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Nine chicks of Altai Saker falcon hatched in nursery raised by wild birds in Russia

15 july 2021
WWF project on Saker falcon population restoration and genetic diversity protection

Nine chicks of Altai phenotype of Saker falcon (dark morph) hatched in Moscow nurseries have been raised by the pairs of wild Saker falcons. The “foster parents” who “adopted” chicks, fed and cared for them as if they were their native chicks. All chicks successfully grew, survived in the wild and left their nests. 

Chicks placed into the nests of Saker falcons
(c) WWF / Elena Shnayder

In June these 30-days-old Saker falcon chicks were taken from the Moscow nurser, brought by plane and later by cars to the wild habitats of Saker falcons in Sibera and carefully placed in the nests of breeding pairs of Saker falcons who this year had their own chicks. This re-introduction method of raising chicks hatched in nurseries in the nests of wild saker falcons was first ever performed for this species in Russia and globally. This way chicks easier adapt to living in the wild and add up to the population of the rare falcons. 

Re-introduction of the Altai Saker Falcon (Falco cherrug altaicus) project in Altai-Sayan ecoregion has been implemented since 2018 by WWF-Russia, Russian Raptor Research and Conservation Network supported by World Around You Foundation of Siberian Wellness (a corporate donor). The main goal is boosting the genetic diversity of Saker falcon population and restoration of Saker falcons of the Altai phenotype.  

“Since 2018 WWF and partners have already released 65 chicks of Saker falcons of Altai phenotype in the wild by placing them in the nests of wild Saker falcon. The vitality of nursery chicks in the wild are even higher than of native chicks. Saker falcon chicks are easy “adopted”, fed and raised by wild birds, grow and hunt in the wild”, comments Alexander Karnaukhov, Senior Project Coordinator of the WWF-Russia’s Representative Office in Altai- Sayan ecoregion.

Saker falcon restoration start in 2017

Some of the released chicks are tagged by GPS/GSM transmitters to track the migration routes, follow their way and assess the project success, Tracking proved that threats to Saker falcons are still in place such as poaching, death of electrocuting on unprotected power lines, poisoning of eating poisoned rodents, habitat shrinking due to anthropogenic influence and climate change: 9 birds were caught by poachers, 9 Saker falcons killed by other birds of prey, 5 died of electrocuting, 6 were lost as the transmitters’ signal were lost. 

The Saker falcon chicks tagged with GSM-transmitters.
(c) WWF / Igor Karyakin
“This spring were found surprisingly many breeding pairs in the traditional project area. There were 24 pairs of Saker falcons but they only laid 2-3 eggs as the prey situation wasn’t good because cold and rainy spring. We concerned there wouldn’t be enough prey for our adopted chicks so before going to “placing mission” we piled our cars with the frozen mice form the lab to add to Saker falcons’ nutrition. We just put the pieces of meat on the nests to help pairs of birds feed their unexpectedly grown family. In July the prey situation was great but later the grass grew long as there much of moisture. The grown chicks have to learn how to hunt and adapt to the situation so we don’t’ have to worry about their future”, says Elena Shnaider, WWF expert, ornithologist of Russian Raptor Research and Conservation Network.

Camera set on the nests, Saker falcons feeding their chicks

Saker falcon population has decreased dramatically in Southern Siberia from 9000 in 1970 to 1185 breeding pairs in 2019. 

For additional information please contact
Altai-Sayan ecoregional press-officer
Senior Project Coordinator