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Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

Travelling in loose flocks of hundreds of birds, this sociable species will also roost together in trees, but migrate singly or in flocks of less than 50, at altitudes of around 2000 m. The lesser kestrel's flapping flight is shallow and rapid and is more conspicuous to prey than the subtle gliding flight that is more normally used. Hunting, usually for small mammals, makes excellent use of the lesser kestrel's powerful eyesight, sharp claws and strong beak. It dives almost silently from a perch or from mid air and pounces on prey with the claws, before swiftly killing its prey with a bite to the back of the head (2). Breeding takes place between March and May, and eggs are laid, not in nests, but in scraped out depressions in trees. Again, lesser kestrels nest as colonies and pairs will display to each other to strengthen the pair bond. The female invests more time than the male in incubating the four to six eggs she lays, and rearing the chicks when they hatch after 28 – 31 days, but the male will contribute by fighting to defend their territory. The chicks hatch over several days and so the last to hatch is smaller than the others. This individual is most likely to die as it cannot compete effectively for food, and when food is particularly scarce it may be killed and eaten by its siblings. The chicks are fed for two to four weeks, and then must learn to hunt for themselves (2).
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Description

The lesser kestrel is a small kestrel with long pointed wings and a long tail marked with a black band at the end. Males and females are distinguishable by colouring. Males have a pale brown back and blue-grey feathers on the crown, rump, neck and tail. The belly is creamy pink with small brown streaks. In females, the back and head are mid brown and the belly is pale. Both back and belly are streaked with brown. Males and females have white undersides to their wings, with black tips (2). The eye ring is bright yellow and the feet are yellow to orange. The ankles and feet lack feathers (5).
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Distribution

Range Description

Falco naumanni breeds in Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar (to UK), France, Italy, Bosnia-Herzegovina, FYRO Macedonia, Albania, Greece, Turkey, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Israel, Palestinian Authority Territories, Jordan, Iran, Iraq, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, China and Mongolia. Birds winter in southern Spain, southern Turkey, Malta and across much of Africa, particularly South Africa. The European population is estimated at 25,000-42,000 pairs, with half of these in Spain. Several thousand pairs breed outside this range, principally in central Asia. Western Palearctic populations have undergone serious declines, although a few have begun to increase again. The western European population has declined by c.95% since 1950, and the species has disappeared from the Ural region of Russia and from northern Kazakhstan, as well as from the western and central parts of the Balkan Peninsula (Davygora 1998, B. Barov in litt. 2007). However, some populations in south-western and central Europe are stable or increasing (Iñigo and Barov 2010) and eastern breeding populations are also reported to be stable (Galushin 2009). Italy has seen a marked population increase and range expansion since 2000 (N. Baccetti in litt. 2010), and the population in Andalucía, Spain, has increased from c.2,100 pairs in 1988 to c.4,800 in 2009 (J. R. Garrido in litt. 2011). In Kazakhstan, the species appears to be stable or increasing slightly, perhaps in association with the abandonment of villages and livestock stations in the 1990s (J. Kamp in litt. 2010). Coordinated counts of the South African wintering population recorded 117,000 birds in 2005/2006 (van Zyl 2007, A. van Zyl in litt. 2007) and 98,000 birds in 2006/2007 (A. van Zyl in litt. 2007), but it is not clear whether this represents a genuine reduction in numbers or whether the missing birds were wintering elsewhere, most likely in East Africa (A. van Zyl in litt. 2007). An enormous roost discovered in January 2007 in Senegal contained over 28,600 individuals (most likely European/North African breeders).

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Range

Mediterranean basin to e China; winters to s Asia and s Africa.

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Geographic Range

The lesser kestrel breeds in the palearctic in Europe and northern Asia roughly between 30 and 50 degrees North latitude. The distribution includes altitudes of up to 500m above sea level. It is a migratory species, spending its winter in Africa, south of the Sahara. From February to April this bird is most numerous in northern Tanzania and southern Kenya.

Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native ); ethiopian (Native )

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Range

Found in Europe and northern Asia between latitudes of 30 and 50 º N at up to 500 m above sea level. This species is migratory, moving to sub-Saharan Africa during the winter, and congregating most abundantly in northern Tanzania and southern Kenya (1).
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

This small falcon has a length of 30-36 cm with long pointed wings. The long tail has a broad black terminal band. This falcon has strong sexual dimorphism in its plumage. Males have a chestnut back and a blue-grey crown, neck, rump, and tail. Their belly is a creamy pink with small brown streaks. The eye ring is bright yellow while the feet are an orange-yellow. The undersides of the wings are white with a black tip. Females have a brown back and head with a pale belly. Both the back and belly are streaked with brown. The wings are also light with dark barring and black tips. Juvenile lesser kestrels look similar to the females.

