Taxonomical notes : Lesser Kestrel is really monotypic?

With these “taxonomical notes” I want to launch a series of notes and thoughts about some problem related to the taxonomy of Western Palearctic birds, addressing some conundrums which have not yet been studied in detail or did not get enough attention. Many of these notes are simply reported in order to stimulate further in depth studies by taxonomist and researchers, with some being instead only a brief view of my researches in due course and in progress. Indeed, for what concern this “first case” here reported, my study started back in Autumn 2003 and the whole problem will be presented on a specific paper in preparation.

Taxonomical notes : Lesser Kestrel is really monotypic?

By Andrea Corso

During autumn 2003, I was at Chockpak Ringing Station, Kazakhstan, alongside with three  Dutch birders and friend of mine (Arend Wassink, Justin J Jansen and Wim Nap), studying raptors and the other birds there, with the guiding of Professor Andrei Gavrilov. We visited as well many other sites of Eastern Kazakhstan. The trip was very interesting and fruitful for many aspects and the country was confirmed to be one of my favorite destination. Among the several remarkable observations, I was greatly intrigued by the pattern of the upperwing in most of the adult male Lesser Kestrel ringed and observed in the field. During the firsts observation days in Kazakhstan I was telling my fellow observers some tips about field characters of Lesser Kestrel. While talking about the upperwing grey panel in adult male I emphasized how this character is very often not visible under field condition and usually only at very close view, good light or in perched birds. Looking at the males flying around then, I was readily contradicted, as in all the males around, the grey on the upperwing was not only well visible, even at distance, but also very conspicuous and dark looking. This fact intrigued me very much so I started to check and study in details every male observed in the following days and eventually also all the birds caught to be ringed. It resulted therefore as almost 100% of the males observed shown more grey then I was used to see in European birds; this was confirmed by the many males caught during our stay at the ringing station. For what concern European birds, Corso (2000, 2001) report that to a certain degree, the upperwing grey panel could show a range of variability, among several other characters. However, not any of the European bird personally observed (some 20.000 adult males in total) ever shown an upperwing pattern that may look identical to the birds I observed in Kazakhstan. Rarely, birds within European population (chiefly from the eastern part of the range) may show a more extensive grey wing-panel, with all the GC (greater coverts) sooty-grey and in rare occasion some median coverts (MC) and tertials too (Corso, 2000, Corso, 2001; pers.obs.).  However, I never observed any European bird with almost the whole upperwing coverts dark led-grey all the way to scapulars and tertials as in some Kazakhstan birds.  None of the main references on European raptors either illustrate or describe birds like these (Cramp & Simmons, 1980; Snow & Perrins, 1998; Forsman, 1999; Clark, 1999; Ferguson-Lees & Christie, 2001). None of them even mention that the grey area (panel) appear to be greater in Eastern populations then in the Western populations. Only in Ferguson-Lees & Christie (2001) it is depicted a bird with more grey then usual but not as much as noticed in this study. In Forsman (1999), the only picture showing a male with much grey on upperwing has been taken in fact in Kazakhstan. I was therefore very excited as I thought to have found a yet un-described subspecies of the believed monotypic Lesser Kestrel. However, once back home, I started to search references on the taxonomy of this falcon and found that back in ‘800 a “variety” or race has been already described by Swinhoe.

