The Mauritius kestrel is a bird that has a length of the body of 8-10 inches, a weight between 6 and 8 ounces and a wingspan of 1-1/2 feet. The area of the Mauritius kestrel is limited to the island with the same name. In the old times, these birds lived in the island’s forests but their population was affected by pesticides, deforestation, hunters like monkeys, mongoose and cats.
The population of Mauritius kestrel was increased with several hundred due to the captive breeding. Now this bird lives in savannah-scrub lands, secondary forests and in the old-growth forests. The Mauritius kestrel eats birds, insects and small lizards but they can eat small mammals too. They search for their food while they fly in trees and after they see the prey, the Mauritius kestrel swoops down from sky and attack the prey.
The nests of the Mauritius kestrel are in the tree and cliffs’ natural cavities as well as in artificial nest boxes. The female can lay 2 to 5 eggs that will be in a 30 days incubation period. The baby bird fledges at 39 days but it will stay with the parents in the first year. The name of the Mauritius kestrel comes from the ‘falco’-a Latin word that means hook-shaped and that may refer to the claws or to the beak, and ‘punctatus’-another Latin word meaning spotted.
There is no coloration difference between the Mauritius kestrel female and the male unlike the New World’s American kestrel and the Old World’s Common kestrel. At one moment, the number of the Mauritius kestrel was very small, only couple of pairs were living. Their specie was saved through the captive breeding and releasing in non-traditional habitat, the ban of the pesticides, the supplemental feeding and the supply of the artificial nest boxes.
This program of saving the Mauritius kestrel had a series of techniques regarding the groundbreaking conservation such as continuous management in the wild, nest boxes provision, artificial incubation, the releasing of captive-reared bird and captive-bred birds, hand rearing and cross fostering. The captive Mauritius kestrels were fed with small chicks and mice and after 5 years, 13 birds were recovered, thrice more than was reported in the ‘70s
These birds reared over 30 new birds in the breeding season between 1986 and 1987. Meanwhile, the nestlings and the eggs were removed from nests and artificially incubated in the wild. The young birds were released also in the wild. The release of the captive-reared birds and of the captive-bred ones in the Mauritius endemic forests was an important success.
Over 75% of the Mauritius kestrels released in the forests became independent and had a high rate of mating. Once with this conservation program, the Mauritius kestrel’s population has been continuously increasing with about 800-1.000 individuals that live now in the Mauritius endemic forests. There is no active management of the Mauritius kestrel today but the population of this specie is under constant monitoring.