Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni


Justification of Red List Category
This species underwent rapid declines in western Europe, equivalent to c.46% in each decade since 1950, on its wintering grounds in South Africa, equivalent to c.25% in each decade since 1971, and possibly in parts of its Asian range; however, recent evidence indicates a stable or slightly positive population trend overall during the last three generations. Consequently it has been downlisted from Vulnerable and now qualifies as Least Concern because it no longer approaches any of the thresholds for Vulnerable under the IUCN criteria.

Population justification
The European population is estimated at 30,500-38,000 pairs, which equates to 61,000-76,100 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). Several thousand pairs breed outside this range, principally in central Asia. Wintering population estimates include a roost in Senegal of over 28,600 individuals in January 2007, and 98,000 in south Africa based on roost counts in 2006/2007. The population in China has been estimated at c.100-10,000 breeding pairs and c.50-1,000 individuals on migration (Brazil 2009).

Trend justification
Although severe declines were recorded during the second half of the 20th century, the species appears to be stable or increasing slightly in many parts of its range (e.g. Iñigo and Barov 2010), including Europe (BirdLife International 2015) and its overall population trend is considered to have been stable during the last three generations (estimated to be 17 years).

Distribution and population

This species breeds in Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar (to UK), France, Italy, Bosnia-Herzegovina, FYRO Macedonia, Albania, Greece, Turkey, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Israel, Palestinian Authority Territories, Jordan, Iran, Iraq, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, China and Mongolia. Birds winter in southern Spain, southern Turkey, Malta and across much of Africa, particularly South Africa. The European population is estimated at 30,500-38,000 pairs (BirdLife International 2015), with almost half of these in Spain. Several thousand pairs breed outside this range, principally in central Asia. Western Palearctic populations have undergone serious declines, although a few have begun to increase again. The western European population has declined by c.95% since 1950, and the species has disappeared from the Ural region of Russia and from northern Kazakhstan, as well as from the western and central parts of the Balkan Peninsula (Davygora 1998, B. Barov in litt. 2007). However, some populations in south-western and central Europe are stable or increasing (Iñigo and Barov 2010) and eastern breeding populations are also reported to be stable (Galushin 2009). Italy has seen a marked population increase and range expansion since 2000 (N. Baccetti in litt. 2010), and the population in Andalucía, Spain, increased from c.2,100 pairs in 1988 to c.4,800 in 2009 (J. R. Garrido in litt. 2011). In Kazakhstan, the species appears to be stable or increasing slightly, perhaps in association with the abandonment of villages and livestock stations in the 1990s (J. Kamp in litt. 2010). Coordinated counts of the South African wintering population recorded 117,000 birds in 2005/2006 (van Zyl 2007, A. van Zyl in litt. 2007) and 98,000 birds in 2006/2007 (A. van Zyl in litt. 2007), but it is not clear whether this represents a genuine reduction in numbers or whether the missing birds were wintering elsewhere, most likely in East Africa (A. van Zyl in litt. 2007). An enormous roost discovered in January 2007 in Senegal contained over 28,600 individuals (most likely European/North African breeders).


It is usually a colonial breeder, often in the vicinity of human settlements. It forages in steppe-like habitats, natural and managed grasslands, and non-intensive cultivation. It is mainly migratory, with most breeders overwintering in sub-Saharan Africa, although some travel to parts of north-west Africa, southern Europe and southern Asia. Migrants leave their breeding grounds in September and return between February and April (del Hoyo et al. 1994). It migrates in flocks of varying sizes, usually tens to low hundreds, often with other falcons such as F. tinnunculus, F. vespertinus and F. amurensis (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). Large numbers, sometimes up to thousands, gather at roosts on migration (del Hoyo et al. 1994). They cross water bodies readily on a broad front, flying high enough to be barely detectable; they fly lower over land (often c.20-30 m), particularly on northward migration (Brown et al. 1982, Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001).


The main cause of its decline was habitat loss and degradation in its Western Palearctic breeding grounds, primarily a result of agricultural intensification, but also afforestation and urbanisation. In South Africa, key grasslands have been lost to agricultural intensification, afforestation and intensive pasture management (Pepler 2000). The use of pesticides may cause direct mortality, but is probably more important in reducing prey populations. The neglect or restoration of old buildings has resulted in the loss of nest-sites (Davygora 1998, J.-P. Biber in litt. 1999). At La Crau in southern France, where such nest sites are rare, a population increase in the 1990s may be linked to the progressive selection of ground nests in stone piles, reducing interspecific and intraspecific competition (Prugnolle et al. 2003).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II, CMS Appendix I and II. Research and management of the species, its sites and habitats have been carried out in France, Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar, Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey, Israel, Jordan and South Africa. A European action plan has been published.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Encourage surveys and monitoring. Research limiting factors and habitat management. Promote national action plans. Promote appropriate agricultural policies, control of pesticides and zoned forestry. Construct artificial nests. Protect colonies. Encourage legal protection.


29-32 cm. Small falcon. Male has grey head, uniform rusty upperparts, buff underparts with black spots. Grey band from carpal to tertials and black flight feathers. Grey tail with black subterminal band. Female and immature rusty with black barring and streaking and paler underparts. Similar spp. Common Kestrel F. tinnunculus is larger. Male lacks grey band on wing and has black spotting on upperparts and moustachial stripe. Voice Kye-kye but weaker and hoarser than F. tinnunculus.


Text account compilers
Taylor, J., Ashpole, J, Capper, D., Khwaja, N., Benstead, P., Peet, N., Harding, M., Pilgrim, J., Starkey, M., Symes, A.

van Zyl, A., Biber, J., Kamp, J., Garrido, J., Baccetti, N.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Falco naumanni. Downloaded from on 17/10/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 17/10/2021.