Introduction

Nowadays, Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni (Fleischer, 1818) is considered monotypic, with no subspecies recognized (Cramp & Simmons, 1980; Snow & Perrins, 1998; Forsman, 1999; Clark, 1999; Ferguson-Lees & Christie, 2001; Corso, 2000, 2001). However, Swinhoe described in 1870 a new race or “variety” (according to his given name) of Lesser Kestrel from Pekin, China which he named Falco cenchris var. pekinensis (Swinhoe, 1870). He described the holotype bird, collected on 18th October 1868, as following : “Large numbers of Kestrels were flying and hovering about. Their movement struck me as peculiar; and on shooting a male we found the species to be a race of Falco cenchris, Naumann. We procured on this occasion an adult male, and in the Western Hills a young male. They agree in size and form with Falco cencrhis of Europe; but the adult male has all the wing-coverts grey right up to the scapulars, most of them narrowly edged with rufous. The adult has the inner or short primaries broadly bordered at their tips with whitish, rufous in the immature, and wanting in the European bird. Both adult and immature have the white on the under quills 3 ¼ inches short of their tips; in the European bird it advances one inch nearer the tips. I will note this Eastern race as var. pekinensis. It will probably be the bird that winters in India.” (Swinhoe, 1870). Later on, Swinhoe (1871) on his “Revised Catalogue of the Birds of China” so reports “Breeds on the western hills of Pekin, and assembles in large numbers in September. Mr. Hodgson’s drawing of the Nepal bird (in the British Museum) shows that it is this race of Tichornis cenchris that resorts to India. The adult male has all the wing-coverts grey right up to the scapulars ; the inner or short primaries are broadly bordered at their tips with whitish, rufous in the immature ; the white on the under quills is 3^inches short of their tips. Subsequently, Jerdon (1871) report this taxon for the Birds of India. It is also mentioned later by Sharpe (1874) in his “Catalogue of the Accipiters, or Diurnal Birds of Prey, in the collection of the British Museum” and so described: “Very similar to C.naumanni, but darker and more vinous red above; underneath also darker-coloured and unspotted when adult. The principal distinction is the wing-coverts, which are almost entirely blue-grey, only the very innermost being slightly washed with rufous. Total length 12 inches, culmen 0-8, wing9-6, tail 5-8, tarsus 1-45. Hab. N: China; Himalayas.” Hodgson (1844, 1845a,b, 1855) mention too the race pekinensis. Hartert (1913) and Hartert & Steinbacher (1933) mention this race as well giving again a description fitting with the original one by Swinhoe and considering valid this taxon (though with some overlapping characters sometimes with the nominate naumanni and reporting some clines). Warren (1966) report :  “Syntype, Adult male. Rea. no. 1886.3.25.272. Near Ming Tombs, north of Peking, 18 Oct. 1868. Collected by R. Swinhoe. Seebohm Collection. Proc. zool. Soc. Lond., 1870 : 442. Also Warren & Harrison (1971, 1973) reported again pekinensis.

More recently, authors has variously faced with the Chinese population from simply ignoring it, to mentioning and describing it as Falco naumanni pekinensis with the given English name of Eastern Lesser Kestrel or synonymizing it with naumanni (lumping together the two taxa): so, for ex. Brown & Amadon (1968) and Brown, et al. (1983) mention among the African raptors also Falco naumanni pekinensis reporting that this race is distributed from Turkestan to northern China, and in Africa it is observed outside the breeding season in Eastern Africa with “Most of the Lesser Kestrels passing through Somaliland appear to belong to this race”. These authors describe pekinensis as so “Adult male differs from the preceding race (naumanni) in having the grey of the wings extending up to the scapulars; secondaries broadly tipped with whitish and a greater amount of blackish on the ends of the primaries. The female and young differ on the latter character only.” Of the same opinion are Etchécopar & Hüe (1967) which report “F.n.pekinensis Swinhoe (Généralment plus gris, sur les moyennes et petites couvertures alaires); Migratrice : Venant d’Asie, accidentelle en Ègypte”. For the Avifauna of China, Etchécopar & Hüe (1978) report again F.n.pekinensis while more recently, Tso-Hsin (1987, 1994) in his synopsis, synonymize pekinensis with naumanni which is reported to be monotypic.  Vaurie (1965) mention Falco cenchris var. pekinensis only as a synonym of Falco naumanni, monotypic. Lesser Kestrel in Asia (Pakistan, South Asia, India, China) is considered monotypic also by Ali & Ripley (1978), Ripley (1982), Inskipp, et al. (1996), Grimmett, et al. (1998) while in the recent Rasmussen & Anderton (2005) no mention at all is given about pekinensis.

Discussion

Was therefore with no clear idea that I went to Tring, the Natural History Museum (NHM) (alongside with my friend and MISC member Ottavio Janni) to check the syntypes of Swinhoe, but eventually what I found were birds clearly different from any Western Lesser Kestrel I knew before. All the specimens labeled as pekinensis preserved into the collections held at Tring and at Almaty Nature Museum of the Zoology Research Institute of the Academy of Science (IZA) show obvious differences to all the other skins of birds collected in the breeding grounds within the Western Palearctic, while some birds collected in the African and even more in the Indian wintering grounds appear indeed similar. I divided the skins into A) birds collected in China during breeding season; B) birds of unknown breeding ground origin, collected elsewhere in Asia; C) birds which are typical naumanni, collected mostly in the breeding grounds of Europe and N Africa; D) birds collected during migration or wintering grounds in Africa, the Middle East and Arabian Peninsula; E) birds collected in India, during migration or winter time.

