Seychelles kestrel (Falco araea)

Also known as: katiti
  
French: Crécerelle des Seychelles, Crécerelle Katitie, Emouchel des Seychelles, Faucon crécerelle des Seychelles
Spanish: Cernícalo de las Seychelles
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderFalconiformes
FamilyFalconidae
GenusFalco (1)
SizeLength: 15 – 23 cm (2)
Male weight: 73 g (2)
Female weight: 87 g (2)

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) by the IUCN Red List (1), and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).

The Seychelles kestrel, the only day-flying raptor in the central Seychelles (4), is a small falcon with dark reddish-brown plumage on the upperparts. The head is a dark grey, and the underparts are buffy. The female is slightly paler than the male, and young Seychelles kestrels have streaked and spotted underparts. The Seychelles kestrel is agile in flight and has a relatively long tail (2).

Occurs on the islands of the Seychelles, in the West Indian Ocean (2). It is found on Mahé and its satellite islands, Silhouette and Praslin. Recent surveys, (around 2003), found just four pairs of kestrels on Praslin. The Seychelles kestrel also occurs on La Digue and North, but apparently does not breed on either island, and at least one pair has been heard on the island of Félicité (2) (5) (6).

The original habitat of the Seychelles kestrel is woodland at all altitudes (6). It is now also found in secondary forest, cultivated areas, (such as coconut plantations), and even open urban areas (2) (5).

This bird of prey feeds mainly on geckos and skinks, but also consumes insects, small birds and mice. It hunts from the vantage point of a perch, and snatches its prey from tree trunks, branches, foliage or from the ground (2).

The Seychelles kestrel only lays one brood each year, generally from August to October (7). The Seychelles kestrel does not build a nest, but lays its eggs on cliffs high above sea level, in tree holes or on building ledges. It also sometimes uses the abandoned nests of the introduced common myna (Acridotheres tristis) (2). Two to three eggs are laid at a time of increased food abundance, and after an incubation period of around 30 days, the young appear in the nest when food availability is at a maximum (7), giving the chicks the best possible start in life. Both the common myna and another introduced species, the black rat, prey on the nests of Seychelles kestrels (2), and despite the parents’ efforts to defend the territory and nest, not all chicks will reach fledging at 38 days of age (7).

Traditionally, people have thought of the Seychelles kestrel as unlucky, and have even killed it, but today it is protected by law (4). The number of Seychelles kestrels declined in the 1960s and 1970s, probably due to pesticide use and the reduction of forest habitat as a result of logging and agriculture (5). Today, further loss of forest habitat could be a threat, but the Seychelles kestrel has proved capable of breeding in urban and agricultural areas. Introduced species that prey on chicks, or compete for food and nesting sites, are a potential continuing threat (5). The vulnerability of this species to the impact of such threats can be seen on Praslin Island, where fires, and possibly housing developments and alien predators, have nearly halved the population in ten years (5).

The majority of surviving kestrels live on Mahé (approximately 450 pairs as of 2008) (6), where almost a quarter of the land is protected by the Morne Seychellois National Park (5), providing a safe refuge for a large number of birds. A significant population is also present on Silhouette island (approximately 50 pairs (8)), which is shortly to become a National Park (6). Attempts are being made to increase the population on Praslin through measures such as introducing predator-proof nest boxes and initiating awareness campaigns (5). If efforts continue, and the aim is achieved, this would reduce the threat of extinction and allow the reclassification of the Seychelles kestrel from Vulnerable to Near Threatened (4).

For further information on conservation in the Seychelles see:

For more information on this and other bird species please see:

Authenticated (07/03/08) by Dr Justin Gerlach, Scientific Co-ordinator, The Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles.
http://islandbiodiversity.com

  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2008)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1994) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 2: New World Vultures to Guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. CITES (August, 2007)
    http://www.cites.org
  4. Nature Seychelles (September, 2007)
    http://www.natureseychelles.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=56&Itemid=83
  5. BirdLife International (September, 2007)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=3593&m=0
  6. Gerlach, J. (2008) Pers. comm.
  7. Watson, J. (1992) Nesting ecology of the Seychelles kestrel Falco araea on Mahe, Seychelles. Ibis, 134(3): 259 - 267.
  8. Gerlach, J. (2002) Habitat use by a population of the Seychelles kestrel (Falco araea). Phelsuma, 10: 9 - 16.