Conservation of Saker (Falco cherrug) in the Carpathian Basin (LIFE06 NAT/HU/000096)
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The final conference of the Saker conservation LIFE project was held in Eger, Hungary 16-18 September. More than 60 participants from 10 countries attended the conference, where they could learn about the Saker conservation activities in the European range of the species including the results of the LIFE projects lead by Bükk National Park Directorate and expert-wisely co-ordinated by MME/BirdLife in Hungary and RPS in Slovakia. (2010/09/23)
Late October 2009 the satellite-tracked Saker Dorottya from Hungary arrived in Niger. She spent most of the following four months 50-25 km NNE of Zinder (roughly 14.00 N 9.00 E). The areas where she stayed are mostly quite flat coversands. Local rainfall averages 300-400 mm/yr. The main crop is the grain crop millet, grown by Haussa farmers. The other main land use is pastoralism, carried out primarily by Peul families. (2010/07/12)
EU's LIFE Committee has approved our new Saker conservation project for support. The aims of the project are to transfer knowledge from the recent LIFE programme to Romanian and Bulgarian colleagues on one hand, and on the other hand to continue insulation of the most dangerous places in Hungary and - involving one electric company as a partner (Západoslovenská energetika, a.s.) - in Slovakia. In the frame of the project, effects of wind farms and diet composition will also be assessed. (2010/06/21)
Three months of intense rehabilitation were not enough to save a falcon. Unfortunately, the Saker Falcon - a globally endangered species did not make it back to the wild. The bird underwent a serious operation; however its condition did not improve and likely as a result of a bacterial infection the bird died in early January 2010. (2010/01/28)
The number of downloads: 1387882
Latest update: 2014/04/28
Dóra established family (17/06/2009) >>

The first satellite-tracked Hungarian Saker has found her mate. She was the first Saker in Hungary to get equipped with satellite transmitter in June 2007 by the experts of Bükk National Park Directorate and BirdLife Hungary. It was done in the frame of the Hungarian-Slovak Saker conservation LIFE programme. Experts have been tracking Dóra since then. Her mate is also a young bird – it is indicated by a so-called PIT ring on his leg that was first used also in 2007 under the LIFE programme.

It has been a long time since the tracking device has been deployed on the bird. In the past two years Dóra has been staying mainly in the Carpathian Basin, only right after fledging she did some excursions to south (Bosnia-Herzegovina and Romania) and she spent some weeks in the Czech Republic. She spent most of the time in the southwestern part of Slovakia and in the Hungarian Small Plain, visiting her favourite sites.

Dóra’s route

Dóra’s route

In spring 2009 Dóra was in Győr-Moson-Sopron county of Hungary and by the time experts controlled her, she was already incubating her eggs. She has chosen a nest platform placed by MAVIR (Hungarian electric company) not so long ago. It is very likely that Dóra’s mate has been ringed also during the LIFE programme in 2007. He is wearing a so-called PIT ring that was first applied in 2007. It is not known yet, where the male was coming from, but there are expectations that it will turn out soon due to the PIT ring.

Chicks of the brand new pair finally hatched in good order thus Dóra has become the first Saker ever in the world that has been tracked since fledging to the first successful breeding. Later on the satellite tag will be removed.

The time between fledging and first mating is the most dangerous for all raptor species. Data provided by Dóra therefore, are invaluable for experts. Analyzing them will help to explore threatening factors thus more efficient conservation plans can be prepared. In order to achieve that all together 46 Sakers were equipped in Hungary and Slovakia in the frame of the LIFE programme.

Equipped falcons carried great news to experts about wonderful sea crossings (Montenegro-Libya), adventures in remote steppes (Russia and Kazakhstan), unbelievable overseas commuting (Hungary-Sardinia-Austria-Italy). It has become obvious that these birds think in a different way about distances and they are capable to return to their favourite site from even more thousand kilometers. At the same time, satellite tracking of falcons showed the cruel reality of human ignorance (shooting) and irresponsibility (electrocution).

More information on the species and on the conservation programme can be find on . In addition, satellite tracked birds can be followed also on that site.


