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Mauritius Kestrel
Falco punctatus

Status: Endangered

Population Trend: Stable.

Other Names: 

Falco punctatus
click to enlarge
Distribution: Afrotropical. Endemic to MAURITIUS.

Subspecies: Monotypic.

Taxonomy: Based on their analysis of nucleotide sequences of the cytochrome b gene, Seibold et al. (1993) thought that this species is more closely related to the Lesser Kestrel, F. naumanni, than to the Common Kestrel, F. tinnunculus, but later analyses yielded an opposite conclusion (Wink and Sauer-Gürth 2000). Working with the same gene, Groombridge et al. (2002, 2004) were unable to find a consistent phylogenetic position for this species. It seems probable that it colonized the island via the Indian Ocean islands, although it may have immigrated directly from the African continent. It is not clearly related to the Seychelles, F. araea, or Madagascar Kestrel, F. newtoni, which probably represent a more recent expansion. Colonization of Mauritius by kestrels occurred between 1.9-2.6 MYA (million years ago), closely following the end of major volcanic activity on the island, which took place between 5 to 7 MYA, based on potassium-argon dating (McDougall and Chamalaun 1969, Groombridge et al. op cit.). The Mauritius Kestrel underwent a severe recent population bottleneck, as a result of its precipitous decline in the last half of the 20th century (Temple 1986, Jones et al. 1995, Groombridge et al. 2001).

Movements: Non-migratory (Bildstein 2006).

Habitat and Habits: Originally occurred in primary forests at all elevations, and it shows the highest level of adaptations for forest-dwelling among the kestrel species (Jones 1987). For example, it has short, rounded, broad wings which enhance maneuverability under the forest canopyu (Jones op cit.). However, following the recent population crash, captive-produced birds were reintroduced and established in secondary forest and lightly wooded slopes and have enjoyed high survival rates there.

Food and Feeding Behavior: Feeds mainly on arboreal lizards, but also takes adult and juvenile birds, small mammals, and insects, which it captures by short, fast dashes from perches, or short aerial chases after hovering (Jones 1987, Groombridge et al. 2004). more....

Breeding: Nests in cavities in trees or rocks, or, more recently, nest boxes.

Conservation: Formerly the rarest raptor in the world, with a wild population of only four known individuals in the wild in the early 1970s (Temple 1974, 1977). The population decline apparently paralleled the destruction of the native forest (Jones 1987), and by 1950, the species was rare and near extinction (Greenway 1967). Further declines were caused by the widespread use of DDT on Mauritius from 1948-1970 (Safford and Jones 1997). A captive breeding and reintroduction program begun in 1973 (Jones 1987) led to the recovery of the population to 222-286 individuals in 1994 (Jones et al. 1995), 400-500 birds in 1997 (Safford and Jones 1997), and 600-800 birds by 2003 (C. Jones in Groombridge et al. (2004). The latter authors noted that the future of this species now appears to be relatively secure, and surveys of the wild population will continue to monitor reproductive success. However, an analysis by Ewing et al. (2008) revealed extreme inbreeding and loss of genetic variation in the present Mauritius Kestrel population, and they suggested that genetic deterioration may affect the population's long-term viability. more....

Population Estimates: The population was estimated at 222-286 individuals in 1994 (Jones et al. 1995), 400-500 birds in 1997 (Safford and Jones 1997), 600-800 birds by 2003 (C. Jones in Groombridge et al. (2004), and 800 to 1,000 individuals in mid-2005 (Cheke and Hume 2008).

Important References: 
BirdLife International. 2000. Threatened birds of the world. Lynx
  Edicions, Barcelona, Spain, and BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.
Collar, N.J., and S.N. Stuart (eds.). 1985. Threatened birds of Africa and
  related islands: the ICBP/IUCN Red Data Book, Part 1. 3rd ed. International
  Council for Bird Preservation, Cambridge, UK.
Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2001. Raptors of the world. Houghton
  Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Groombridge, J.J., C.G. Jones, M.K. Bayes, A.J. van Zyl, J. Carillo, R.A.
  Nichols, and M.W. Bruford.
2002. A molecular phylogeny of African kestrels
  with reference to divergence across the Indian Ocean. Molecular
  Phylogenetics and Evolution 25:267-277.
Jones, C.G., J.J. Groombridge, and M. Nicoll. 2002. The genetic and
  population history of the Mauritius Kestrel Falco punctatus. Pp. 158-163 in
  R. Yosef, M.L. Miller, and D. Pepler (eds.), Raptors in the new millennium.
  International Birding & Research Center in Eilat, Israel, Eilat.
Jones, C.G., W. Heck, R.E. Lewis, Y. Mungroo, G. Slade, and T.J. Cade.
  1995. The restoration of the Mauritius Kestrel Falco punctatus population.
  Ibis 137:173-180.
Jones, C.G., and A.W. Owadally. 1985. The status, ecology and conservation
  of the Mauritius Kestrel. Pp. 211-222 in I. Newton and R.D. Chancellor
  (eds.), Conservation studies on raptors. ICBP, Cambridge.
Kemp, A.C. 1994. Mauritius Kestrel. P. 260 in del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott,
  and J. Sargatal (eds). Handbook of birds of the world. Vol. 2. New World
  vultures to guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Safford, R.J., and C.G. Jones. 1997. Did organochlorine pesticide use
  cause declines in Mauritian forest birds? Biodiversity and Conservation
Temple, S.A. 1986. Recovery of the endangered Mauritius Kestrel from an
  extreme population bottleneck. Auk 103:632-633.

Sites of Interest:
Contains original information and nice photos.

Tingay, Ruth

Last modified: 8/3/2015

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2021. Species account: Mauritius Kestrel Falco punctatus. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 20 Sep. 2021

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