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 increasing, and hence the species does not 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 430-840 pairs, which equates to 850-1,700 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). Europe forms a very small proportion of the global range (approximately 1%).
The species has suffered slight declines locally owing to persecution and collecting of eggs and chicks for falconry (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). In Europe the population size is estimated to be decreasing by at least 20% in 12.8 years (two generations) (BirdLife International 2015).
Behaviour Most birds are resident although some migrate locally in West Africa, and nomadism is recorded in the east and south-west of its range (del Hoyo et al. 1994, Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). Flight is often low over the ground (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). Birds are usually recorded singly or in pairs, but are known gather in groups of up to 20 at concentrated feeding sites (del Hoyo et al. 1994, Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). The species is often crepuscular and possibly even nocturnal (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Habitat It inhabits a wide variety of habitats, from lowland deserts to forested mountains, and is recorded up to 5,000 m (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Diet Small birds make up most of its diet, particularly quails, pigeons and doves (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Breeding site Birds usually use the abandoned nests of other raptors, corvids or herons on trees and pylons (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Management information In Africa the species has been shown to benefit from bush clearance and higher populations of free-range poultry, which it hunts (del Hoyo et al. 1994).
In the mid-20th century the species underwent severe declines in Europe and Israel, driven by poisoning, shooting and trapping for falconry (Kemp 1994). These have subsided, though persecution and the collection of eggs and chicks for falconry still probably constitute the most serious threats to the species. In Italy it is still threatened by illegal shooting (Snow and Perrins 1998, Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001) and in other countries where Skylarks (Alauda arvensis) are hunted (Gustin et al. 2000). In Europe, habitat loss through urbanisation, modification of agricultural practices, construction of roads, open-cast mining, agricultural expansion into steppe and grasslands and afforestation has caused a reduction in hunting areas and prey species. It also suffers from human disturbance, such as rock-climbers, pesticides, electrical powerlines and interspecific competition with Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) (Gustin et al. 2000). Local declines in southern Africa have possibly been associated with seed dressings, and whilst the overall effects of pesticides are unknown they have been shown to have negative impacts locally (Kemp 1994, Global Raptor Information Network 2015). In its West African range, the species is vulnerable to habitat degradation through wood harvesting, overgrazing and burning as well as exposure to pesticides (Thiollay 2007). It is also vulnerable to the effects of potential wind energy development (Strix 2012).
Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Khwaja, N. & Ashpole, J
BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Falco biarmicus. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 18/10/2019. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2019) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 18/10/2019.