Monday 17 June 2013


On the morning of 10th June 2013, Martin Kelsey, accompanied by two clients, visited the plains of the Los Cerralbos near Trujillo (Cáceres) and had the good fortune to observe and photograph a subadult Lanner Falcon (Falco biarmicus),identified as of the North African subspecies (erlangeri). [Read more in the personal blog of Martin Kelsey]. This falcon breeds in Africa, south-west Asia and south-east Europe, with the nearest populations in Morocco and Italy, especially Sicily. Breeding has taken place in Spain in the recent past, with proven records (eggs and nests) in Doñana up to the close of the 19th Century, and recent isolated breeding records in the mid 20th Century in Andalucia (Doñana 1954; Almeria) and the Balearics (breeding attempt in 1971).

Owing to its use in falconry and the presence of hybrid falcons of various crosses, its identification is not straightforward and sightings are often unconfirmed because of small details (up to 2003 in Spain there were seven accepted records and 18 rejected ones). In the Iberian Peninsula, there have been more than 30 records in the area of the Straits of Gibraltar, especially during migration (March – May and August – October), which confirms a regular movement to and from Africa. In France and Cataluña there are several dozen records, the majority being in autumn and winter, between September and February (De Juan 2006). As far as we know this is the fourth sighting of Lanner Falcon in Extremadura. The three that provide information of age are all of immature birds, suggesting a dispersal of non-adults from the north of Africa. There have been two records in June, one in August and the other in January; three of these records have been in open farmland steppe country.

The first record in Extremadura was also the first officially accepted record in Spain. It is a confusing record which gave rise to the possibility of breeding. There were many sightings of the same bird, but only one was accepted by the Rarities Committee: Cabeza de Buey (La Serena, Badajoz) on 11 th June 1992 (R. Munheim). The first Extremadura Bird Report included two other records from the same location which were not submitted to the Committee. A bird was photographed perched on a rocky outcrop on 4th May 1992 (Manuel Calderon and two Swiss ornithologists), which was surely the same bird seen a month later by Munheim. Three years later, on 8th May 1997, a bird was seen perched in a cutting (José Enrique Capilla). Over at least three years, there was various unpublished sightings by both Spanish and foreign observers about the presence of one or two Lanner Falcons at Cabeza del Buey, in one case suggesting breeding. Years later, all we can say is that there was one confirmed sighting and the rest remain an unsolved mystery.

The second confirmed record was an immature with features of the subspecies F. b. erlangeri photographed 15 km east of Cáceres on 24th August 2007 (R. Tonel, Ardeola 56:321). And the third, pending confirmation, is also from this year (2013) with a second year bird seen in flight over the Camino de las Huertas, Plasencia (Cáceres), on 3 rd January 2013 (Sergio Mayordomo and Ricardo Montero).
De Juana, E. 2006. Aves raras de España. Lynx Edicions. Barcelona.

Translated by Martin Kelsey.