Mauritius Kestrel

The Mauritius Kestrel (Falco punctatus), is a bird of prey from the family Falconidae endemic to Mauritius. It is the most distinct of the Indian Ocean kestrels. It colonized its island home to evolve into a distinct species probably during the Late Pliocene. It is the most distant living species among the western Indian Ocean kestrels.

It can reach a size between 10 and 12 inches. The weight is up to 9 ounces. The males are slightly smaller than the females. The wing is approximately 17.75 inches. The lifespan is 15 years in captivity.

The Mauritius Kestrel’s story is one of the most remarkable conservation stories in history. In pre-colonial time the population was estimated between 175 and 325 breeding pairs. This small population was most likely caused by deforestation in the 18th century and also by cyclones. Its most severe decline was in the 1950s and 1960s due to the DDT use and invasive species. The population dropped to an all-time low of only 4 individuals in 1974 and was considered the rarest bird in the world.

After several failed attempts of conservation efforts, Welsh biologist Carl Jones established a wildlife sanctuary in 1979 to help preserve the species. He climbed on the trees and removed the eggs from the nests. This time the eggs were fertile, and Jones was able to rear the hatchlings in incubators. Fortunately, the kestrels changed their breeding habits and laid a new egg after the first one was removed. Slowly the population increased, and in 1985 Dr. Jones proudly announced the fiftieth successful hatching. The program was scaled back in the early 1990s and since 1994, the program only serves as a safeguard for endangered and threatened species. Today there are more than 800 mature birds, with numbers rising. The species has been downlisted from Threatened to Vulnerable by the IUCN in 1994.

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