Studies of birds of prey in the alienated zone of Chornobyl atomic power station, continued in May 2012

September 5th, 2012 Posted in Fauna, Field researches, Photos

Prior studies in the CAPS alienated zone were provided by us in the first and second decades of April 2012. That time we did night census of owls and in the daylight searched for nests of birds of prey in special distinguished parts of forest areas. From 21 to 27 May we undertook the second expedition.

Photo: S. Domashevsky, S. Gashchak

In the morning hours expedition participants carried bird censuses along transects, during the daytime checked occupation of raptor’s nests which had been found in April.

First sites of forests and meadows we investigated in Tolstolesivske Forestry. There were surveyed 9 nests of feathery raptors, of them only 2 were occupied by birds. One nest belonged to the Buzzard, four chicks there; the eldest is about 2 weeks. One of the most impressing finds was an occupied nest of the Spotted Eagle. Obviously, this is a single known case of breeding this species in Kyiv Region for over last 30-40 years. However, this pair of birds were hybrids: female of the Spotted and the male of the Lesser Spotted Eagle. Another luck was discovery of an Eagle Owl’s nest in the place where we had observed an adult bird from a breeding pair on 7 April in the village of Bovishshe. The birds reared chicks in an attic of the small bathhouse which still stand half-flooded by waters of a small rivulet. The brood included 3 chicks (2 females and a male, which was the youngest). The eldest owlet was about 1 month age. The attic roof composed of planks, slits between them about 5 cm wide. The floor was covered with feathers and pieces of bones belonged to the Eagle Owl’s prey. Judging by the state of some feathers and bones, the Eagle Owls nested in the place for at least the second year.

We managed to indentify some prey remains in situ: Tawny Owl, Woodcock, Mallard, Eurasian headgehog and the vole sp. Still, it is the second reliable find of the Eagle Owl on breeding in the alienated zone. The first case of finding chick was recorded in 2002 in the CAPS area (Gashchak et al., 2006). Also pleasant was an encounter of the Great Grey Owl settled in a raptor’s nest. On 21 May, the female was warming small chicks which heads were visible from land. This owl species successfully distributes in the territory of Right-Bank Polissia and first breeding cases in Kyiv Region were already known 10 years ago (Domashevsky, 2004, 2009; Mishchenko, 2004). In Tolstolesivske Foresry we found a territory of the Short-toed Eagle, not known before. The pair of Lesser Spotted Eagles, discovered in April, left their nest vacant this season and probably built a new one.

The second part of surveyed forest and meadow areas was located in the Uzh River valley between the villages of Novoselki and Glynka. Following the same scheme we checked 5 raptor’s nests, of them only 4 were used (3 nests of the Buzzard and 1 of the White-tailed Eagle). We checked a hard-to-get old nest of the White-tailed Eagle located on the pine at the height of 25 m. Ascending to the nest, surveying it (taking photos and ringing of chicks), and then descending took 1 hour 55 min. The nest had 2 chicks of about 5 weeks age. In the diet we noticed remains of fish and Black Stork. Close to the CAPS we also inspected a nest of another pair of these eagles but unfortunately their breeding was not successful. In the tray we found a half of the egg with an undeveloped chick.

During the expedition we had several encounters with the Whooper Swan. The alienated zone is the only place of breeding this species in Ukraine).

During rides between study points we recorded other species of feathered raptors as well (Honey Buzzard – only 2 migrating birds, relation of one bird to a territory is not identified; Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Hobby Falcon, Kestrel). Among bird species included in the Red Data Book of Ukraine we recorded the Black Stork, Montagu’s Harrier, Short-toed Eagle, Spotted and Lesser Spotted Eagles, White-tailed Eagle, Black Grouse, Hazel Grouse, Common Crane, Roller and Great Grey Shrike. And, as always, within the alienated zone there many encounters of other animals, including the wolf.

Sergey Domashevsky, Ukrainian Birds of Prey Research Centre;
Sergey Gashchak, State Scientific Research Organization “Chornobyl Centre on Issues of Nuclear Safety, Radioactive Waste and its Radioecology”;
Igor Chizhevsky, Chornobyl Radioecological Centre


Gashchak S.P.(2005): Toward breeding of the Whooper Swan in the Chornobyl Zone of Ukraine. – Berkut. 14(2): 269-270. [in Russian]

Gashchak S.P., Vishnevsky D.О., Zalisky О.О. (2006): Fauna of vertebrate animals in the Chornobyl alienated zone (Ukraine). – Published by Chornobyl Centre on Issues of Nuclear Safety, Radioactive Waste and its Radioecology: 100 p. [in Ukraine]

Domashevsky S.V. (2004): Great Grey Owl (Strix nebulosa) in Kyiv Polissia. – Vestnik zoologii. 38 (2): 20. [in Russian]

Domashevsky S.V. Distribution of the Great Grey Owl in Ukrainian Polissia. – Owls of North Eurasia: ecology, spatial and biotope distribution /Volkov S.V. (chief ed.), Sharikov A.V., Morozov V.V. – Мoscow. – 2009. P. 126. [in Russian]

Mishchenko М.О. (2004): Breeding of the Great Grey Owl (Strix nebulosa) in the territory of Kyiv Region during two years. – Vestnik zoologii. 38(3): 36.


You must be logged in, to comment.