Ponor SPA



The area covers the Ponor Mountain with altitude of 900 to 1,400 m, situated some 50 km north-west of the capital city of Sofia. It is part of the Western Stara Planina (Balkan Mountain Range). About 60% of the territory of the massif is covered by grassland communities a unique mosaic of mountainous pastures, hay meadows with calciphyle and mesophyte grass vegetation, calcareous cliffs and pastoral patches. The grasslands are surrounded by broadleaved forests of Fagus moesiaca above 1,000 m a.s.l., at places mixed with Carpinus betulus (Bondev, 1991), oak forests up to 600 m a.s.l., mixed oak hornbeam forests between 600 and 1,000 m a.s.l., as well as rocky crests and stony karst terrain and, to a lesser extent, agricultural plots. Ponor Mountain is formed by limestone and dolomites and represents one of the biggest and most characteristic Karst areas in Bulgaria. About 60% of the territory of the massif is covered by grassland communities - a unique mosaic of mountainous pastures, hay meadows, calcareous cliffs and pastoral patches.

Birds in the protected area

These habitats and the traditional land use provide suitable conditions breeding and migration of 140 bird species, 50 of which are of European conservation concern. Five of them are included in category SPEC 1 as globally threatened, 15 in SPEC 2 and 30 in SPEC 3 as threatened in Europe. Forty-one species are listed in the Red Data Book for Bulgaria as rare or endangered, as well as 38 species included in Annex 2 of the Biodiversity Act. Ponor Mountain is of global importance for the Corncrake Crex crex breeding there. The area provides suitable habitats for 35 species included into Annex I of the Birds Directive and 8 more migrating species. It is one of the most important sites in the country on a European Union scale for Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus), Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), Corncrake, Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo), Grey-headed Woodpecker (Picus canus), Woodlark (Lullula arborea), Barred Warbler (Sylvia nisoria) and Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio). It supports considerable populations of the Rock Partridge Alectoris graeca, Common Quail (Coturnix coturnix), Eurasian Wryneck (Jynx torquilla), Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush (Monticola saxatilis) and European Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis). Ponor Mountain is important during migration mainly for raptors, including the globally threatened Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni) and Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus).

Targeted studies during the period 2008–2013 confirmed that the area is important site for Saker falcon both on migration and during the breeding season. Multiple records of adult Sakers gave indications for possible breeding of at least one pair. Ponor SPA is an important area also for the migrating juveniles, especially from the Hungarian population. Targeted studies confirmed regular presence of Saker Falcons on migration and during breeding season in Ponor SPA. The individuals, which spend migration and staging period of the year in suitable habitats, are important source for natural repopulation of the area.

Threats to the protected area

  • Habitat deterioration
    Pastures far away from settlements are not used completely. This cause overgrown of grasslands with shrubs and trees and deterioration of key habitats for targeted bird species.
  • Human activities
    Conversion of grasslands into arable land also causes of loss of habitats. The drainage of the karst area by piping in lower parts of the mountain affects the quality of meadow habitats. Other threats are the unsustainable forest management, tourism and recreation type of activities not suitable for the region.
  • Poaching
    Poaching as well as taking chicken and eggs from the nests of raptors affect bird populations.