Migrations of birds of prey in Ukraine: what do we know about them?

November 25th, 2009 Posted in Migrations, Reviews

Seasonal migrations are an important stage in the annual life cycle of birds. They are characteristic for most species of Ukrainian birds of prey. However by the present time migratory routes and sites of mass concentrations are still poor known. Except for scientific importance this knowledge is essential for planning and organization of conservation of birds of prey. Also, sites of mass migration are of obvious interest for all birdwatchers.

Nowadays, the majority of migrants in Ukraine is considered to pass the country by a wide front, though with the reservation accepted that migrations pass not evenly everywhere but mainly follow “ecological routes”, or, at least, ecologically favorable places (Sevastyanov 1992). Therefore migration of birds of prey can be observed over all the territory of Ukraine. However its intensity differs in different regions and separate places.
There are several reasons of it. Birds with specific trophism (the Osprey, White-tailed Eagle) have to keep usual habitats, and for them migratory “corridors” are expressed more distinctly. Thus, the White-tailed Eagle and Osprey in Ukraine can be much more often met along the Dnieper and other large rivers. However even for these species a part of individuals flies during migration time over all the territory of Ukraine.
Intensity of migration of birds of preyThe more eurytropic are migrants in terms of their trophism, the more similar to the continuous is their migration front. Thus, the majority of birds of prey pass the country in a broad front. The narrowing of their front of migration is caused by landscape or weather and climate barriers.

To analyze the intensity of migration of birds of prey in the territory of Ukraine we have used the data on the maximum number of the individuals met for one day at one observation point during autumn migration (picture).
Despite small quantity of the data, results confirm that the migration goes by a broad front. Essential influence on the migration intensity is caused everywhere by weather conditions. In peak days of passage the number of migrants can increase in dozens times.

