2 or 3 (sometimes 4) eggs are laid. The incubation period is about 28-30 days and the young spend 37-44 days in the nest [Mebs & Schmidt 2006].
Eleonora's Falcons breed in colonies on the cliffs of Mediterranean islands. Holes and crevices are preferred but also breeds in the open (more young die when breeding in the open due to heavy solar irradiation) [Mebs & Schmidt 2006].

Food and hunting

During the breeding period mostly migratory songbirds like Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus, Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio and many other similar sized birds.
Often, several Eleonora's Falcons hunt close to each other. If one bird misses a migrating songbird, others often try to catch it. Outside of the breeding season the Eleonora's Falcon feeds mainly on insects (dragonflies, flying ants, ). Often hunts insects at dawn.

Population

The world population is estimated to be between 5.000 and 8.000 pairs [SEO 2007]. Mebs & Schmidt [2006] give about 6.500 pairs for Europe (which is the whole world population!).
But there may be more birds. According to BirdLife International, the European (and world!) population has recently been revised substantially upwards, from c. 12,000 mature individuals to c. 30,000 mature individuals [BirdLife 2008].
The population maybe be declining [BirdLife 2008] or be stable with declines in some places and increases elsewhere [GRIN 2009].
More than 80% of the world population breeds in Greece [GRIN 2009]. The population in Spain has doubled in the last two decades and is at about 700 pairs [Mebs & Schmidt 2006].

Threats

Threatened by illegal hunting, egg collection, disturbance by tourists and habit destruction (including deforestation and intensive agriculture in Madagascar) [Mebs & Schmidt 2006]. Introduced rats can be a problem on some islands as the kill the young falcons [SEO 2007].
Pesticides can also affect the Eleonora's Falcons as they consume it with their prey.

Conservation

Given that about or more than 80% of the world population breed in Greece, it is very important that the species is protected on all islands in Greece. There and elsewhere illegal hunting and egg collection must be controlled. On some places, guarding the nest sites can be helpful. Tourism must be planned so that the falcons are not effected. The breeding islands should be free of tourism and agricultural use. Use of pesticides must be reduced, not only in the breeding grounds but also on Madagascar, where most of the world population spends the winter. Nest boxes have been used in some places. [Mebs & Schmidt 2006]
Rats should be removed from islands where they have been introduced. This would also benefit breeding seabirds. Scientific monitoring of the population, it's breeding success and how the various problems affect the population is recommended [SEO 2007].

Status IUCN/BirdLife

Least Concern (LC)

Status Global Raptor Information Network

Lower risk

References

[Bauer et al. 2005] Bauer, H.-G., Bezzel, E. & Fiedler, W. 2005. Das Kompendium der Vögel Mitteleuropas. Aula-Verlag

[BirdLife 2008] BirdLife International (2008) Species factsheet: Falco eleonorae. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 14/3/2009

[GRIN 2009] Global Raptor Information Network. 2009. Species account: Eleonora's Falcon Falco eleonorae. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 14 Mar. 2009

[Mebs & Schmidt 2006] Mebs, Theodor & Schmidt, Daniel (2006). Die Greifvögel Europas, Nordafrikas und Vorderasiens. Kosmos Verlag.

[SEO 2007] SEO/BirdLife Spain, Juan M. Vaerla Simó 2007. Aves Amenazadas de España, Lynx Edicions.

Books

Forsman, Dick (1999). The Raptors of Europe and the Middle East A Handbook of Field Identification. Poyser

Mebs, Theodor & Schmidt, Daniel (2006). Die Greifvögel Europas, Nordafrikas und Vorderasiens. Kosmos Verlag.

Papaconstantinou, Costas. (2007) Eleonora’s Falcon - ruling the Aegean skies. Hellenic Ornithological Society. Athens.

Websites

BirdLife Species Factsheet for the Eleonora's Falcon

GRIN species account for the Eleonora's Falcon