As shown in the here reported photos, all the birds coming from China (A), most of them labeled originally as pekinensis, show according to the original description of the holotype (called syntype by Warren, 1966 – why?) the whole upperwing coverts grey with also the tertials grey or partially grey. Additionally, the grey tinge is not only reaching the lower scapulars in some birds, but is also of a darker led grey, more sooty (less pure and cold bluish-grey or cerulean-grey), then the birds from Europe (C); on the same way, also the grey on the head and tail is darker and more sooty. The mantle, as correctly reported by Sharpe (1874) is of a deeper and darker vinous rusty-red colour, and the underparts are darker and more satured as well. Birds from other Asian countries (B), such as Kazakhstan, have similarly patterned wing-coverts, though in some birds less extensive and with in most birds part of the lesser and the leading edge rusty tinged (mostly as a rusty “patch” on the inner “harm”), the grey colour of head, tail and coverts being in some not so dark led grey as the Chinese birds (but in some birds being similar) and the underparts appearing less saturated as the mantle less vinous in many birds (but similar in some); indeed, these birds appear intermediate and could be called “cline”. Birds collected in the Middle East, Arabian Peninsula (as in UAE) and Eastern Africa during migration period or winter time have typical plumage (as C) or appear intermediate (as B), but their origin is not known so they could simply be taken into account as “intermediate” birds of unknown origin, while some birds collected in India (E) indeed look like “pekinensis” (as A). On the web and in ornithological books, several birds from India, Arabian Peninsula and Eastern Africa show either an intermediate plumage like birds of the group (B) or a “pekinensis-type” like plumage. The birds from Turkestan, described by Zarudny (1912) as Cerchneis naumanni turkestanicus and reported to have paler plumage than pekinensis with less grey on upperwing but more than on European birds, could be included into the group (B) as intermediate birds of clinal population, while the taxon Cerchneis naumanni sarmaticus (Domaniewski, 1917) is of no taxonomic value at all.

NB: For a comparison study, only birds of the group (A) and (C) could be taken into account, while birds of the group (B) in the middle could only be taken into account as clines or intermediate birds, which are normally found in every subspecies.

From a first and preliminary analysis, it seems that birds of the species’ range show an increasing amount of grey to coverts and saturation in colors moving west to east, with some birds from the Spanish population showing almost no grey on coverts (only a tinges or a tip to the greater coverts), moving east the coverts showing an increasingly wider amount of coverts grey tinged,  almost gradually, as well a more saturated plumage. Therefore, it seems likely that there is a cline in both the extension of the grey on the coverts and the saturation of the pigmentation, with however the Chinese birds being constantly different from all the other Lesser Kestrels and with the differences strongest and most visible. This is only a brief overview of the results obtained and a simple and basic summary, for a better and more in depth treatment see Corso, et al. (in prep.). However, from the preliminary result, not only it seems that the pekinensis taxon is valid, as being readily identifiable and obviously different, but that a genetic study of the Chinese population is surely advisable and should be taken into account (could be that result would indicate something like Red-footed Falcon and Amur Falcon, in the past considered conspecific and often called Western and Eastern RFF ?).

In any case, whatever the validity of pekinensis would be confirmed or not, and accepted or rejected, still the differences in the plumage of the eastern populations should finally be acknowledged and taken into account, as up to date these have never been considered and illustrated in any field guide, handbook or reference dealing with Asian birds in last decades and always Lesser Kestrel has been only depicted with the same wing pattern, therefore with a limited amount of grey on the greater coverts, often hard to be seen in flying birds.

1.Falco naumanni “pekinensis” – adult ♂. Rea. no. 1886.3.25.272. Near Ming Tombs, north of Peking, 18 Oct. 1868. Collected by R. Swinhoe (A.Corso - courtesy of NHM, Tring). Note the entirely led grey wing-coverts and tertials, well contrasting with the white leading edge feathers, the dark sooty led grey hood and the saturated colours of mantle (vinous red) and of the underparts. No illustration in any modern field guide is available of such a plumage, with no description or illustration reporting these characters.  Photo: © A.Corso - courtesy of NHM, Tring

