Lanner falcon identification: a practical-theoretical course

The importance of communication and training

Communication and training are the cornerstones of LIFE Lanner, without these two elements the project would lack the very foundations for its long-term success. Preparatory action A2, in addition to the development of a monitoring protocol for the regional population of lanner falcon (Falco biarmicus feldeggii), provides a training course for the identification of this and other falcon species.

The course, held by Carlo Catoni of project partner Ornis italica and conceived for the employees of the Regional and Provincial Protected Areas involved in the project, is made of a theoretical part followed by field trips to put the acquired knowledge into practice. The meetings were attended by the staff of three Regional Parks (Marturanum, Valle del Treja and Monte Rufeno), as well as the Provincial Police of Viterbo.

Lanner falcon vs. Peregrine falcon

Species knowledge is essential for effective conservation, and identification is the first step in this direction. The lanner falcon is the rarest falcon found in this area, and it is being gradually replaced by the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), especially the most suitable crags for nesting. Peregrines are very adaptable and therefore widespread in the region, even in entirely urban environments, and the two congeneric species are easily confused by the untrained eye. The risk of polluting data collection by incorrectly reporting presence data is unacceptable, even more so for the conservation of a subspecies that is now on the verge of extinction.

To avoid this possibility, during the course Ornis italica addressed a variety of issues related to the Lanner falcon, as well as other raptors detectable in the region. First of all, the basic and reproductive ecology of the species was illustrated in the introductory theoretical lessons. The lanner was then placed in the larger context of regional biodiversity with an overview of the different species of Italian hawks and their distinctive traits. Given the widespread distribution of the peregrine falcon, the focus was specifically on the correct identification of our beloved lanner F. biarmicus feldeggi to distinguish it from F. peregrinus.

Practice on the field and at Lake Vico Nature Reserve

The specimens of lanner falcon (ssp. Feldegg and others) found at the Wildlife Rescue Centre of Lake Vico Nature Reserve, in the brand-new structures we told you about last December, have been instrumental for the live observation of such a rare species. Course participants were able to observe these wonderful live specimens thanks to the cameras installed inside the aviaries, a precious tool to complement the many images of lanner, flying and perched, shown during the lessons.

During practical activities, held yesterday and on Tuesday 23 February, future field operators honed their peregrine falcon identification abilities in a natural environment, as shown in the digiscoping photo attached. The course had an overwhelmingly positive response, which gives us confidence in the success of the project, and especially its dissemination aspect.

A perching peregrine falcon. Peregrines are similar to lanners, and knowing them well makes lanner falcon identification easier.
Digiscoping – A peregrine falcon in its natural habitat during the raptor ID field lessons. Knowing peregrines well makes lanner falcon identification easier.