Justification of Red List Category
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size has not been quantified, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
The global population size has not been quantified. The European population is estimated at 5,300-15,500 pairs, which equates to 10,500-31,100 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015), but Europe forms <5% of the global range.
The population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats. The small European population is estimated to be increasing (BirdLife International 2015).
In its breeding grounds, this species occupies semi-desert, steppe, dunes, saline pans, cultivation, thorn woodland and sandy slopes with small gulleys, ravines, quarries, pits and embankments. It breeds mainly in sand deserts near bodies of water fringed with reeds and tamarisks. During the non-breeding season it inhabits a wide variety of greener habitats including savanna, broad river valleys, woods, lakeshores, swamps, ponds, dams, waterworks and cultivation (Fry and Kirwan 2012). Eggs generally are laid from March to June, but in any one region all birds lay within three weeks of each other. It nests solitarily, or more commonly in loose colonies (Fry and Kirwan 2012). The nest is a tunnel one to two metres long ending in an enlarged chamber, excavated into sloping ground, vertical bank or even nearly flat ground (Snow and Perrins 1998). Clutch size is typically seven or eight eggs (Fry and Kirwan 2012). It feeds entirely on winged insects, such as dragonflies and damselflies which are important throughout the year. The species is migratory and winters almost entirely within Africa (Snow and Perrins 1998).
The species suffers from human disturbance, particularly in colonies near human habitation. Agricultural development can destroy or displace flat-ground colonies (Fry and Kirwan 2012).
Conservation Actions Underway
There are currently no known specific conservation measures for this species within its European range.
Conservation Actions Proposed
Nesting sites should be protected from disturbance and agricultural development. Research should be undertaken into the impacts posed by agriculture and disturbance as well as studies examining factors of nest site selection (Yuan et al. 2006).
Text account compilers
Ashpole, J, Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S.
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Merops persicus. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 28/05/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 28/05/2022.