1. Falco naumanni “pekinensis” – adult ♂. Rea. no. 1886.3.25.272. Near Ming Tombs, north of Peking, 18 Oct. 1868. Collected by R. Swinhoe (A.Corso – courtesy of NHM, Tring). Note the entirely led grey wing-coverts and tertials, well contrasting with the white leading edge feathers, the dark sooty led grey hood and the saturated colours of mantle (vinous red) and of the underparts. No illustration in any modern field guide is available of such a plumage, with no description or illustration reporting these characters. Photo: © A.Corso – courtesy of NHM, Tring

2.Falco naumanni “naumanni” – ad. ♂ from Spain. Note that in many European birds the grey on wing coverts is very limited and pretty hard to be seen in the field or even in the hands. Note that the plumage is paler, less intense and deep in both the grey of hood and wing-coverts and of the mantle and underparts. Photo: © A.Corso - courtesy of NHM, Tring

2. Falco naumanni “naumanni” – ad. ♂ from Spain. Note that in many European birds the grey on wing coverts is very limited and pretty hard to be seen in the field or even in the hands. Note that the plumage is paler, less intense and deep in both the grey of hood and wing-coverts and of the mantle and underparts. Photo: © A.Corso – courtesy of NHM, Tring

3.Falco naumanni “pekinensis” – adult ♂ .Note the deeply saturated underparts. Photo: © A.Corso - courtesy of NHM, Tring

3. Falco naumanni “pekinensis” – adult ♂ .Note the deeply saturated underparts. Photo: © A.Corso – courtesy of NHM, Tring

4.Falco naumanni “naumanni” – ad. ♂ from Cyprus, collected in March. Note the very pale underparts typically found in European birds (Western Lesser Kestrel) and compare with the eastern birds. Photo: © A.Corso - courtesy of NHM, Tring

4. Falco naumanni “naumanni” – ad. ♂ from Cyprus, collected in March. Note the very pale underparts typically found in European birds (Western Lesser Kestrel) and compare with the eastern birds. Photo: © A.Corso – courtesy of NHM, Tring

5.Upperparts of F.n.”pekinensis”  to show the very much saturated upperparts. Photo: © A.Corso - courtesy of NHM, Tring

5. Upperparts of F.n.”pekinensis” to show the very much saturated upperparts. Photo: © A.Corso – courtesy of NHM, Tring

6.1 “pekinensis” (leftmost bird) compared with 1 ad. ♂ from Afghanistan and 1 ad. ♂ from Spain, all from Spring, to show the decreasing intensity of the saturation of the grey and the mantle, which in European birds is less vinous-rusty and more terracotta with a pinkish hue.  Photo: © A.Corso - courtesy of NHM, Tring

6. 1 “pekinensis” (leftmost bird) compared with 1 ad. ♂ from Afghanistan and 1 ad. ♂ from Spain, all from Spring, to show the decreasing intensity of the saturation of the grey and the mantle, which in European birds is less vinous-rusty and more terracotta with a pinkish hue. Photo: © A.Corso – courtesy of NHM, Tring

7.Falco naumanni “pekinensis” – 3 adult ♂♂. Note the same typical characters in all three adult males, visibly different from any Western Lesser Kestrel. Photo: © A.Corso - courtesy of NHM, Tring

7. Same birds (above) from below. Photo: © A.Corso – courtesy of NHM, Tring

8.Falco naumanni “pekinensis” – 3 adult ♂♂. Note the same typical characters in all three adult males, visibly different from any Western Lesser Kestrel. Photo: © A.Corso - courtesy of NHM, Tring

8. Falco naumanni “pekinensis” – 3 adult ♂♂. Note the same typical characters in all three adult males, visibly different from any Western Lesser Kestrel. Photo: © A.Corso – courtesy of NHM, Tring

9.Falco naumanni “pekinensis” – adult ♂ compared with an ad. ♂ from Mesopotamia labeled with the trinomial Falco n. naumanni. Photo: © A.Corso - courtesy of NHM, Tring

9. Falco naumanni “pekinensis” – adult ♂ compared with an ad. ♂ from Mesopotamia labeled with the trinomial Falco n. naumanni. Photo: © A.Corso – courtesy of NHM, Tring

Falco naumanni “pekinensis” – adult ♂ compared with an ad. ♂ from Palestine which is labeled with the trinomial nomenclature Falco naumanni naumanni , collected on 1923. Note the differences in saturation and colour tinge/hue of upperparts. Photo: © A.Corso - courtesy of NHM, Tring

