Searching for Saker falcons in Romania

As the beginning of the breeding season of the Saker falcons (Falco cherrug) is the optimal time period to identify new breeding pairs on the field, employees of the “Milvus Group” have begun the search for territorial pairs and for available nests in the Western Plain of Romania and Dobrudja in March, 2012.

Regarding the Western Plain, based on the well-known preference of the Saker falcons to occupy raven (Corvus corax) nests on high voltage electric pylons, we focused our searching efforts on powerlines from the 4 counties of western Romania, which is at the same time the working area of our organization in the current Life project. Until now, almost three counties were fully verified, and in the near future we will cover the entire work area. In 14 days 750 km of high voltage electric powerlines were checked. On these powerlines, we found in total 33 available nests, of which two are occupied by Saker falcon, 22 by Raven, 8 by Common kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) and one nest is empty. Unfortunately, the only known Saker falcon nest from the last year from our country fell during this winter due to the harsh weather conditions, so the pair is not present in the area, the last presence of the birds is dating before the winter, last year.

However, the two new pairs found this year in the western part of the country means a hope for the Saker falcons in our country and provides us confidence that by improving the breeding conditions by installing artificial nests for the birds later this year, in the near future we shall speak of a stable population of Saker falcons in Romania.

In early March, in the same time with our activities in the Western Plain, we conducted similar operations in Dobrudja. First of all we had to check those areas of the Macin Mountains, which represented several years ago nesting areas for Saker falcons. Unfortunately, similarly to the situation from the last year, we didn’t have the chance to discover any Saker falcon territories this year either. Thus, we decided to put more emphasis on checking secondary nesting habitats, i.e. networks of high voltage electric powerlines, with the hope that the Saker falcons from Dobrudja changed their nesting habits, and their preference for Raven and Crow nests placed on the high voltage electric pylons has increased. For seven days, team members from “Milvus Group”, have identified 19 electric powerline nodes, which were the starting point for them in evaluating high voltage powerlines on a total length of over 400 km. The number of nests found was low, only 12 nests were identified. Host species of these nests were as follows: Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus), Magpie (Pica pica) and the Hooded crow (Corvus cornix). Although the number of nests was reduced, our results regarding the finding of new Saker falcon pairs were above expectations. On a section of approx. 15 km, we have identified three active Saker falcon territories. At two of them the Milvus team identified a pair of falcons each. Regarding the third territory, where the existence of a pair was uncertain at that moment, as only one adult bird was seen, our partners from the Romanian Ornithological Society have confirmed the presence of two adult birds forming a pair. So, suddenly, the number of territorial pairs known in Romania increased to five!

Although this news gives us hope for the fate of this species in our country, is important to note that the lack of proper nest sites for the Saker falcons is one of the most severe limiting factors of population growth in Romania. To solve this problem in the near future, mounting artificial nests on high voltage electric pylons is more than necessary. Moreover, searching for Saker falcons is not over yet, the electric power nodes found during the activities undertaken in this region by “Milvus Group”, will form the basis of other expeditions we are planning to run in the current breeding period of the falcons.

Saker falcon pair in the Banat region – Photo: Luca Andrei Dehelean

Saker falcon at it’s nest in Dobrudja – Photo: Nagy Attila

Saker falcon habitats in Dobrudja – Photo: Nagy Attila

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