Falco cherrug (Gray, 1834)
Synonyms: Falco cyanopus Tienemann, 1846; Falco saker gurneyi Menzbier, 1888; Falco hierofalco danubialis Kleinschmidt, 1939; Falco hierofalco aralocaspius Kleinschmidt, 1939.
Common names: Engl: Saker; Russ: Baloban; Turk: Uludogan; Ukr: Baloban.
Order (Scientific): FALCONIFORMES.
Family (Scientific): FALCONIDAE.
Taxonomic descriptions: In 1965-1973 there were at least 12-15 breeding pairs in the whole Crimea. 19-25 pairs were reported in 1978-1985. The numbers remained the same in the mid nineties.
World level: VU
Black Sea Regional level: VU
Subregion level: VU
Distribution: Irregular breeding pairs occur in the sea-side districts of the Odessa region and in the northern parts of the Sivash (the Kherson region). Total number of breeding pairs may be estimated to be within 25-28. Falco cherrug is rather rare migrant, but occurs throughout the area. Winter-time number hardly reaches 10 specimens.
Habitats type, Critical habitats, Limiting factors: In the Crimea they are highland plateau precipices, less frequently cliffs in old forests bordering open areas, where the species reaches as high as an altitude of 600 metres, rocky sites in the steppe, rocky and clay precipices of the sea shore. The forestless agricultural landscapes of the Odessa region were occupied owing to its ability to nest on the pylons.
Biology: Breeding migratory species. Part of the Crimean population is probably wintering. In the rocky areas breeding sites include niches and ledges, when nesting on the pylons Falco cherrug uses old raven nests. Display flights are observed in the first and second thirds of March. The earliest clutches can be found at the end of the month. Clutch size varies from 1 to 5 eggs, usually 3-4, sometimes 2-5. Incubation takes 28-30 days. Chicks appear by the early April and the majority of them fledge out at the end of May - beginning of June. The males begin to forage on their own earlier than females, somewhere around the first ten days of August. From the second ten days of the month males start autumn movements, whereas juvenile females stay in the breeding areas till the end of September. Adult birds leave in the first ten days of November. Single birds and pairs winter either in the nest surroundings or in the adjusted areas. Diet consists basically of gophers (65-70% ratio). Besides that Falco cherrug preys on small and middle sized birds like larks, starlings, crows. Rarely picks up small mice.
Population trends: The first nests on the pylons were recorded in the late seventies (the Odessa region). Since then it has become usual. Southward expansion of the breeding range resulted in an increase of their numbers in the forestless steppe areas.
Threats: Grazing, human disturbance, hunting of migratory birds, illegal bird-trade and extraction of the chicks, clutch loss connected with natural landscape transformation (fall of the precipices), decrease in the prey species, various sicknesses of the chicks (aspergillese, candidamicose).
Conservation measures taken: Falco cherrug is protected in the Karadag natural reservoir and successfully breeds in captivity in Odessa Zoo.
Conservation measures proposed: A special programme for the protection of each breeding pair is necessary.
Compiled by: V.Kinda.