In Western Ukraine there exist two basic flyways − Carpathian and Western (Grishchenko 1994). However M.S.Prushinsky and I.V.Shidlovsky (1996) did not reveal a high intensity of migration: studying migrations of the Buzzard, which is a common migratory species, on five permanent plots they registered autumn flocks of this species up to 60 individuals. In Letychev district of Khmelnytsk region 228 individuals of raptors during peak passage on 24.09.1995 were observed by V.Novak (1996).
In the north and in the centre of Ukraine migration goes by a broad front. In Chernyhiv region birds pass a bit more intensively along theDesna valley, though, in general, the migration is of low activity (Kuzmenko et al. 2008; Yu.Kuzmenko, pers. com.). Downstream the Desna the number of migrating birds, observed at one point, increases − in Vyshgorod district of Kyiv region already is observed to 230 individuals, for example 10.10.2009 (Pismennyi 2009). In Dniepropetrvsk area the number of migrating birds in this or that place more depends on weather conditions, thus going by a wide front (V.Syzhko, pers. com.).
In the east of Ukraine the eastern route of migration is distinguished (Grishchenko 1994), however as for birds of prey, we have no reliable data. In Kharkiv region in the middle course of the river Severski Donets flowing to the south-west, migration of raptors is weak (А. and T.Atemasovs, pers. com.). In Luhansk region, as the buzzards of nominative subspecies are rare on paddage, autumn migration also is of weak intensity. The maximum number of birds of prey for a day can amount to several dozens of individuals (Vetrov 1992; V.Vetrov, pers. com.). In Provalska steppe the maximum registered number was a little more than ten birds (Galushchenko, Moroz 2008). Only in autumn of 2008, after passage of an atmospheric front, during the day it was observed apprx. 1200 Buzzards that is an abnormal case. A little narrowing of a migratory stream occurs along the tributaries of the Seversky Donets, flowing in the southern direction, for example, along the river Aidar (V.Vetrov, pers. com.).
In southern areas of Ukraine, as a whole, migration also goes by a broad front (Pilyuga 2000). Even along the seacoast a high intensity of migration is not everywhere observed. In Skadovsk district (Kherson region) in autumn of 2002 the passage peak was noted 20.10 − apprx. 150 individuals, with the dominance of the Sparrowhawk (Domashevsky 2007).
Against a broad-front migration, with the presence of more or less significant landscape barriers it is probable that migratory streams of birds of prey become narrowed. Such barriers are several Dnieper storage lakes, the mountainous Crimea and shores of seas.
Thus, there is a stream of birds, in the autumn passing around Kyiv storage lake, which width in a lower third is 7 km (Poluda 1992). In its lower reaches, near the village of Lebedivka (Vyshgorod district of Kyiv region) only the Buzzard (not counting other birds) was observed during one day up to 110 individuals. (Domashevsky 1996). However more intensive passage is ten kilometres southward, where on the outskirts of Kyiv the streams of birds migrating along the storage lake and the Desna valley join together (Domashevsky 2002). 25.10.2008 in this territory after the change of weather it was observed a migratory wave with more than 1 thousand birds! (Domashevsky, Demidenko 2009).
The narrowing of the migrants stream is observed by us also in the autumn along the left coast of the Kanivske storage lake though it is not of such a high intensity. Birds bend around it and further fly to the south and south-west. For example, near Kaniv (Cherkasy region) 25.10.2009 we met about 180 ind. of raptors dominated by buzzards.
A similar picture we observed at Kremenchuh storage lake which width in the autumn exceeds 10 km. As it is oriented from the north-west to the south-east, birds in its middle reaches have to fly toward west−northwest direction, forming a stream to fly around a water basin in its upper part. This stream is observed, at least, at the village of Irkliev (Chornobay district) to the village of Kedina Gora (Zolotonosha district). In peak days of passage we recorded there about 300 ind. (3.10.2004) birds of prey.
The territory with a high intensity of migration is Kinburnska Spit (Kherson and Mykolaiv region). 26.09.2006 there were counted almost 600 raptors dominated by the Buzzard (Oleynik et al. 2008).
In Western Ukraine I.Gorban (pers. com.) identifies several points of the narrowing of migratory streams. These are the vicinities of Zhovkva City (Lviv region) where it is observed the constriction of Polissia forest stands transforming in the form of some isthmus in forests of Roztochchia. The maximum number of birds of prey can reach there apprx. 800 ind. Around Shatsky lakes (Volyn region) in some years the number of raptors on passage can reach 300−400 ind. Approximately the same number of birds of prey during a migration peak can be met in Radehiv district (Lviv region).
In Odessa region the increased concentration of migrants is noted along the seacoast and large limans (Dniestrovsky, Tyligulsky, etc.) (Pilyuga 2000).
Rather intensive autumn migration of birds of prey is observed on the Crimean peninsula where three migratory routes (Grishchenko 1994) converge. The birds, flying in the Crimea, possibly, get to the “cauldron” as only few species can dare to fly across the Black sea. Therefore the majority searches for other ways to continue their migration. Enough intensive and various according to species composition is the passage of birds of prey across Tarhankut Peninsula. 16.10.2001 there were observed more than 200 ind. (Domashevsky 2002а) which of course is not maximum for the given place. Along the southern coast of the Crimea birds fly divergently, the narrowing of migrating streams is conditioned there by the Crimean mountains. On the pass of ‘Baidarsky Gate’ S.V.Domashevsky (2002b) 29 and 30.02.2002 observed 1200 ind. of birds of prey each day, dominated by the Buzzard. The migration direction toward the south-east and east seems to be not absolutely logical, moreover the author of the paper specifies that already in 26 km to the east (on the pass of Ai-Petri) all observed birds flew westward. Apparently, the revealed direction of migration is atypical and has appeared because of influence of weather conditions.

Thus, for today we are far from full representation of migrations of birds of prey in Ukraine. Supposedly, not all places of concentration of birds during migration are known. The revealed areas of the narrowing of migratory streams demand further researches and all protection.

If you have any additions to the given paper, we’ll be grateful for the information.

Maxim Gavrilyuk


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Galushchenko, S. V, Moroz, V.A. 2008.Seasonal migrations of birds in Provalskaya Steppe. In: Transactions of Lugansk Nature Reserve, Lugansk. Issue 1, pp. 185-206. [in Russian]

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