Lesser Kestrel: November 2nd 2002, Gageo Island
Nial Moores

Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni

One first summer male, November 2nd 2001, Gageo Island, Jeollanam Province.

In overcast conditions with strong winds, two kestrel types were watched flying along the cliff face and up over the exposed watch-point at Hang Ri, Gageo Island, on November 2nd 2001. One was clearly a female, and the other an immature male. The immature male (and probably the female too) called (1) a harsh "Chay-Chay-Chay" (repeated two or three times) slightly suggestive of Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus and strikingly different from that of Common KestrelFalco tinnunculus. This call, not familiar to the author, is claimed to be diagnostic of Lesser Kestrel according to Svensson and Grant (1999). The male then flew strongly over the field, banking briefly, giving views of both the upperside and underside for less than 10 seconds in flight in total. Most striking were (2) the underwings, which appeared largely white and unspotted, contrasting with both the small blackish primary tips and (3) the deeply rufous-saturated underparts. Although the views were brief, and only through 8x 32 binoculars at ca 30-40 m range, (4) the head showed a clean, clear blueish tone and (5) the upperparts effectively looked unspotted. As the bird banked, the upperparts could be seen clearly. The upperparts were largely rufous-toned and very similar to male Common Kestrel, disappointingly lacking the blue-grey band diagnostic of adult Lesser Kestrel. The tail was also similar to male Common Kestrel (showing grey tones, with a darker subterminal band), though also showing some brownish barring along the sides, indicating immaturity of plumage.

The female, which flew behind the male, looked very similar in structure, and could not be separated on plumage in flight from Common Kestrel, although the underwings looked paler than is sometimes the case on Common Kestrel. However, there does appear to be very wide variation in the underwing appearance of Common Kestrel in South Korea, with some appearing dark, and others strikingly pale.

The Lesser Kestrel is believed to have declined in much of its range, though it is said still to breed in Nei Mongol (but perhaps no longer in Hebei (J. Hornskov pers comm)), migrating southward to winter in Yunnan (MacKinnon and Phillipps, 2000), a migration route running only several hundred km west of the Korean peninsula.

In addition, Brazil (1991) states that it had been recorded twice in Japan, with "apparently several other reports requiring confirmation", while Kirihara, Yagata, & Yoshino (2000) depict one further individual. The Japanese records span March through to July providing further evidence of occasional vagrancy.

Nial Moores has limited experience of the species from southern Spain in the 1970s and 1980s.