Red-footed Falcon Monitoring



Conservation of Falco vespertinus in the Pannonian Biogeographical Region (PBR)

Within the scope of the LIFE Nature project „Conservation of Falco vespertinus in the Pannonian Region” LIFE05/NAT/H/000122 we’ve developed a new monitoring protocol to monitor population trends and the effects of conservation measures taken. These existing montoring methods were adapted to Serbia and extended to the whole Pannonian Biogeographical Region (PBR). Here we conclude the most important information concerning data collection:

  • Rook breeding population monitoring, inspection of rookeries
  • Assessing the presence of red-footed falcons at a rookery
  • Establishing artificial nest-box colonies
  • Systematic inspection and maintenance of artificial colonies
  • Red footed falcon population monitoring

    • a) Red footed falcon breeding population monitoring
    • b) Colour ringing and identifying marked birds
    • c) Monitoring pre-migration roost sites
  • Surveying dangerous power lines and pylons
  • Field observations and interesting sightings

Rook Breeding Population Monitoring, Inspection of Rookeries

The rook has a very important role in the life cycle of the red-footed falcon since the rookeries provide the most important colonial nesting facilities for this species. The monitoring of the Rook is based on a population survey and regular inspections of the rookeries especially during the sensitive periods of breeding and winter (to hinder illegal lodging). The monitoring work of the project area is based on the staff of national park rangers. It can of course be supplemented by the volunteers of the DZPPV and BirdLife Hungary whom aid the work with surveying areas not in the project area.

The most practical time to begin monitoring rookeries is March. First we register all known and newly discovered rookeries on the colony registration datasheet (also used for nest-box colonies). We count all the nests suitable for nesting (new nests and old nests in good condition). This data is recorded once a year for every colony. The place of the colonies is recorded on a UTM based map (M=1:50.000) together with the name and acronym of every colony. After this procedure, it is necessary to visit each colony every month to document all undesirable events, and to have enough time to take actions against them. A colony inspection datasheet is filled out with every visit.

Assessing the Presence of Red-Footed Falcons in Rookeries

The inspection of rookeries should be carried out twice between May 15-31 and June 1-10, since the first red-footed falcons start occupying the nests in this period. It is advised to leave at least one week between the two visits. The inspector is advised to walk into the rookery, and look for alarming red-footed falcons or for incubating birds. The data should be recorded on the corresponding parts of the colony inspection datasheet. If no falcons are recorded by the 10th of June, there is no need for further inspections during the breeding season. If red-footed falcons are observed at a rookery please immediately contact the local coordinator or the program coordinators: in Serbia, Attila Ágoston (, +38-1648619013), in Hungary, Szabolcs Solt (, +36-205698436).

Establishing and Administration of Nest-Box Colonies

The drastical decline of rookeries caused a shortage in potential colonial nesting sites therefore artificial nest-box colonies have to be established. If there is no potential site for nest-box colonies a solution could be placing nest-boxes close to each other to form a „loose-colony”. It is advised to place 15-20 nest-boxes for the first breeding season. The number of nest-boxes can be increased if the falcons start occupying the colony,.
Just like with rookeries, the observer is obliged to fill out the colony registration datasheet with the first inspection of an artificial colony. The first inspection in this case is due to be between March 1.-May 31. All artificial colonies have to be visited at least once, regardless of red-footed falcon presence. The place of the colonies is recorded on a UTM based map (M=1:50.000) together with the name and acronym of every colony. The artificial colony layout datasheet aids the inspector to find the nests after the closure of the canopy.
The administration of artificial colonies is handled by Attila Ágoston (, +38-1648619013) in Serbia, and by Szabolcs Solt (, +36-205698436) in Hungary.


Inspection and Maintenance os Nest-Box Colonies

The monitoring of breeding Red-footed falcons in nest-boxes colonies, solitary nest boxes or natural nests, is carried out by inspecting every nest with the aid of the nest-inspection datasheet. The place of solitary nests must be recorded on the supplementary map and the coding has to be in alliance with the instructions on the back of the datasheet. The nest inspections are carried out by the activists of the DZPPV in Serbia, while in Hungary, the volunteers of the Red-footed falcon working group of BirdLife Hungary, and national park rangers are authorized to visit the nests. If any factor that has a negative effect on the breeding success of red-footed falcons is discovered (predation, illegal human activities) please immediately report to the local or project coordinators. It is advised to inspect every colony once a month after the breeding season to hinder illegal lodging and vandalism.
During the breeding season, it is advised to begin the inspections when the first breeding birds are discovered (for jackdaw,kestrel this can be in March). If this is not feasible, then the nest-boxes have to be inspected minimum every 2 weeks between May 15- July 31The inspections can end if no red-footed falcon breeding is discovered by the 2nd week of July,. If red-footed falcons breed, the inspections have to continue until the last nestling fledges (it can linger into august).4-14 days have to elapse between two inspections.

In case of artificial nest-box colonies the inspector can choose two different types of inspections with two different data resolutions(and workload):

General inspection:
The inspector should walk under every nest-box or natural nest and record all relevant data(number of eggs, nestlings etc.) with the aid of the mirrors in every nest-box or in case of natural nests with the aid of a mirror on a pole.The inspections have to be carried out with care and with the least possible disturbance. Every inspection must be conciliated with the local coordinator or national park ranger.

Inspections with detailed monitoring protocol (sample colonies):
Every region has its so called sample colony where precise and detailed breeding data is collected. In this case, each nest is inspected by climbing every 7-10 days, precise data is collected on clutch size, hatching and fledging success. Food items are collected from every nest with every visit and nestlings and in some places adult birds are ringed with individual combination of colour rings. The inspections are always carried out with the presence of the local coordinator!

