How The Peregrine Fund is Helping
The Peregrine Fund has conducted some surveys of the Banded Kestrel as part of our conservation efforts in Madagascar. We continue to study endangered and poorly known Malagasy raptors, developing local and national capacity in biodiversity conservation, and increasing the size of Madagascar's Protected Areas System. A very exciting success came in 2015 when, after years of working with local communities and government, three new areas were give status as "National Protected Areas." This victory has increased protected habitat by 190,000 hectares and will provide protection for an untold number of endangered species.
Where They Live
The Banded Kestrel is endemic to Madagascar, which means it is found there and nowhere else in the world. It inhabits rainforest edges, forest clearings, secondary forest, and dry woodland up to 2,000 m. It seems to particularly prefer spending time in Madagascar's spiny forests, in the south of the country.
What They Do
Peregrine Fund biologists have said this species is "secretive and difficult to detect," and others have described it as appearing more like an accipiter than a falcon when in flight and perched. But rest assured, the Banded Kestrel is a falcon and a lovely one at that. The Banded Kestrel is appropriately named, for it is adorned with horizontal barring across its throat, most of its upper breast and belly.
This raptor is a non-migratory, diurnal bird of prey that can sometimes be found hunting or perching in vanilla and coffee plantations. It has a "typical" kestrel call, though in general it isn't a very vocal species.
Why They Need our Help
The Banded Kestrel is considered to be a species of Least Concern. This means that scientists feel pretty good about this species' future. Because of its secretive nature, it can sometimes be a hard species to observe, and therefore to study. But researchers believe that it is likely more common than was once thought. But, despite the fact that it appears to being doing well overall, researchers have noted that this species is negatively affected by deforestation. So it will be important for researchers to continue studying this bird and to help conserve forests where it lives.
What They Eat
Like most other kestrels, the Banded Kestrel is a master at catching a plethora of smaller prey items. This lovely falcon dines mostly on small lizards such as geckos and chameleons, and at least occasionally on snakes. It also hunts insects, such as beetles, mantises, grasshoppers, and crickets. When the opportunity arises, it will also feed on small birds.
When on the hunt for ground or tree-dwelling prey, it will make a quick, swerving flight to snatch its quarry as it walks along the ground, climbs a tree trunk, or hops in the lower branches of trees. When in pursuit of aerial prey, it spends a lot of time perched in tall trees, which give them a good view of the area around them. When a tasty meal flies by, they dart out and capture their prey in mid-air!
Nests, Eggs, and Young
Banded Kestrels don't build their own nests. Instead, the female will lay her eggs inside a tree cavity, or inside the base of an epiphyte. Sometimes, they will take advantage of old nests that were build by other species. They have been documented nesting in old Sickle-billed Vanga nests, for example.
Once a nest site is chosen, the female will lay up to three yellowish eggs marked with brown spots. Once the eggs are laid, the female will take on the majority of the incubation duties. This means she will remain at the nest, sitting on her eggs, almost all day every day for the next 28–30 days. After the nestlings hatch, they are covered in off-white down feathers. In just one month's time, these tiny birds will grow big enough that they are ready to fly from the nest for the first time. However, even after they have become skilled fliers, they still need to remain with their parents who will teach them to hunt and to avoid dangers. After they about two more months with their parents, they will disperse and begin life on their own.
Banded Kestrels and the World Center for Birds of Prey
A visit to the World Center for Birds of Prey will provide you with a chance to learn all about different birds of prey. Though we are far away from the Banded Kestrel's range, our knowledgeable staff is on hand to answer any questions you may have about this, or any other raptor. A visit to our interpretive center is also a great way to learn more about kestrels in general. Examine kestrel feathers at the touch table, and compare the size of a kestrel egg with that of an ostrich. If you walk the interpretive nature trail to the gazebo overlooking the Boise Valley, you are likely to see a kestrel hovering over the sage in search of prey or, if you are lucky, a young bird just learning to fly might be fledging from a nearby nest box. We have an American Kestrel on our Avian Ambassador team, as well. This is a great opportunity to see one of these beautiful birds up close.
de Roland, L.A.R., Rabearivony, J., Razafimanjato, G., Robenarimangason, H. and Thorstrom, R., 2005. Breeding biology and diet of banded kestrels Falco zoniventris on Masoala Peninsula, Madagascar. Ostrich-Journal of African Ornithology, 76(1-2), pp.32-36.
Global Raptor Information Network. 2021. Species account: Banded Kestrel Falco zoniventris. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 28 Aug. 2021
Kemp, A. C. and G. M. Kirwan (2020). Banded Kestrel (Falco zoniventris), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, and E. de Juana, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.bankes1.01
Thorstrom, R., 1999. A description of nests, diet and behaviour of the Banded Kestrel. Ostrich, 70(2), pp.149-151.