1. bookVolume 13 (2019): Issue 1 (December 2019)
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2644-5247
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09 Nov 2012
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English
access type Open Access

Changes in nesting habitat of the saker falcon (Falco cherrug) influenced its diet composition and potentially threatened its population in Slovakia in the years 1976–2016

Published Online: 20 Feb 2020
Volume & Issue: Volume 13 (2019) - Issue 1 (December 2019)
Page range: 75 - 104
Received: 04 Oct 2019
Accepted: 06 Dec 2019
Journal Details
License
Format
Journal
eISSN
2644-5247
First Published
09 Nov 2012
Publication timeframe
1 time per year
Languages
English
Abstract

In the period between the years 1976 to 2016 we monitored the nesting site distribution of two populations of saker falcon (Falco cherrug) concentrated in the highlands and adjacent lowlands of western and eastern Slovakia. In western Slovakia we recorded nesting by 56 pairs and 514 nestings, and in eastern Slovakia we observed nesting by 32 pairs and 245 nestings. There were similar nesting success rates in both regions, with pairs producing on average 3.2 young in every successful nest. During the monitored period as a whole a total of 1,788 young saker falcons were raised. At the same time all the pairs gradually resettled in the lowlands, and in the new environment the nesting success rate significantly improved (81.1% compared with 57.1 % in the highlands). This change of nesting biotopes was caused by the impacts of intensive exploitation and environmentally inappropriate forest management, with the accompanying excessive disturbance of nesting birds, but at the same time the disappearance of ground squirrel (Spermophilus citellus) colonies led to a change in the food spectrum for the observed saker falcon pairs. We evaluated the falcons’ feeding habits in western Slovakia between the years 1977 and 2016 (49 pairs; 1–17 pairs/year) and in eastern Slovakia between 2009 and 2016 (12 pairs; 1–3 pairs/year). Altogether 17,669 prey items were identified. From 1976 onwards mammals (Mammalia, 19.8%, 24 species) became gradually less represented as a component in the falcons’ diet compared with birds (Aves, 79.9%, 58 species). In areas of western Slovakia we found stable and predominant proportions of domestic pigeons (Columba livia f. domestica) ranging from 52% to 62%. The proportion of pigeons was distinctly lower in eastern Slovakia (31.5%), compensated for by larger shares of common vole (Microtus arvalis), common starling (Sturnus vulgaris), Eurasian magpie (Pica pica) and hooded crow (Corvus cornix). The common starling (9.5%) was a significant prey species in the lowlands of western and eastern Slovakia alike. Mammals were mostly represented by common voles (9.8%), European hamsters (Cricetus cricetus, 5.3%), ground squirrels (2.1%) and hares (Lepus europaeus, 1.6%). Changes over time in the composition of falcons’ prey were also evaluated over five periods in western Slovakia.

Keywords

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