Project manager
Bükk National Park Directorate
Tel:+ 36-30-349 5664

BirdLife Hungary
Tel.: +36 20 5531296
Last satellite-received transmitter on Saker (06/06/2009) >>

In the frame of Saker conservation LIFE programme, on 6th June 2009, near the village of Tiszanána experts of Bükk National Park Directorate and BirdLife Hungary deploy the last satellite-received transmitter on a juvenile Saker. During the Hungarian-Slovak programme in total 46 satellite-received transmitters have been deployed between 2007 and 2009. Results so far are far beyond the expectations and form a good base for a more efficient international Saker conservation programme.

Where do Sakers go? Where do they winter? Do they make as far as Africa? What dangers are posed on them? Do they get shot in Malta? Do they get trapped and sold in North-Africa? Is really true that only juveniles migrate? Is it a real migration or is it rather some kind of roaming?

Experts have been seeking answers to those and other questions using the state-of-the-art technology of satellite-received transmitters in order to conserve the species more efficiently.

The Saker – the legendary Turul of Hungarian legend that can be seen also on the 50HUF coin – is endangered throughout its range. It is only the small Central-European population that can be considered as stable, and even more the coherent Hungarian-Slovak population is slowly increasing due to conservation efforts. However, this small population is still vulnerable and to conserve them it is vital to learn the most important threatening factors in the areas birds are visiting.

Technology of 21st century made it possible to explore migration and roaming of falcons. Experts have learnt that birds are not behaving alike: some of them may migrate as far as Africa in the winter as Viera, a juvenile female Saker tagged in Slovakia, did. Viera spent the winter of 2008-2009 in Niger, close to the border of Nigeria and then she moved to Romania in the spring. During autumn migration she completed the distance of 1100 km above the Mediterranean Sea between Montenegro and Libya within an astonishing 24 hours. On the way home she crossed the sea again above its widest part.

Other juveniles spent the winter in the European part of Mediterranean: Italy and Greece proved important wintering sites for Hungarian and Slovak Sakers.

Some Sakers have never left the Carpathian Basin. Like Dóra, the juvenile female that was tagged in 2007 and that has chicks already in 2009. It is very likely that she will never leave the area she settled. At least data of satellite-tracked adult Sakers suggest that adult birds in pairs never leave their eyries for a longer period.

Until then, however, juvenile males may roam as far as the border of Asia, as some tracked bird, like Barna did. Their movements at the same time is an evidence that there may be exchange of gene with the eastern populations.

There are some data also about causes of mortalities: in 2008 Romeo, a Saker tagged in western part of Hungary was found electrocuted in Russia.

Data from satellite tracking are invaluable for experts and they have international interests. Detailed analysis of data will be carried out after deploying the last satellite-received transmitters. Results will be included in the international Saker conservation plan.

Saker tagged during the programme can be followed here:

BirdLife Hungary
Tel.: +36-20-553-1296

The story of Slovak Saker continues in Afrika (22/10/2008) >>

Raptor Protection of Slovakia

The members of Raptor Protection of Slovakia would surely not believe, how amazing results will the modern technology bring, when they were mounting a Saker Falcon juvenile with satellite transmitter (PTT) in the end of May. It’s almost 5 months since the Saker female named Viera fledged out of her native nest in Small Carpathians. She spent only a very short time here – in second half of July she already was in Serbia. Thanks to the exact data from the transmitter Slovak conservationists found the bird and observed that she’s all right. In the beginning of October Viera started to migrate again to the south. After she crossed the Mediterranean Sea, she stayed a few days in Libya. In these days she decided to fly further – the last coordinates are from Niger in Africa. Since the time Viera left her nest she passed more than 3 thousand kilometers!

Solar powered PTTs are used in the frame of Slovak-Hungarian project, supported by European Commission from LIFE – Nature programme. Untill 2009 6 Sakers in Slovakia and 40 in Hungary will be mounted by PTT. Saker Falcon is a globally endangered species and thanks to the information from PTT we gained many valuable data about life, migration routes, habitat preferences and threats, which are waiting for these rare raptors.

For more information please contact Lucia Deutschová on + 421 911 882 626
Hungarian sakers on the edge of Asia – Slovak saker in Africa (21/10/2008) >>

It was not a co-incidence that Hungarians’ ancestors chose the Turul – Saker Falcon – as a totem, satellite tracked Sakers having been tagged this year have proven that. The juvenile falcons reached the Kazakh and Russian steppes, visited the shores of Bulgaria and Northern Greece, however the record holder is a juvenile female Saker from Slovakia that reached Niger, in Africa – and her migration is still far from being over.