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
It is usually a colonial breeder, often in the vicinity of human settlements. It forages in steppe-like habitats, natural and managed grasslands, and non-intensive cultivation. It is mainly migratory, with most breeders overwintering in sub-Saharan Africa, although some travel to parts of north-west Africa, southern Europe and southern Asia. Migrants leave their breeding grounds in September and return between February and April (del Hoyo et al. 1994). It migrates in flocks of varying sizes, usually tens to low hundreds, often with other falcons such as F. tinnunculus, F. vespertinus and F. amurensis (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). Large numbers, sometimes up to thousands, gather at roosts on migration (del Hoyo et al. 1994). They cross water bodies readily on a broad front, flying high enough to be barely detectable; they fly lower over land (often c.20-30 m), particularly on northward migration (Brown et al. 1982, Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001).


Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Lesser kestrels are found in bushed, wooded, and open grassland and cultivation. They nest on mountain slopes, gorges, deep ravines, and other rocky terrain, all of which must have open areas around them for the birds to hunt. They are found most numerously in highland farming regions and on grassy plains during the winter range.

Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune ; savanna or grassland ; forest ; scrub forest

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An inhabitant of highland farming regions and grassy plains in the winter range, the lesser kestrel prefers open or wooded grassland and cultivated areas during the summer breeding season. It nests in areas with mountain slopes, gorges and deep ravines surrounded by open areas for hunting (2).
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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Kestrels are carnivorous, feeding on small mammals, especially voles, however they are very adaptable to other prey selections. They will eat almost anything they can kill. Their selected prey is either the most abundant or most easily caught of the area. Other prey examples are young rabbits, birds, small bats, lizards, snakes, frogs, insects, earthworms, fish, and crabs. Kestrels can change their hunting style depending on the kind of prey, weather conditions, and their energy requirements. These predators take full advantage of their keen eyesight, sharp claws, and strong beak. They hunt from a perch or from the air. The vertebrate prey is pounced on from a rapid dive, then grabbed by the claws and killed by a bite to the base of the skull. Attacks on less active prey results from slow shallow dives where the kestrel lands and takes the prey directly into its beak.

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Life History and Behavior

Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
6.2 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 10.9 years (wild) Observations: Oldest bird in banding studies was 10.9 years of age (http://www.euring.org/data_and_codes/longevity.htm).
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Reproduction

Breeding occurs during the months of March through June. Kestrels do not build nests. Instead they lay their eggs in a depression they scrape in the trees of the nesting location. They breed in colonies of up to 100 pairs. Females invest more time in nesting activities than males. Kestrels have a normal clutch size of 4 to 6, laid over a two day interval, but the range in number of eggs is 1 to 7. Incubation starts after the third egg is laid and lasts 28 to 31 days. Because incubation is delayed until the after the third egg, the first three eggs usually hatch on the same day with the rest following in the next couple of days. This means the last bird hatched is smaller than the rest. The difference in size allows the brood to be reduced by sibling rivalry if sources of food are short. Kestrel nestlings have been seen to kill and eat brood-mates, but most deaths occur because of failure to compete for food. Parents continue to feed their young for 2 to 4 weeks after hatching.

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Falco naumanni

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 3 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.  Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.  See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

CAAAGACATTGGCACCTTGTACCTACTCTTCGGAGCATGGGCAGGCATAGCCGGCACCGCCCTCAGCCTCCTTATTCGGGCAGAACTTGGTCAACCAGGGACCCTCTTGGGAGACGACCAAATCTACAATGTTATTGTCACCGCCCATGCTTTCGTAATAATCTTCTTCATAGTCATACCCATCATAATCGGAGGATTTGGAAACTGACTAGTCCCCCTTATAATTGGAGCCCCAGACATAGCATTCCCCCGCATAAACAACATAAGCTTCTGACTACTCCCCCCATCCTTCCTATTGCTCCTAGCATCTTCCACAGTAGAAGCCGGAGTCGGAACAGGGTGAACCGTATACCCCCCTCTAGCAGGCAACTTAGCCCATGCTGGCGCCTCAGTAGATCTAGCCATCTTCTCCTTACACCTCGCAGGTGTATCCTCCATCCTAGGGGCAATCAACTTTATCACAACAGCCATTAACATAAAACCCCCTACCCTATCACAATACCAAACTCCACTATTCGTGTGATCCGTACTCATCACCGCCGTGCTCCTGCTACTCTCACTTCCAGTCCTAGCCGCCGGCATCACCATACTACTGACCGACCGAAACCTGAACACCACATTCTTCGACCCCGCCGGAGGAGGGGACCCCATTCTCTACCAGCACTTATTCTGATTCTTTGGTCACCCAGAAGTCTACATCCTAATCCTCCCAGGATTTGGA
-- end --

