Archived 2017 topics: Sooty Falcon (Falco concolor): uplist to Vulnerable?

BirdLife Species Factsheet for Sooty Falcon:


Sooty Falcon, Falco concolor, is a migratory falcon which has a discontinuous breeding range, within which the species is highly localised. Pockets of breeding birds have been reported from Libya, through to Egypt, and the Middle East, with records from islands in the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf and off the coast of Saudi Arabia and Yemen (e.g. Aspinall 1994). There have also been recent records of nesting in Iran (Fahimi and Jowkar 2010). In the non-breeding season it is predominantly found in Madagascar, though a very small population is found the other side of the Mozambique Channel in Mozambique and South Africa. It is currently listed as Near Threatened because, although lacking in data, it is suspected to have a moderately small, declining population.

Population estimates have ranged in the past from 1,000-40,000 pairs, roughly equivalent to 2,000-80,000 mature individuals and 3,000-120,000 individuals in total (Nicoll et al. 2008), and such a wide range clearly needed refinement to better assess the species. The draft International Single Species Action Plan for the species has provided clearer population estimates, with the breeding population estimated at 1,400-2,000 pairs (Gallo-Orsi et al. 2014 unpublished), equating to 2,800-4,000 mature individuals. The draft ISSAP also reports that there have been declines in the breeding population in many countries, with no population known to be increasing (Gallo-Orsi et al. 2014 unpublished). Such declines have rarely been quantified, and not over a given timeframe so the rate of decline over 3 generations cannot be effectively estimated, but it is highly likely that the population is declining overall.

Given the migratory nature of this species it is suggested that the total population be treated as one sub-population. Therefore, this species would meet the threshold for Vulnerable under criterion C2a(ii) (a population undergoing a continuing decline with all individuals in one sub-population, consisting of 2,500-9,999 mature individuals). Therefore, it is proposed that Sooty Falcon be uplisted to Vulnerable under criterion C2a(ii).

We welcome any comments regarding this proposed uplisting.



Aspinall, S. 1994. Sooty Falcons in the United Arab Emirates. Tribulus 42(2): 14-18.

Fahimi, H.; Jowkar, H. 2010. Recent observation of the Sooty Falcon Falco concolor in Central Iran. Balaban 2: 43-44. [In Persian with English summary].

Gallo-Orsi, U.; Williams, N. P.; Javed, S.; McGrady, M. 2014 unpublished. Draft International Single Species Action Plan for the Sooty Falcon Falco concolor. CMS Raptors MoU.

Nicoll, M.; McGrady, M.; Williams, N. 2008. Micro-chipping of Sooty Falcons on islands off northern Oman. Falco: 20-21.

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4 Responses to Archived 2017 topics: Sooty Falcon (Falco concolor): uplist to Vulnerable?

  1. Mike Blair says:

    I suggest you take into account the content of McGrady et al 2017 and add this paper to the list of references above.

    McGrady, M.J., Al-Fazari, W.A., Al-Jahdhami, M.H., Nicoll, M.A.C. & Oli, M.K. 2017. IBIS. DOI: 10.1111/ibi.12502

  2. Michael McGrady says:

    So far, all metrics are pointing to a decline in Oman, at least, and likely one range-wide, but data from field work outside of Oman are lacking. Oman is supposed to be one of the strongholds. See also:
    McGrady, M.J., Al Fazari, W., Al Jahdhami, M.H. & Oli, M.K. 2016. Survival of sooty falcons (Falco concolor) in Oman. J. for Ornithology 157: 427-437.

    this has been submitted to J Avian Biology:
    McGrady, M.J., Al Fazari, W., Al Jahdhami, M., Fisher, M., Kwarteng, A.Y., Walter, H. and Oli, M.K. Submitted. Accessibility and distance to beach influences nesting success of Sooty Falcons (Falco concolor) breeding on the islands on the sea of Oman. J. Avian Biol.

    This has been submitted to Bird Conservation International
    MCGRADY, M.J., AL FAZARI, W.A., ALJAHDHAMI, M.H., ABDUSALLAM, Z., AL OWISI, A., FISHER, M. Submitted. Is breeding of the Sooty Falcon (Falco concolor) declining at the edge of its range in Oman? Bird Conservation International

  3. Andy Symes (BirdLife) says:

    Preliminary proposals

    Based on available information, our preliminary proposal for the 2017 Red List would be to adopt the proposed classification outlined in the initial forum discussion.

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline of 4 August, after which the recommended categorisations will be put forward to IUCN.

    Please note that we will then only post final recommended categorisations on forum discussions where these differ from those in the initial proposal.

    The final 2017 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in early December, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

  4. Salim Javed says:

    I agree with the proposal to categorise the species as Vulnerable, as particularly in the UAE the number of breeding Sooty Falcons have declined with just few pairs left. Also there is an overall decline in breeding population elsewhere and and their vulnerability to agricultural practices and may be pesticides in Madagascar, outside their breeding range (see Javed et al. 2011).

    I would suggest to add the following references:

    Javed S, Douglas D, Khan S, Shah J, Hammadi, AA. 2011. First description of autumn migration of Sooty Falcon Falco concolor from the United Arab Emirates to Madagascar by satellite telemetry. Bird Conservation International 1-14 doi.

    Shah, J.N., Khan, S.B., Ahmed, S., Javed, S. and Hammadi, H, A. (2008) Sooty Falcon in the United Arab Emirates. Falco 32:16-19.
    Gaucher, P., Thiollay, J. and Eichaker, X. (1995) The Sooty Falcon Falco concolor on the Red Sea Coast of Saudi Arabia: distribution, numbers and conservation. Ibis 137: 29-34.

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