Mapping migration and roaming routes of juvenile Sakers is a crucial element of the Hungarian-Slovak Saker conservation LIFE-Nature project co-ordinated by Bükk National Park Directorate. In the frame of the programme, experts of BirdLife Hungary and national park directorates mounted 20 juvenile Sakers with satellite transmitters (PTTs) in Hungary and Slovakia. The state-of-the-art technology solar powered devices with embedded GPS units representing state-of-the-art technology enable experts to locate falcons several times a day with few meter accuracy. Learning about movements helps to understand the threatening factors posed on protected falcons.

Already in 2007 there were a number of discoveries regarding Sakers’ movements, however this years’ birds – along with the ones tagged in 2007 – had real surprises for the experts.

Barna and Lehel, hatched last year, were the first to go beyond the borders of recent scientific knowledge. They did not stop in Hungary once they arrived home in spring, but continued to far north and east visiting Poland, Belarus (first record of the species ever in the country!), Ukraine and Russia. Barna spent the summer in Samara region, Russia, 2500 km away from the nest he fledged from, whilst Lehel returned to his home region, the Jászság. The females spent the spring and the summer in the Carpathian Basin.

The “new generation” of satellite tracked Sakers had some surprises for experts already in their first summer. For some reason, not less than three juvenile male left the Carpathian Basin and headed east – just right after they learnt to fly and hunt. The most interesting routes so far are the followings:
  • Ványa made it up to Western Kazakhstan (2400km) where he got electrocuted most probably;
  • Rómeó flew to Russia and his remains were found about 300 km southeast from Moscow, he certainly got electrocuted as the remains suggested;
  • Csanád has been more lucky so far, than his nest mate (Ványa); he visited the Bulgarian coast then he spent the summer in South Romania near the Bulgarian border; he left for South from that area and he is in Northern Greece now;
  • Boglárka is now in Sicily and hopefully she will not turn to Malta, where inhabitants shooting at every single bird (from the size of a swallow up to eagles) from “tradition”;
  • The longest journey has been done by a Slovak Saker, Viera, who was mounted by the experts of Raptor Protection of Slovakia. Viera spent the summer and beginning of autumn in Serbia then she left for South, crossed the Mediterranean, luckily passed Libya and Algeria, and now she is in Niger; her migration is probably not over yet so she still might have some more surprises;
  • The rest of the satellite tracked Sakers are still in the Carpathian Basin, but it is very likely that at least some of them start their migration soon.

Journeys of Sakers can be followed on an interactive map on the project’s website: /’birds with satellite tags’/.

Since June 2007 the beginning of satellite tracking of Sakers, more thousands of GPS co-ordinates have been received. The database will increase with more thousand data by the end of the project (2010). Beyond the interesting information, analysis of data will map the threats on Sakers (shooting, electrocution, trapping, etc.). Besides, it will indicate the role of the Carpathian Basin population in the dynamics of other European populations. Altogether a more effective and efficient conservation programme can be prepared with the help of satellite tracking.

More information on the species and on the programme:

Mátyás Prommer
Communication co-ordinator
Saker Conservation LIFE programme
BirdLife Hungary
Tel.: +36 20 553 1296

Downloadable version (DOC) >>
Death of a saker (29/09/2008) >>

Just like in Shakespeare’s drama, a juvenile Saker called Romeo was not given a long life. The falcon was one of those 19 juveniles that had been mounted with satellite transmitters (or PTTs) by Hungarian and Slovak experts in order to map their movements. In the end of August Romeo started to head east, however there have been no more signals since the beginning of September. He was in Russia that time.

Romeo, a juvenile male Saker (Falco cherrug) was mounted on 10th of June 2008 by the experts of BirdLife Hungary and Fertő-Hanság National Park Directorate, in a nest near Rajka. The action was part of the Hungarian-Slovak Saker conservation LIFE programme. A few days later he fledged and started to explore the world. In the beginning he was trying himself around the nest, however one a half month later he made it up to Ipolytarnóc already (which is roughly a distance of 180 km) but then he returned to the nest again. An excursion followed in the neighbouring Austria: Romeo spent two weeks just a few kilometres south from Vienna. The last big adventure started on 19th August, when left for East from a field near Schwechat airport.

