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Taita Falcon Falco fasciinucha

Justification
This species has been uplisted to Vulnerable owing to evidence that its very small population is in decline.

Taxonomic source(s)
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.

Identification
28-30 cm. A dumpy and short tailed falcon with muscular proportions and powerful flight. Small robust falcon with dark upper parts, whitish throat and cheeks and rufous patches on its nape. The black moustachial stripes contrast against the white cheek and throat. The underparts pale rufous with narrow dark streaks. Cere, orbital ring and legs are yellow. Sexes similar. Juvenile and immature resemble adult with generally reduced rufous patches on side and back of head and more heavily streaked below. Similar spp. Similar markings and size to African Hobby but differs in having white throat and rufous patches on nape and entirely different build. Voice Typical falcon like high pitched screaming 'kree-kree-kree' and 'kek-kek-kek'. Hints located in high cliffs in mountainous terrain, favouring gorges, especially those below the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Distribution and population
Falco fasciinucha is uncommon to rare throughout its wide range in eastern and southern Africa. Due to variations in observer effort and because 'islands' of suitable rock-face habitat are infrequently visited by ornithologists (Thomsett 1998), the distribution of records is patchy. Its range, distribution and population are therefore poorly known (Thomsett 1998), with probably around 40 known active nest-sites (Jenkins 2007). However, the species is easily overlooked (S. Thomsett in litt. 2011), and it has been estimated that there are probably more than 1,000 mature individuals (Thomsett 1998), although more recently it was stated that there are probably substantially fewer than 500 pairs (Jenkins et al. 2008). It is recorded from southern Ethiopia, eastern South Sudan, eastern Uganda, Kenya (probably occurring at low densities throughout the country) (Zimmerman et al. 1996), Tanzania (scattered records) (Zimmerman et al. 1996), eastern Zambia (a few sites), Malawi (two recent records), Zimbabwe (20-50 pairs [White et al. 1994], but recently reported to be in decline [N. Deacon per A. Jenkins in litt. 2012]), Mozambique (one record of unknown reliability), Botswana and north-eastern South Africa (seven breeding pairs and an eighth territory occupied by a single bird in 2011 [A. Jenkins in litt. 2012]; however, by 2013 this had decreased to four pairs, of which two bred successfully in 2013, with two territories deserted and three occupied by single birds [A. Jenkins in litt. 2014]). A survey of Batoka Gorge, South Africa, regarded as possibly the core of the species's global distribution, in July 2013 yielded no sightings, suggesting that this population is greatly diminished (A. Jenkins in litt. 2014). The species's status in Kenya, as in much of its range, is difficult to judge owing to the lack of previous occupancy data and paucity of contemporary observations (S. Thomsett in litt. 2011). 

Population justification
It has been estimated that there are probably more than 1,000 mature individuals (Thomsett 1998), although more recently it was stated that there are probably substantially fewer than 500 pairs (Jenkins et al. 2008). The population is therefore estimated to number 500-1,000 mature individuals, assumed to equate to c.750-1,500 individuals in total.

Trend justification
The population is precautionarily suspected to be in decline, based on evidence of reduced territory occupation in some areas, such as Zimbabwe and South Africa, during recent years (A. Jenkins in litt. 2012, 2014). These survey data are difficult to interpret given the limited time span of observations and the species's erratic occupancy of breeding territories, thus regular and systematic monitoring is required.

Ecology
It occurs at gorges and escarpments, up to 3,800 m, using associated cliffs for nesting (White et al. 1994, D. Turner in litt. 1999) and roosting, often overlooking river valleys. It is largely sedentary and does not wander far from favoured sites (D. Turner in litt. 1999). However, a review of sightings in Kenya confirms that it occurs in a variety of habitats (Thomsett 1998). It is closely associated with cliffs but does not have an absolute fidelity to a 'home cliff' and is sometimes sighted away from cliff environments. A portion of the population is therefore prone to wander away from typical habitat. These findings from East Africa are at odds with studies from southern Africa where the species does not tend to wander into flat areas devoid of cliffs (Thomsett 1998). It feeds mainly on small birds (D. Turner in litt. 1999).

