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JULY - Month of the Saker Falcon

JULY - Month of the Saker Falcon

01.07.2020
In July our ‘Month of…’ campaign focuses on the Saker Falcon.

Read below to find out more interesting facts about the Saker Falcon and what Green Balkans do to protect the species in Bulgaria.

A few people know why the species disappeared from the country. In the past it used to be one of the most abundant birds in the Ludogorie and Dobrudzha regions as well as along the Danube with hundreds, even thousands, nesting pairs. Unfortunately, in the middle XX century, due to the change in agricultural practices, pasture plowing, mass use of pesticides and mass shooting the population went down to only a few dozen breeding pairs in the whole country. The problem is not only in the destroyed habitats and deteriorating conditions, but in the harm brought by falconers and poachers. Unfortunately, despite the rarity of these birds in nature, they are still very often found in cages, caught by falconers and pseudo-naturalists. We should remember that taking young chicks from their nests, keeping and raising wild falcons is illegal and strictly forbidden by the law. Nowadays, the species is still very much under threat – it was only a few years back, in 2018, when the first wild nest of Saker Falcons in Bulgaria was found, after the species was considered extinct from the country for more than 20 years.

2008 marked the beginning of the Green Balkans active work towards the reintroduction of the Saker Falcon in Bulgaria. The program started with 6 breeding pairs inside the Green Balkans Wildlife Breeding and Rehabilitation Center in Stara Zagora. During the last few years those pairs have been changed with the introduction of new adult birds. A bright example of the work we do is Gogo – the first Saker Falcon chick hatched at the Rescue Center, who later became a parent and has its own family. The young birds are released through the hacking method (through an adaptation aviary). A total of 94 young Saker Falcons have been released through the reintroduction program. Even for the last few months 12 new young birds were released and joined their wild brothers and sister.

The Saker Falcon usually begins to breed at the age of 2-3, so our team hopes in a few years to find more and more breeding pairs. Birds released through the program are often observed in nature, like a two-year-old Saker Falcon which was ‘captured’ by a camera trap at one of the release sites. Unfortunately, not all birds have this fate, one of the falcons, released in 2017 was found a year later near Sofia, poisoned.

Part of our work includes tackling various threats for the species and other activities to ensure its safety – such as establishing contacts with local landowners, famrers, hunting and fishing societies, national and regional institutions as well as investing in improving children’s and young people’s ecological education by visiting and working with kindergartens, schools and universities.

Species description: The Saker Falcon (Falco cherrug Grey, 1834) is the largest falcon species in Bulgaria with a large wingspan of up to 105-129 cm. The body can reach up to 47-55 cm and weighs 0.7-1.3 kg.

Habitats: In XIX century in Bulgaria, the species used to nest primarily in the plains, but by the middle of the XX century most known nests are in mountainous regions, on rocks, in niches, on rock cornices or in raven nests (like other falcon species, the Saker Falcon does not build nests). Its distribution overlaps the distribution of the souslik – a much preferred food source for the falcons.

Breeding: The courtship flights begin at the end of January or the beginning of February. The female lays 3-6 eggs at the end of March or the beginning of April. Which the pair then incubates for another 36-38 days. The chicks leave the nest when they are 45-50 days old, but stay around it for the next 30-45 days until the parents teach them to hunt. The Saker Falcon begins breeding at the age of 2-3 and is a monogamous species.

How can I help:
You can join the species reintroduction activities in Bulgaria.
You can join the information campaigns for the species.
You can also donate for the Green Balkans educational activities.

Contacts:
Hristina Klisurova – ‘Rentroduction of the Saker Falcon in Bulgaria’ project, financed by the Mohamed Bin Zayed Raptor Conservation Fund and Armeec Insurance JSC
Mob.number +359886570053; email: hhristova@greenbalkans.org
Aneliya Pavlova – ‘Natura 2000 in Bulgaria – New Horizons’ project coordinator
Mob.number +359899269576; email: apavlova@greenbalkans.org