In the next two weeks he crossed Slovakia and Ukraine, visiting Moldova on the way. Finally he crossed the Ukrainian-Russian border not far from Kharkov. He was as close as about 200 km to Moscow, but he turned to southeast. His last signals came mid-September from the field near a small village called Umet.

After loosing the signals, Russian ornithologists were contacted for help. They have already helped earlier to find an other Hungarian Saker being in Russia. (It is interesting that the previous falcon – called Barnabás, who is in Ukraine now – fledged also in West-Hungary, what’s more those two birds are from the same parents so they are brothers.)

Finally, Igor Karyakin, a Russian ornithologist found the place where Romeo’s PTT had transmitted the last signals and he found the remains of the Hungarian bird. Unfortunately, only Romeo’s legs with the rings and his wings remained. The juvenile Saker was electrocuted on a pylon of a mid-voltage power line and his body (with the PTT) was taken away by a fox.

The information confirms the idea that electrocution is a serious danger to juvenile Sakers (and to other raptors as well) not only in Hungary, but also abroad. BirdLife Hungary is working now on a map to show the most dangerous pylons from the strictly protected and protected birds’ point of view. Using the map the limited resources for insulation can be focused on the most problematic sites.

The death of Romeo, however bad the news is, helps to understand where the Sakers of the Carpathian Basin are flying, and to learn about the threats they are facing. The main aim of satellite tracking in the frame of the international Saker conservation LIFE project lead by Bükk National Park Directorate, is to map the main moves of Hungarian and Slovak Sakers and thus to understand the main threatening factors on them – in order to eliminate or at least diminish those factors.

Apart from Romeo, 18 more juvenile Sakers were mounted with PTTs in 2008 – 16 of them in Hungary and 2 in Slovakia. Altogether, twenty PTTs are working recently counting those four still working ones that were mounted last year. The PTTs provided a lot of new information to learn more details about the life of that strictly protected species, and it is very likely that there is still a lot new information to come until the end of the programme.

The continuously decreasing world population – apart from the Carpathian Basin – of Saker justifies the efforts of the project including satellite tracking. West from Hungary the species occurs only in Austria and in the Czech Republic in a low number and a couple of dozens breeding pairs can be found in Slovakia and Serbia. The survival of the species in Europe depends largely on the population in the Carpathian Basin with its approximately 300 breeding pairs.

Main data about Romeo and his route

Date of deploying the PTT: 10 June 2008.

Place of deploying: West Hungary, near Rajka

Date of fledging: (approximately) 14 June 2008.

Date of start (Schwechat): 19 August 2008.

Date of arrival on to the site where he has been found (Umet, Russia): 1 September 2008. (355 km SE from Moscow)

Date of last signals: 5. September 2008.

Date of finding: 28. September 2008.

Distance in straight-line (between start and destination): 1,900 km

Distance en-route: 2,365 km

Travelling time (between start and destination): 13 days

Average travelling speed: 181 km/day

More information about the species and the programme:

Mátyás Prommer
Communication officer
Saker Conservation LIFE programme
BirdLife Hungary
Tel.: +36 20 5531296

Downloadable version (DOC) >>
Saker Falcon juvenile saved! (24/08/2008) >>

Raptor Protection of Slovakia

Saker Falcon juvenile saved!

Near the municipality of Kaplna, near Trnava district, an individual of Saker Falcon was found on August 20th under the power lines, injured and weak. The raptor was not able to fly and could be starved to death or attacked by a dog or a fox. The bird was banded by a ring, what made possible to find out it was a bird from a nest in Hungary. It turned out that the Saker was ringed on 21st of May 2008, near the city of Szolnok, some 340 km away from the place of finding. The Saker was transported to the rehabilitation station in ZOO of Bratislava, when the first aid was given to the bird. After all necessary permits were acquired from the Slovak and Hungarian authorities the bird was transported to Hungary, where the specialists will take care about him.

Jozef Chavko from Raptor Protection of Slovakia says: „The bird was a juvenile of a global endangered Saker Falcon. The bird left the nest in Hungary this year. The nest was situated approximately 340 km southeast from Trnava. It is likely that the Saker hit the power lines, what could be fatal for him. Life of the bird was saved thanks to the prompt reaction of the finder and immediate transport to rehabilitation station. It’s not sure yet if the injured wing can be healed so the bird will be able to fly again. The sooner the rehabilitation starts, the higher is a chance for the bird to return to the nature.”

