Katiti (Seychelles Kestrel) set for take-off

The Seychelles Kestrel or Katiti breeding season is in full swing. You may have noticed these charismatic little falcons being more vocal and more conspicuous in your neighbourhood.

Seychelles Kestrel or Katiti and chicks © Jeff Watson

Nature Seychelles has been leading on a long-term programme of conservation action for the Katiti including population studies and educational activities on Mahe and Praslin. It is one of the species that is endemic (unique) to Seychelles. It is our only native resident raptor, and, in the absence of hawks, buzzards or eagles, maybe it could be considered to ‘rule the roost’.

Although it is a fiesty character, its small size means that it is vulnerable to introduced pest species. Its nests are predated by rats and cats, and it also faces competition from introduced Mynah Birds and Barn Owls. Last year, a pair of Katiti nesting in the grounds of Beau Vallon School was reported for fighting in the playground with Mynahs. Sadly the Katiti nest there failed as a result of this conflict.

On a happier note, the traditional superstitions about Katiti among some Seychellois seems to be in decline, with increased awareness of the special status of the species, and its particular need for help. It often roosts and nests on houses, and sometimes it makes a bit of mess, which does not always endear it to householders. Nature Seychelles has been asking members of the public to contact us if they have resident Katiti. We are interested to help you if you would like advice on how to help Katiti nest near safely near your home or workplace – or perhaps even nest somewhere less likely to make a mess of your porch! We are also interested in collecting feathers or other tissue from the birds from which DNA can be extracted. This is part of an ongoing study with scientists from the University of Kent that is investigating the genetic make-up of the birds.

We have purpose-built Kestrel nest boxes and advice leaflets, and may even be able to visit to advise. We were recently contacted by Don Du Preez at the airport. He told us that a pair of Katiti had taken up residence in an aircraft hangar. As there are plans to renovate the roof there, he was seeking advice on how this could be done while minimising disturbance to the birds. Our advice to Mr Du Preez has been that his birds should have finished breeding in around three weeks. All being well, the young will have fledged and be taking flying lessons of their own. He is happy to hold back on roof- fixing operations until that time. We have provided two nest boxes that can be installed when the renovations are complete.

At one time Katiti were scarce, but they have recovered well on Mahe in recent years. They also breed on Silhouette, Felicite, and North island, but appear to be struggling somewhat to fully establish on Praslin. With continued help from conservationists and the public, they may be able to take-off there as well.

Nature Seychelles, published on Regar Newspaper, 19 September 2005

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