Protecting a symbol of the rural landscape

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Lesser Kestrel

Lesser Kestrel numbers have dwindled dramatically over the past century. LIFE FALKON is improving this iconic bird’s chances of survival by introducing artificial nesting sites at key locations in Greece and Italy. And it’s public awareness of the Lesser Kestrel that will guarantee its future.

The Lesser Kestrel was once one of Europe’s most common falcons. But for years, it has been forced to endure constant threats like the loss of nesting sites, pesticides and intensive farming practices. Moreover, studies show that climate change is causing the bird’s breeding area in the central-eastern Mediterranean area to shift northwards.

New beginnings

Started in 2018, the LIFE FALKON project set out to improve the conservation status of the Italian and Greek populations of Lesser Kestrel at the northern edge of its breeding distribution in Europe.
The project is providing the birds with better nesting potential by building and then placing special nest boxes and small nesting towers in key strategic locations in the Po Plain in Italy as well as in Lemnos Island, Ioannina and Komotini in Greece.

“While the birds are in Africa for the winter, we have been busy installing hundreds of next boxes for the Lesser Kestrel with the help of local farmers and volunteers,” explains Laura Lentini from LIFE FALKON lead partner TECLA - an association of Italian local authorities.

Public engagement

In fact, it is this collaboration with local communities that is key to the success of LIFE FALKON. The project will hold several seminars and field visits on farmland biodiversity and Lesser Kestrel conservation across 10 Italian and 15 Greek schools in the project areas. Two such events were recently held in Poggiorusco, Italy and Lemnos Island, Greece, attracting more than 500 pupils and teachers, many of whom have since shown an interest in volunteering for LIFE FALKON.
Workshops are also planned with key agronomists and farmers in both areas with the aim of forging agreements on measures to protect the Lesser Kestrel, which could be included in future rural development programmes.

Municipalities and architects, meanwhile, are being made aware of optimal building renovation practices for the birds.  In addition, a network of conservationists is being set up to focus on the species' northward breeding expansion. LIFE FALKON will also carry out awareness raising activities among tourists and locals on the importance of biodiversity.

All of this work is already reaping results. 23 breeding sites were recently identified in the Po plain and another 21 in Greece, culminating in 460 breeding pairs.

“The findings suggest that the local population is underestimated but still of reduced size and in need of protection, and this is what we plan to provide,” adds Laura.

Image: LIFE17 NAT/IT/000586 -Licensed to the European Union under conditions

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