F. vespertinus is notable, as its common name suggests, for its red feet (1; 2); these are particularly visible in the male (2). Females have a golden-yellow head and stomach, with blue-grey bars running across the feathers. Males have a light grey stomach, leading into a rusty orange underside near to the abdomen. For juveniles, the bars carry onto the stomach in streaks, which is white.
F. vespertinus lives primarily in open country, in steppe grasslands (2). It can also be found in and around wild-flower meadows and in open river valleys (2). It can be found in heathland (1). Within these environments, it will often use the abandoned rook nest (1). It can also be found in open, cultivated land, for example in vineyards and alfalfa fields (3).
This species has a very wide distribution, which encompasses a breeding range that stretches through eastern Europe to western, central and north-central Asia (4). Can usually be found in Europe from April through until October (1).
This bird is particularly vocal during the breeding season, as well as at its roost (2). The calls resemble a “kekekekeke…” sound. The males tend to sing faster and at a higher pitch in comparison to females (2).
Is known to eat frogs and young birds during the nesting season (1). For the rest of the time, the species feeds on a mixture of small insects (2; 4).
It is difficult to estimate the number of individuals which fly over Greece, and thus there are no reliable figures (3). However, it has been estimated that the total number is in the tens of thousands (3) – between twenty-six thousand and thirty-nine thousand pairs are thought to be permanent residents in Europe (4). The species is on Annex 1 of the EU Birds Birds Directive, and was added in 2004 (4). Hunting or killing of the species is illeagl; however, fifty-two individuals were shot in the Akrotiri British Sovereign Base Area on Cyprus whilst on migration in (5).
Description written by M. James Rowen (2013)
(1) Jonsson L., 2003, Birds of Europe, Christopher Helm Publishers Ltd.: London, U. K.
(2) Mullarney K., Svensson L., Zetterstrom D., Grant P. J., 1999, Collins Bird Guide: The most complete field guide to the birds of Britain and Europe, Harper Collins Publishers Ltd.: London, U. K.
(3) Handrinos G., Akriotis T., 1997, The Birds of Greece, Christopher Helm Publishers Ltd.: London, U. K.
(4) Birdlife International, 2013, Species factsheet: Falco vespertinus, [Online] Available at: http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/speciesfactsheet.php?id=360
(5) Wildlife Extra News, 2008, Fifty-two Red footed falcons shot in Cyprus, [Online] Available at: http://www.wildlifeextra.com/go/news/cyprus-falcons812.html#cr