1.Presentation of the species
Biology and Ecology
The Lesser Kestrel is a small falcon that feeds on insects. During the breeding season it can regularly be found in urban environments. It nests in holes and gaps in walls or under the roof tiles in our cities, villages and rural areas. Its distribution is essentially Mediterranean. It lives in zones of warm and dry climate and open ecosystems such as moor lands and areas of cultivation with high density of preys (mainly insects, coleopthera and orthoptera). The Lesser Kestrel keep in the breeding area from the beginning of February until the end of July, the nesting begins in April and the broods begins to fly at the end of June. The type of reproduction and preying is gregarious. The colonies are usually find in holes in the walls of buildings, shore cliffs and exceptionally, but sometimes in stones accumulate on the soil.
Grade of Protection
On global level the species is catalogued as vulnerable (VU). On Spain at national level it is considered as of special interest, and based on the Decree 37/2001 of the 6th of March (DOE-13-03-01) regulated by the regional catalogue of endangered species of Extremadura, it is considered as sensitive to the alteration of it’s natural habitat. In France the Lesser Kestrel is protected by the law of the 10th of July of 1976 like all birds of prey. On the world level it’s included in the Annex I of the directory on birds (79/409/CEE) which admits the consideration of the species a priority in the European scale. The commerce of the species is prohibited in the European Union and strictly regulated on global level.
A Raptor in Decline
Since the 1950´s the total amount of the Lesser Kestrel has suffered a general decline up until the disappearance of 90 % of all the species. Of the 100 000 pairs of 1960 the amount had decreased to the 50 000 by the beginning of the 1970 and since reduced to 5 000 in 1990´s. In the year 2000 the estimated population in Europe was in between 16 500 and 20 000 pairs. Of this amount the principal populations were 12 000 pairs in Spain, 3 000 in Greece, 2 150 in Italy, 1 500 – 3 500 pairs in Turkey and 1 000 in the northern Africa (Morocco). The French population lives in the northern limit of the distributional area of the species.
In the middle of the 20th century twelve colonies were observed in France in the Mediterranean coast but nowadays the species nests only in two zones: the plain of Crau in the region of Bouches-du-Rhône (127 pairs) and a village in the region of Hérault (24 pairs).
The Causes of Regression
The main reasons for the radical decreasing of the Lesser Kestrel population are the actions of man. They affect directly the species or its alimentary resources. Among the basic factors is elimination of the holes adequate for nesting and destruction of the actual nests, but most of all the radical changes in agriculture. The usual prey is disappearing because of dry areas are turned into irrigated land and the pesticides are used excessively. Due to all these negative effects the Lesser Kestrel has turned into an endangered species, even though thirty years ago it was one of the most common raptors of Europe.