The bird was transported from Slovakia to Hungary immediately thanks to the cooperation of both countries, where a common project for the conservation of Saker Falcon in the Carpathian basin is being implemented. One of the aims of the project is to reduce mortality on dangerous power lines.

„Electric power lines are one of the biggest problems by the raptors conservation. Thousands of them are dying every ear, not only common species as the Common Buzzard, but also the critically endangered species as the Imperial Eagle and Saker Falcon. Birds are being killed by electrocution when trying to sit on the pylon or when flying away. Also a hit to the power line can cause a dangerous injury when the birds either can’t see the power line at all or notice it too late. That’s the reason why we cooperate with the energy supply companies for more than 20 years and search for the most suitable solutions to protect birds against electrocution. High number of birds has already been saved thanks to the continuous development and use of the bird protection devices.“ - says Chavko

In case of finding an injured raptor it is necessary to contact experts from national or non-governmental organisation. The sooner the experts know about it, the bigger the chance for rescue and return to the nature is. To fly and hunt requires a perfect condition of a bird.

Downloadable version (DOC) >>
Falcons will be monitored by satellite telemetry (30/05/2008) >>

From yesterday every movement of two young Saker falcons will be monitored using satellite transmitters. Members of Raptor Protection of Slovakia in cooperation with Hungarian experts mounted transmitters on two females from nests located in the West of Slovakia.

„Mainly young birds are migrating, therefore, transmitters are mounted on chicks right before they can fledge from their nests. Thanks to this modern technology we will be able to gain valuable information about their migration routes, wintering sites, some patterns of species distribution and moreover about threats and survival of young“ stated Lucia Deutschova from RPS.

Telemetry is carried out within the Hungarian-Slovak project on the conservation of Saker falcon, which is supported by the European Commission incorporating in LIFE programme. The first 10 transmitters have been mounted in Hungary. Tests have been carried out on two different types. The type which caused the least amount of discomfort but satisfied all technical parameters is now used in Hungary and Slovakia. This device is the result of the most current technology in this area. By 2010 there will be 40 falcons in Hungary and 6 in Slovakia mounted with satellite transmitters.

“Our organization has some experience from using satellite and radio transmitters on Imperial Eagles. We are confident, that these devices can allow us to collect very valuable data. In the first months of using these transmitters in Hungary we were able to gather incredible information. No other method would enable us to achieve such results” as stated by Lucia Deutschova.

Saker falcon is a globally endangered species. There are only 26 pairs nest in Slovakia. The negative impacts to their natural habitats; direct persecution when falcons still become victim of guns requires active protection of the species. Within the ongoing project, alternative breeding opportunities are created. To improve their food resources, the reintroduction of suslicks is also carried out. In cooperation with Western utility company (Zapadoslovenska energetika), as a partner of the project, the dangerous 22 kV electric poles are insulated to prevent electrocution of birds.

Saker-tracking continuing (22/05/2008) >>

On 22 May 2008 two more juvenile Sakers will be mounted by satellite transmitters in the frame of the Hungarian-Slovak LIFE-Nature programme “Conservation of Saker Falcon (Falco cherrug) in the Carpathian Basin”. Experts of Bükk National Park, BirdLife Hungary and Pro Vértes Public Foundation will mount the device.

In Hungary and in Slovakia there will be mounted 46 Sakers in total with satellite transmitters. The device help to follow the movements of Sakers during there migration, wintering and roosting sites can be mapped. It is an important element of the conservation programme. Uncovering the secrets of migration will help to understand the threats on Sakers and enables conservationists to take the necessary conservation measures.

The first ten Sakers were mounted with transmitters in 2007. Results have been far beyond the expectations. Four transmitters out of ten are still transmitting to day. Two falcons perished probably right after fledging, and two ceased to transmit some months later – for unknown reasons. It turned out from the data that a part of juvenile Sakers leave the Carpathian Basin. Two tracked Sakers spent the winter in South-Italy and one in Serbia. Two juveniles made as far as Libya and there the signals suddenly ceased. We are only guessing about its reason. One falcon stayed in the Carpathian Basin: Dóra spent the winter in South-Slovakia.
Very interestingly, the Saker wintering in Serbia and another one wintering in Sicily, have not stopped after returning to Hungary in spring. Both have continued to north and then one even has flown further to east.
It can be seen now that a part of juveniles perish very young – even before migration. Half of the migrants never come back to Hungary, and some of those returning continuing further, leaving Hungary again and it is not clear if they ever come home. Based on the knowledge gathered in the last few months, it can be understood better why the population grows so slowly despite the conservation efforts. At the same time, the results justify the importance of those conservation efforts.

