Classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, the extremely low numbers of the Saker falcon (Falco cherrug) in Romania and Bulgaria put it on the list of Critically Endangered species in both countries. Studies show a significant population decline between 1970 and 1990, a trend that remained unchanged in 1990-2000, too.
Starting 2004, the Romanian Ornithological Society (SOR) took part in several projects aiming the conservation of this species, but almost two decades of constantly monitoring showed the need for sustained conservation measures as to ensure the survival of the Saker falcon.
Since the autumn of last year, SOR has been a partner in the project “Securing the recovery of the endangered Saker Falcon in Bulgaria and Southern Romania”, LIFE20 NAT/BG/001162, a new conservation project for this species. The project, developed on a regional level, is coordinated by the Bulgarian Society for Protection of Birds (BSPB) and has received funding from the LIFE Programme of the European Union. The project is built on four pillars: reducing the threats of poaching, poisoning and electrocution, improvement of the food supplies, improvement of the breeding grounds, and support for local communities. This strategy enables the project team to obtain tangible results in the conservation of the Saker falcon.
In March the experts from SOR conducted the first monitoring activity of the project, our teams scouring over 5000 km in Southern Romania. The number of breeding pairs in the region is still very low, and the reproductive success of the Saker falcon pairs remains to be confirmed at the time of our next visit, right before the chicks’ fledging.
In Romania the Saker falcon is not at its first project funded by the LIFE Programme. In 2010-2014 there was a international project, coordinated by the Bükk National Park from Hungary, during which the Association for Bird and Nature Protection “Milvus Group” implemented the conservation activities in Western Romania, and the Romanian Ornithological Society in the south-east of the country. The Saker population in the western part of the country, belonging to the Pannonian population, the biggest population of the species in Europe, shows signs of a comeback after the implementation of the project. The birds in South-Eastern Romania belong to the same population as the ones in the Republic of Moldova, the Ukraine and Bulgaria, a population having a decreasing trend in all three countries.
It should be noted that this action, dedicated to the monitoring of Saker falcons, also has a very positive side-effect as the fieldworkers report to have identified multiple nests belonging to other birds of prey: Long-legged buzzards, Long-eared owls and Kestrels. While Kestrels are common, with plenty of data collected about this species, we have significantly less records of confirmed breeding for Long-legged buzzards and Long-eared owls. Thus, the new information obtained is not only a valuable addition to the ”Breeding birds atlas” and other studies, but it also shows us that the area offers plenty of food sources and is a healthy environment that should be preserved in that state, also for the benefit of us humans.