2018 Award Finalists

International flight of the small falcon: lesser kestrel, returning to Natura 2000 in Bulgaria

A major effort is underway to bring the lesser kestrel (Falco naumanni), back to Bulgaria where it is currently considered extinct. A broad partnership of organisations from Spain, Germany, Turkey and Greece, and led by the Green Balkans, an NGO from Bulgaria, are working together with the help of EU LIFE funds, to encourage the return of the lesser kestrel as a breeding bird in the Sakar SPA, Bulgaria and to enhance its conservation status at national and international level.

Using the so-called ‘hacking’ method, juveniles bred in captivity at the specialised breeding facilities of DEMA in Spain and Green Balkans are raised in an aviary with foster parents and later released. This method is based on the long-term experience of DEMA, which has successfully implemented a series of similar initiatives in Spain and France. As a result of these actions, a total of 286 lesser kestrels were released/fledged in the Sakar SPA from 2013 to 2015 and the first breeding pairs were subsequently recorded in the wild.

Habitat restoration and management measures, as well as measures to secure the overhead powerlines and prevent electrocution, were subsequently undertaken at Saker as well in order to improve the species chances of survival there.

With the help of the partners from DAYKO in Turkey, surveys to find the lesser kestrel colonies in the Turkish-Bulgarian border area were organized. Partnering with Greece and Turkey will further improve the habitat in the region and ensure connectivity between the birds from the three countries, Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey.

The partners of EPAMATH in Greece meanwhile, helped with placing nest boxes in known lesser kestrel areas in order to increase the chances for newly formed pairs to nest and rear their offspring. This was done in an effort to strengthen the Greek colonies and to give the birds from Bulgaria the possibility to interact with other colonies from neighbouring countries.

The partnership established through the project is an excellent example of the positive cross-border cooperation, resulting in the recovery of a species that was until then considered extinct as a breeder in Bulgaria.