Falco subbuteo Linnaeus, 1758
Conservation status: in Bulgaria: Vulnerable VU=A[2(a+c)], BDA-II, III; International: CITES-II, BeC-II, BoC-II.
General distribution. A Palearctic species breeding in Europe and Asia, in the east to China, in the south to Northern Africa. The European population is under 120 000 pairs.
Distribution and abundance in Bulgaria. A breeding summer visitor and passage migrant. Until 1985 it was widely distributed and common in the multiplication period . In 1990 it became rarer , the number of breeding pairs amounting to 10-100 . It mainly breeds in the Upper Thracian lowland, the valley of the Danube, the low mountainous regions in the Balkan and the Rhodopes range, the mountains Rila, Pirin, Vlahina, Malashevska, and also in the high fields of Western Bulgaria (the areas of the town of Samokov and the city of Sofia). In many of these areas it has separate habitats and low numbers. The present population is estimated at 800 – 1 200 pairs .
Habitats. Riverside habitats, where it is often linked to colonies of the sand martin (Riparia riparia). In Western and Northern Bulgaria it often sticks to urbanized sites, where it feeds on synanthropic species of birds. It is present in the flat regions, in thin, lit deciduous, mixed or coniferous forests, in the vicinity to open spaces . In the mountains, separate pairs have been found breeding at altitudes of up to 1 500 – 1 700 m.
Biology. It uses old nests of other birds, mainly crow birds. It rarely nests on high-voltage posts and rocks. It forms mixed colonies with the Red-footed Falcon (F. vespertinus)and the Common Kestrel (F. tinnunculus), it is also present in the colonies of the Rook (Corvus frugilegus). The female lays 2-4 eggs in May, that hatch on the 28th day. The young ones leave the nests at the age of about 30 days. It feeds mainly on small birds and large insects, catching them in the air; less often on bats, small ground mammals and reptiles .
Similar species. The Merlin (Falco columbarius).
Negative factors. Loss of appropriate habitats because of felling riverside and valley forests; disturbance during the multiplication period; illegal shooting by poachers; use of rodenticides and insecticides.
Conservation measures taken. Protected according to the Biological Diversity Act. Included in the Red Data Book of Bulgaria (1985). Some of its breeding places are within Protected Natural Territories. Over 60 % of the breeding population falls within habitats of the Natura 2000 national ecological network. The Centre for Rehabilitation and Multiplication of Rare Species in the city of Stara Zagora provides qualified aid to birds in distress that are either returned to nature or take part in programmes for artificial multiplication and restocking.
Conservation measures needed. A detailed study of the biology, the numbers and the modern distribution of the species. Preparation and enforcement of a National Action Plan. Carrying out educational and informational campaigns about birds of prey among the population.
References. 1. Patev, 1950; 2. Simeonov, 1990; 3. Michev, 1982; 4. Nankinov et al., 2004; 5. Cramp et al., 1983; 6. Shurulinkov et al., 2005.
Authors: Ivelin Ivanov, Georgi P. Stoyanov