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). Although the population appears to be declining in some parts of its range, the global population decline is not thought 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. However, further research should be conducted to assess population trends in central and southern Africa.
Ferguson-Lees and Christie (2001) place the global population in the band 100,001-1,000,000 individuals, which roughly equates to 67,000-670,000 mature individuals. The European population is estimated at 840-1,700 mature individuals (BirdLife International in prep.). Europe forms a very small proportion of the global range (approximately 1%).
The species is declining in Europe owing to persecution, collecting of eggs and chicks for falconry, collisions with wind turbines, habitat loss, and nest-site competition with Peregrine Falcons (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001; De Rosa 2019; Keller et al. 2020). Particularly notable declines have occurred in former strongholds such as Italy and Turkey, as well as in the West Balkans and Greece (Keller et al. 2020; Di Vittorio et al. 2017). Exploitation for falconry may also be causing declines in breeding populations in Saudi Arabia (Binothman 2016). Declines of 38% (equivalent to 18.9% over three generations) were recorded outside of protected areas during road surveys in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger in 1969-1973 and 2003-2004, but there was no significant decline within protected areas (Thiollay 2006). There was no significant decline detected during road surveys in Northern Cameroon in 1973 and 2000. There are reports of declines in North Africa (Corso 2018), but a regional Red List assessment carried out in 2020 categorised the species as Least Concern, despite local declines in Libya and Egypt. Localised declines in southern Africa have been linked to poisoning by pesticides (Global Raptor Information Network 2015).
Despite these local declines, there is no evidence for population decline across the rest of the species's range, therefore the global population is suspected to be declining at a rate of <20% over three generations.
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 to 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; Di Vittorio et al. 2017; De Rosa et al. 2019). 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).
Conservation actions underway
The species is listed under CITES Appendix II, CMS Appendix II, Raptors MoU Category 2, Bern Convention Appendix II and EC Bird Directive Annex I. An International Species Action Plan was developed in 2000 (Gustin 2000).
Conservation actions proposed
Declines have been recorded in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, however population trends throughout much of the species's range are unknown. Further monitoring is needed, particularly in central and southern Africa, to determine the global population trend.
Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Khwaja, N. & Ashpole, J
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Falco biarmicus. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 21/03/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 21/03/2023.