10. Falco naumanni “pekinensis” – adult ♂ compared with an ad. ♂ from Palestine which is labeled with the trinomial nomenclature Falco naumanni naumanni , collected on 1923. Note the differences in saturation and colour tinge/hue of upperparts. Photo: © A.Corso – courtesy of NHM, Tring

Close view of the head of same birds of fig.11 to show the grey hood paler in naumanni. Photo: © A.Corso - courtesy of NHM, Tring

11. Close view of the head of same birds of fig.10 to show the grey hood paler in naumanni. Photo: © A.Corso – courtesy of NHM, Tring

Again same birds in lateral view. Photo: © A.Corso - courtesy of NHM, Tring

12. Again same birds in lateral view. Photo: © A.Corso – courtesy of NHM, Tring

13. An adult ♂ Falco n. naumanni (centre) compared with two ad. ♂♂ “pekinensis” from China, to show how much paler pearl grey is the hood and less saturated, less rusty-vinous but more pinkish tinged is the mantle of the Western taxon or form (all Spring birds). Photo: © A.Corso - courtesy of NHM, Tring

13. An adult ♂ Falco n. naumanni (centre) compared with two ad. ♂♂ “pekinensis” from China, to show how much paler pearl grey is the hood and less saturated, less rusty-vinous but more pinkish tinged is the mantle of the Western taxon or form (all Spring birds). Photo: © A.Corso – courtesy of NHM, Tring

Same birds of fig. 13 in lateral view. Photo: © A.Corso - courtesy of NHM, Tring

Same birds of fig. 13 in lateral view. Photo: © A.Corso – courtesy of NHM, Tring

Advanced 2nd cy ♂ (almost in full 1st adult plumage but for retained juv. S1-S2 and growing P10) ringed at Chockpak Bird Station, Kazakhstan, October.  Intermediate bird with a more saturated colour of the plumage than a typical Western Lesser Kestrel and extensive grey panel on upperwing where however a patch of rusty-vinous terracotta is still visible on inner “harm”.  The origin of this bird (breeding ground) is unknown. Photo: © A.Corso

15. Advanced 2nd cy ♂ (almost in full 1st adult plumage but for retained juv. S1-S2 and growing P10) ringed at Chockpak Bird Station, Kazakhstan, October. Intermediate bird with a more saturated colour of the plumage than a typical Western Lesser Kestrel and extensive grey panel on upperwing where however a patch of rusty-vinous terracotta is still visible on inner “harm”. The origin of this bird (breeding ground) is unknown. Photo: © A.Corso

16.Ad. ♂ (with old P10-P8 and S1-S4) ringed at Chockpak Bird Station, Kazakhstan, October.  A bird very much like Eastern Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni “pekinensis”-type, with a more saturated colour of the plumage than a typical Western Lesser Kestrel and almost wholly sooty led grey upperwing with a slightly visible rusty tinge on innermost “harm” and on scapulars. The breeding ground of this bird is unknown. On a true Chinese “pekinensis” the rusty tinge will be absent or barely visible and in some even the scapulars would be greyish tinged or grey. However, no birds with such a pattern are found in Europe usually and there are no illustration in any modern field guide showing such a plumage.  Photo: © A.Corso

16. Ad. ♂ (with old P10-P8 and S1-S4) ringed at Chockpak Bird Station, Kazakhstan, October. A bird very much like Eastern Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni “pekinensis”-type, with a more saturated colour of the plumage than a typical Western Lesser Kestrel and almost wholly sooty led grey upperwing with a slightly visible rusty tinge on innermost “harm” and on scapulars. The breeding ground of this bird is unknown. On a true Chinese “pekinensis” the rusty tinge will be absent or barely visible and in some even the scapulars would be greyish tinged or grey. However, no birds with such a pattern are found in Europe usually and there are no illustration in any modern field guide showing such a plumage. Photo: © A.Corso

Acknowledgments

I wish to thanks as always the Tring, NHM staff to which I am much indebted for the most important help for any of my birds plumages studies. So a warm thanks goes to Katrina Kook, Robert-Pries Johanes, Mark Adams and the others working at Tring and that helped me in various way. On the same way, a warm thanks goes to Dr. Carla Marangoni, curator of the ornithological section at Museo Civico di Zoologia in Roma  (MCZR) for the countless hours of help while I was at the museum among hundreds of skins and specimens. Thanks also to the always kind and helpful Anita Gamauf, curator at the Wien Museum (NMW) and to Prof. Andrei Gavrilov who assisted during the skins study at Almaty Nature Museum of the Zoology Research Institute of the Academy of Science (IZA) and thanks to all the curators of all the other museums where I studied the skins collections in all my visits.

