Project

Ecology and Conservation of Barbary Falcon in the Canary Islands

Goal: The Barbary falcon is considered by some authors as a full species (Falco pelegrinoides) while for others it is closely related to the peregrine falcon (F. peregrinus) and therefore, it should be considered as a subspecies (F. p. pelegrinoides). Irrespective of its taxonomic status, the Barbary falcons have marked phenotypic differences, such as its small size, paler coloration, and rufous nape patches, which allow distinguishing them easily from any other peregrine subspecies.
Basic knowledge on the biology and ecology of the Barbary falcon is still scarce throughout its distribution range (from the Canary Islands to South Asia through inland North Africa). However, during the last decades, we have conducted several studies addressing density, breeding biology, habitat selection and conservation on the Canarian populations. Thanks to these studies, mainly not funded, we currently know that populations are sedentary and occupy all kinds of habitats from the coast to up 2,000 m of altitude, being breeding density highly depend on the availability of high cliffs and low vegetated areas.
In the Canary Islands, Barbary falcon populations have been naturally increasing in the last few decades, raising from seven known pairs in the Eastern islands in the 1987-1988 period to up to 180 in the entire archipelago in 2018. The reasons for this important population size increase are unknown, but it must be related in some degree with the current legal protections and the higher prey availability (especially feral pigeons). Although of this, not all are good news as this raptor still faces several human-related threats. In addition to collisions with man-made structures, the species is directly persecuted by hunters and pigeon-fanciers as they prey on game or domestic species and if that was not enough, the growing popularity of falconry has brought together the genetic introgression of escaped falconer’s birds with the native falcons and therefore playing some role in genetic shaping as seems to indicate our field studies.
During the last years, we have conducted several field studies to evaluate the taxonomic identity, the population status, the habitat selection, habitat use and feeding habits of these falcons in the Canary Islands. In this sense, we have also started a color ringing program in order to obtain data on population dynamics (e.g. juvenile dispersal, natal philopatry, territory fidelity, adult turn-over, and survival rate).
Consequently, our goals are to continue gathering basic information on these insular populations to promote future studies as well as to help in the assessment of its conservation status and needs.

Updates
0 new
0
Recommendations
0 new
0
Followers
0 new
9
Reads
0 new
73

Project log

Felipe Siverio
added a research item
During 2015 and 2016, we conducted the first systematic study of the size of the breeding population, distribution, habitat and diet of the Barbary Falcon Falco peregrinus pelegrinoides on La Palma, Canary Islands. We found a minimum of 28 territories (3.9 territories/100 km2) at an average distance of 3.6 km (range 1.7–7.7 km) from their nearest neighbours. The territories were distributed throughout the island, but there were more in the northern half, probably due to a greater availability of large cliffs. Falcons selected high cliffs situated in scrub-covered areas close to the coast with relatively high levels of human infrastructures. However, this picture could be biased due to the inherent difficulties in surveying the rugged innermost parts of the island, where some territories may not have been detected. The nine monitored nests were situated in natural cavities or ledges at heights ranging from 35 to 110 m above ground level. Egg-laying probably takes place in late March, later than in the rest of the Canarian archipelago, perhaps due to the rainier climate of this island. On average, almost two chicks fledged per nest, a similar rate to nearby populations. Diet was composed of at least seven bird species, with Columba livia being the most frequently hunted and the most important prey item (93.9% of diet biomass). As falcons prey upon domestic racing pigeons (a popular activity on the island), direct persecution could be one of the main threats for the Barbary falcons on La Palma. There is a widespread but false idea that these raptors are not native, and that their presence is due to deliberate releases of foreign falcons by local government bodies. Thus, a human-wildlife conflict has arisen with pigeon fanciers whose solution requires more reliable information on the scale of the predation on pigeons and an environmental education campaign.
Beneharo Rodríguez
added 14 research items
Asistencia técnica cofinanciada por la Dirección General de Protección de la Naturaleza del Gobierno de Canarias y el Fondo Europeo de Desarrollo Regional (FEDER, UE).
Beneharo Rodríguez
added a project goal
The Barbary falcon is considered by some authors as a full species (Falco pelegrinoides) while for others it is closely related to the peregrine falcon (F. peregrinus) and therefore, it should be considered as a subspecies (F. p. pelegrinoides). Irrespective of its taxonomic status, the Barbary falcons have marked phenotypic differences, such as its small size, paler coloration, and rufous nape patches, which allow distinguishing them easily from any other peregrine subspecies.
Basic knowledge on the biology and ecology of the Barbary falcon is still scarce throughout its distribution range (from the Canary Islands to South Asia through inland North Africa). However, during the last decades, we have conducted several studies addressing density, breeding biology, habitat selection and conservation on the Canarian populations. Thanks to these studies, mainly not funded, we currently know that populations are sedentary and occupy all kinds of habitats from the coast to up 2,000 m of altitude, being breeding density highly depend on the availability of high cliffs and low vegetated areas.
In the Canary Islands, Barbary falcon populations have been naturally increasing in the last few decades, raising from seven known pairs in the Eastern islands in the 1987-1988 period to up to 180 in the entire archipelago in 2018. The reasons for this important population size increase are unknown, but it must be related in some degree with the current legal protections and the higher prey availability (especially feral pigeons). Although of this, not all are good news as this raptor still faces several human-related threats. In addition to collisions with man-made structures, the species is directly persecuted by hunters and pigeon-fanciers as they prey on game or domestic species and if that was not enough, the growing popularity of falconry has brought together the genetic introgression of escaped falconer’s birds with the native falcons and therefore playing some role in genetic shaping as seems to indicate our field studies.
During the last years, we have conducted several field studies to evaluate the taxonomic identity, the population status, the habitat selection, habitat use and feeding habits of these falcons in the Canary Islands. In this sense, we have also started a color ringing program in order to obtain data on population dynamics (e.g. juvenile dispersal, natal philopatry, territory fidelity, adult turn-over, and survival rate).
Consequently, our goals are to continue gathering basic information on these insular populations to promote future studies as well as to help in the assessment of its conservation status and needs.
 
Beneharo Rodríguez
added a research item
Peregrine Falcons (Falco peregrinus) on the Canary Islands are considered to be of the Barbary Falcon subspecies (F. p. pelegrinoides). Here we report on lost falconry birds present among the wild population of resident falcons, and provide rough approximations of their abundance for Tenerife, the largest island of the Canaries. We observed lost falconry birds breeding with natural wild falcons, with at least one mixed pair producing fledglings. Only 54.1% of the breeding adults that we studied on the island showed typical Barbary Falcon plumage. Some nest sites were systematically poached, affecting the overall productivity of the population. Our findings suggest that the original Canarian Barbary Falcon population could be suffering from genetic mixing due to the presence of individuals originating from outside the population and from illegal harvest of nestlings. We recommend that local authorities continue to assess the degree of genetic admixture that occurs in this population, modify the current falconry regulations, implement management actions to prevent new escapes, eradicate exotic raptors, and put a stop to illegal nestling harvests.