The Lesser Kestrel

The Lesser Kestrel,  scientific name Falco Naumanni (much better known in Italy as Falco Grillaio –  for its feature of eating insects among which the cricket, grillo in Italian – and in the project area as falcunett’) is a Falconidae included, as migratory bird, in the Annex I of the Directive 2009/147/EEC. It is a priority bird species of the “Birds” Directive 2009/147/EC considered as “Priority for funding under LIFE” as agreed by Ornis Committee. Nowadays the Falco Naumanni is classified as “Vulnerable” in the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). At European level, its status results as “Depleted” because, despite its stability or  slight increase of the population observed in the last years in the south-west, many of the south-eastern populations continue to decline so that the total population remains far below the level before the decline of the last decades. Consequently the Falco Naumanni is a European species with an high priority level of conservation (SPEC 1: globally menaced) and is included in the Annex I of the European “Birds” Directive 2009/147/EEC. Because of its special regime of protection the Falco Naumanni is subject to special conservation measures specifically concerning its habitat in order to ensure its survival and reproduction in its area of distribution.

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From 2003 to 2009 the population of Falco Naumanni in the extended project area – intended as the two associated beneficiary Municipalities of Gravina in Puglia and Altamura plus those of Minervino Murge, Cassano Murge and Santeramo in Colle – suffered a sensitive decline passing from 8-9.000 specimens present in the area in the breeding period to about 5.000 in 2009. On the contrary in 2010 was registered a 12.1% increase, while in 2011 the population remained stable (+1,7%). Actually in the entire area appulo-lucana can be considered a total population of about 11.000 specimens of Falco Naumanni, the 60% of which concentrated in the Alta Murgia National Park. Within the project area considered in strict sense, as the territory of the Municipalities of Gravina in Puglia and Altamura, the population of Falco Naumanni has been esteemed in about 3.300 specimens in the pre-breeding period at the end of April 2011. Even if it is possible to observe a stable or lightly positive trend, it should be highlighted that these figures are considerable inferiors to those which could be registered in 2003 (about 5.000).

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The historical centres of the Municipalities of Gravina and Altamura host among the biggest nesting colonies of Falco Naumanni in Southern Italy. The surrounding typical ravines (gravine) and the rest of the territory, with its priority Habitats – classified as 6210 and 62A0 by the EC –, are crucial for the survival and conservation of this species.

The area interested by the project activities is a breeding one for the Falco Naumanni and is included in the SPA of “Alta Murgia”. It comprises the historical centres of the Municipalities of Gravina and Altamura and their surrounding rural areas, partly included in the Alta Murgia National Park, partly outside. While the former present numerically significant breeding and roosting sites for the colonies (about 45 trees just in the municipalities of Gravina in Puglia and Altamura plus other 20 considering the wider area with the municipalities of Cassano Murge, Minervino Murge, Santeramo in Colle, Acquaviva delle Fonti, Gioia del Colle, Matera and Montescaglioso), the rest of the territory is crucial as trophic habitat for the species.[sws_picture_frame18 src=”” title=”” alt=”” align=”sws_frame_right” lightbox=”1″ album=”album” video=””] [/sws_picture_frame18]

Concerning the conservation status in the project area, it should be pointed out how in the last three decades of the XX Century, several interventions of refurbishment carried out on the old buildings’ roofs of the historical centres for aesthetic, structural or sanitary reasons have deprived the colonies of hundreds of nesting sites, putting at risk the breeding season and the very survival of several specimens. Specifically the closing of openings and fissures in the ancient houses’ large walls and the cementing of the spaces under the roofs’ tiles where the Falco Naumanni traditionally nests, made these buildings sterilised from the conservation point of view of this priority species. Another cause of weakening of the species is the indiscriminate cutting of roosting sites (mainly big trees within the historical centres or in their surroundings) which increase a lot the stress of hundreds specimens compelled to fly in other places looking for uncertain roosting sites. If the positive end of this scouting action leads to weaken the specimens endangering its capacity to breed, the negative end can conduct to the death of several specimens. In the municipalities of Altamura, Gravina in Puglia and Santeramo the number of trees utilised by the Falco Naumanni is superior than in the other colonies because in these municipalities the roosting trees were made object of cutting, pruning and topping which made the trees inadequate to their roosting functions, forcing the Naumanni to move to other trees not always suitable to meet this species’ needs.

These events constitute a disturbing factor for the species which negatively affect the population dynamic of the single colony. On this regard, in the cities of Gravina in Puglia and Altamura were individuated respectively 3 and 4 roosting sites in the pre-breeding period, while in the post-breeding period the sites become 6 and 9. The total number of trees interested by the roosting conservation activities are 20-22 in Gravina and 15-20 in Altamura.


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