Nocturnal hunting by Eleonoras Falcons Falco eleonorae on their breeding and non-breeding grounds

Ralph Buij*, Marion Gschweng

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


We report on nocturnal hunting by Eleonora's Falcons in their breeding range in the Mediterranean region and in their non-breeding range in Madagascar. Hunting activity of Eleonora's Falcons near floodlights during the breeding season in western Morocco peaked 30-60 min after sunset, but continued into the early morning. Hunting activity and prey capture rates near floodlights were highest during nights with little moonlight or overcast conditions. Fifty-one percent of 73 group capture attempts were successful. Of the migratory prey species identified at the Moroccan study site (26 species), 73% belonged to species mainly migrating at night, whereas 57% of all migratory bird prey species of Eleonora's Falcon reported to date (122 species) migrate predominantly at night; suggesting that hunting near artificial light may increase the proportion of nocturnal migrant species in the diet of falcons. Sylvia and Acrocephalus were the most commonly recorded genera among prey caught after dark. Our direct observations and analysis of satellite transmitter data indicated that Eleonora's Falcons also hunted away from artificial light in Morocco, Italy, and frequently so in Madagascar. Flight activity was detected in 18% of 342 night-time locations of seven satellitetagged Eleonora's Falcons in Madagascar, at an average moon illumination of 60%. We conclude that nocturnal hunting by Eleonora's Falcons is more common than previously assumed and occurs preferably, but not exclusively, at above-average moon illumination on wintering grounds or near artificial lights during the breeding period.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-49
JournalActa Ornithologica
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • artificial light
  • Eleonora's Falcon
  • light pollution
  • migratory birds
  • moonlight
  • night-time hunting
  • raptors

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