Interesting data about the tracked Sakers:
  • Viki flew 1670 km from S-Hungary to the coast of Libya, she flew more then twelve hours in the air and made almost 600 km non-stop when crossing the Mediterranean Sea – with a satellite transmitter on her back;
  • Average speed of tracked Sakers was 40-50 km/hrs above the open sea and around 20-30 km/hrs above the mainland;
  • They covered 200-300 km a day during migration;
  • Barna has travelled across 10 countries (excluding Hungary): Croatia, Italy, Bosnia, Serbia, Romania, Slovakia, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Russia;
  • Sakers have been never observed in Belarus so far. Barna has been the first proved record of the species in the country ever.

At the moment, out of the four Sakers with working transmitters, there is one in North-Hungary, one in Belarus, one in Russia and one in Slovakia.

The Sakers are tracked continuously and colleagues in the given countries are always informed about their positions. The conservation programme has become very international that way and now many ornithologists from Italy to Russia follow the moves of Sakers – and maybe think on them a bit as their own ones.

On 22 May two more juveniles will receive transmitters and they are hoped to contribute to the knowledge about the species and thus to a more efficient international conservation. One of the juveniles had been hatched in captivity from injured parents and she was replaced to her new step-parents last week. Injured falcons not able to survive by their own any more, are kept in pairs and chicks are replaced to natural nests to reinforce natural population of the species. This year two chicks were replaced such way and they were the 32 and 33 chicks of an injured male Saker (the females were different though).

The species has a special place in Hungarian nature conservation partly because its rarity and partly because their role in ancient Hungarian myths. Saker, also called Turul, is the only one raptor species that plays a role in Hungarian traditions.

The Hungarian Saker population shrank to 30 known breeding pairs by the ‘70s. As a result of conservation efforts launched in the ‘80s, there are about 140-150 pairs nowadays. Nevertheless the number of Sakers is continuously decreasing most of the other parts of the world, thus it is extremely important to maintain the Hungarian conservation programme.

In 2006 a joint Slovak-Hungarian Saker conservation programme was launched with the support of EU’s financial instrument called LIFE-Nature. With the lead of Bükk National Park, 16 organisations from Hungary and Slovakia are participating in the project that aims to facilitate practical conservation efforts.

assistant to communication
Saker Conservation LIFE programme
BirdLife Hungary
Tel.: +36 20 5531296

Downloadable version (DOC) >>

The Hungarian Saker was found in Serbia (01/02/2008) >>

A Hungarian three-man expedition went to Serbia to find and check one satellite-tracked Saker. The story started when Serb ornithologist found the young falcon and they noted the Hungarian counterparts that something was wrong with the bird. It seemed that something was hanging from the leg of the Saker.

One element of the project is satellite-tracking of falcons and within that 46 Sakers will be mounted until 2009 with so-called Platform Transmitter Terminal (PTT). The task will be carried out by the experts of BirdLife Hungary – a partner organization in the project. The aim is to learn more about roaming and migration of Sakers and that knowledge helps to uncover threatening factors thus more efficient conservation programme can be made.

Ten young Sakers – including Lehel from Jászság – received PTT in 2007. Lehel stayed in Hungary for long time, he spent longer time in Jászság then in Békés. He left for south in the end of October. He made it up to Central- Serbia then he turned back to north and he has been staying near Belgrade since 7th November 2007. Serb experts received his locations continuously and they sent information about the various habitat types where Lehel stayed, in return.

On 24th January 2008, Goran Sekulic – ornithologist of Serb State Nature Conservancy – found Lehel only a few kilometers from Belgrade. Lehel was in good condition, but something seemed to be hanging from his leg. When Hungarian experts received the information they decided to go and check the falcon themselves. Based on the description it could have been the harness that was hanging and its further damage could have resulted in loosing the PTT or endangering the falcon’s survival.

