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Improving the existing Lesser Kestrel colonies in Northeastern Greece

Mar 30, 2022
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The Lesser Kestrel, a migratory species, is one of the few wild animals that is not disturbed by the presence of humans, even near its nest. It has been nesting for centuries within settlements on the roofs or recesses of buildings.

The Lesser Kestrel needs large quantities of insects to feed from, especially during the period when it has to feed its young. Thus, it chooses crops with low and sparsely planted or recently harvested plants as hunting grounds and settlements close to them as nesting grounds.

For his part, the farmer has traditionally known that the presence of the Lesser Kestrel benefits his crop, since it relieves him of harmful insects, such as grasshoppers, for example. For this reason, he welcomed the existence of nests in his house with delight. However, in recent years, the total population of the Lesser Kestrel in Greece has decreased significantly due to the intensification of agriculture (including the use of pesticides both in Greece and in Africa, where it overwinters), but also due to the lack of nesting sites, as a result of the change in the way buildings are constructed which does not provide the necessary recesses.

In Greece, and internationally, the Lesser Kestrel is now classified as Vulnerable and is a species of avifauna listed in Annex I of Directive 2009/147/EC on the conservation of wild birds. In other words, it is one of the species for which the Member States of the European Union are obliged to adopt specific conservation measures concerning their habitat in order to ensure the survival and reproduction of these species in their area of distribution.

In this context, as there is a need to provide additional nesting sites in order to improve the conservation status of the species, the Green Balkans and the Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature placed 10 artificial nests in Orestiada, in the prefecture of Evros, which is one of the areas where the project LIFE for Lesser Kestrel LIFE19 NAT/BG/001017 is implemented with the support of the Programme LIFE of the European Union. Specifically, after a survey conducted by the scientific team of the project in June 2021, it was found that the only place where the species nests, in the entire prefecture of Evros, is Orestiada.

Since the next significant colony of the species is found in Komotini, it was deemed critical that the existing colony in Orestiada is enhanced with the establishment of 10 nest boxes, as the artificial nests provide reproductive success rates similar to those of natural nests and therefore contribute to the conservation efforts. Following that, the team of experts will monitor the new nests in search of brave new inhabitants. Soon enough, the project will be holding educational workshops for the local community, in order to raise awareness of the issue and the importance of the species.

We are looking forward to welcoming the Lesser Kestrels back to Orestiada after their long journey!