Endemic Seychelles Kestrels entertain in Seychelles International Airport

Seychelles Kestrel using a beam in the airport roof as a vantage point (Photo: Chris Feare)

During a recent visit to the International airport Christine and I heard loud bird calls coming from the roof space. My first thought was that the airport authorities had installed bird scaring devices. But the source of the calls soon became apparent when a Seychelles Kestrel flew out of one of the ledges in the roof, repeatedly giving its shrill “kee-kee-kee-kee” calls as it flew from beam to beam.

The Seychelles Kestrel is one of the archipelago’s endemic birds, breeding on Mahe and Silhouette, and a few on North island and Praslin. It is one of the world’s smallest falcons and its diet includes large numbers of green day geckos (Phelsuma spp.). Although primarily an inhabitant of the islands’ forests it also lives in lowland areas and will nest inside buildings.

On 2 August we had to revisit the airport and were spectacularly entertained by a pair of courting Kestrels. They were calling continuously and flying from beam to beam again, but this time one of them, which I assumed to be the male, was carrying a dead Madagascar Fody in its talons and repeatedly flew with it to present it to the presumed female whenever she landed. We also saw a copulation, suggesting that breeding was about to begin.

On arrival in Seychelles the first birds to be seen are usually those that have been introduced to the islands from elsewhere: Common Myna, Madagascar Fody and Barred Ground Dove. (In many airports around the world introduced birds, such as Common Starling, House Sparrow and Feral Pigeon, are also likely to be the first species seen). Sometimes endemic Seychelles Sunbirds flit among flowering shrubs and trees in the airport grounds, but the sight and sound of Seychelles Kestrels within the airport building is an experience to raise the spirits of any arriving birdwatcher, no matter how tired!

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