This species is listed as Near Threatened because it is experiencing a moderately rapid population decline, owing to habitat loss and degradation. This species would qualify for uplisting to a higher threat category if evidence suggests a rapid population decline.
Distribution and populationFalco vespertinus
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: #http://www.aerc.eu/DOCS/Bird_taxa_of _the_WP15.xls#.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.
breeds in eastern Europe and west, central and north-central Asia, with its main range from Belarus
south to Hungary
, northern Serbia and Montenegro
and east Bulgaria
, eastward through Ukraine
and north-west and south Russia
and north Kazakhstan
to extreme north-west China
and the upper Lena river (Russia). It winters in southern Africa, from South Africa
northwards to southern Kenya
(Ferguson-Lees et al.
2001). In Central Europe, 1,000-3,500 birds congregate at migratory roost sites (P. Palatitz in litt.
2007). It has a large global population estimated to be 300,000-800,000 individuals (Ferguson-Lees et al.
2001), but recent evidence suggests that it is undergoing large declines in parts of its range. The European population of 26,000-39,000 pairs (forming 25-49% of the global population) suffered a large decline during 1970-1990
(Tucker and Heath 1994), and has continued to decline during 1990-2000, particularly in the key populations in Russia and Ukraine, with overall declines exceeding 30% in 10 years (three generations)
(BirdLife International 2004). A national scale survey conducted in Ukraine in 2009, estimated an approximate decline of 23% compared to 1990-2000 (Kostenko 2009). Declines have also been reported from eastern Siberia, where the species may have disappeared as a breeder from the Baikal region
(I. Fefelov in litt.
2005, Popov 2000). In Hungary estimated populations have declined from 2,000-2,500 pairs in the late 1980s to 600-700 pairs based on surveys in 2003-2006
(P. Palatitz in litt.
2005, 2007), and in Bulgaria previously estimated 50-150 pairs dropped to 15- 50 pairs based on a partial survey conducted in 2009 (Palatitz et al.
2009). In 2006, surveys in Bulgaria found the species breeding at only 26 sites, out of 75 known locations (Anon. 2007). However, populations in central Asia appear to be stable, with the species reported to be common in suitable habitats in Kazakhstan (especially in forest-steppe zone with Rook Corvus frugilegus
colonies), and no evidence of any population declines there
(E. Bragin in litt.
2005). Some small marginal populations in south-west Europe are also stable or increasing
(BirdLife International 2004), especially in Italy (P. Palatitz in litt.
2007). Population justification
The global population is estimated to number 300,000-800,000 individuals, with 26,000-39,000 pairs in Europe.Trend justification
The population is suspected to be in decline owing to ongoing habitat destruction. The European population (forming 25-49% of the global population) is continuing to suffer declines exceeding 30% in 10 years (three generations).Ecology
The species breeds in open lowlands with trees and plenty of insects, on which it feeds, including steppe and forest-steppe, open woodland, cultivation and pastureland with tall hedgerows or fringing trees, agricultural areas with shelterbelts and, in the north-east, boggy areas and taiga edge. It is usually colonial, breeding in disused nests of other birds (most commonly C. frugilegus
), but can also be solitary. It is found from sea-level to c.300 m in the west, but to 1,500 m in Asia (Ferguson-Lees et al.
2001). It is often crepuscular (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). The species is migratory, with birds travelling great distances to their wintering grounds in southern Africa (del Hoyo et al.
1994). Most leave their breeding grounds in August and September, making the return journey between February and May (del Hoyo et al.
1994, Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). Birds migrate in a broad front across the Mediterranean Sea, not concentrating at bottleneck sites to the extent that many other raptors do (Brown et al.
1982, del Hoyo et al.
1994, Snow and Perrins 1998). On migration, they form mixed flocks often over 100 strong with other falcons such as F. naumanni
, and tend to stay at very high altitudes for the majority of the journey (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001).Threats
Threats include destruction of suitable nest-sites when rookery trees are felled for agricultural expansion or timber
(Ferguson-Lees et al.
2001; Anon. 2007) and, more significantly, the widespread use of pesticides is affecting the food supply
(Ferguson-Lees et al.
