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    TURKEY --- Who... --- What have we done --- Distribution and population status --- Negative factors --- Papers  


The research activities in Turkey are implemented and coordinated with Dr. Zafer Ayas and Mehmet Deli from Hacetepe University – Ankara. The project was supported by Koyuncu Salt Factory in Sereflikochisar. The project in 2010 is run by Istanbul University Department of Forestry - Raptor Research Department and Istanbul Bird Watching Society.

© D. Ragyov
© D. Ragyov

What have we done


Turkey is a large, transcontinental territory covering ca 780,000km2. In comparison to European countries, the Turkish avifauna is relatively poorly documented but in recent years ornithological activity has improved with increasing numbers of visiting and resident bird watchers. Nevertheless, historical and population trend data for many species, particularly Saker Falcon is scanty.
Given the vast area of potential breeding habitat in Turkey and the paucity of information on Sakers in the country, we undertook a review of historical and current records together with a survey of former breeding haunts in order to evaluate the current population status of the species. We obtained 72 breeding season records for the Saker Falcon covering the period 1872 to 2008 in total. Later we conducted a one month field survey, visiting sites where breeding had been recorded or birds had previously been seen during the breeding season. In total 3 active Saker Falcon nests were discovered – 2 in Central Anatolia and 1 in Eastern Anatolia. Large falcons were sighted at two other localities but we were not able to positively identify them as Saker Falcons.
Breeding season diet study. Some indication of the diet of the breeding season diet of Saker Falcons in Central and Eastern Anatolia was obtained from pellets and prey remains collected at the three breeding territories. Of the food items identified in 40 pellets, 77% were mammalian prey, mainly the Anatolian Souslik Spermophilus xanthoprymnus, whilst the remainder were birds.

© D. Ragyov
© D. Ragyov


Following the findings of our previous work in 2010 we initiated a project directed to the illegal trapping of Saker falcons in Turkey called “Educational Outreach to Stop The Saker Falcon Trade in Turkey”. Main aim of the project is to:

- Educate the law enforcement authorities about the critical status of the Saker Falcon in Turkey in order to encourage them to stop the illegal Saker Falcon trapping activities.

Secondary aims are:
- Educate bird watchers and other researchers about the Saker Falcon and increase sightings of falcons and reportings of falcon trappers
- Educate Falconers about the Saker Falcon’s global decline and penalties for trading

The project areas are Central and Eastern Anatolia – two areas with known Saker population at present. Series of meetings with the target groups are to be implemented (especially with the law enforcement authorities), where education printing materials will be distributed and lectures will be performed. As a monitoring of the success of the project, follow up meetings will be held with the law enforcement officials after the trapping season in order to collect detailed information about the illegal activities by regions.

The project is implemented by a team of two organizations: Istanbul University Department of Forestry - Raptor Research Department and Istanbul Bird Watching Society – members of SESN.


Distribution and population status

The Saker Falcon Falco cherrug breeds in Turkey and also occurs in the country during passage and in winter. Turkey represents the southwestern range limit of the global breeding distribution of the species and is relatively isolated from the neighbouring population centres in Europe and Central Asia. A review of literature and other record sources indicated that 19th century breeding population in Thrace had disappeared by the 1950’s, in line with dramatic declines in the Southern Balkans. We could find no data on the Saker Falcon population elsewhere in Turkey prior to the 1960’s. In the 1960’s, the Saker Falcon was a rare breeding species found mainly in steppe habitats of Central and Eastern Anatolia. Despite increased ornithological recording activity in the country, the number of Saker Falcon records declined in the 1980’s and 1990’s, probably because of habitat loss, a reduction in the Anatolian Souslik Spermophilus xanthoprymnus population and the activities of falcon trappers. A recent resurgence in records since 2000 probably reflects an increase in ornithological recording by resident and visiting ornithologists. Our survey in 2007 and 2009 confirmed that the Saker is a rare breeding species in Central and Eastern Anatolia despite there being much apparently suitable habitat and prey available in these regions (Dixon et al., 2009; Nedyalkov in litt.).


Our review of Saker records suggests that since at least the mid 20th century the species has been a rare breeder found mainly in Central and Eastern Anatolia and that there is some evidence of a population decline, at least in Central Anatolia, since 1970’s. With regard to the recent records (22 localities in 2000–08) and the area of apparently suitable breeding habitat available in Central and Eastern Anatolia (for which we have no records or survey data) we estimate that the Turkish population is probably in the region of 50 breeding pairs, which concurs with a recent estimate produced by Burfield and Bommel (2004) of 50–70 breeding pairs (Dixon et al., 2009).


Distribution of 20 Saker breeding localities in Turkey over three different time periods; 1960–79 (circles), 1980–99 (triangles) and 2000–08 (squares). Reproduced from Dixon et al. 2009 >>>

Negative factors

It is not clear why the Saker population in Turkey is currently held at a low level. Our field survey left us with the impression that it is probably a complexity of several factors such as falcon trapping, prey loss and habitat loss. The low population size could be also a characteristic of an isolated population of a species occurring at the edge of its global distribution range (Dixon et al. 2009).


Breeding habitat in Central Anatolia.
© D. Ragyov


Hunting grounds in Eastern Anatolia © D. Ragyov

Adult Saker Falcon © M. Deli


Detailed information about SESN work in Turkey can be found at:

Dixon, A., Ragyov, D., Ayas, Z., Deli, M., Demerdzhiev, D., Angelov, I., Kmetova, E. and Nedyalkov, N. (2009) Population status of breeding Saker Falcons (Falco cherrug) in Turkey. Avian Biology Research, 2 (4), 213-220.

Ragyov, D., Ayas, Z., Deli, M., Dixon, A. (2008) An assessment of the population status of breeding Saker Falcons in Turkey: In: Proceedings of First Middle Eastern Biodiversity Congress, 20-23 October 2008, Aqaba, Jordan [Poster presentation].

© D. Ragyov
© D. Ragyov
SESN is coordinated by:
Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research, Sofia 1113, Yurii Gagarin str. 2
www.ecolab.bas.bg; gsm +359 898 58 55 53; Fax +359 2 870 54 98; e-mail: dimitar.ragyov@gmail.com