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). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over 10 years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in 10 years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
The European population is estimated at 140,000-219,000 pairs, which equates to 280,000-437,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International in prep.). Europe forms approximately 30% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 933,000-1,457,000 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed. The population is therefore placed in the band 900,000-1,500,000 mature individuals.
The population is declining locally owing to habitat loss (del Hoyo et al. 1994). For example, in North Africa a continuing population decline is inferred due to the observed degradation of open wooded habitats and observations from recent road census in Morocco (Garrido et al. in prep.). In Europe the population size is estimated to be stable (BirdLife International in prep.).
Behaviour Most individuals of the species are migratory, with western birds wintering in Africa and others in southern Asia (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Birds leave their breeding grounds between August and October, arriving at wintering quarters from late October onwards. The return journey begins in March and April, and breeding territories are occupied again in May and June. Birds are usually seen singly or in pairs or family groups, even on migration, with larger groups being rare except at roosts and especially rich feeding sites (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). It migrates in broad fronts and does not generally concentrate at narrow sea crossings as do many other migratory raptors (del Hoyo et al. 1994, Snow and Perrins 1998). It is mainly diurnal although partly crepuscular and even nocturnal to some extent on migration (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). Habitat It occurs in open wooded areas, and has been recorded up to 4,000 m (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Diet Flying insects form the main part of its diet, although birds are often taken in the breeding season (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Breeding site Birds almost always nest in trees, using abandoned nests of other raptors or corvids (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Management information The species requires trees in which to nest, so although preferring generally open areas in the breeding season it will avoid those that are completely deforested (del Hoyo et al. 1994).
The cutting of old growth forest patches in Ukraine is thought to have caused local declines (Orta et al. 2020). Agricultural intensification poses a threat through removal of nesting trees and reduction of prey availability such as insects and farmland birds (Sergio et al. 2001). Shooting is a significant cause of mortality during migration, notably in Malta where hunters are thought to kill 500-600 individuals each year (Sultana 1996, cited in Sergio et al. 2001). A growing threat is human disturbance associated with silvicultural and hunting activities during the breeding season (Sergio et al. 2001). Pesticide use has likely had only minor impacts, as has egg-collecting, which tends to be a local issue (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). The species is highly vulnerable to the effects of potential wind energy development (Strix 2012). Large increases in Goshawk populations in some countries has led to higher predation rates of both Eurasian Hobby and corvid species, causing direct mortality and reducing the availability of nest sites (Sergio et al. 2001). Persecution of corvids may deplete the availability of nesting sites locally and can lead to unintentional killing (Sergio et al. 2001).
Conservation actions underway
CITES Appendix II, CMS Appendix II, Raptors MOU Category 2. Breeding schemes in place in at least 13 European countries (Derlink et al. 2018).
Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Khwaja, N., Ashpole, J & Butchart, S.
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Falco subbuteo. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 07/07/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 07/07/2022.