On 29th January, János Bagyura (BirdLife Hungary), József Fidlóczky (Bükk National Park Directorate) and Mátyás Prommer (BirdLife Hungary) with the assistance of Goran Sekulic found Lehel on a pylon of a high-voltage power line near Belgrade. Observation and analyses of photos showed that the harness was fine, the PTT was on place and the falcon flew with it excellently. The good condition of Lehel was not surprising because the area was abundant in voles and pigeons. During the observation he hunted twice successfully – most probably on voles. Also another Saker – a young female – appeared on a nearby pylon, Lehel’s new girlfriend.

The area is only a few kilometers away from Belgrade and only one kilometer from the closest village. Nevertheless, besides Sakers there were many Common Buzzards, a pair of White-tailed Eagles doing display flights, Hen Harriers and a Goshawk.

After the successful action, the Hungarian experts gave presentations about the Hungarian Saker conservation programme, the LIFE project and the results so far. After that Slobodan Puzović gave a presentation about Saker monitoring in Serbia in 2007.

As a conclusion of the successful action, the Hungarian and Serb experts agreed in continuing the cooperation.

Further photos can be seen in the Gallery >>
Hungarian sakers roaming in the Mediterranean (18/11/2007) >>

In the frame of a Hungarian-Slovak LIFE Nature programme led by Bükk National Park, 10 juvenile Sakers were satellite-tagged in Hungary in 2007 to unveil their migration and roaming habits and to explore their temporary settling areas. There have been gathered a vast amount of information since the first tagging - June 2007.

Maybe it is not an exaggeration saying that in these few months of applying the state-of-the-art technology we have learnt more about the migration routes and roaming habits of this globally endangered species than with ringing them in the last 50 years. Since the start of the programme we have more than 2000 locations of Sakers measured by GPS and Argos system.

The most important information can be summarised as follows:

Eight out of 10 satellite-tagged birds survived until the autumn migration. Four of them (50%) made their way to the Mediterranean.

Two juvenile Sakers – Barna and Zsuzsi – are recently in Sicily. Zsuzsi arrived a few days ago, Barna has been there for a month already and they both settled in the same area. Barna completed approximately 1535 km from the Hungarian-Ukrainian border – where they spent some weeks – to Sicily. There are less accurate data about the travel of Zsuzsi, however, she must have been flown at least 1215 km until she reached her recent base. We do hope that they will not travel further to Malta, where shooters try to kill everything that flies and has feathers.

Viki flew 1670 km from S-Hungary to the coast of Libya, where she disappeared one day after she had arrived. Based on our information she may have been trapped for falconry or may have been killed by a sand storm. She was a very viable falcon: she flew more twelve in the air and made almost 600 km non-stop when crossing the Mediterranean Sea – with a satellite transmitter on her back.

Emese crossed the sea at Greece and flew to Egypt and continued to Libya. She is the record-holder so far because she made at least 3100 km in total during her migration. However, in spite of our expectations, she did not continue to South but turned back to the coast. She reached the sea at about the area where Viki disappeared. Emese’s last signal came from above the Mediterranean Sea 60 km away from the shore.

Lehel is in Serbia again after some short time in Montenegro and he settled near Beograd.

Dóra was in SW-Slovakia, however based on the last signals, the battery voltage was just too low to locate the bird.

Koppány and Lili are still in Hungary: they are near the Hungarian – Romanian border.

Some interesting data about the migration of the Hungarian Sakers:
- Based on the data of Barna and Viki, they flew with an average speed of 40-50 km/hrs above the open sea and around 20-30 km/hrs above the mainland (including thermals and other atmospheric phenomena)
- They covered 120-300 km a day.
- Barna crossed the 1500-2000 m high mountain range of Abruzzo that is interesting because previously – just like the other Sakers – he expressly avoided hills and mountains

Until the end of the programme in 2010 there will be 36 more Sakers equipped with satellite transmitters. Analyses of data will help us to map threatening factors (shooting, electrocution, trapping, etc.) on Sakers and that knowledge will form the base of a more efficient international conservation programme in the future.

