Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

The Mauritius kestrel feeds mainly on small lizards, particularly geckos of the genus Phelsuma, although insects and small birds are also taken (9). It hunts by flying quietly through the forest canopy and then rushing the quarry, (2) or by executing strikes from a perch, or chasing prey on the ground (7). It is a territorial species that nests in the rock cavities of cliff faces; recently the kestrel has started to nest in nest boxes (7). Pairs are monogamous throughout the breeding season (8) and typically produce a clutch of four to five eggs in November or December (8). Incubation takes between 38 and 39 days, and the juveniles stay within their natal territory until the next breeding season (7).
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Description

The Mauritius kestrel is a small falcon that was rescued from the brink of extinction by a world-renowned conservation programme (4). It is small, with relatively short wings, a long tail and long legs (5), which bear short talons (6). The upperparts are a rich brown colour with black barring, and the underparts are white with dark spots (5). Juveniles have bluish-grey facial skin, which turns yellow after a year. The sexes are similar in appearance (7), although the males are noticeably smaller (4). The call is a repeated 'toee tooee' or a shorter 'tooit tooit' (4).
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Distribution

Range Description

Falco punctatus is restricted to Mauritius and has undergone a spectacular recovery from just four wild birds (including one breeding pair [Burgess 2005]) in 1974 (Safford and Jones 1997, Burgess 2005). By the end of the 1994 breeding season there were an estimated 222-286 birds in the population, following a successful recovery programme launched in 1973 (Nicoll et al. 2004). At the end of the 1999-2000 season, the population was estimated at the time to number 145-200 breeding pairs in a total population of 500-800 individuals (C. Jones in litt. 2000), divided into three sub-populations on mountain chains in the north, east and south-west of Mauritius (Jones and Swinnerton 1997). In 2007-2008, the population was estimated at 500-600 individuals by Dale (2008) and 800-1,000 individuals were estimated in 2005 (Burgess 2005, Mauritian Wildlife Foundation in litt. 2006), but it is now thought unlikely that the population ever approached 1,000 individuals (V. Tatayah in litt. 2012), and may have only peaked at 350-500 individuals at the end of the 1990s (C. Jones in litt. 2012). By 2011-2012, the population was estimated to number c.300-400 individuals, with the small sub-population in the Moka Range in the north of the island apparently extinct (V. Tatayah in litt. 2012, Jones et al. 2013). Declines have also been observed in the south-western population, particularly in suboptimal habitat on the periphery of its range, since 2007-2008 (V. Tatayah in litt. 2012, Jones et al. 2013), with c.40-50 pairs and a pre-breeding season population of c.120-150 birds estimated to be there now (Jones et al. 2013). The eastern population has grown and stabilised at c.45-50 pairs and a total of 130-150 birds in the pre-breeding season (Jones et al. 2013). The population data from the 1970s to 2010 are being re-analysed to clarify what the peak population size was and what rate of decline has occurred (Jones et al. 2013). There is no record of dispersal to other locations despite intensive monitoring through colour ringing (Ewing et al. 2008, Senapathi et al. 2011).

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Falco punctatus, also known as the Mauritius Kestrel, are unique to the island of Mauritius, a small island off the coast of Madagascar. They have also been found in the neighboring Mascarene Islands.

Biogeographic Regions: indian ocean (Native )

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Range

Dense forests of sw Mauritius (w Indian Ocean).
  • Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2014. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: Version 6.9. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/

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Historic Range:
Indian Ocean_Mauritius

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Range

This kestrel is endemic to Mauritius, and was once widespread throughout the island. (5). However, by 1974 the population numbered just six individuals (two of which were in captivity), and the species was the most endangered raptor in the world (8). Presently numbers appear stable and the species has been downgraded from Endangered to Vulnerable by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) (4).
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Physical Description

Morphology

F. punctatus are small brown falcons with short wings and long tails. Mauritius Kestrels have black eyes and tapered wings, with patches of different shades of brown. The underside plumage is predominantly white interrupted with occasional dark-brown speckles. Their talons are small and delicate. This species of kestrel is more sexually dimorphic in size than other kestrels. (Temple, 1987)

Range mass: 200 to 250 g.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Its primary habitat was native, evergreen, subtropical forests, but captive-bred birds have shown greater tolerance for degraded and open areas (Jones 1998, Carter and Jones 1999). They are no longer considered obligate forest dwellers but also exploit grassland (Burgess et al. 2009). Avoidance of agricultural areas may be partly due to a lack of isolated mature trees to use as vantage points (Burgess et al. 2009). It preys mainly on endemic arboreal Phelsuma day-geckos, as well as small birds, insects, and introduced mice and shrews (Temple 1977, Jones 1987). It traditionally nests in volcanic rock-cavities, and probably tree-holes, within forest territories (Temple 1977, Jones 1987), but now even breeds in a few suburban areas (Jones and Swinnerton 1997).


Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Mauritius Kestrels originally were found in the tropical forests of the Black River Gorges but, with rapid habitat depletion, they have been introduced to and have adapted to the rocky forests and adjacent scrubby areas of the Bambous Mountains and on Moka Mountain. (Collar, 1994)

Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; rainforest ; scrub forest

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Previously inhabited the once widespread evergreen forests in Mauritius. Today, released individuals show a greater tolerance for degraded habitats and open areas (4).
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Trophic Strategy

Their diet primarily consists of arboreal geckos that are captured through a specialized hunting behavior known as "sun-oriented attacks". This predator also eats small birds, small rodents and insectivores, and various insects. The types of prey consumed by each sex may differ. (Temple, 1987)

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Reproduction

Mauritius Kestrels are monogamous during the breeding cycle. They nest in forest trees, but recently nestboxes have been introduced. The clutch size averages four to five eggs. The eggs are speckled brown oval-shaped eggs. The incubation period is 28 to 35 days, and the young are cared for in the nest for as long as 35 days. Clutches are usually laid during the months of November and December. (Village, 1990)

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; oviparous

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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
EN
Endangered

Red List Criteria
B1ab(iii,v); C2a(i)

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2014

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S.

Contributor/s
Jones, C. & Tatayah, V.

Justification
This species has been uplisted from Vulnerable because its formerly increasing population has declined again, with disappearance from part of its range. It is now listed as Endangered on the basis that it has a very small and declining population, which occupies a very small range in which habitat quality is in decline owing to the spread of introduced plant species.


History
  • 2013
    Vulnerable (VU)
  • 2012
    Vulnerable (VU)
  • Vulnerable (VU)
  • Vulnerable (VU)
  • Vulnerable (VU)
  • Vulnerable (VU)
  • Endangered (EN)
  • Endangered (EN)
  • Threatened (T)