Conservation ecology of red-footed falcons
The red-footed falcon (Falco vespertinus; male at right) is a small, poorly-known species that breeds from the central part of eastern Europe (e.g., Hungary, Bulgaria), through the northern parts of the Caucasus range and into the great steppe habitats of central Asia. Recently the conservation status of this species has been upgraded to “Near Threatened” because of concerns about rapid declines in population size owing to habitat degradation and loss. In spite of this increased conservation concern, there is almost no knowledge about the basic ecology of this species.
It is the goal of this project to provide the key natural history foundation for future conservation action. Furthermore, by conducting this work in north-central Kazakhstan, some of the most pristine habitat that the species currently utilizes, we will provide a novel perspective on the natural behavior and breeding ecology of a stable population of this species. Our work also will allow us to compare breeding biology and migratory parameters with those from Hungary, where red-footed falcons have been studied extensively in recent years, and where recent population declines have been reported.
The specific goals of this project are:
1. To characterize the breeding biology (e.g., phenology, reproductive success and output) of red-footed falcons in north-central Kazakhstan.
2. To identify ecological correlates (e.g., environmental variation [habitat, food, weather] social setting [isolated or colonial breeding] and human impacts on landscapes) of reproductive output of red-footed falcons in north-central Kazakhstan.
3. To identify routes of migration and wintering grounds of red-footed falcons that breed in north-central Kazakhstan. The picture at right shows a female red footed falcon flying with a light level geolocator on her back. The geolocator will track and store data on her movements throughout the year.
4. To build existing collaborations with Kazakhstani scientists and with the North Kazakhstan Biological Field Station in Karamendi, Kazakhstan.