Interview with Guido Ceccolini about Red Kite reintroduction, Lanner Falcons and other raptors in Tuscany (Italy)

Date of the interview: 08 November 2009

In this interview Guide Ceccolini talks about the reintroduction of Red Kites in Tuscany and also gives some information on raptor conservation in the area in general.

Guido Ceccolini

Guido Ceccolini with Red Kite

Markus Jais: What raptor species are part of the project?
Guido Ceccolini: The target species of the project are Lanner Falcon (Falco biarmicus), Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), Montagu’s Harrier (Circus pygargus) and Red Kite (Milvus milvus).

Markus Jais: A big part of the project is the reintroduction of the Red Kite. What lead to it's extinction in the region?
Guido Ceccolini: The main causes of the extinction of the Red Kite were poaching and poisoning which have actually disappeared or significantly declined.

Markus Jais: How many birds will be released?
Guido Ceccolini: The feasibility plan foresees that for the establishment of a self-sustaining breeding population it’s necessary to release about 100 individuals during a period of 6-7 years.

Markus Jais: What techniques do you use and what knowledge and experience from other projects do you use?
Guido Ceccolini: First of all I want to remark that the reintroduction project is carried out by the Comunità Montana Amiata Grossetano and that it has been possible thank to the support of ornithologists from the two donor countries, France and Switzerland. Invaluable help is provided by Michel Terrasse (LPO), Gilles Faggio and Cécile Jolin (Association des Amis du Parc Naturel Régional de Corse) and by Adrian Aebischer, Laurent Broch and their collegues of Switzerland.
The method for reintroducing the Red Kite in southern Tuscany is the same used in re-establishing Red kite in the UK. The red kites are collected as they’re still nestlings, between 4 and 6 weeks old. The period is between the end of May and the beginning of June in Corsica, between middle June and late June in Switzerland. Donor nests are left with at least one chick. Then the chicks are translocated to the release area. Young birds spend about 45 days in captivity, within the aviaries of CERM, Endangered Raptors Centre. Food is provided using special pipes above the nest platform. Each young Red kite is fitted with coloured plastic wing-tags, with metallic rings and with radio-transmitters. The wing-tags are blue with a code of white letters, according to the directions of the Institute for Environmental Research and Protection (ISPRA). Materials, dimensions and fixing methodology were suggested by British, Danish and German researchers. Tail-mounted radio-transmitters weigh about 12 gr and remain attached to the bird for a period varying from some months to one year. Two feeding tables have been built inside the CERM and a closed circuit television allows the feeding tables to be monitored. This is really helpful to monitor the presence of the released red kites as well as the presence of untagged individuals. Particularly the video surveillance is a fundamental monitoring system once the birds have lost their radio transmitters.

Red Kite with wing tag

Red Kite with wing tag, © Guido Ceccolini

Markus Jais: How many Red Kites have been released so far?
Guido Ceccolini: Between 2007 and 2009 46 Red Kites have been released and 34 of these are still alive and present in the release area (minimum survival rate: 74%).

Markus Jais: What are the main causes of mortality for the released Birds?
Guido Ceccolini: We’ve no evidence of mortality factor related to direct human activities (no poisoning event, no humans disturbance, no shooting). The main mortality factor affecting the released Red Kites is represented by electrocution. Radio-tracking allowed to locate 3 electrocuted individuals in 2008, two of them dead under the same post, and one electrocuted individual in 2009. The birds were found dead under posts of medium voltage distribution lines with rigid insulators located in the middle or on the edge of fields or pastures.

Markus Jais: Have some birds already raised young in the wild?
Guido Ceccolini: So far no breeding attempt has been recorded.

Markus Jais: What is the attitude of the local people towards raptors in general and the reintroduced Red Kites?
Guido Ceccolini: The attitude of the local population towards raptors and the reintroduced Red Kites is positive. Several awareness activities have been implemented within the project: a press conference to present the project, meetings with stakeholders, participation in conferences, meetings with hunting associations and didactical programmes in schools.

Markus Jais: What would you recommend for future reintroduction projects of Red Kites and other raptors?
Guido Ceccolini:

  • to establish an efficient international network;
  • to promote the positive attitude of the local population towards the reintroduction;
  • the modification of the dangerous power lines in the release site;
  • not to start a reintroduction programme only because money is available especially when some important threats area still present (i.e. poison).

Red Kite in aviary

Red Kite in aviary, © Guido Ceccolini

Markus Jais: For the project, you are creating or renovating nest sites for the Lanner Falcon. How are the results so far?
Guido Ceccolini: The “new” nests have not been used yet and Lanner and Peregrine falcon continue using the old nests, probably because the human disturbance decreased due to a careful nest guarding.

Markus Jais: What else must be done in the future to secure healthy raptor populations in Southern Tuscany?
Guido Ceccolini: It would be necessary:

  • to implement an awareness campaign targeting different stakeholders (hunters, farmers, breeders, birdwatchers, public administrators etc.);
  • to avoid the construction of wind farms;
  • to modify the dangerous power lines;
  • to solve the conflict between wolf and stock breeders in order to avoid the return of the illegal use of poison;
  • to promote sustainable agricultural and cattle breeding practices;
  • to create a network of feeding points, especially in the “agriturismo” with the double effect of supporting raptors and increase a sustainable touristic development.

Markus Jais: Guido thank you very much for the interview

Further Information

Protection of habitats and birds of prey on Monte Labbro and the Upper Valley of the Albegna