Avifauna of Crete


Eleonora's Falcon
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Eleonora’s Falcon (scient. Falco eleonorae) is one of the most important falcons of Greece with a wingspan of 84-103cm and a body length 36-40cm. It is a migratory species that nests in the spring in small barren islets, where they reproduce. They are also found in Crete, especially in the small islets surrounding Crete, especially the Dionysades complex, while in winter they return to East Africa and Madagascar.

Eleonora’s falcon is very important for Greece because a very large proportion of the world population of it, reaching 80%, nests on rocky islands of this country.

The hawk was first observed in Sardinia in 1830 and was named Falco eleonorae after the Princess of Sardinia, Eleonor of Arborea. Finally, because it is the only hawk that lives on rocky cliffs near the sea, it is called sea hawk by Greeks.

When the wings perch, the tail seems to protrude. During flying, someone can discern the pointed wings and the long tail. Another feature of the bird is the shrill voice.

Eleonora’s falcon lives in groups and is rarely observed hunting alone. Till August it feeds on large insects, especially beetles. After then, it starts hunting small birds, which migrate to the south, constituting an ideal food for its chicks.

The main threats that the falcon faces in Greece is the touristic development of the small islets. This has caused degradation or destruction of breeding places, and disturbance during the breeding season. Especially in Crete, illegal hunting and harvesting of eggs and chicks (for consumption!) is unfortunately the most serious cause of reduction of falcons in the islets of Crete.

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