Bad breeding season for Saker Falcons in 2013

Saker Falcon population was surveyed again in 2013 in the frame of LIFE09 NAT/HU/000384 'Conservation of Falco cherrug in NE Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia' Saker conservation LIFE projekt coordinated by Bükk National Park Directorate, Hungary. According to the summarised results, bad spring weather was not good for Saker Falcons.

Breeding success of Sakers was extremely low compared to the previous years. Unlike in the last two years, when more than 400 fledglings left the nests, this year 78 pairs failed breeding and only 149 juveniles fledged from 65 successful breeding. Similarly low rate was only experienced in 2010, when number of juveniles was under 200 due to the rainy, cold spring.

This year's extremely cold spring caused the failure of many breeding, and some pairs did not even start breeding, but left their eyries in early breeding season. The cause of failures was not directly the cold, but the lack of prey due to the cold. Prey species, providing the major food source for Sakers this time of the year, halted their migration, thus falcons could not hunt. In normal case, males are hunting and feeding the females during early stage of breeding, but this year – as prey availability was extremely low – females needed to hunt too. Therefore, they did not incubate the eggs, which went cold and died.

Beside that, unfortunately, deliberate poisoning is still among the mortality factors. An adult satellite-tracked male was found poisoned, and thus not only him, but his entire clutch perished.
There were more successful years: in 2009, 429 juveniles fledged from 137 breeding.
Hereby, we want to thank for the help in surveying the population to MAVIR, national park directorates and colleagues working in the Saker conservation programme. 

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