2001). In Central Europe, agricultural intensification is causing habitat loss, and a decrease in extensive grassland management, especially grazing, is affecting the species' food supply (P. Palatitz in litt.
2007). From 1980 to 1999 intensive poisoning of C. frugilegus
in Hungary forced the species to change its nest site selection habits, and large colonies have nearly disappeared there as a result, with only 38% of the population breeding colonially
(P. Palatitz in litt.
2005). As productivity is generally greater in larger colonies, further decreases may occur. The species appears to be hunted opportunistically during migration. In October 2007, 52 birds that had been roosting at Phasouri, Cyprus, were found shot, with 46 already dead and 6 wounded (BirdLife International news [www.birdlife.org/news] 2007). Two suspects were arrested seven days later; they contested charges in court in December 2007, and a trial was scheduled for January 2008 (BirdLife International news [www.birdlife.org/news] 2007). Conservation Actions Underway
Added to Annex I of EU Birds Directive in 2004. Recent conservation measures in Hungary have shown that birds will occupy artificial colonies, meaning that this could be a useful mid-term conservation tool to stop population fragmentation (P. Palatitz in litt
. 2007). The species is also included in Agro-environmental programs in Hungary. Following surveys in Bulgaria, which indicated a decline in the number of suitable breeding sites, over 100 nest boxes were constructed and installed in suitable places during 2006; however, none were used by the species in 2007
(Anon. 2007). Anti-poaching patrols have been increased in the Akrotiri area of Cyprus, following the unprecedented loss of a migratory flock to hunters in October 2007 (BirdLife International news [www.birdlife.org/news] 2007). Sporadic irregular population surveys have been carried out and are implemented in Serbia, while a nation-wide census of the species was concluded in 2009, in the Ukraine (Kostenko 2009). A European Action Plan for the species has been in implementation since 2010 (Palatitz et al.
2009). Conservation Actions Proposed
Continue to carry out regular surveys to monitor population trends. Conduct further research into the effects of changes in agriculture and land management. Change farming and land-use practices in Central Europe, through EU policy and/or national schemes. Provide more artificial colonies for the species. Prevent hunting in problem areas through law enforcement, prosecution and awareness campaigns.
Related state of the world's birds case studies
Anon. 2007. Species under the wing: what BSPB is doing for globally threatened species. Neophron: 2-3.
BirdLife International. 2004. Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.
BirdLife International. 2007. Conservationists appalled at red-footed falcon massacre. BirdLife News: http://www.birdlife.org/news/news/2007/10/cyprus_falcon_massacre.html.
Brown, L. H.; Urban, E. K.; Newman, K. 1982. The birds of Africa vol I. Academic Press, London.
del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. 1994. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 2: New World Vultures to Guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Ferguson-Lees, J.; Christie, D. A. 2001. Raptors of the world. Christopher Helm, London.
Kostenko, M. 2009. Inventory of the Breeding Population of Red-footed Falcons in Ukraine: Spring-Summer 2009. Ukrainian Society for the Protection of Birds, Kyiv.
Palatitz, P., P. Fehérvári, S. Solt and B. Barov. 2009. European Species Action Plan for the Red-footed Falcon Falco vespertinus. BirdLife International for the European Commission.
Popov, V. V. 2000. The Red-footed Falcon Falco vespertinus in the Baikal Region. Russkiy Ornitologicheskiy Zhurnal 123: 25-27.
Snow, D. W.; Perrins, C. M. 1998. The Birds of the Western Palearctic vol. 1: Non-Passerines. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Tucker, G. M.; Heath, M. F. 1994. Birds in Europe: their conservation status. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.
Further web sources of information
Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)
Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species
View photos and videos and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection
Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Derhé, M., Ekstrom, J., Harding, M., Taylor, J., Khwaja, N.
Bragin, E., Fefelov, I., Palatitz, P., Petkov, N., van Zyl, A.
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Falco vespertinus. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 28/07/2016.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 28/07/2016.
This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000)
Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004)
Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.
To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife
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Additional resources for this species