Plundering of nests
Plundering of nests is one of the main factors for the deplorable status of the species. People of sound mind and attitude toward nature cannot accept easily that this is possible in the 21st Century, but it is a fact that even today the plundering of eggs and juvenile Saker falcons continues in order to satisfy an atavistic passion to tame and hold this wonderful bird in captivity.
In order to prevent such practices the BSPB has collaborated with the Electrical Power System Operator EAD branch of the National Electricity Company to install more than 300 nest boxes for Saker falcons on high voltage line pylons (with 50 of those boxes being installed within the LIFE+ project). These boxes "protect" the birds with the 400,000 voltage. Other 70 nest boxes have been placed on tall trees in distant locations where the likelihood of the birds' being found is minimal.
Some of the indirect measures to protect the species and to prevent nest plundering involve interaction with the institutions responsible for the creation and enforcement of laws. The BSPB works actively with the Police, the Prosecutor's office, the Customs Agency, the Ministry of Environment and Water, and with the local authorities to prevent such crimes against nature.
According to the Penal Code of the Republic of Bulgaria, the taking of wild animals from nature, as well as the destruction, holding or selling of wild animals endangered in Europe or globally, such as the Saker falcon, are subject to imprisonment for up to 5 years and a fine of BGN 1,000 to 5,000.
Should you witness or doubt any such crime, please, contact us at 02 846 59 19.
Poison baiting and pigeon breeding
Another fundamental reason for the unenviable status of the species in Bulgaria is the use of poisons. The improper use of pesticides in agriculture and the illegal poison baiting (especially by pigeon breeders) have caused many Saker falcon deaths, including the death of some Hungarian birds wintering in Bulgaria and tracked by satellite transmitters.
Shooting and poaching
A negative attitude toward raptors as enemies to man and game animals has been instilled at the beginning of the XX century. Having been declared "harmful", the birds have been exterminated by all possible means: shooting, destruction of nests and eggs, traps, poison, en-masse hunting, bounties for destroyed falcons, eagles and hawks. Only a few decades ago hunting licenses were being renewed upon presentation of severed raptor legs.
Government people of the previous generations had been thinking in the following elementary way: 'raptors eat hares and partridges and if we destroy them, there will be more game and other animals for us.' In time, ecological science has subsequently shown that most raptors feed on rodents and are even 'useful' to us, humans. And those few who feed on game animals also occupy an extremely important place in nature. This was felt by hunters in Norway who had succeeded in exterminating raptors almost completely in the belief that this would increase the number of white partridges. The opposite happened - the number of partridges plummeted from the time before the raptor campaign. The opposite happened – the numbers of partridges fell precipitously because of a contagious disease which had not been able to spread previously, as the sick birds had been eaten quickly by predators. Once the raptors had been killed, sick partridges managed to infect man healthy partridges and the disease had become catastrophic.
Destruction and degradation of habitats
The destruction and degradation of suitable nesting and hunting sites are some of the most serious threats for the species. There are negative changes in many places in Bulgaria where the species had been present in the past. Livestock breeding has been reduced to a minimum or completely gone in many areas, which have caused many pastures to become neglected and unsuitable for souslik - the main species within the food spectrum of the Saker falcon. Another problem is the plughing up of old pasture lands or their being planted with vines or with other crops.
Treasure seeking, rock climbing and other extreme sports at unsuitable time in places inhabited by the species can have a serious negative effect on the nesting success of the Saker falcon. The birds are very sensitive early on in the mating period to any human presence in the nesting area. Even the least significant disturbance during this time can be fatal. The pair may leave the area and even if it does not, the eggs, although abandoned for a short time only, may overheat or cool, depending on the weather, or be eaten by a predator.
Unscrupulous management of Natura 2000 areas
Providing adequate protection of the Saker falcon in the Natura 2000 network areas by establishing suitable management regimes is also important for the survival of the species. In many cases, the direct nature conservation activities of the BSPB should be accompanied by a commensurate resource to overcome the avalanche of environmentally harmful projects that do not take into consideration the conservation of globally protected species.