Friday, 26 November 2010

Madagascar kestrel

Falco newtoni

Photo by Alberto Rios (Internet Bird Collection)

Common name:
Madagascar kestrel (en); peneireiro-de-Madagáscar (pt); crécerelle malgache (fr); cernícalo de Madagascar (es); Madagaskarfalke (de)

Order Falconiformes
Family Falconidae

This species occurs in Madagascar, Mayotte, the Comores, and in the Aldabra atoll, in the Seychelles.

This small raptor is 30 cm long and has a wingspan of 38-42 cm. The males weigh 112-118 g. The females are slightly larger weighing up to 128 g.

The Madagascar kestrel can be found from sea level up to an altitude of 2000 m. They occur in any vegetation-covered open habitat, as well as in grasslands, croplands and secondary vegetation. They are also common in the vicinity of human settlements which may be the preferred habitat in some areas. They are uncommon in forests.

They mostly eat insects, particularly grasshoppers, which are taken during flight. They can also hunt small birds, frogs, lizards and mammals.

The Madagascar kestrel nests on rock ledges, in buildings, tree holes or even in the nests of other birds, like the pied crow Corvus albus. Egg laying usually takes place in September. Each clutch is composed of 3-5 rufous-coloured eggs, which are incubated by the female for 27-29 days. The male feeds the female during incubation. The chicks are fed by both male and female until fledging, which takes place 23-24 days after hatching. The young disperse from the natal area at about 44-45 days of age.

IUCN status – LC (Least concern)
This species as a large breeding range and a population estimated at 100.000 individuals. The population is increasing owing to an increase in suitable habitat caused by cultivation, urbanization and deforestation. Overall the species is not considered threatened at present.

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