Archived 2014 discussion: Red-necked Falcon (Falco chicquera) is being split: list F. chicquera as Near Threatened and F. ruficollis as Least Concern?

This is part of a consultation on the Red List implications of extensive changes to BirdLife’s taxonomy for non-passerines

Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International will soon publish the HBW-BirdLife Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World, building off the Handbook of the Birds of the World series, and BirdLife’s annually updated taxonomic checklist.

The new Checklist will be based on the application of criteria for recognising species limits described by Tobias et al. (2010). Full details of the specific scores and the basis of these for each new taxonomic revision will be provided in the Checklist.

Following publication, an open and transparent mechanism will be established to allow people to comment on the taxonomic revisions or suggest new ones, and provide new information of relevance in order to inform regular updates. We are also actively seeking input via a discussion topic here regarding some potential taxonomic revisions that currently lack sufficient information.

The new Checklist will form the taxonomic basis of BirdLife’s assessments of the status of the world’s birds for the IUCN Red List. The taxonomic changes that will appear in volume 1 of the checklist (for non-passerines) will begin to be incorporated into the 2014 Red List update, with the remainder, and those for passerines (which will appear in volume 2 of the checklist), to be incorporated into subsequent Red List updates.

Preliminary Red List assessments have been carried out for the newly split or lumped taxa. We are now requesting comments and feedback on these preliminary assessments.

Red-necked Falcon Falco chicquera is being split into F. chicquera and F. ruficollis, following the application of criteria set out by Tobias et al. (2010).

Prior to this taxonomic change, F. chicquera (BirdLife species factsheet) was listed as Least Concern on the basis that it was not thought to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under any of the IUCN criteria. This species was estimated to have an extremely large range, and hence did not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence of less than 20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appeared to be stable, and hence the species did not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (at least a 30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size may be moderately small to large, but it was not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (fewer than 10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be at least 10% over ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure).

F. chicquera (as defined following the taxonomic change) is found across much of South Asia, as well as in south-eastern Iran (del Hoyo et al. 1994). This species is noted to have disappeared from many parts of India, in what is perceived as an overall decline (A. Rahmani in litt. 2011). It may qualify as Near Threatened under criteria A2c+3c+4c, on the basis that it could be undergoing a moderately rapid population decline (approaching 30% over three generations [c.19 years]), owing to on-going habitat degradation.

F. ruficollis (incorporating horsbrughi) is widely distributed across sub-Saharan Africa (del Hoyo et al. 1994). It is likely to warrant listing as Least Concern, on the basis that it is not thought to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under any of the IUCN criteria.

Comments are invited on these suggested categories and further information would be welcomed.


del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1994) Handbook of the birds of the world, Vol 2: New World Vultures to Guineafowl. Barcelona, Spain: Lynx Edicions.

Tobias, J. A., Seddon, N., Spottiswoode, C. N., Pilgrim, J. D., Fishpool, L. D. C. and Collar, N. J. (2010) Quantitative criteria for species delimitation. Ibis 152: 724–746.

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8 Responses to Archived 2014 discussion: Red-necked Falcon (Falco chicquera) is being split: list F. chicquera as Near Threatened and F. ruficollis as Least Concern?

  1. Simon Thomsett says:

    While the proposed status review is focused on the Indian Red necked Falcon and not for African ornithologists to debate, the African Red necked Falcon in Kenya had certainly declined by some 50% between the 1970s- 1990. Reasons include the loss of its favorite Borassus aethopium, cut down for 5 litres of Palm wine, removed for farming near rivers, flooded and killed by dams and or water loss due to irrigation. 1 million acres of arid land in Galana will be now irrigated, thus disturbing a significant part of this species optimum habitat in Kenya.
    The coastal palm restricted Red Necked falcon is certainly loosing its prime habitat due to ongoing destruction of the entire extent of its range, bar for the insecure northern coast line that is left intact due only to insecurity.
    The Sabaki/Galana is rapidly being exploited as is the lower Tana.
    The other non palm restricted distribution in North eastern Kenya faces removal of most large trees through desertifiaction and charcoal. Its prime nest host the Cape Rook Corvus capensis has also declined greatly in such areas due to the same reasons.
    The Doum Palm using falcons on inland rivers and arid lake shores may still persist.
    The western Kenyan population of unknown nesting choice, may be poisoned in significant numbers by the use of furudan to poison birds in Rice schemes (at a rate of tens of thousands per month). These poisoned birds used for consumption are likely to poison most raptors that pass over or live within the region.
    Therefore there are grounds to reconsider the status of the African Red necked Falcon in Kenya, and those neighbouring countries that share the same situation.

  2. Raffael Ayé says:

    Red-necked Falcon has only been recorded once in (SE) Iran – more than 100y ago. Its breeding let alone the existence of a population in the region yet have to be proven. See C.S. Roselaar & M. Aliabadian. Review of rare birds in Iran, 1860s–1960s. Podoces, 2009, 4(1): 1–27.
    I think with the available evidence it is not warranted to include SE Iran in the distribution range. Western limit of the distribution is more likely near the Indus valley…

  3. Arun P.Singh says:

    Historical records from Dehradun valley, lying in the lower Western Himalayas, west of the river Ganges suggest Red-necked Falcon (Falco chicquera) to be an ‘uncommon winter migrant’ arriving in December (Osmaston,1935 and Wright,1955). I my self have two sightings of this species from the valley in winter (Asan Barrage along the Yamuna river and a sal forest edge in Rajaji National Park close to the river Ganges), between 2001 -2005, but not recorded thereafter. So the western distributional limit up to the state of Uttarakhand, lower western Himalaya in India and and with no recent records.

