Tuesday 18 June
Lesser kestrel (Falco naumanni)
Lesser kestrel fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Lesser kestrel description
The lesser kestrel (Falco naumanni) is a small kestrel with long pointed wings and a long tail marked with a black band at the end. Males and females are distinguishable by colouring. Males have a pale brown back and blue-grey feathers on the crown, rump, neck and tail. The belly is creamy pink with small brown streaks. In females, the back and head are mid brown and the belly is pale. Both back and belly are streaked with brown. Males and females have white undersides to their wings, with black tips (2). The eye ring is bright yellow and the feet are yellow to orange. The ankles and feet lack feathers (5).
- Faucon crécerellette.
- Cernícalo Primilla.
- Length: 30 – 36 cm (2)
Lesser kestrel biology
Travelling in loose flocks of hundreds of birds, this sociable species will also roost together in trees, but migrate singly or in flocks of less than 50, at altitudes of around 2,000 metres. The lesser kestrel’s flapping flight is shallow and rapid and is more conspicuous to prey than the subtle gliding flight that is more normally used. Hunting, usually for small mammals, makes excellent use of the lesser kestrel’s powerful eyesight, sharp claws and strong beak. It dives almost silently from a perch or from mid air and pounces on prey with the claws, before swiftly killing its prey with a bite to the back of the head (2).
Breeding takes place between March and May, and eggs are laid, not in nests, but in scraped out depressions in trees. Again, lesser kestrels nest as colonies and pairs will display to each other to strengthen the pair bond. The female invests more time than the male in incubating the four to six eggs she lays, and rearing the chicks when they hatch after 28 to 31 days, but the male will contribute by fighting to defend their territory. The chicks hatch over several days and so the last to hatch is smaller than the others. This individual is most likely to die as it cannot compete effectively for food, and when food is particularly scarce it may be killed and eaten by its siblings. The chicks are fed for two to four weeks, and then must learn to hunt for themselves (2).Top
Lesser kestrel range
Found in Europe and northern Asia between latitudes of 30 and 50 degrees North at up to 500 metres above sea level. The lesser kestrel is migratory, moving to sub-Saharan Africa during the winter, and congregating most abundantly in northern Tanzania and southern Kenya (1).Top
Lesser kestrel habitat
An inhabitant of highland farming regions and grassy plains in the winter range, the lesser kestrel prefers open or wooded grassland and cultivated areas during the summer breeding season. It nests in areas with mountain slopes, gorges and deep ravines surrounded by open areas for hunting (2).Top
Lesser kestrel status
The lesser kestrel is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1) and is listed on Appendix II of CITES (3). It is also listed on Appendices I and II of the Convention on Migratory Species (4).Top
Lesser kestrel threats
The main cause of decline of the lesser kestrel is habitat loss and degradation as a result of agricultural intensification, afforestation and urbanisation (6). Pesticide contamination is indirectly affecting the lesser kestrel due to reductions in prey, and directly affecting it during the breeding process. Hunting and egg-stealing have also contributed to sharp declines in numbers. Populations have been reduced most in the European range, particularly in Poland, the Czech Republic and Austria, where lesser kestrels are no longer breeding (2).Top
Lesser kestrel conservation
The lesser kestrel is protected by law, but its breeding sites are not, and numbers of breeding birds have dropped by 95 percent since the 1950s (2). Research and management of the species and its habitat have been carried out in several countries and both a European and an International Action Plan have been implemented. These encourage surveying and monitoring, the construction of artificial nests, and research into factors limiting the kestrel’s survival and habitat management. The most immediate priority is to enforce the legal protection already in place (6).Top
Find out more
For more information about the lesser kestrel and other bird species:
For the International Action Plan for the lesser kestrel:Top
This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
- To keep eggs warm so that development is possible.
- An area occupied and defended by an animal, a pair of animals or a colony.
IUCN Red List (June, 2011)
Animal Diversity Web (November, 2004)
CITES (November, 2004)
CMS (November, 2004)
Aberdeen University Natural History Centre (November, 2004)
BirdLife International (November, 2004)
More »Related species
Play the Team WILD game
This species is featured in:
This species is featured in Jewels of the UAE, which showcases biodiversity found in the United Arab Emirates in association with the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi.
This species is featured in:
This species is featured in the Mediterranean Basin eco-region
This species is featured in:
This species is featured in the Gutianshan National Nature Reserve eco-region
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.