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Lesser Kestrel

The Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni), is a small falcon. This species breeds from the Mediterranean across southern central Asia to China and Bangladesh. It is a summer migrant, wintering in Africa and Pakistan. 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.

It is a small bird of prey, 10.5 to 13 inches in length with a wingspan of about 27 inches. 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 gray head and tail like male Common Kestrels, but lacks the dark spotting on the back, the black malar stripe, and has gray 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. Both sexes do not have dark talons as usual in falcons; those of this species are a peculiar whitish-horn color.

The Lesser Kestrel eats insects, 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. Recent surveys have revealed that in their wintering grounds, Lesser Kestrels roost communally, sometimes in huge numbers. A roost discovered in Senegal during one of these surveys held 28,600 birds, together with 16,000 African Swallow-tailed Kites (Chelictinia riocourii).

Although widespread and plentiful on a global scale, in many parts of its range it seems to be declining in numbers exponentially. The IUCN has thus classed it as a vulnerable species. Global population has decreased by some 30% in the last 10 years, and is expected to do so for at least another decade. Apart from possible habitat destruction, it appears that indiscriminate use of pesticides has a strong effect on this species due to its insectivorous habits.

Lesser Kestrel


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