Migration of raptors in the vicinity of Kyiv in autumn 2008

April 12th, 2009 Posted in Field researches, Migrations, Photos

Weather conditions of autumn 2008 have caused mass and intensity passage of Falconiformes, which allows us to treat this migration season as unusual.

We carried out observations on a permanent plot near the village of Pogreby (Brovary district of Kyiv region) located in the floodplain of Desna River (Domashevsky, 2003). Compared with previous counts an observation point was moved 4 km closer to the mouth of Desna River, which connects with the Dnieper floodplain (earlier, observations in this area were of rare periodicity). Thus, we have tried to cover as comprehensively as possible the coalescence of two migratory streams of the birds, which migrated across these rivers floodplains. Downstream the Desna mouth the floodplains merge into one floodplain of the Dnieper (see the map).

The observation point (OP) was located in the area, well-visited with people, especially at weekends. The suburb of Kyiv, bordered with high-rise new buildings, stretched 2.5 km toward the south-east of OP, cottage buildings were even closer. Territory near OP was of open type (abandoned agricultural lands, haymakings and pastures) with small islets of forests, forest belts and solitary trees. In depressions there were small lakelets.

Since the first day of observation, 4.09, in hot weather, birds of prey migrated in the ordinary regime, typical for this season. Closer to the end of the first decade of the month there were registered meetings of rare species and increase of their number on migration in daylight hours. Among them were Osprey (Pandion haliaeetus), Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus), Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus), Saker (Falco cherrug), and Peregrine (Falco peregrinus). In previous years, we registered peaks of migrations of Osprey and Shot-toed Eagle in the region since the middle of the second ? the beginning of the third decades of September (Domashevsky, 2004; 2005). That is, in 2008 these species of migratory raptors became active at least a week earlier.

Change of weather conditions on 12.09 was accompanied by the fall temperature to + 9 oC in the daylight and frequent, sometimes prolonged rainfalls. Visiting these days some areas of Kyiv region, we observed many birds of prey which roosted on poles and wires of power lines, in forest belts, etc. Very rarely there were registered wet birds hunting in flight – Buzzard (Buteo buteo), Hobby (Falco subbuteo), Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus). In rare cases during intervals between rainfalls there were recorded single low migrating Honey Buzzards, Montagu’s Harriers and Marsh Harriers, Buzzards. Birds of prey started active migration on 24.09 when the wind was southwest. The day of 24.09 there was a continuous and low cloudiness. The migration was also well visible in Kyiv. That day birds of prey were constantly seen in the sky even though it was not possible to observe the migration properly. A similar picture was still observed during next few days, when raptors were everywhere over the city. The migration of birds looked like panic escape. Groups of migratory Buzzards and Sparrowhawks (Accipiter nisus) flew till the late evening, being registered approximately 1-1.5 hours before sunset. Such an active migration lasted till the beginning of the first decade of October. Unfortunately we could not observe and describe it completely. Within next days migratory activity of birds gradually decreased and became normal and typical for this season. The latest record of juvenile Short-toed Eagle in the season, at OP in Kyiv region, was at 19.10.
Birds predominantly migrated southwest. Approximately to the same extent raptors flew also to the south and west. And only a few groups of Buzzards migrated to the southeast direction. Birds passed at height from 2 m (three species of Harriers) to 300 m and above (all species of birds of prey).

Migration of birds of prey in autumn 2008 near Kyiv is presented in the table.

Thus, our data confirms that the vicinity of Kyiv (floodplain of Dnieper and Desna) are unique and important areas for birds of prey in migration seasons. Unfortunately, the area of the city grows intensively and new sites of river floodplains are developed. A major part of the Desna floodplain near the city is shared among different owners and will be built in the nearest future. As a result, birds of prey on migration will suffer from loss of feeding sites. We saw all the above-mentioned raptor species on hunting at the outskirts of the city.

S.V. Domashevsky, Yu.A. Demidenko
Ukrainian Birds of Prey Research Centre

Map: Location of the observation point (OP)


• Domashevsky S.V. 2002. Watching migrations of raptors and water birds in lower part of the Desna river. Avifauna of Ukraine 2:52-59. [in Russian]
• Domashevsky S.V. 2004. The new data on rare species of the birds of prey in the Kiev region (Ukraine). Strepet. 2: 5-27. [in Russian]
• Domashevsky S.V. 2005. Distribution, number and migrations of Short-toed Eagle in the Kyiv region. Zapovidna sprava v Ukraini 11(1):45-49. [in Russian]
• Red Data Book of Ukraine (1994): Animal world. Kyiv: Ukrainian encyclopedia: 1-464.

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