    Osmaston, B. B. (1935) Birds of Dehra Dun and adjacent hills. Indian Military Acad. Jour. Supplement.
    Wright, M. D. (1955) Notes on the birds of a selected area of Dehra Dun. June 1946 to December 1950. J. Bombay Nat.Hist. Soc. 54: 627-662.

  4. Virag Vyas says:

    Red-necked Falcons were often recorded during our field surveys in Dholeara area (Ahmedabad District, Gujarat), INDIA. – A proposed Special Economic Zone. Once in an Agriculture field, 3 birds were recorded perched. At least 7 birds were recorded by our team during surveys.

  5. Joe Taylor says:

    Preliminary proposals

    Based on available information and comments posted above, our preliminary proposals for the 2014 Red List would be to treat:

    F. chicquera as Near Threatened under criteria A2c+3c+4c

    F. ruficollis as Least Concern

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline of 31 March, after which recommended categorisations will be put forward to IUCN.

    The final Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in mid-2014, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

  6. Joe Taylor says:

    The following comments were received from Hem Baral and Carol Inskipp on 6 March 2014:

    Red-necked Falcon Falco chiquera
    This species has recently been assessed for the national Nepal bird Red Data Book as Endangered based on the criteria A2a, C2a(i) and D1. It is uncommon at Koshi in the far eastern lowlands and is widely but very thinly spread over other localities in the lowlands. Observations indicate a sharp reduction in the species’ abundance in the Kathmandu Valley from being very common in the 19th century to absent over at least the last 25 years. Threats to the species are unknown, although it may well be threatened by pesticides as pesticide use is widespread and often intensive in Nepal’s lowlands. Apart from in Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, most records of the species have been from outside the protected areas’ system. No population survey has been carried out but observations indicate that numbers must be very small.

  7. S. Subramanya says:

    In Bangalore, India, the Indian Red-necked Falcon is an uncommon breeding resident, seen mostly in the outskirts of the city. Prior to 1995, there were at least five breeding pairs around the city and all of them bred regularly.

    The nesting habits of one of these pairs was studied during 1978-1980. This pair had their nest on a tall tree growing in a densely populated residential area (Subramanya 1979, 1983) and it was found that the pair had at least two hunting territories, each anywhere between 1-2 Sq. Km. in extent, where the pair used to hunt regularly. These were largely open habitats and agricultural areas. A large proportion of their prey comprised of House Sparrows and this pair particularly specialized in hunting sparrows that used to return from their foraging areas in the city outskirs to roost in the residential areas in the evenings (Subramanya 1985). In agricultural areas, the species was seen hunting small birds (see, George 1994).

    At present, the species no longer occurs in their former areas and all of them have been turned into vast densely packed residential/built-up areas. Two of the former nesting sites/trees are still around. Thus, one of the main reasons for the disappearance of the species from their former areas in Bangalore is the loss of their hunting grounds, which now have been converted into densely packed bustling residential/built-up areas. Over the last decade, the species is still being seen sporadically, in as low-numbers as before (in about 8-10 localities), but again, only in the outskirts of Bangalore and much far away from their former haunts.

    I am of the opinion that the species was never common in its distributional areas. Its presence was purely dictated by the need for large home ranges for each pair and occurrence/availability of such suitable areas. As a consequence, traditionally, the species was sparsely distributed and the status still continues to be so. Thus, I would indicate that the species does exist in suitable areas in India, where their foraging areas/home ranges are still intact or available. However, due to rapid urbanization and development, the species must be disappearing from its former haunts and thus declining in numbers. Changes in land-use and pattern of its former haunts and loss of habitat could thus be the factors driving its decline.

    I would agree to it being put as Near Threatened under criteria A2c+3c+4c.

    1. George, J. (Ed.) 1994. Annotated Checklist of the birds of Bangalore.
    Birdwatchers’ Field Club of Bangalore: Page 20.
    2. Subramanya, S. 1979. Nesting of Redheaded Merlin. Newsletter for Birdwatchers. 19(11): 12.
    3. Subramanya, S. 1980. Redheaded Merlin Falco chicquera. Newsletter for Birdwatchers. 20(2): 3–5.
    4. Subramanya, S. 1983. Nesting of Redheaded Merlin (Falco chicquera Daudin) in Bangalore, Karnataka. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 79(2): 412–413.
    5. Subramanya, S. 1985. Hunting and feeding habits of the Redheaded Merlin Falco chicquera.

  8. Andy Symes says:

    Recommended categorisations to be put forward to IUCN

    Following further review, there have been no changes to our preliminary proposals for the 2014 Red List status of these species.

    The final categorisations will be published later in 2014, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by BirdLife and IUCN.

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