Threats
The spraying of organochlorine pesticides in northern Zimbabwe may have reduced numbers there, and pesticide-spraying (e.g. through operations to control Quelea and locusts) may pose a significant threat in other areas, including a recorded case in Uganda (Thomsett 1998). Helicopters and micro-light aircraft appear to have caused considerable disturbance to birds resident along the Victoria Falls gorges of the Zambezi, and the few birds that remain (D. Turner in litt. 1999) are threatened with flooding by a proposed dam (K. Hustler in litt. 1999). Reasons for its rarity in East Africa may include competition for food and nest sites with the larger and more dominant Peregrine Falcon F. peregrinus and predation of young by the Peregrine Falcon, Lanner Falcon F. biarmicus and owls, e.g. Spotted Eagle-owl Bubo africanus. For example, in South Africa, a territory that was occupied by this species from 2006 to 2009, has been lost to Lanner Falcons (A. Jenkins in litt. 2012).

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. Surveys for the species in South Africa have been conducted in recent years (Jenkins 2007, Jenkins et al. 2008, A. Jenkins in litt. 2012, 2014). Recent data on the species in South Africa are the product of five years of survey and monitoring in the Mpumalanga/Limpopo escarpment region of the country by the South African Taita Falcon Survey Team, now operating as a BirdLife South Africa Species Guardian under the Preventing Extinctions Programme (A. Jenkins in litt. 2012). The South African Taita Falcon Survey Team and the Birds of Prey Programme of the Endangered Wildlife Trust jointly organised a workshop on the overall status of the species at the Pan-African Ornithological Congress in September 2008 (A. Jenkins in litt. 2012).
Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct a systematic, range-wide survey of its distribution and population size (D. Turner in litt. 1999). Initiate schemes to monitor breeding success (D. Turner in litt. 1999). Study its ecological requirements (L. Bennun in litt. 1999). Carry out research into its tolerance to disturbance (L. Bennun in litt. 1999). Evaluate the potential effects of pesticides, especially in northern Zimbabwe (K. Hustler in litt. 1999). Investigate interactions with other raptors. Protect areas of suitable habitat.

References
IUCN. 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2012.1). Available at: http://www.iucnredlist.org. (Accessed: 19 June 2012).

Jenkins, A. 2007. On the trail of the Taita. Africa - Birds & Birding 17(3): 35-37.

Jenkins, A. R.; Allan, D. G.; Botha, A.; Harvey, A.; Kemp, A. C.; Monadjem, A.; Rodrigues, L.; Rushworth, DF.; Stephenson, A.; van Zyl, A. J. 2008. Preliminary survey of Taita Falcon Falco fasciinucha in the Drakensberg escarpment region of Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces, South Africa. Bulletin of the African Bird Club 15(1): 53-58.

Thomsett, S. 1998. Distribution and status of the Taita Falcon in Kenya and adjacent areas of East Africa, with notes on ecology and behaviour. Journal of African Raptor Biology 13(1 & 2): 15-20.

White, C. M.; Olsen, P. D.; Kiff, L. F. 1994. Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras). In: del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. (ed.), Handbook of the birds of the world, pp. 216-275. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Zimmerman, D. A.; Turner, D. A.; Pearson, D. J. 1996. Birds of Kenya and northern Tanzania. Helm, London.

Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Evans, M., O'Brien, A., Starkey, M., Symes, A. & Taylor, J.

Contributors
Allan, D., Bennun, L., Hustler, K., Irwin, M., Jenkins, A. & Thomsett, S.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2014) Species factsheet: Falco fasciinucha. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 30/07/2014. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2014) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 30/07/2014.

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

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Falconidae (Falcons, Caracaras)
Species name author Reichenow & Neumann, 1895
Population size 500-1000 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 501,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- Projected distributions under climate change