Maps on the migration of tagged Sakers and further information can be found at


Programme assistant
Saker Conservation LIFE project
Magyar Madártani és Természetvédelmi Egyesület (BirdLife Hungary)
Tel.: +36 20 553 1296

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The last Saker is tagged (20/06/2007) >>

On 9th July the last Saker, brood mate of "Zsuzsi", was tagged. The GPS PTT had been originally on the bird "Csenge" in Hortobágy region, however the harness was too loose and disturbed the falcon in her moves. Therefore, we trapped Csenge on 2nd July and we removed the PTT. This PTT had not been transmitting since its deployment we started to test it instead of placing it back on Csenge. The tests were successful.

Meanwhile it turned out that Zsuzsi’s PTT did not work either, it did not seem to make sense to leave it on her. Zsuzsi therefore was made prepared for trapping: we were feeding her for days on the trapping site. However, quite unexpectedly just on the day before the day of trapping her PTT started to transmit (and it has been transmitting since then), so we decided to leave the PTT on. At the same time, we did not want to miss the opportunity to trap a member of the fed family. On 9th July we managed to trap a sister of Zsuzsi, who received the name “Lili”, and we tagged her with Csenge’s PTT. 

There are several reasons why we haven’t tagged Csenge again. It is very likely that it would have been difficult to trap her again, while everything was set already at Zsuzsi’s family. In addition, Zsuzsi’s family lives in a pilot project area, where the more detailed surveys explain the need for more PTTs. A separate album can be found about the action in the Gallery.  

There are only two companies – NorthStar Science and Technology and Microwave Telemetry – manufacturing PTTs appropriate for tagging birds. In this first year, products of both companies have been purchased. It is possible that way to test the reliability of the 5-5 PTTs. Microwave PTTs are equipped also with GPS so they are expected to be more precise.

There are not any problems with seven birds out of ten equipped Sakers.

The PTT on Tóni transmitted for a day only then nothing. During the repeated monitoring, it turned out that Tóni and another young Saker disappeared leaving only two young Sakers in that brood. It is very likely that something happened to them.

PTT had been attached too loose hampering the bird in her move. Besides it had not been transmitting. Therefore, Csenge was captured on 2nd July and the PTT was removed. Now it is being tested again. It was not only Csenge who went to the trap, but also her nest mate was captured. Photos about the successful action can be found in the photo gallery.

PTT is well on the bird but not transmitting. Zsuzsi is planned to be captured as well, and the PTT will be removed and sent back to manufacturer.

Movements of the young Sakers can be seen also on this website from late August – early September.

Satellite tags on Sakers - (07/06/2007) >>

In the frame of „Conservation of Saker in the Carpathian Basin” Hungarian-Slovak LIFE-Nature project a young Saker will be equipped with a satellite tag (so called Platform Transmitter Terminal or PTT) in Csákvár, Hungary on 7th June. The Saker will be tagged by the experts of Bükk National Park, BirdLife Hungary and Pro Vértes Nature Conservation Fund.

Altogether 46 Sakers will be equipped in Hungary and Slovakia during the project until 2010. Tagging Sakers helps experts to track their movements, and explore migration routes, roosting and wintering places. It is an important element of the conservation programmes. There is only little known about the movements of young Sakers, thus there is little information about the threatening factors as well. Tracking them helps to understand migration patterns of young Sakers along with the threatening factors and that enables experts to take the necessary conservation measures.

Primarily aim is to tag young birds because adult Sakers mostly stay in or around their eyries all year around according to recent knowledge.

Photo: Kovács Attila (MTI)

Photo: Kovács Attila (MTI)

The species has a special place in Hungarian nature conservation partly because its rarity and partly because their role in ancient Hungarian myths. Saker, also called Turul, is the only one raptor species that plays a role in Hungarian traditions.

The Hungarian Saker population shrank to 30 known breeding pairs by the ‘70s. As a result of conservation efforts launched in the ‘80s, there are about 140-150 pairs nowadays. Nevertheless the number of Sakers is continuously decreasing most of the other parts of the world, thus it is extremely important to maintain the Hungarian conservation programme.

In 2006 a joint Slovak-Hungarian Saker conservation programme was launched with the support of EU’s financial instrument called LIFE-Nature. With the lead of Bükk National Park, 16 organisations from Hungary and Slovakia are participating in the project that aims to facilitate practical conservation efforts.

© Conservation of Saker (Falco cherrug) in the Carpathian Basin (LIFE06 NAT/HU/000096)