A Sooty Falcon Falco concolor has been tracked from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to its wintering areas in Madagascar by the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD). This is the first satellite tracking of Sooty Falcon anywhere in the world. BirdLife believes this monitoring to provide useful information to help conserve this declining species. However, urgent action is now needed to protect breeding sites of this rare falcon on Abu Dhabi islands and elsewhere in the Gulf.
Sooty Falcons breed in scattered, highly localised colonies in the Middle East and time their breeding to coincide with the autumn migration of small birds. Most of the population winters in Madagascar where they hunt large insects.
The Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD) fitted the Sooty Falcon with a satellite transmitter at its nest on islands in the Sila Peninsula, Abu Dhabi. H.E Majid Al Mansouri, Secretary General of EAD, expressed his pride and reiterated the importance of such scientific studies.
"We chose to track the Sooty Falcon … because it is a key species for the Emirate of Abu Dhabi," said Abdulnasser Al Shamsi, EAD Director of Biodiversity Management Sector.
The bird – known as 'Ibn Battuta' - departed the UAE in October and was recorded flying over Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique before crossing into Madagascar, its final destination for the winter. "This first ever tracking of the species is a fantastic addition to world science," said Dr Salim Javed, EAD Deputy Manager of Bird Conservation. Altogether Ibn Battuta flew through seven countries and covered 6,700 km.
Sooty Falcon has recently been uplisted to Near Threatened owing to concerns that its population may be much smaller than previously thought, and in decline. A recent EAD breeding survey revealed a fall of 64% since 1994. They reported that the species had disappeared from several former nesting locations, and only six known breeding pairs remain. EAD scientists believe that the loss may be a result of disturbance from development and human presence during the nesting season.
“In the Arabian Gulf the situation appears to have reached a critical stage for nesting Sooty Falcons”, said Ibrahim Al-khader, BirdLife’s Director for the Middle East. “BirdLife is extremely concerned about this rare falcon. In biological terms the UAE Sooty Falcon population now critically close to extinction and requires immediate conservation action”.