Serbian Saker decreasing despite intense efforts
Pigeon breeders, farmers, poachers and strong winds: the many threats to the rare Falcon.
Fourteen, maybe seventeen pairs: that’s all that remains of the rare and beautiful Saker Falcon in Serbia. Estimated at some 55 pairs in 2007, the population has dramatically decreased according to the data gathered by the Bird Protection and Study Society of Serbia (BPSSS; BirdLife Partner).
Just like in other Central and Eastern European countries, Saker Falcons tend to breed on high-voltage electricity pylons, mostly in the Pannonian area of Serbia, an intensively cultivated open land, densely inhabited. Saker Falcons tend to occupy the nests of Common Ravens and Carrion Crows on the pylons, which make them vulnerable to a large number of threats.
According to Draženko Rajković, head of the Saker Conservation Programme at BPSSS, the biggest threats these birds are facing are nest destruction, killing of adult Sakers and stealing of chicks from the nests. These human pressures add to natural causes, such as the destruction of nests by strong winds and rain.
The Saker Conservation Programme started seven years ago and began a number of actions aimed at solving the problems, "Following the succesful installations of artificial nests in neighbouring Hungary, which led to a stabilisation of the Saker Falcon population in the country, we decided to consult with MME-BirdLife Hungary on how to proceed. The first wooden trays were installed in 2006, and by 2008 we had installed 100 of them with the financial support of the Government of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina. The first pair of Saker started breeding in the wooden trays in 2013, and until now an additional two have accepted such nests", says Rajković.
The efforts to provide safe nesting to Saker Falconss is still ongoing. Recently 30 metal boxes with a roof were installed on pylons with the key logistical support of Elektromreža Srbije Public Enterprise (EMS), a state-owned company that maintains a high-voltage distribution system.
BPSSS Secretary Marko Tucakov stressed the importance of the role played by EMS in this conservation effort: “There is no state company nor governmental institution with whom we have achieved such a high level of understanding and collaboration, to the extent that they have asked us to organise educational workhops with EMS workers, who have effectively become responsible for the future of the Saker population».
Sadly, despite all efforts being made to preserve the life of this species, BPSSS still asseses their conservation status in Serbia as “very unfavorable”. The main reason for this, according to conservationists, is pigeon breeding, especially of the races meant for fast flying and orientation contests. Conservationists blame criminals among the pigeon breeding community for being responsible of the intentional killing of adults and the destruction of their nests, since the majority of the Serbian Sakers are extensively preying domestic raised pigeons during the breeding period. Serbian ornithologists therefore call on the inspectors, the police and the prosecutors to take urgent actions to stop this acute threat to the already critically small Serbian Saker population.