The Lesser Kestrels – our helpful neighbors!

Jul 28, 2023
More than once, our team has shared various moments from the Lesser Kestrel colony, created by Green Balkans in the Sakar village of Levka, which is part of the NATURA 2000 ecological network!

The colleagues from  project “Life for Lesser Kestrel” LIFE19 NAT/BG/001017, funded by Programme LIFE of the EU, regularly report on the return of Lesser Kestrels from migration, on the occupancy of the artificial nests, egg laying and rearing the chicks, as well as many other curious aspects of the ecology, and biology of one of the rarest falcons nesting in Bulgaria.

In the middle of the hot summer,as the harvest is in full swing, it is quite appropriate for the Green Balkans team to talk about the food of the Lesser Kestrel. Where does the fame of the little falcons come from -that of, helpful neighbors and allies of farmers in the protection of their crops, and what is the relationship between the birds and the people under whose roofs they nest?!

The answers to all these questions we find out  the Lesser Kestrels themselves during harvest and reaping.

In small flocks they hover above the harvesters in the fields and the mowers in the meadows, where various insects, rodents and other creatures from the menu of the falcons are left without the shelter of tall vegetation and become easy prey.

In addition to the Lesser Kestrels, a number of other birds also benefit from the offered treat – eagles, Common Buzzards, and storks…. Soon, the newly fledged Lesser Kestrel chicks will join in the feast and,learn from their parents how to hunt around the huge machines! Many grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, tadpoles, voles, mice, etc., etc., are caught by the birds of prey, significantly decreasing the amount of “enemies” to agriculture  so,farmers can hope for a larger harvest.

A brand new studies by the experts from Green Balkans shows, that the birds from the falcon colony in Levka destroy at least 800 kilograms of biomass per year.

Theoretically, if Levka’s Lesser Kestrels feed only on voles, then in one season they would exploit about 20,000 individuals of this prey, or about 40,000 house mice. In case their diet is solely consisting of the European mole cricket, the colony's falcons would capture over 225,000 individuals of this dangerous crop enemy.

Of course, these calculations are theoretical as,  the birds do not feed on only one of the described species, and often use a combination of all of them -,  capturing the most abundant prey for the particular season, which is determined by the life cycle of these organisms. However, these numbers are indicative enough and show why the Lesser Kestrels are referred to as the helpful neighbors of farmers and their allies in crop protection.