VU
Seychelles Kestrel Falco araeus



Justification

Justification of Red List Category
This species is listed as Vulnerable because it has a very small population and range and there have been declines in one subpopulation. It was far more widespread in the nineteenth century, with birds frequently seen on most islands. This range contraction may have resulted from widespread persecution in the past.

Population justification
A combination of survey results and records (S. Parr in litt. 1999) can be used to deduce a total population of at least 800 individuals, roughly equivalent to 530 mature individuals.

Trend justification
Following surveys in 2002, the Mahé population was considered stable (Millett et al. 2003). Considerable development and habitat alteration have taken place on Mahé since 2002, suggesting that the population is unlikely to have increased since then, and may have decreased (N. Doak in litt. 2007). The Praslin population declined from around 20 pairs in the 1980s to just a few pairs in the 1990s, and four pairs in late 2002 (Rocamora 1997; Millett et al. 2003). Thus, overall the population is judged to have experienced a small decline over the last ten years.

Distribution and population

Falco araeus is found on the granitic islands of the Seychelles, with a total of c.420-430 pairs in 2008, the majority on Mahé (plus a few on its satellite islands Sainte Anne, Cerf, Conception and Thérèse, Watson 2000a, Pandolfi and Barilari 2009, Rocamora 2013), 40-50 pairs on Silhouette, and a few pairs on Ile du Nord and Praslin (following a reintroduction there in 1977, Watson 1989). There are frequent records from La Digue but no recent evidence of breeding (N.J. Shah and S. Parr in litt. 1999, A. Skerrett in litt. 1999). At least one pair has also been heard on Félicité (Shah and Parr in prep.). Considerable development and habitat alteration have taken place on Mahé since 2002, suggesting that a population increase since then is unlikely, and that a decline could have occurred (N. Doak in litt. 2007). Genetic analysis suggests that the global population underwent a crash some time between 1940 and the early 1970s, and at one time numbered as few as eight (3.5-22) individuals, which is compatible with claims that there were fewer than 30 birds on Mahé during the 1960s (Groombridge et al. 2009).

Ecology

It inhabits native, evergreen, upland forests, but is now found in secondary rainforest and coconut plantations, and in residential areas on Mahé. It hunts mainly indigenous lizards (mainly geckos Phelsuma spp.) (G. Rocamora in litt. 2007), but also insects, small birds, and mice, and occasionally frogs and chameleons (Watson 1981, Watson 1992, Rocamora 2013). Breeding season is between August and November, and nesting is predominantly on cliffs above 200 m, and less successfully - probably due to predation (Watson 1992) - at lower elevations on buildings, in holes in trees and in old Common Myna Acridotheres tristis nests (Loustau-Lalanne 1962). Small territories are occupied year-round, but only one brood of 2-3 eggs is reared per year (Watson 2000a).

Threats

Reduced numbers in the 1960s and 1970s may have been due to pesticide use or to peaks in commercial cinnamon cultivation and logging, which reduced upland forest to its lowest extent at this time (N.J. Shah and S. Parr in litt. 1999). Introduced nest predators, nest-site competitors and food competitors may be an ongoing threat (Loustau-Lalanne 1962, Watson 1992, A. Skerrett in litt. 1999, Rocamora 2013). Housing development could be a threat (Rocamora 1997), although the species breeds in urban areas (N.J. Shah and S. Parr in litt. 1999). Fires, and possibly housing developments and alien predators, have nearly halved its population on Praslin in 10 years (S. Parr in litt. 1999, Millett et al. 2003).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I and II. The Morne Seychellois National Park on Mahé covers almost 25% of the island and provides a safe refuge (N.J. Shah and S. Parr in litt. 1999). The species was reintroduced to Praslin in 1977 (Watson 1981). Nature Seychelles has introduced predator-proof nest boxes on Praslin and conducted awareness campaigns through the Wildlife Clubs of Seychelles (Millett et al. 2003).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Research factors influencing its density (N.J. Shah and S. Parr in litt. 1999) and population dynamics (Rocamora 1997). Investigate the effect of urbanisation (Rocamora 1997; Watson 2001; Rocamora 2013). Continue nest protection and awareness campaign on Praslin (Millett et al. 2003). Continue habitat protection on Mahé (Rocamora 1997), possibly through extension of the Morne Seychellois National Park (G. Rocamora in litt. 1999) and also on satellite islands such as Conception and Sainte Anne (G. Rocamora in litt. 2016). Control Barn Owls Tyto alba and rats around nesting sites on Praslin (Rocamora 1997). Ensure no return to widespread pesticide use (N.J. Shah and S. Parr in litt. 1999). Assess translocation possibilities (R. Lucking in litt. 1999). Raise public awareness of the species's value, and the need to protect nest-sites in buildings; particularly on Praslin (Rocamora 1997, N.J. Shah and S. Parr in litt. 1999, Millett et al. 2003). Promote the use of kestrel nest-boxes in residential areas (G. Rocamora in litt. 2016). Re-survey Mahé and Silhouette populations, and resume long term monitoring (Rocamora 2013; G. Rocamora in litt. 2007, 2016).

Identification

15-23 cm. Very small, rufous-and-buff falcon. Very dark rufous upperparts and even darker head, and uniform buffy, unstreaked underparts. Very agile in flight and imparts a long-tailed appearance. Immature similar to adult, but has streaked and spotted underparts and paler head. Similar spp. Much smaller than any potential vagrant falcons. Voice Sharp and rapid ki ki ki ki.

Acknowledgements

Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Pilgrim, J., Shutes, S., Symes, A., Taylor, J., Temple, H., Warren, B. & Westrip, J.

Contributors
Doak, N., Lucking, R., Parr, S., Rocamora, G., Shah, N. & Skerrett, A.


Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Falco araeus. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 18/07/2019. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2019) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 18/07/2019.