|Targeted measures help the Lesser Kestrel
The Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni) is one of the smallest European raptor species. It is mainly breeding in steppe-like habitats, natural or managed grasslands and non-intensively cultivated land where it feeds primarily on large insects (i.e. grasshoppers, beetles, crickets), and on small mammals.
It breeds in colonies of up to 100 pairs in towns (e.g. ruins, churches and castles), rural areas (barns, abandoned farms, silos) or natural rock formations.
The Lesser Kestrel is mainly a long distance migrant with a breeding range from the Iberian Peninsula through the Mediterranean basin, Asia Minor, Western Asia, to Mongolia and China. Its wintering grounds are located in sub-Saharian Africa for the western population and South Africa for the eastern population, while some of the adult birds of the Spanish and Italian population are resident.
Lesser Kestrels use buildings for breeding to a significant degree. In many range countries, for instance Spain, Portugal and Italy, NGOs and governmental departments have set up awareness programs to protect the existing colonies, provide artificial nest boxes and translocate threatened colonies. In several countries the species has been reintroduced on restocked and recovery centers are running.
In the EU countries most of the key breeding habitats are designated as SPAs. Thanks to LIFE projects, regional and national action plans, important conservation strategies for agricultural and grassland habitats are carried out.Research and monitoring of the species is carried out at a high level in EU member states with cooperation with countries on the wintering grounds.
The decline of the Lesser Kestrel population during the second half of the 20th century has now been stopped in the Southwestern breeding range following the implementation of conservation measures.
Willem Van den Bossche, Willem.Vandenbossche(at)birdlife.org