Lesser Kestrel, Falco naumanni

Names

English: Lesser Kestrel
Scientific: Falco naumanni
German: Rötelfalke
Spanish: Cernícalo primilla
French: Faucon crécerellette

Taxonomy and Subspecies

No subspecies. Sister species to the Common Kestrel [GRIN 2010].

Size

Length: 29-32 cm
Wingspan: 58-72 cm
Weight: 90-208 g

Maximum Age

9 years in the wild, 11 years in captivity. [Mebs & Schmidt 2006]

Habitat

Prefers open habitat including steppes and agricultural areas. Hunts over open areas with only little vegetation. Breeding colonies often in villages or cities.

Distribution

In Europe mostly around the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Outside of Europe, the Lesser Kestrel occurs in North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia incl. northern Mongolia, southwestern Siberia and northeastern China [GRIN 2010].
The Lesser Kestrel was a breeding species in the southern and eastern parts of Central Europa, but is now extinct as a breeding species in Central Europa and only seen as a rare visitor [Bauer et al. 2005].

Migration

Mostly a migratory species. In some areas like the southern parts of Italy or Spain, some of the adults remains all year in the breeding areas [Mebs & Schmidt 2006].
The migrating birds spend the winter in Africa south of the Sahara, mostly in eastern and southern Africa. Most birds leave the breeding areas in Europe between the end of August and the beginning of October and return the next year between the middle of March and the beginning of April [Mebs & Schmidt 2006].

Breeding and Reproduction

The Lesser Kestrel can breed with one year but normally starts breeding with two or more years because they will only then return from their African winter quarters [Mebs & Schmidt 2006].
Lesser Kestrels breed in colonies in holes in cliffs, rock quarries, in walls of buildings or below roofs. Sometimes holes in trees, nestboxes or the nests of other birds like corvids are used [GRIN 2010, Mebs & Schmidt 2006].
The female lays 3-6 eggs, normally 4-5. Incubation time is 28-29 days and the young stay in the nest for 37 days on average [Mebs & Schmidt 2006].

Food and hunting

Compared to the Eurasian Kestrel, the Lesser Kestrel feeds more on large insects. Important insect species are locusts, crickets and termites (in Africa). To a lesser extend, small birds, reptiles and mammals are taken, but insects are clearly the most important prey.
Hunts either from a perch or from flight (also hovers). Rarely also hunts on foot [Mebs & Schmidt 2006]. Because of it's preference for locusts, the species was sometimes called "Locust Hawk".

Population

The European population is estimated at a maximum of 33,000 pairs [SEO 2007]. By far the largest population breeds in spain, estimated at 20,000 [SEO 2007]. [Mebs & Schmidt] give a figure of 12,000 - 20,000 pairs. The population in Spain is currently thought to be stable after a steep decline in the 2nd half of the last century [SEO 2007].
Other countries with larger populations are Turkey (5,000 - 7,000), Italy (3,640 - 3,840), Greece (2,000 - 3,480) and Macedonia (1,500 - 3,000).

Threats

Intensification of agriculture, both in the breeding and in the wintering areas are a major problem [Mebs & Schmidt 2006]. Intensive agriculture reduces their prey (large insects) and the pesticides may also accumulate in the falcons themselves.
The destruction of old building use by the falcons takes away their nesting places. Renovation nof buildings can make holes in walls and below the roofs unreachable for Lesser Kestrels.

Conservation

The renovation of buildings should keep the needs of the Lesser Kestrel in mind. Nestboxes can help to provide enough suitable nesting places. Old buildings use by the falcons should be kept from being destroyed.
Extensive and organic farming without pesticides that supports healthy populations of large insects should be encouraged.
The grasslands in eastern and southern Africa must be protected [Mebs & Schmidt 2006].

Status IUCN/BirdLife

Vulnerable (VU)

Status Global Raptor Information Network

Vulnerable

Interviews about the Lesser Kestrel

Interview with Simeon Marin from Green Balkans about the conservation of Eastern Imperial Eagles, Lesser Kestrels and Cinereous Vultures in Bulgaria

References

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

[GRIN 2010] Global Raptor Information Network. 2009. Species account: Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 7 Apr. 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.

Websites

BirdLife Species Factsheet for the Lesser Kestrel

GRIN species account for the Lesser Kestrel

Lesser Kestrel in Greece

kestreling.com - searching for and watching kestrels