Green Balkans launched a project for the recovery of the Lesser Kestrel in Bulgaria

Green Balkans launched a project for the recovery of the Lesser Kestrel in Bulgaria

LIFE Financial Instrument supports environmental and nature conservation projects throughout the EU, as well as in some candidate, acceding and neighbouring countries. Green Balkans (Bulgaria) is the project’s Coordinating Beneficiary, with DEMA (Spain) and EURONATUR (Germany) as Associated Beneficiaries.

Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni) is a small falcon species that is essentially insectivorous. Hunting in open areas with easily accessible prey, the Lesser Kestrel prefers dry areas of scarce vegetation, hence its name ‘Steppe’ Kestrel. Lesser Kestrels often nest in urban areas securing reduced nest predation and grassland surroundings providing food sources.
The last known colony of the species in Bulgaria was observed by Green Balkans more than 20 years ago in the southern parts of the Sakar Mountain. Today, we envisage re-establishing a “wild” colony there.
Preparatory steps have already been made for the past 4-5 years including: threat analysis, risk assessment and identification of areas suitable for the recovery of the species. Moreover, Green Balkans’ Rescue Center has been successful in captive breeding of the Kestrels.

Aviary hatched and raised birds will be used for the re-establishment of the colony. The captive breeding and the provision of birds to be released into the wild will be supported by DEMA (Spain). Moreover, our Spanish colleagues will share their extensive and profound experience in re-establishing Lesser Kestrel colonies in Spain and France. In addition, DEMA experts will provide specialized training for the team of Green Balkans’ Wildlife Rescue Center, focused on subtleties of captive breeding, so that the pairs bred in captivity could also contribute to the program.

The availability of suitable foraging areas is crucial for the success of this initiative. Therefore, areas providing appropriate habitats will be restored and maintained within the project. Lesser Kestrel friendly agri-environmental practices will be identified and promoted in the relevant regions. For the implementation of this action we will also count on the experience of our colleagues from EURONATUR, Germany.

Last, but not least, we hope that all our supporters will contribute efforts to activities such as mounting nest boxes, maintaining habitats, and monitoring birds.

We would highly appreciate any financial support to secure the 25% co-funding needed for such projects.

Additional information:
Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni) is a useful ally of man in combating pests in agricultural landscapes. Once considered among the most abundant birds of prey in Europe, today, due to agriculture intensification, farmland abandonment, loss of nesting sites and intensive pesticide application it has an uncertain future.

Lesser Kestrel is strongly attached to agro-environmental landscapes, showing high preferences towards extensively managed wheat crops and extensively grazed or otherwise maintained pastures. The species is an essentially insectivorous, opportunist feeder, capable of exploiting a wide range of terrestrial and aerial prey.

The strongest remaining Lesser Kestrel populations are found in Spain (12 000 - 20 000 pairs) and Turkey (5000 - 7000 pairs), while the species is considered to have already gone permanently extinct from Croatia, Slovenia and Poland. The species has good population in Asia thus the Balkan population can be considered an important link between the core Lesser Kestrel populations of Middle Asia and Turkey and the strongholds of the species in the Western Mediterranean countries (Portugal and Spain).

In the past the Lesser Kestrel was widely spread in Bulgaria, nesting "everywhere" in the mid-XIX (Radakoff 1879). More recent data on the numbers of Lesser Kestrels breeding in Bulgaria assume 57 - 100 pairs, followed by estimates dropping to 0 - 5 breeding pairs for the period 1995 - 2000 (Barov2002; BirdLife International 2004). At present there are no Lesser Kestrel breeding pairs confirmed in Bulgaria. Among the most probable reasons for the decline and extinction of the Lesser Kestrel have been land use changes, intensification of agriculture and use of pesticides, on overall deteriorating the habitat quality. It is however believed that the main threats which have caused the decline of Lesser Kestrel in Bulgaria have been limited and that the species can be successfully restored in the country trough focused and consistent conservation efforts directed at habitat management, securing suitable nesting habitats and human-induced restocking.

For further information, please contact:
Gradimir Gradev
Project Manager