Download FASTA File
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Falco naumanni

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 3
Specimens with Barcodes: 3
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2013

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S.

Contributor/s
Baccetti, N., Biber, J., Garrido, J., Kamp, J. & van Zyl, A.

Justification
This species underwent rapid declines in western Europe, equivalent to c.46% in each decade since 1950, on its wintering grounds in South Africa, equivalent to c.25% in each decade since 1971, and possibly in parts of its Asian range; however, recent evidence indicates a stable or slightly positive population trend overall during the last three generations. Consequently it has been downlisted from Vulnerable and now qualifies as Least Concern because it no longer approaches any of the thresholds for Vulnerable under the IUCN criteria.


History
  • 2012
    Least Concern
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There still is not complete data on the distribution of the lesser kestrel. This information is needed in order to adequately conserve the species. Important subjects to study include problems with the foraging habitat, pesticide contamination affecting reproduction success and food availability, problems with breeding colonies, winter ecology and how to develop and coordinate an international conservation strategy. The winter distribution seems to be the most unknown.

Trends in the breeding populations of the lesser kestrel clearly show this species is seriously threatened worldwide. This bird is protected by law, but not all of the breeding sites are in protected areas. Legal protection of all sites is necessary for conservation because most of the causes of death are hunting or taking young from the nests.

Estimations of the abundance of the lesser kestrel show that breeding numbers have dropped by 95% since the 1950's. Sharp declines are especially obvious in its European range. A marked decrease in breeding range appeared all over Europe, most notably in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Austria where lesser kestrels are no longer breeding.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: vulnerable

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Status in Egypt

Casual breeder, regular passage visitor and winter visitor.

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Status

The lesser kestrel is classified as Vulnerable (VU A2bce + 3bce) on the IUCN Red List 2004 (1) and is listed on Appendix II of CITES (3). It is also listed on Appendices I and II of the Convention on Migratory Species (4).
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Population

Population
The European population is estimated at 25,000-42,000 pairs, with half of these in Spain. Several thousand pairs breed outside this range, principally in central Asia. Wintering population estimates include a roost in Senegal of over 28,600 individuals in January 2007, and 98,000 in south Africa based on roost counts in 2006/2007. The population in China has been estimated at c.100-10,000 breeding pairs and c.50-1,000 individuals on migration (Brazil 2009).

Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Major Threats
The main cause of its decline was habitat loss and degradation in its Western Palearctic breeding grounds, primarily a result of agricultural intensification, but also afforestation and urbanisation. In South Africa, key grasslands have been lost to agricultural intensification, afforestation and intensive pasture management (Pepler 2000). The use of pesticides may cause direct mortality, but is probably more important in reducing prey populations. The neglect or restoration of old buildings has resulted in the loss of nest-sites (Davygora 1998, J.-P. Biber in litt. 1999). At La Crau in southern France, where such nest sites are rare, a population increase in the 1990s may be linked to the progressive selection of ground nests in stone piles, reducing interspecific and intraspecific competition (Prugnolle et al. 2003).
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The main cause of decline of the lesser kestrel is habitat loss and degradation as a result of agricultural intensification, afforestation and urbanisation (6). Pesticide contamination is indirectly affecting the lesser kestrel due to reductions in prey, and directly affecting it during the breeding process. Hunting and egg-stealing have also contributed to sharp declines in numbers. Populations have been reduced most in the European range, particularly in Poland, the Czech Republic and Austria, where lesser kestrels are no longer breeding (2).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II, CMS Appendix I and II. Research and management of the species, its sites and habitats have been carried out in France, Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar, Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey, Israel, Jordan and South Africa. A European action plan has been published.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Encourage surveys and monitoring. Research limiting factors and habitat management. Promote national action plans. Promote appropriate agricultural policies, control of pesticides and zoned forestry. Construct artificial nests. Protect colonies. Encourage legal protection.