Materials

Birds studied in the field:

60.000+ birds  (MM and FF): in Italy, Spain, Greece, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Sinai, France, Greece, Israel, Turkey, Georgia, Kazakhstan.

Birds studied in the hand (combined skins and ringed birds):

(A)“Falco naumanni pekinensis”:  adult ♂. Rea. no. 1886.3.25.272. Near Ming Tombs, north of Peking, 18 Oct. 1868. Collected by R. Swinhoe. For comparison – 40♂♂- from China. (Tring, NHM; Wien, WNHM; Almaty Nature Museum, IZA); birds in the group (E) were not considered for the description of the characters of pekinensis

(B) Falco naumanni ssp. (showing intermediate characters): 75♂♂ ; 27♀♀ – Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan.

(C) Falco naumanni  (typical plumage): 270♂♂ ; 82♀♀  – coming from Spain, Italy, Greece, Tunisia, Morocco, Albania, France;

(D) Falco naumanni (both typical naumanni and intermediate birds): 79♂♂ ; 90♀♀  - Turkey, Israel, Egypt, Senegal, Niger, Mauritania, Iraq, Iran, Tanzania, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine,  Kirgizstan, Slovenia, South Africa, Check Republic, Georgia.

(E) Falco naumannipekinensis-type”: 10♂♂ from India.

Skins studied preserved at the following museums: Natural History Museum, Tring, England (NHM); Institute of Zoology, Almaty, Kazakhstan (IZA); Museo Civico di Storia Naturale di Milano, Milan, Italy (MCSM); Museo Civico di Terrasini, Palermo, Italy (MCT); Museo Civico dell’Università di Scienze Naturali di Catania, Catania, Italy (MCUCT); Museo Civico di Zoologia di Roma, Rome, Italy (MCZR); Museo Regionale di Scienze Naturali di Torino, Torino, Italy (MRSN); Museo di Storia Naturale “Giacomo Doria”, Genova, Italy (MSNGD); Museo di Storia Naturale “La Specola”, Firenze, Italy (MSNLS); Museo Civico di Storia Naturale di Carmagnola (); Museo Civico di Scienze Naturali “Angelo Priolo”, Randazzo, Italy (MCR); Naturhistorisches Museum Wien, Vienna, Austria (NMW); Nationaal Natuurhistorisch Museum Naturalis, Leiden, the Netherlands (NNM).

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320.— London.

Warren, R.L.M. & C.J.O. Harrison, 1971. Type-specimens of birds in the British Museum (Natural History).

2: i-vi, 1-628.— London.

Warren, R.L.M. & C.J.O. Harrison, 1973. Type-specimens of birds in the British Museum (Natural History).

3: i-xii, 1-76.— London.

-          APPENDIX I

LESSER KESTREL NOMENCLATURE  (synonym)

FALCO NAUMANNI  (Fleischer, 1818)

-          Falco naumanni [as Naumanni] J.G.Fleischer, 1818 – in Laurop & Fischer, Sylvan. Ein Jahrbuch für Forstmänner,Jäger und Jagdfreunde auf das Jahr 1818, p.174. (“spärlicher Gast im südl. Deutschland und Schweiz”; error for Sicily, fide Stresemann (MS))

Falco xantonyx [as Xantonyx] J.G.Fleischer(ex Natterer MS), 1818- in Laurop & Fischer, Sylvan. Ein Jahrbuch für Forstmänner, Jäger und Jagdfreunde auf das Jahr 1818, p.175. (= F.naumanni)

Falco tinnunculoides Temminck (ex Natterer MS) (1820) – Manuel d’ornithologie, ou Tableau systématique des oiseaux qui se trouvent en Europe…,2nd edn,1,p.30. (“Hongrie,Autriche-Naples-Sicile-Sardaigne-Espagne”). (= F.naumanni)

Falco cenchris Frisch (1820) – in J.F.Naumann, Johann Andreas Naumann’s mehrerer gelehrten Gesellschaften Mitgliede, Naturgeschichte der Vögel Deutschlands ,2nd edn,1,p.318,pl.29. (Italy,Austria,Tyrol,Switzerland,Savoy,Piedmont).

