Geolocators map the wintering grounds of threatened Lesser Kestrels in Africa
Aim To identify the wintering grounds of the threatened western European Lesser Kestrels to focus conservation efforts in those areas. Location Huelva Province, southern Spain, as breeding range, and western Africa (Senegal and Mauritania), as wintering range. Methods We used archival light level geolocators (1.5 g) to map the wintering areas and determine some characteristics of the migratory journeys of 20 adult Lesser Kestrels from the Iberian Peninsula tagged in 2007. Results Thirteen geolocators were recovered the following breeding season (2008) after attachment in 2007. Four recovered geolocators provided useful data. According to kernel density analyses, kestrels wintered near the Senegal River (border between Mauritania and Senegal). Pre-nuptial migration took longer than the post-nuptial migration, which may be the consequence of a loop migration. Main conclusions Geolocators have solved a crucial conservation question (i.e. the winter destination of western European Lesser kestrels), and these devices have thus proved useful to determine the location of the winter quarters of small sized migratory species. Our data indicate that European Lesser Kestrels winter in West Africa, in accordance with previous suggestions based on scattered observations during the winter months. This valuable information should serve to focus conservation efforts both in northern Senegal and southern Mauritania. Large roosts gathering thousands of lesser kestrels had been recorded in these areas over the years, but there was no previous confirmation of individuals staying all winter long. Specific and sustained protection of the roost sites, where the birds may be most vulnerable, should be sought in conjunction with local authorities.
Authors: Rodríguez, Airam, Negro, Juan J., Bustamante, Javier, Fox, James W., Afanasyev, Vsevolod