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Lesser Kestrel

Falco naumanni

CONSERVATION STATUS.

The Lesser Kestrel is a locally threatened species, represented by only three colonies in the country, numbered as 15-17 pairs, 20-23 pairs, and 30-35 pairs. The last colony breeds predominantly in the living buildings, destroying the walls and therefore creating conflicts with the local inhabitants, which can destroy their nests. Another threat comes from children’s behavior of keeping raptors at home as pets. This usually leads to stealing the nestlings from the nests with further improper keeping them which leads to distrophy and death. And the last set of threats might come from use of pesticides in the corn fields and the other arable lands. All these factors negatively influence the breeding success of the species.

HABITAT.

Open areas in hot, dry climates; little or low vegetation, e.g. steppe, pastures, semi desert, extensive cultivation; also in and around towns. In Kazakhstan there is a preference of semi-natural grasslands over natural steppe, while agricultural habitats tend to be avoided. In Africa principally winters in sweet grasslands in highland regions. Normally in flat or undulating terrain in lowlands, although in Asia regularly breeds up to 1500 m and has been recorded nesting up to 2600 m in Turkey. On migration recorded to 3000 m in Central Asia. In winter affects savanna, steppe, low scrub and cultivation. Highly dependent on presence of buildings or rock faces on which to nest.

FEEDING BEHAVIOR.

Flies low, stooping on prey in air or on ground; typically faces into wind and hangs without beating wings, or hovers briefly; also hunts from perch or even on ground. Hunts in groups, following swarming insects. Takes advantage of prey disturbed by grass or scrub fires, or by tractors turning soil, but prefers unploughed fallow land as foraging habitat

 

EGGS.

Normally 3–6 white or pale buff eggs with yellowish-red, red or reddish-brown markings, laid at intervals of 1–2 days; incubation 26–29 days, starting with last egg, by both adults but mainly female; both adults also feed chicks; chicks (fed by female, provisioned by male) have first down white, second down pale grey and longer and coarser; fledging takes about 36 days (but 26–28 days also reported); independence one week later.  

YOUNG.

In Southern Spain, breeding success apparently strong correlated with prevailing weather conditions; drier summers with lower vegetation growth and smaller numbers of grasshoppers lead to reduced breeding success. Sexually mature in first year. Adults and first-year birds apparently select breeding colonies according to different criteria, with young birds simply looking for available nest-sites, whereas adults base their selection according to the breeding productivity at a given colony. Oldest recorded bird in captivity 11 years old.

DIET.

Fair variety of aerial and terrestrial insects, often constituting over 90% of prey. Mainly Orthoptera (grasshoppers, locusts, crickets) and large beetles (Carabidae, Scarabaeidae, Curculionidae and Tenebrionidae); also other invertebrates, e.g. centipedes, and sun spiders (Solifugae); in winter quarters, when abundant, consumes large quantities of flying termites, Orthoptera and flying ants. Vertebrates generally less important: small lizards (e.g. Lacerta agilisEremias arguta) and to lesser degree rodents, e.g. voles (e.g. Lagurus lagurus), mice (e.g. Sicalis subtilis), shrews; small birds and their fledglings. First detailed study of winter diet demonstrated that chief constituents are Solifugae, Orthoptera (especially Acrididae) and Coleoptera, with very few small mammals, and that diet showed strong monthly variation; Solifugae decreased over the course of the winter.

NESTING.

Laying mainly in May; in North-western Africa and Southern Spain from mid April. Colonial, normally in groups of no more than 25 pairs, occasionally as few as two pairs; sometimes, in past commonly, up to hundreds of pairs. Nests mainly in human constructions, e.g. large old buildings, houses, walls and ruins, in towns or on outskirts; also in natural sites, e.g. rock faces, clay banks and quarries, and occasionally in old corvid nest. In Kazakhstan, relatively small cliffs, where larger predatory raptors are scarce, are preferred for nesting. Nest placed in hollow or below eaves, and has also taken readily to artificial nesting boxes in some areas.

MIGRATION.

Mainly trans-Saharan migrant, although some birds winter in North-western Africa and in various regions of Southern Europe and Southern Asia, e.g. Southern Spain, Southern Italy, Southern Turkey, Azerbaijan. Birds enter and leave Africa via Gibraltar and Italy–Sicily/Malta–Tunisia in west, Israel–Egypt and thence South via the Nile and Rift Valleys in east, and perhaps also via Iran–Saudi Arabia–Somalia/Ethiopia even further east

DISTRIBUTION.

Iberia, S France and N Africa E through SE Europe, Asia Minor, Levant and Iran to S Siberia, Mongolia and N China (Eeastern to Inner Mongolia and Western Shandong). Winters in Africa S of Sahara; also in Mediterranean region and locally in parts of S Asia.

CONSERVATION MEASURES.

The species is evaluated as Least Concern in IUCN Red List, but listed as Vulnerable in the Red Book of Animals of Armenia (2010). The Lesser Kestrel is included Bern Convention. As it suffers from the local inhabitants, then providing the breeding population of the Lesser Kestrels with nest-boxes can simply solve the issue. Also the practice of using pesticides in the arable lands should be reviewed, at least in the areas where the Lesser Kestrels are foraging.

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