French: Faucon kobez
Czeh: Poštolka rudonohá
Hungarian: Kék vércse
Croatian: Crvenonoga Vjetruša
Slovakian: Sokol kobcovitý
Slovenian: Rdečenoga postovka
Romanien: Vânturel de seară
Serbian: Siva (plava) vetruška
Red-footed Falcon is a very interesting raptor. One of those species which is highly gregarious throughout their life cycle. They normally breed in colonies, have a post breeding gathering place and even migrates in large flocks. This bird is mainly found in eastern Europe and Asia. It is migratory, wintering in tropical Africa. It is a medium-small, long-winged species. The adult male is all blue-grey, except for his red undertail and legs; its underwings are uniformly grey. The female has a grey back and wings, orange head and underparts, and a white face with black eye stripe and moustaches. Young birds are brown above and buff below with dark streaks, and a face pattern like the female. Red-footed Falcons are 28-34 centimetres (11-13½ in) in length with a wingspan of 65-75 centimetres (25½-29½ in).
This falcon is a colonial breeder, reusing the old nests of corvids, such as Rooks. It lays two to four eggs. This is a diurnal bird of open country with some trees, often near water. Its distinctive method of hunting is shared by the Common Kestrel. It regularly hovers, searching the ground below, then makes a short steep dive towards the target. The Red-footed Falcon's main prey is large insects, but it will also take small mammals and birds. The latin ’vespertinus’ which means ’evening’ hinting its activity at dawn and dusk.
The European population is estimated to be around 26.000-39.000 pairs and BirdLife International classifies it as Near Threatened. Most of the European breeding population is found in the Russian steppes, but Ukraine, Romania and Hungary has breeding birds too. In recent decades the European population suffered much decline but strong protection took place at least in the Carpathian Basin. More information here!
Hungary has the largest breeding population in Eastern Europe with about 700-800 pairs. The Red-footed Falcon is still fairly common in Hungary in some lowland woodlands, especially the Hortobágy and Kiskunság areas. It is less common elsewhere on the Great Plain and only scattered breeder in Transdanubia. Please read more about the protection of this fascinating raptor in the Carpathian Basin here.
How to photograph them: You can photograph Red-footed Falcon in comfort within the World Heritage Hortobágy National Park in Hungary from a specially designed tower hide from late April to early July. For more information check out the Sakertour website!