On 10th of December 2021 Maria – the first Dalmatian pelican with a satellite transmitter in Bulgaria, has died. The cause of death is a collision with the overhead powerline.

The bird has died in Greece, near the village of Sitaria, approximately 60 km north of Thessaloniki. Thanks to the data of the transmitter, its body has been found under the powerline by our Greek colleague from the Hellenic Ornithological Society. Three more dead pelicans were found within a 1 km radius – the cause of their death is collision with the overhead powerline as well. 50 pelicans have been determined to fly over the region.

© Odysseas Chilitidis/HOS

Maria was ringed and tagged by the BSPB team on 22nd of February 2021 near Atanasovsko Lake in Burgas area. She has become the first Dalmatian pelican with a satellite transmitter in Bulgaria. For nearly 10 months Maria has given us invaluable data about the movement of this magnificent species, and about the new wetlands, which will be further examined by the experts to assess their significance and importance for the conservation of the Dalmatian pelicans in this part of Europe. During these months she has visited 5 countries (Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Greece and North Macedonia) and flew over 4676 km. The longest distance she has flew for a day is 285 km, and the highest point on its route – 1987 m above sea level. The wetlands in which she has stay for the longest period is in Turkey (Uluabat Lake, Dalyan Lake, the Flooded forests of Karacabey and Kush Lake), Bulgaria (Atanasovsko Lake, Studen Kladenets dam and Rozov Kladenets dam) and Greece (Kerkini Lake and Lake Petron). In three days the pelican managed to visit Varna Lake, Danube Delta and Peschina Marsh, situated on Persin Island.

The last three weeks before its death Maria spent the nights in the Kastoria Lake and visited the Amatovo Lake every day for feeding and rest, possibly with other pelicans. Unfortunately, on 10th of December she flew away in the late afternoon and collided with the overhead powerlines near the pumping station in the region.

Sometimes during the flight it’s possible that the birds would collide with the powerlines, because they are hardly visible especially under bad weather conditions. Another reason for collisions of birds with overhead powerlines is the fact that often their attention is not on the flight’s direction but on the ground where they search for food or for potential threats. Risk of collision of birds with overhead powerlines is particularly significant near places with a concentration of large numbers of individuals, such as lakes, rivers and the seaside, where there is a concentration of flocks of waterbirds. Migratory routes of the migratory birds are also regions with a high risk and high mortality rate, especially since lots of species fly during the night when the powerlines are invisible for them. Heavy and clumsy birds such as pelicans are their most often victims.

One of the most effective methods for safeguarding the overhead powerlines is installing of bird diverters. Diverters are specially designed highlighting markers, which are put on the overhead powerlines on preset intervals. They have bright colors, shine and move on the wind and gather the birds’ attentions to the powerlines, making them more visible. These powerlines contribute to the prevention of the collisions and decrease of the mortality.

This is the reason why one of the key activities on the project LIFE for Pelicans is installation of divertors in the segments with the highest risk from the electricity grids in Bulgaria, Romania and Greece. The data gathered by Maria’s transmitter will help the experts to identify such segments.

 

These activities are carried out within the international project “Conservation of the Dalmatian pelican along the Black-Sea Mediterranean Flyway” (LIFE18/NAT/NL/000716) funded by the LIFE Programme of the European Union. The project is coordinated by Rewilding Europe, and its partners besides BSPB are Directorate of the Natural park Persina, Romanian Ornithological Society, Hellenic Ornithological Society, Rewilding Ukraine and  Rewilding – Danube delta.

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