The established artificial colonies have to be maintained at least once every year.


The maintenance of nest-boxes should be carried out after the red-footed falcons have migrated (October-March, depending on weather). The nest material has to be loosened up or replaced, the mirrors on the nest-boxes cleaned or replaced, and the broken nest-boxes replaced. The replaced nest-boxes have to have the same number painted on them as the original nest-box! All maintenance works have to be reported to the local coordinators! The colony registration datasheet has to be filled out with all the changes recorded, together with the artificial colony layout datasheet.

Red-Footed Falcon Population Monitoring
The activity has three major sections:

  • a) Red footed falcon breeding population monitoring
  • b) Colour ringing and identifying marked birds
  • c) Monitoring pre-migration roost sites

The monitoring is carried out on all IPA project areas by national park rangers and project employees. Volunteers and activists of the DZPPV and BirdLife Hungary supplement the work by monitoring non-project areas where red-footed falcons breed.

a. Red footed falcon breeding population monitoring
Visual based estimation of the number of breeding red-footed falcon pairs is used in rookeries based on the instructions of the colony inspection datasheet. If the presence of red-footed falcons is previously detected, the estimation of breeding pairs is carried out twice, between 10-30 June, and 1-31 July respectively. At least 10 days have to elapse between the two counts. The estimation can be done with two different methods.

Counting birds at dawn:
The inspector counts the birds leaving the colony from early sunrise. The maximum number of birds is recorded on the datasheet.

Counting birds in or near nests:
The number of nests where birds are incubating, feeding, or resting is counted in the early hours of the day with a telescope. The maximum number of nests is recorded on the datasheet.

Based on the observers experience and description (weather, visibility, movement of birds etc.), the number of breeding pairs is estimated by one of the two July counts .

The artificial nest-box colony monitoring methodology is previously described under Inspection and Maintenance of Nest-Box colonies

Surveying solitary pairs is constantly under way from May to July. The methodology is a classical nest-based raptor survey. The monitoring is carried out on all IPA project areas by national park rangers and project employees. Volunteers and activists of the DZPPV and BirdLife Hungary supplement the work by monitoring non-project areas where red-footed falcons may breed. It is emphasized to have at least 1 observation each month between May-July otherwise the data will be unreliable! The surveyors get three, 2,5x2,5 km UTM based maps (one for every month) where they can mark the location of occupied nests or breeding pairs in every UTM grid with an individual identifier (eg. A,B,C,D etc.). The maps have to be filled out together with the nest-inspection datasheet.

The data has to be sent to the local coordinator or the Monitoring Centre of MME-BirdLife Hungary (4401 Nyíregyháza 1., Pf. 286., E-mail: monitoring@mme)!

b. Colour ringing and identifying marked birds

Red-footed falcons are marked with individual colour ring combinations on sample colonies. The ringing is coordinated by BirdLife Hungary. Only authorized ringers with special permitions can ring red-footed falcons. The birds get one ornithological and three colour rings and all information concerning ringing is handled on the red-footed falcon ringing datasheet.

Observations of marked birds are made during population monitoring, nest inspections, and roost site surveys. Red-footed falcon recovery datasheets are used to handle data, whenever a marked bird is spotted. In case of a recovery or observation of a marked bird please immediately contact one of the following coordinators. In Hungary: Szabolcs Solt:, +36 20 5698436 or Peter Palatitz:, +36-205642817 or in Serbia: Attila Ágoston:, +38-1648619013.

c. Monitoring pre-migration roost sites

Beginning from the first week of August weekly synchronous counts are organized on known pre-migration roost sites throughout the project area. The counts are preformed by volunteers and project participants in both countries. Red-footed falcons tend to use the same area for roosting year after year but not always the same wood patch or windbreak. Therefore the search for previously unknown roost sites begins during the day, with counting and following feeding birds. All newly discovered and previously known roost sites and the data of weekly counts is documented on the roost-site survey datasheet. The data are collected by the local coordinators for the project area, data coming from non-project areas are collected by the coordinators of BirdLife Hungary (Szabolcs Solt:, +36 20 5698436 and Peter Palatitz:, +36-205642817).

Supplementary Maps

Hopefully our work will give a better insight of the spatial and temporal aspects of the red-footed falcon’s breeding biology. To evaluate data properly it is essential to acquire precise spatial data. To aid project participants and volounteers in handling spatial data we provide M=1:50 000 paper maps with UTM grids. The maps can be ordered from the MME-BirdLife Hungary Monitoring Centre (MME Monitoring Központ, 4401 Nyíregyháza 1., Pf. 286., E-mail:

Surveying Dangerous Power Lines and Pylons

Based on a well established methodology, the survey of dangerous pylons for electrocuted birds is conducted once a year by the theMME-BirdLife Hungary Monitoring Centre (KFO program). The electric pylon survey datasheet is used to document data of the survey. Please send the datasheets to the MME-BirdLife Hungary Monitoring Centre (MME Monitoring Központ, 4401 Nyíregyháza 1., Pf. 286., Tel/fax: 42/443-544, E-mail:

More details on the KFO program>>

Interesting Field Observations

Red-footed falcons can turn-up in the most peculiar places and sometimes working in field can produce some interesting observations concerning behaviour, habitat use, or anything that is worth mentioning. The general observation datasheet can be used to describe all interesting events that a field-worker may encounter.