Thursday, July 26, 2012

Réunion Kestrel

Falco duboisi
A few days ago we learned about an entire genus of Tortoises that went extinct from the Mascarene Islands in early 19th century. Today's animal didn't make it that long-- the Réunion Kestrel was gone before 1700.

It is a similar sad story, with the arrival of man prompting a fast decline... But the exact cause of the extinction is still a bit of a mystery. European colonization was in full swing by the mid 17th century, and the last time one of these birds was recorded as being alive was in 1672. A few may have hung in there for a while longer, but by 1700 they were considered extinct. Persecution probably played a part in their decline, but if there were other factors, they remain unknown.

Everything we know about the Réunion Kestrel comes from fossils and a few notes written by in the 1670s. They probably lived throughout the island, inhabiting open areas. They probably fed on smaller birds, as other Kestrels do, and may have taken domestic chickens (prompting some of that persecution). Unfortunately, little else is known about their behavior and lifestyle, as they were only known to science for a few short years before completely disappearing.

Réunion Kestrels are the only Kestrels to have gone extinct. Interestingly, the nearby island of Mauritius has its own extant Kestrel species, though it is listed as Vulnerable.
IUCN Status : Extinct
Location : Reunion Island
Size : Length up to 14in (36cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Falconiformes
Family : Falconidae -- Genus : Falco -- Species : F. duboisi

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