Lesser kestrel baseline survey, Turkey 1993

Stephen Parr

Five UK and 12 Turkish ornithologists, from the Turkish Society for the Conservation of Nature (DHKD), surveyed, using repeatable methods, this little known and declining species of small falcon. They also obtained estimates of white stork distribution and population size. The work highlighted the importance of central Turkey's steppic habitats for lesser kestrels and should promote their conservation.

Biber (1990) showed that the only potentially large population of this species outside Spain was in Turkey. Previous work by Dogal Hayati Koruma Dernegi strongly suggested that the best area for breeding lesser kestrels was the central steppes. Random grid squares were checked on a 1956 map. Two teams of two British ornithologists teamed up with ten Turkish ornithologists (students with a few days to spare from their courses). The team estimate the lesser kestrel population in central Turkey to be 2,000-4,000 pairs, the second largest known in the western Palearctic. In addition, 1,000-1,500 White Stork were counted and data were gathered on Montagu's Harrier, Great Bustard and Black Vulture. The work provides a baseline measure from which future population trends can be measured. It also served to indicate that agricultural changes throughout Turkey are having some deleterious effects on steppic bird populations.

Project update: 13/2/98. Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni) populations have suffered severe declines, principally due to agricultural intensification, across much of their southern European and middle eastern ranges. In Spain the population dropped from c.100,000 in the 1950s to 5,000 in 1990 (Collar et al. 1994). A review in 1990 showed that the only large population outside Spain was in Turkey. This project therefore aimed to make a first estimate of the size of the Lesser Kestrel population in Turkey. A subsidiary objective was to investigate White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) nest occupation while visiting towns and villages in the central steppes. Two papers on the work are published in Biol. Cons.