The Eleonora’s Falcon is one of the rarest European birds of prey, and was included in the "Red List" of animals in danger of extinction (in the world there are only about 7500 couples). More than any other species, it is perhaps the one that stands out the most in the birdlife of the Sardinian island. The Eleonora’s Falcon (Falco Eleonorae) takes its scientific and Italian name from the Giudicessa Eleonora d'Arborea (Queen Eleonor of Arborea) who, with the enactment of the "Carta de Logu" in the fourteenth century, passed a special law that forbade hunting all birds of prey.
This type of hawk is medium sized with a very slender appearance; it has a wingspan of around 110/130 cm. Sexual dimorphism is present in this species: the male is smaller than the female and the base of the male’s beak is yellow, while the female’s is light blue. Regardless of sex and age, this falcon may have a light-colored (most common) or dark plumage.
It is a migratory falcon that lives in Madagascar, the Seychelles and the Mauritius islands in the winter, but with the arrival of spring it heads for the Mediterranean to reproduce. Here it nests on different Mediterranean islands and along Atlantic and Mediterranean portions of the African coastline. These raptors experience a change in diet during the breeding season: from a diet consisting essentially of insects, they change to a diet of small sparrows that migrate through the Mediterranean trying to reach the African continent. The Eleonora’s Falcon nests in rocky cavities, usually well protected from the elements along the coastal cliffs. In the middle of summer, between mid-July and early August they lay from one to four eggs. Incubation usually lasts 28 days and the fledging of the young falcons occurs after 30-35 days, between late September and mid-October, the period when the colony starts to fly back to Africa.
Since 1980, in order to protect this rare raptor, Carloforte has been home to a special protection camp of the LIPU (“Italian League for Bird Protection”) that begins on July 1st of each year and ends on October 14th. One of the most easily accessible sites for the study of this falcon by ornithologists, the project creates a grid of surveillance that is carried out for the entire period from the beginning of reproduction to the fledging of the young birds. For this reason a special permanent oasis was established under the proposal of the LIPU. This oasis covers 414 hectares in the northwestern part of the island.
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