Falco cherrug-Hu/SK - Conservation of Falco cherrug in the Carpathian basin

LIFE06 NAT/H/000096

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Contact details:

Project Manager: Jozsef FIDLOCZKY
Tel: +36 36 30 3495664
Email: fidlojo@gmail.com

Project description:


The Saker falcon (Falco cherrug) is a very rare and threatened species in Europe. The total European breeding population was, until recently, estimated at 450 pairs. Hungary and Slovakia hold about 40% of this population. Therefore, the conservation of the population in the Carpathian basin in these two countries was crucial to the survival of the species in Europe. Although populations increased in these two countries between 1990 and 2000, the overall European population trend was in decline – falling by more than 20% during this period. The reasons for this were unclear, but main threats were thought to include the loss and degradation of natural nest sites, degradation of feeding habitat and loss of food resources, increased mortality caused by electrocution and hunting, reduced breeding success by collapsing natural nests, human disturbance and possibly, increased mortality on migration route and winter grounds. Additionally, the decline is linked with the regional extinction of the Saker falcon’s preferred prey, the European ground squirrel(Spermophilus citellus).


The project aimed to reinforce ongoing efforts to strengthen the Hungarian and Slovakian populations of the Saker falcon, a globally vulnerable species, listed in Annex I of the Birds Directive and also considered as a priority species for LIFE Nature funding. The project’s main objectives were to identify the main reasons for the decrease in the European population and to create favourable conditions to stabilise the situation in the short-term. Measures to reach these goals would include:

  • Securing nesting sites by protecting and establishing Saker falcon in potential nesting places (installing artificial nest boxes);
  • Better understanding the food and habitat preferences of the species and running a comprehensive monitoring programme;
  • Elaborating European ground squirrel-friendly habitat management methods for SPA management and by influencing agri-environmental measures for the target species and prey;
  • Reintroducing the European ground squirrel in some potential Saker falcon habitats;
  • Reducing key mortality factors (e.g. insulating dangerous electric pylons, guarding nests);
  • Evaluating migration losses via use of satellite telemetry and the collection of information from wintering grounds (establishing and operating an international mailing list); and
  • Establishing a communications’ programme and awareness-raising activities for the species.

  • Results

    The project was very successful. At the start of the project (2006), there were an estimated 140 breeding pairs of Saker falcon in Hungary and 23 pairs in Slovakia. By the end of the project (September 2010) around 200-220 pairs were counted in Hungary and 35-38 pairs in Slovakia. Therefore, as planned, the European core population of the globally vulnerable Saker falcon had been stabilised. Moreover, the original proposals were exceeded as, according to monitoring results, the population has even started to show a steady increase.

    All the planned measures were implemented on time and to budget. Coordinated by the beneficiary, these various conservation actions were carried out by a large number of partner organisations (state organisations and NGOs) working in co-operation across the two neighbouring countries. Importantly, the project collected a significant amount of new information about the species’ roaming, migration, land use etc., which should prove valuable for future conservation work. Although the project actions were located in the Carpathian basin, the findings have been disseminated worldwide.

    Other key results include:

    • Establishment of a GIS database detailing habitats, providing a new knowledge base on the impacts of specific agricultural practices and subsidy systems on the species;
    • Installation (with control and monitoring) of 540 artificial nests/nest boxes in Hungary and 105 in Slovakia. This included tree-planting (576 individual trees) across four SPAs;
    • Reintroductions of more than 4 800 European ground squirrel across 28 sites in 13 SPAs;
    • Insulation of 8 369 electricity pylons (over 7 500 of these were in Hungary and the rest in Slovakia). As a result of this important measure, the death/ injury rate over the insulated sections was reduced by 96%;
    • Tagging, using satellite transmitters, was carried out on 39 young birds and 4 adults in Hungary and 6 juveniles in Slovakia;
    • Awareness-raising measures were implemented among hunters resulting in the reduction of shot birds by 34 % in 2009 and in 2010, compared with 2007-08 figures;
    • Publication/ distribution of various information material e.g. Best practice agri-environment advisory methods on shared falcon/ prey habitats; leaflets (1 500) on suitable land use practices (distributed to farmers), guidelines on (i) habitat management practices for the target species and its preferred prey for different types of grasslands and (ii) habitat rehabilitation and management methods; and
    • Development of a model for the Hungarian population of the target species, to better understand population dynamics.
    • Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Conservation Plan (see "Read more" section).