Falco xanthonyx Naumann (ex Natterer MS) (1822) – Johann Andreas Naumann’s mehrerer gelehrten Gesellschaften Mitgliede,Naturgeschichte der Vögel Deutschlands…,1,p.323. (= F.naumanni)

Falco tinnuncularius Roux,1825 – Ornithologie provençale;ou description…de tous les oiseaux qui habitent constamment la Provence,ou qui n’y sont de passage,1,p.60,pls.40,41. (Provence). (= F.naumanni)

Falco subtinnunculus C.L.Brehm (1827) – Ornis,3 Heft,p.12. (Egypt and southern European islands). (= F.naumanni)

Cerchneis cenchris C.L.Brehm (1831) – Handbuch der Naturgeschichte aller Vögel Deutschlands,p.74. (= F.naumanni)

Tinnunculus cenchris Bonaparte (1842) – Catalogo Metodico degli Uccelli di Europa, p.21. (= F.naumanni)

Tichornis cenchris Kaup (1844) – Classification der Säugethiere und Vögel,p.108. (= F.naumanni)

Poecilornis cenchris Kaup, 1850 in W.Jardine(ed.) – Contributions to Ornithology for 1850,p.53. (= F.naumanni)

Cerchneis paradoxa C.L.Brehm, 1855- Der Vollständige Vogelfang,p.29. (Greece). (= F.naumanni)

Cerchneis ruficeps C.L.Brehm,1855,Naumannia, p.269. (= F.naumanni)

Cerchneis ruficauda C.L.Brehm,1855, Naumannia, p.269. (= F.naumanni)

Erythropus cenchris Jerdon , 1862 – The Birds of India, 1, p.38. (= F.naumanni)

Falco naumanni naumanni – Hartert,1913 ["1921"], Die Vögel der paläarktischen Fauna,Heft VIII(Aug.),p.1080. (= F.naumanni)

Cerchneis naumanni  – Sharpe (1874) – Catalogue of the Birds in the British Museum,1, Accipitres or Diurnal Birds of Prey, p.435. (= F.naumanni)

Falco cenchris var. pekinensis Swinhoe (1870). Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London,p.442. (near Peking).(= F. naumanni pekinensis)

Tichornis pekinensis Swinhoe (1871). Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London,p.341. (= F. naumanni pekinensis)

Cerchneis pekinensis in Sharpe (1874). Catalogue of the Birds in the British Museum,1, Accipitres or Diurnal Birds of Prey,p.437. (= F.naumanni pekinensis )

Erythropus pekinensis in Jerdon (1871). Ibis,p.242. (= F.naumanni pekinensis)

Falco naumanni pekinensis Hartert 1913 ["1921"], Die Vögel der paläarktischen Fauna, Heft VIII(Aug.),p.1081. (= F.naumanni pekinensis)

Cerchneis angolensis Bocage, 1876 – Jornal de Sciencias mathematicas,physicas e naturas, publicado sob os auspicos da Academia real das sciencias da Lisboa 5: 153. (Huilla in Angola). (= F.naumanni)

Cerchneis naumanni turkestanicus Zarudy, 1912 – Ornithologische Mitteilungen, p.114. (= F.naumanni ssp.)

Cerchneis naumanni sarmaticus Domaniewski, 1917 – Compt. Rend. Soc. Sci. Varsovie, X, p. 1044. (= F.naumanni)

15 thoughts on “Taxonomical notes : Lesser Kestrel is really monotypic?

  1. Harry Hussey

    Some questions for AC:

    1) Did you examine specimens of females and immature birds taken within the range of ‘pekinensis’?

    2) Has anyone suggested doing DNA work on these eastern birds?

    3) I’m not familiar with the range of the species in China. It may be that they don’t occur far enough north to be a likely vagrant to western Europe (I suspect they must breed a good distance south of Amur Falcon, as I saw those on migration on Happy Island, but had no Lesser Kestrels there or on the adjacent mainland). However, it may just be that they don’t quite make it so far east, though I am sure they do genuinely not get as far north as Amur Falcon does.

