Gathering of thousands of falcons, a show to remember!

In Eastern Romania, Vrancea County, near Ciorăşti commune, on the border with Buzău County, there is a special site where annually, an extraordinary ornithological event takes place. Red-footed Falcons roost here in significant numbers, before starting the autumn migration to the wintering quarters in Angola, Namibia and Botswana.

The data gathered so far is proving that this Red-footed Falcon roost is the largest in the European Union. We got information about larger roosting sites only from the Ukraine, which sites are most likely stopovers for the big Asian and Eastern European populations. But! Probably even the birds using these large gathering areas, at one point pass through Moldova, the Bărăgan or Dobrudja. It is very hard to give a realistic number regarding the number of the gathered falcons. On one hand, not all falcon roosting places are known, and even at the known sites the dynamics of birds is constant – some go, other come. More specifically, the thousands of birds counted in different dates – 15th and 25th of September, for instance – are only partially made up by the same individuals, as between the two dates some of them start their journey to Africa, while others will just arrive to the gathering site. According to our knowledge, a large part of the global population migrates through eastern Romania (we recorded birds from Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan). Sometimes even Red-footed Falcons from Hungary choose to come to the Black Sea coast before the beginning of the actual migration. This phenomenon is probably due to the fact that, by migrating south along this longitude, the birds reach the shores of Africa in an area, where the northeasterly trade winds help them to pass more easily over the Sahara, one of the heaviest barriers for these birds along their migration route.

Red-footed Falcon autumn migration route along the Black Sea coast

Ringlo and Marina are two Red-footed Falcon females tagged by the specialists of Milvus Group and MME/BirdLife Hungary with satellite transmitters. They were both captured at roosting places in the Bărăgan region, in 2016 and 2015 respectively. After returning to their breeding areas from Africa, both proved to be breeding in the Ukraine. Marina, for instance, breeds in the Crimean Peninsula. She was tagged in 2015 with the transmitter, and she returned both in 2016 and 2017 to the Bărăgan to prepare herself for the long journey.

Marina’s breeding area from Crimea and roosting places from the Bărăgan

 

The areas in Bărăgan used by Marina before the autumn migration from 2015, 2016 and 2017 respectively

Ringlo and Marina have already arrived to their wintering area in Angola. Their migration routes can be followed through this webpage: http://www.satellitetracking.eu/inds/showmap/?check_239=239&check_306=306 
The tranquility of the roosting places and the quality of the surrounding habitats (food sources) are of extreme importance, for the red footed falcon populations. Their chance to survive the long autumn migration is significantly lower if they are not well prepared for the journey. Thus, Romania has a great responsibility not only for its own breeding populations, but also for the considerable part of the global one which migrates through the country.

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