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Conservation

The lesser kestrel is protected by law, but its breeding sites are not, and numbers of breeding birds have dropped by 95% since the 1950s (2). Research and management of the species and its habitat have been carried out in several countries and both a European and an International Action Plan have been implemented. These encourage surveying and monitoring, the construction of artificial nests, and research into factors limiting the kestrel's survival and habitat management. The most immediate priority is to enforce the legal protection already in place (6).
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

This bird eats mice and insects that damage human crops.

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Wikipedia

Lesser kestrel

The Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni) is a small falcon. This species breeds from the Mediterranean across southern central Asia to China and Mongolia. It is a summer migrant, wintering in Africa and Pakistan and sometimes even to India and Iraq. It is rare north of its breeding range, and declining in its European range. The scientific name of this bird commemorates the German naturalist Johann Andreas Naumann.

Description[edit]

Female in flight showing whitish talons
Lesser Kestrel birds mating

It is a small bird of prey, 27–33 cm in length with a 63–72 cm wingspan. It looks very much like the larger Common Kestrel but has proportionally shorter wings and tail. It shares a brown back and barred grey underparts with the larger species. The male has a grey head and tail like male Common Kestrels, but lacks the dark spotting on the back, the black malar stripe, and has grey patches in the wings.

The female and young birds are slightly paler than their relative, but are so similar that call and structure are better guides than plumage. The call is a diagnostic harsh chay-chay-chay, unlike the Common Kestrel's kee-kee-kee. Neither sex has dark talons as is usual in falcons; those of this species are a peculiar whitish-horn color. This, however, is only conspicuous when birds are seen at very close range, e.g. in captivity.

Despite its outward similarity, this species appears not to be closely related to the Common Kestrel. In fact, mtDNA cytochrome b sequence analysis (Groombridge et al. 2002) places it at a basal position with regards to the other "true" kestrels (i.e., excluding the American Kestrel and probably the grey African kestrels too).[2] Its divergence is tentatively placed to around the Miocene-Pliocene boundary (Messinian to Zanclean, or about 7-3.5 mya). The morphological similarity with the Common Kestrel is most puzzling, but still it appears to betray the present species' actual relationships: the lack of a malar stripe seems ancestral for kestrels, and the grey wing colour unites the Lesser Kestrel with most other Falco species, but not the other true kestrels.

Lesser Kestrel – a very rare winter migrant to India

The Lesser Kestrel is, as the name implies, a smaller and more delicate bird than the Common Kestrel, and it is entirely sympatric in its breeding range with it; they compete to a limited extent. Thus, the possibility that there is some form of adaptive advantage to the similar coloration deserves study. Considering that the Lesser Kestrel would in fact have an advantage if some would-be predators confused it with the larger species and consequently avoided it, it might be a case of Müllerian mimicry.

The Lesser Kestrel eats insects, but also small birds, reptiles and rodents (especially mice),[3] which are often taken on the ground. It nests colonially on buildings, cliffs, or in tree holes, laying up to 3-6 eggs. No nest structure is built, which is typical for falcons. On their wintering grounds in West Africa, Lesser Kestrels favor a "latitude belt" through Senegal where locusts and grasshoppers are plentiful. Surveys of Lesser Kestrels wintering in January 2007 by Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux revealed them roosting communally. A roost in Senegal discovered during one of the surveys held 28,600 birds, together with 16,000 Scissor-tailed Kites Chelictinia riocourii.[4]

It is widespread and plentiful on a global scale, and the IUCN have classed it as Least Concern.[1] Apart from possible habitat destruction, it appears that indiscriminate use of pesticides has a strong effect on this species due to its insectivorous habits.[5]

Gallery[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b BirdLife International (2013). "Falco naumanni". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Groombridge, Jim J.; Carl Jones; Bayes, Michelle K.; van Zyl, Anthony J.; Carrillo, José; Nichols, Richard A. & Bruford, Michael W. (2002): A molecular phylogeny of African kestrels with reference to divergence across the Indian Ocean. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 25(2): 267–277. doi:10.1016/S1055-7903(02)00254-3 (HTML abstract)
  3. ^ "Falco_naumanni". Animal Diversity Web. University of Michigan. Retrieved 2008-12-01. 
  4. ^ Surveys reveal raptor ‘super-roost’
  5. ^ BirdLife International (2006) Lesser Kestrel - BirdLife International Species Factsheet. Retrieved 2007-MAR-1.
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