    Reply
  2. linosabirding

    1) Female studied as well, and they are darker, more patterned, with defined eye-stripe and moustachal stripe but as reported, this is SIMPLY and ONLY a preview and preliminar note to stimulate further research, and also, my paper in the future will be more extensive
    2) DNA would be great, but I have no money to do this !! I sicked help but did not find it :-(

    3) Vangrancy ? Who knows, but sure some of them reach India to winter and also porbably (according to some literature) Eastern Africa and Arabian peninsula, so who knows ?! Sure they could turn up also in Europe ??? May be yes

    Reply
  3. John Cantelo

    Most interesting. I watch a lot of Lesser Kestrels when in Spain (there’s a large colony in the village where I have a house). None of the males I see have remotely as much grey in the wing as descibed here for eastern races. Nor are the upperparts & underparts so deeply coloured (although some males have richer underparts that the birds shown here). I’d also describe the colour of the head as approaching pale powder blue/grey rather than ‘lead grey’. However, I think suggesting that the grey wing panel is “very often not visible under field condition and usually only at very close view, good light or in perched birds” is a little overstated. Whilst it’s true that it can be hard to see, it can be seen in well marked examples, even in flight, at a greater range than suggested by “very close view”. Admittedly it helps that Lesser kestrels often fly below my terrace and against a dark background. I hestitate to say how far, but I”l look when I’m in Spain later this week.

    Reply
  4. Harry Hussey

    Here’s a pic (pardon the lack of sharpness and poor colour reproduction…I took it with a Samsung NV3 from within a minibus, probably digiscoped on top of that) that I got of a 2cy female Lesser Kestrel somewhere in Kazakhstan in May 2010.

    Reply
  5. linosabirding

    Thanks John very much appreciated …indeed my Englihs was not good (as usuall :-) and indeed is a bit too over-stressed the difficulty to see in the field the grey mid-wing panel in Western LK… however, for ex in migration, indeed this character is rather hard to be see and sure far harder than in Eastern LK. Against a dark back ground indeed is much easier… and in breeding colony also easier than in migration. But the point is that I never see so much grey in any of our LK in Europe. So whatever the Eastern birds are, they look often different and at least, even if it would be proven to be simply a variation, they deserve to be shown in field guides and works. The point of these “taxonomical notes” for BF is really this: to stimulate birders to look more carefully and with great attention some matter and to think about some problem “old but forgotten” or “new and under study”. This is thansk to Martin’s spiriti of always learning style that I considered to write these notes. Thanks also to Brian S and Harry H for interesting links :-)))

    Reply
    1. linosabirding

      Well, of course I love much more to look at alive birds INDEED… if you read well, I have studied in the field more than 60.000 alive Lesser Kestrels… and after 30 years of raptor watch and a lot of raptor protection (against bird hunting!) all over WP sure i love alive animals. Skins (old and collecte din the ’800) are only helpful to study birds in the hand, and the only birds in hand alive you see have been taken only to ring them and then released with no problme at all. :-) :-) :-)

      Reply
  6. linosabirding

    regarding Brian S links: indeed as reported birds from Mongolia and Kazakhstan are intermediate …indeed birds in these links are variable and intermediate with some with little grey and usual colours (may be just a little warmer-deeper) and other with more grey on wings than typical European birds and deeper – more intense colours !
    thanks Brian

    Reply
  7. David Davies

    Saw a kestrel 10 kms south oh Astana beside the road to ALZHIR Gulag camp just 20 metres from the road near some small ponds and reed beds. Had all my students with me on a field trip to the camp and enjoyed watching it from our coach for several minutes while stopped at a roadworks! Sat 1st June 2013.

    Reply
  8. Terry Townshend

    Hi Andrea,
    Very interesting post and one I should have read a long time ago! I have seen a few Lesser Kestrels in the Beijing area but, as far as I know, they are now only a passage migrant and no longer breed in the capital. April/May and September/October seem to be the peak times in terms of records with more reported in recent years (possibly due to greater observer awareness). Please see this link for photos of some LKs taken in Beijing this Spring.

    http://www.birdnet.cn/showtopic.aspx?topicid=536539&forumpage=1&onlyauthor=1

    Striking birds!

    Best wishes, Terry

    Reply
  9. linosabirding

    Terry

    first of all thanks very much for that interesting post
    secondo your photos are simply oustanding and fantastic, truely gorgeous and surely show very well males with wholly grey upperwing coverts !!!!!!!!!!!! GREAT !!!!
    I wonder if you whish to may help me and send me these photos for my in progress paper on those LK for Birding Asia and Dutch Birding too ????

    thanks

    Andrea

    Reply
  10. Terry Townshend

    Dear Andrea. Thanks.. I must tell you that those photos are (sadly) not my own! They were taken by a local Chinese photographer from Beijing. If you wish, I can contact him to ask for permission to use them for your articles?
    Thanks, Terry

    Reply

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