Environmental issues addressed:


Species - Birds


endangered species‚  protected area

Target EU Legislation

  • Nature protection and Biodiversity
  • Directive 79/409 - Conservation of wild birds (02.04.1979)

Target species

 Falco cherrug     

Natura 2000 sites

SPA HUAN10001 Aggteleki-karszt
SPA HUAN10002 Putnoki-dombság
SCI HUBF30001 Északi-Bakony
SPA HUBN10002 Borsodi-sík
SPA HUBN10003 Bükk-hegység és peremterületei
SPA HUBN10004 Hevesi-sík
SPA HUBN10005 Kesznyéten
SPA HUBN10006 Mátra
SPA HUBN10007 Zempléni-hegység a Szerencsi-dombsággal és a Hernád-völggyel



Coordinator Bükk National Park Directorate
Type of organisation Park-Reserve authority
Description The Bükk National Park Directorate (BNPD) was established in 1976 encompassing the counties of Heves, Nógrád and Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén in northern Hungary. Within these three counties the directorate is responsible for the protection of 11 protected landscape areas and 19 nature conservation areas, in addition to the National Park area. BNPD organises and manages research programmes, such as surveying, recording and monitoring endangered species. Public awareness raising, education, introduction of natural values and eco-tourism are also important activities undertaken by the directorate.
Partners Aggtelek National Park Directorate, Hungary Balaton National Park Directorate, Hungary Duna-Dráva National Park Directorate, Hungary Duna-Ipoly National Park Directorate, Hungary Fertő-Hanság National Park Directorate, Hungary Hortobágy National Park Directorate, Hungary Körös-Maros National Park Directorate, Hungary Kiskunság National Park Directorate, Hungary Örség National Park Directorate, Hungary MME/BirdLife Hungary, Hungary E-misszió Environmental Association, Hungary PRO VÉRTES Public Foundation for Nature Conservation, Hungary Raptor Protection of Slovakia The State Nature Conservancy of the Slovak Republic The Society for the Protection of Birds in Slovakia West-Slovak Electric Company


Project reference LIFE06 NAT/H/000096
Duration 01-OCT-2006 to 30-SEP -2010
Total budget 2,152,042.00 €
EU contribution 1,606,715.00 €
Project location Kozep-Magyarorszag(Hungary Magyarország) Kozep-Dunantul(Hungary Magyarország) Nyugat-Dunantul(Hungary Magyarország) Del-Dunantul(Hungary Magyarország) Eszak-Magyarorszag(Hungary Magyarország) Eszak-Alfold(Hungary Magyarország) Del-Alfold(Hungary Magyarország) Extra-Regio(Hungary Magyarország) Associated Hungary (H)(Hungary Magyarország) Bratislavsky kraj(Slovakia Slovensko) Zapadne Slovensko(Slovakia Slovensko) Stredne Slovensko(Slovakia Slovensko) Vychodne Slovensko(Slovakia Slovensko) Extra-Regio(Slovakia Slovensko) Associated Slovakia (SK)(Slovakia Slovensko)


Read more:

Project web site Project's website
Publication Final Report (1.08MB)
Publication: After-LIFE Conservation Plan After-LIFE Conservation Plan
Publication: Layman report Layman report
Video link "Falco cherrug: Egy Madár Visszatér" (30')
Video link "Falco cherrug: A bird returns" (30')
Video link "Falco cherrug: Vták sa Vracia" (30')


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version