Saker Falcon

Falco cherrug Gray, 1834

Falco sacer Gm.: Farman, 1868: 409; Elwes, Buckley, 1870: 73; Falco lanarius L.: Reiser, 1894: 112.

Order Falconiformes

Family Falconidae

Conservation status: in Bulgaria: Critically endangered CR=[A [1(a + d) + 3 (c + d)] + B1 [1a +b(i, iv,v)] + C [1 + 2(a(i))] + D + E], BDA-III. International: IUCN-EN, ECS-Spec 3, BD-II, BeC-III, CITES-II, BoC-II.

General distribution. A species with a probable Mongolo-Tibetan type of distribution. In Europe, three populations exist: from the Czech Republic through Eastern Austria, Slovakia and Hungary to Serbia and Western Romania, 200 pairs; the Ukraine, including Crimea and Moldova, 340-360 pairs; and a disappearing population near Ural consisting of 30-60 pairs. It is also found in Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Uzbekistan, Southern Siberia, Western China and Mongolia.

Distribution and abundance in Bulgaria. Resident and passage migrant, in the past widespread and numerous [1]. Between 20 and 25 years ago and until the middle of the 1990s [2, 3] it was still widespread and, although rather reduced, was even found in Southwestern Bulgaria, which is the natural periphery of the area of the species in the Western Palearctic. At the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century, a catastrophic decline of its numbers was observed [4]. The last successful breeding was registered in 1997, and another one probably took place in 2005. In 2006, in spite of the detailed checks of the breeding habitats from the past in the country, nests were not found (D. Ragyov, personal communication).

Habitats. In Bulgaria, there are two types of habitats: flooded forests and rock complexes in valley and mountainous regions close to open territories. With the decrease of the wetlands it settles more frequently in the mountains. In Europe it gradually moves from the steppe and forest steppe regions to regions with intensive agriculture, where it nests on the poles of power lines.

Biology. The breeding territory is occupied at the end of February. It breeds on rocks and in trees, in nests of other species or directly on a rock cornice, or in niches without any covering. It lays 2 6 eggs at the end of March or the beginning of April. The incubation is 30 days, and the young leave the nest at the age of about 40 45 days. It mainly feeds on hamsters, which is also the major food for feeding the young. It catches other rodents, as well as small or moderately large birds: doves, crows, thrushes, game birds, etc.

Similar species. The Lanner Falcon (Falco biarmicus).

Negative factors. Taking young birds from the nests and capture of adults during migration and wintering. Decrease of the numbers of the hamster and change of agricultural practices.

Conservation measures taken. A plan for the preservation of the species; two projects for investigation and conservation (a similar project was realized in 2002 2004, without finding any breeding); some of the habitats are in protected territories, including national parks.

Conservation measures needed. Guarding nests, in case they are found. Study of the migration and the wintering of the species. Preservation and restoration of the population of the hamster. Ban on falcon artificial breeding. Reintroduction.

References. 1. Patev, 1950; 2. Michev, Petrov 1985; 3. Stoyanov, Kuzmanov; 4. Domuschiev, in press.

Authors: Dobromir Domuschiev, Tanyo Michev, Georgi Stoyanov, IIliya Vatev, Tseno Petrov, Kamen Ruskov

Saker Falcon (distribution map)

Saker Falcon (drawing)