The Saker Falcon (Falco cherrug) − is a rare breeding species of birds of prey, listed in the Red Data Book of Ukraine. Its number has sharply declined in the first half of the 20th century. Then a gradual restoration of the population started in the 1980s, and in the Red Data Book of Ukraine (Milobog, 2009) the bird number was estimated as 250-300 pairs. As a result of the population growth in Europe BirdLife International in 2010 revised the conservation status of this raptor and moved it from the category «endangered» (EN) to «vulnerable» (VU). This fact caused many negative responses of birds of prey experts (see, for instance, articles of O.V.Belyalov, A.V.Moshkin in the journal “Raptors Conservation” (2010)).
The Saker population in Ukraine is extremely vulnerable. Major threats are poaching (includes taking out birds for falconry), inadequate food supply, lack of breeding sites. Therefore, we support a reasonable position to return the status «endangered» for the species.
At the Saker International Conference in Hungary, September 2010, there was presented a report by Yu. V. Milobog and V.V. Vetrov on the current state of population of this species in Ukraine and adjacent territories. As a result of more detailed studies conducted in recent years, the number was estimated as 315-345 pairs. The report is available here:
Milobog Y., Vetrov V. Saker Falcon (Falco cherrug) in Ukraine and adjacent areas // Conservation of the Saker Falcon (Falco cherrug) in Europe – Sharing the results of the life06nat/h/000096 “Conservation of the Falco cherrug in the Carpathian Basin” Project (Bukk National Park Directorate Eger, Hungary, 16-18 September 2010)
Size 40 kB, pdf-file
This post continues a story about the scientific expedition to Kazakhstan in 2011. Part 1 is available to read here.
The middle of the first decade of May was marked with appearance of first Rosy Starlings. And the Lesser Short-toed Lark and Calandra Larks had first fledglings which become easy and accessible prey for raptors. Just at that period, we began finding first broods of the Houbara Bustard and saw displaying Asian Sparrowhawks in the river valleys of Bakanaska and Ayaguz. During daily field visits it was recorded an increasing number of migratory Sparrowhawks, Merlins, Hobby Falcons, Honey Buzzards and Crested Honey Buzzards. Sites of concentration of rodent colonies (sousliks, Libyan jirds) accumulated immature or not yet started breeding Steppe Eagles, Imperial Eagles, Long-legged Buzzard and Pallid Harriers. First chicks of Long-legged Buzzards started appearing in the nests in the late first and early second decade of May. The Quail could be already seen in mass numbers, and we often observed Pallid Harriers hunting these small Gallinaceae birds.
Photo by S. Domashevsky, May 2011.
On the river Ayaguz (flowing into Lake Balkhash) water levels began dropping and bars with rapid waters accumulated small fish species rising to spawn. It has lead to concentration of immature Black Storks (13 birds) and White Pelicans (about 200 individuals), as well as dozens of Yellow-legged and Great Black-headed Gulls, Comon Terns. In mid-May we found Great Bustard chicks aged 2-3 days. The plains and valleys of the rivers were full of small passerine birds migrating northward. Just in the river valleys there were found nesting Montagu’s Harriers, and their males often fly away to hunt at the distance up to 5 km from their nesting sites. Lesser Kestrels in the early third decade of May incubated full clutches. Their nests were located in the chimneys of destroyed buildings of an abandoned village. At the beginning of the third decade of May in a saxaul wood there it was revealed the Short-toed Eagle’s nest, located at the height of about two meters, where the female was incubating the full clutch – 1 egg. Our Hungarian colleague, Gabor Papp, birds of prey expert, was lucky to see a young Pallas’s Fish Eagle, which is now extremely rare in Kazakhstan.