Following the life of pair of Saker Falcon by using web cam
In the frame of the international Saker conservation LIFE programme, MAVIR (the Hungarian high-voltage electricity transmission operator company) started to install the web cam and its accessories on 1st March and it was set ready on the 8th. It would have been better to complete the task earlier, however the weather did not favour for that. The web cam, the solar panels and their accessories were installed by professionals, who wore special 'FAM' protecting clothes as the 400 kV power line were not switched off during the operation. The falcons did not fly away, but they were watching closely the action from the nearby pylons.
Near the Saker's pylon with the web cam, a pair of Raven is breeding. That makes the falcons watchful, because – although the Ravens do not threaten their lives – very rarely it occurs that in a careless moment they steal and eat the falcon eggs.
It was already on 8th March that we observed the first appearance of the male through the web cam and next they the female showed up too. It was helpful in this situation that the birds bred successfully in the same nest box and they were used to their neighbourhood. It means that they did not give up the nest box, and the female soon laid the first egg.
The display flight of Sakers starts in the end of February – in the beginning of March. They fly high posing in a spectacular way, and meanwhile they are chasing away other birds of prey from the vicinity of chosen nest site. The male is feeding the female already in the display period. On one hand he proves his fitness this way (showing that they will be able to feed the family later), and on the other hand, he is fulfilling the female's need for nutrition that increases in the period of egg laying. The laying starts in the beginning / mid March, but mating keeps continuing. Sakers start incubating after laying the third egg, thus the chicks from the later eggs hatch a few days later. A full clutch consists of 3-5 eggs, the incubation time is 32-34 days. It is mainly the female that incubates. She swivels the eggs from time to time, shadows them and meanwhile she makes the nest more comfortable.
We have been registering the habitat of this Saker pair as a Saker-habitat for eight years now, but the individuals have changed during this time. In this case, the male is approximately 5-6 years old, his breast feathers are lighter-coloured, his legs are brighter yellow and he is smaller than the female – this latter is a general rule among birds of prey species. Although the biological age of Sakers may be as long as 25 years, due to the various mortality factors, they live much less in nature. The female has got an ornithological ring and a PIT ring too, which is indicating that she was ringed in the frame of the previous LIFE programme. The male does not have ring.
Sakers may be identified by their rings later. Last year two strong juveniles (a female and a male) fledged from this nest and both were ringed by the experts of MME and with the assistance of MAVIR. They were not the only ones: in total, 293 chicks were ringed in Hungary in 2012.
The observation is continuous also in the night. Infra red light – that the birds cannot detect – reflects the nest box and an infra-camera records the pictures, which are black and white that time. Night (thus 24-hour) observation of a Saker nest has not been done anywhere in the world so far.
The Saker Falcon is a strictly protected species in Hungary, its conservation value is one-million HUF (approximately € 3500).