The Saker Falcon is breeding in Bulgaria again

09.07.2018

© Ferenc Sarlos

The Saker Falcon – a globally endangered species has returned as a breeder in Bulgaria. This is a tremendous success for the nature conservation community in the country, resulting from long-term joint efforts.

 

A team of the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB) discovered an active nest of Saker Falcons in Bulgaria, which is the first case of confirmed breeding of the species in Bulgaria for the last 10 years. It is especially worth to mention that both birds, forming the pair, have been bred in captivity in 2015 in the Wildlife Rehabilitation and Breeding Centre of Green Balkans. This was learned thanks to the marking of the falcons with color rings since their early age.  The male, with ring code 5E, originates from the pair of Romeo and Juliet, which is still breeding in the Green Balkans’ Centre, while the female – with ring code 5P, originates from different brood of another pair – Orpheus and Aphrodite. Both 5E & 5P have been released in 2015 by applying a pilot methodology for Bulgaria which was evidenced to work efficiently – captive breeding and stepwise adaptation of the offsprings to the wild.
 

Moreover, under the careful monitoring of the nature conservationists and far from any disturbance or other serious threats, the falcon’s pair raised two chicks which successfully left the nest and are already flying into the wild.
 

In the end of XIX century, the Saker Falcon has been relatively abundant and widespread in Bulgaria. In 1950es until 1970es, a negative trend in the population has been observed. The causes are mainly related to the national wide massacre of birds of prey at that time, destruction of the habitats and significant decrease in food availability, the latter resulting from the massive changes in agricultural practices – such as the introduction of intensive use of chemicals (a.g. DDT) and others. After 1985, the decline of the population has become even more severe due to the malicious habit, which seems to be quite common during this period, of taking of eggs or nestlings from the anyway small number of active nests left in the country. Specific survey conducted between 2006 and 2011 revealed the presence of few occupied territories and assumed 1-2 breeding pairs, but without providing any direct evidence for reproduction of the Saker Falcon in Bulgaria.
 

During many years the Green Balkans and the Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research – BAS have been working hardly to build capacity in captive breeding and releasing techniques in the Saker Falcon in the frame of the project “Saker Falcon reintroduction in Bulgaria”.
 

Meanwhile, the BSPB has made tremendous efforts to mitigate the threats for the species, such as the risk of electrocution, poaching, nest robberies, as well as for improving the status of the habitats by installing hundreds of artificial nests, insulation of thousands electric poles, and establishing a special agri-environmental measure in the country benefitting the feeding sites (pastures and meadows) in the frames of projects as “Save the Raptors” – nominated for one of the best Nature projects for 25 years LIFE programme, and “Conservation of the Saker Faclon in NE Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia”. Thus, the united efforts of the nature conservation sector were successful and undoubtedly led to the return of a globally endangered species as a breeder in Bulgaria. Of course, an important stepping stone was achieved, but this is yet just the beginning to establish a sustainable breeding population in the country. Achievement of this long-term goal still requires many more common efforts and collaborations between different institutions, communities and organisations in Bulgaria and Europe. The National Species Action Plan and the CMS Saker Falcon Global Action Plan are expected to substantially facilitate this process.
 

The activities under the project “Saker Falcon reintroduction in Bulgaria”, implemented by Green Balkans, are financially supported  by the  International Wildlife Consultants (UK) Ltd., the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, Armeec Insurance JSC, Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, ZOO BOJNICE, and Luboš and Marta Vaněk. The projects LIFE 07 NAT/BG/000068 and LIFE09 NAT/HU/000384, implemented by BSPB, were funded by LIFE Programme of the European Union.

 

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