New nest boxes for the Saker falcons were installed in Dobrogea

May 22, 2024
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With the arrival of spring, the project partners from Romanian Ornithological Society began a new action from the conservation plan of the South-Romanian Saker falcon population. Until the end of the year, we will install 60 nest boxes in order to provide new, and as safe as possible breeding platforms for this threatened species.

Between the 11th and the 15th of April, a team consisting of SOR experts, a representative of Transelectrica and personnel authorized in working on electrical pylons visited multiple locations in Dobrogea and Southern Romania in order to install the first 9 artificial nest boxes planned to be put in place within the LIFE for Falcons project.

This conservation measure is necessary because, based on observations from other parts of the area occupied by Sakers, a major limiting factor of population growth is the availability of breeding platforms, as these falcons don’t build their own nest, occupying those of other species instead.

The nest boxes are beneficial both for the Saker falcon as well as for other species with a preference for occupying such structures. One of their advantages is that they offer a permanent breeding place compared to natural nests built on pylons, that are periodically removed in order to prevent damage to the electrical lines, an activity done by the electrical companies outside of the breeding season.

This artificial nest box is a model used in similar Saker conservation projects in Europe – Bulgaria, Hungary, a model proved to be successfully occupied by the species. The nest box, made of aluminium, with a volume of 0.2 m3 and a weight of app. 8 kg, is equipped with a metallic mesh at the bottom, that prevents the accumulation of rain water, covered by a layer of gravel for protection.


Though aimed to be used by Saker falcons, the nest box can be occupied by other raptor species, especially by Kestrels (Falco tinnunculus) or Long-legged buzzards (Buteo rufinus), the latter building their usual nest made of tree branches inside the aluminium box. The experts observed these boxes to be taken over by Rooks (Corvus frugilegus) and they could also be occupied by Ravens (Corvus corax), a species present in Dobrogea and whose nesting in such structures was reported in Bulgaria by the BSPB.

Installing the 60 nest boxes on the high voltage electrical pylons is a complex action, made possible by the partnership established at the beginning of this year with the Transelectrica company. The calendar of the nest box installation was set based on the revision programme of the electrical lines and the work is implemented by authorised personnel under the supervision of a representative of Transelectrica. We would like to thank Transelectrica for their support and professionalism proven during the action and for their help in implementing these conservation activities. This action represents the starting point for a larger collaboration in the future that aims to prevent the potential conflicts between birds and electrical lines, by transforming them in safe structures for birds.


We have to mention that, besides the above-mentioned benefits – nest boxes respecting the needs of the species, as well as permanently available nesting platforms, the 400.000 volts circulating in the electrical lines offer complete protection against nest robbing. Poaching is a major threat for many raptor species, including the Saker falcon. In the 80s and 90s of the last century, and at the beginning of the 2000s, nest robbing presented one of the major threats for the Sakers, resulting in their rapid decline in Bulgaria, the eggs and young of raptors being sold illegally or ending up in private collections. Additionally, human disturbance is also avoided. Disturbance caused by people near the nest can result in failed breeding. If the adults leave the eggs or the chicks unsupervised because of the intrusion, these can die or be eaten by other animals, such as martens, ravens or crows. The disturbance of nesting sites is an increasing problem, mainly caused by the lack of awareness of the public, the lack of information, the absence of marked touristic pathways or indicators and the lack of control by authorities in the protected areas.

During the next months, the action will continue in the same region as the project team will install nest boxes both inside and nearby the Natura 2000 sites included in the LIFE for Falcons project. If in the previous years the monitoring efforts meant for our biologists covering 4000 km in each spring looking for breeding pairs, in the future this distance will increase substantially. We know that the occupation of nests, and implicitly the increase of the southern population of Sakers is a long process, and the reduced number of individuals in Dobrogea is a factor contributing to it dragging even more out. Nevertheless, reducing the anthropic threats that the Saker falcons are facing both in their breeding, as well as in their potential colonisation areas will offer a real chance both for the natural recovery of the population, as well as for the settlement of the birds coming from the other breeding programmes.