The Saker falcon has never been the subject of research in Croatia, and therefore there are no substantial and continuous data on this species. For these reasons, we do not know the size of the population in Croatia over history, nor do we know all of the causes that threaten its survival. Comprehensive research has been carried out over the past three years, and a great deal of data collected.
During 2009, as part of the Matra/KNIP Programme of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, we carried out the project entitled Saker Falcon in Croatia. This project included the successful mapping of power transmission lines with accompanying poles, which will significantly facilitate our future field work. We established good cooperation with HEP, which is necessary to ensure the quality of research we intend to continue. Thanks to this project, two young female Saker falcons from two nests were saved from death, and we are working to raise them so that they can survive in nature when released.
In comparison with the period up to 2006, when we had virtually no knowledge of the Saker falcon in Croatia, the results of this project are encouraging. They have also obliged us to continue our research and to improve the conservation of the Saker falcon in Croatia.
The main causes of threat of the Saker falcon in Croatia are poaching, a lack of suitable habitats and, likely, the use of chemical substances in pest protection in agriculture. Even though the Saker falcon is protected by law, like all other birds of prey in Croatia, this protection is very difficult to enforce. Many cases of poisoning birds of prey are known, and it is virtually impossible to determine who is responsible and whether the poisoning was accidental or intentional. Furthermore, many birds of prey are killed by unconscientiously hunters who view them as “pests” or competitors. Research in other countries has shown that some birds are also killed on the electrical wires. Such cases are common in poorly constructed power transmission lines, typically low-power lines where the distance between lines is small and the isolators are short. Illegal trade is also a great danger for the Saker falcon.
During the implementation of this project, it was observed that theft of the young falcons is also a problem. For that reason, the exact locations of individual nests are not given.
The southwestern border of the distribution range of the Saker falcon covers the eastern part of Croatia, where this bird was recorded back in the 19th century. Like many of the edge areas, eastern Croatia also represents a sensitive area in which extinction of this species could easily occur. In order to reduce the threat of extinction of this species in Croatia, necessary measures must be taken to allow its survival in this territory. It is important to remove threats, such as killing, poisoning and capturing of birds. Permanent cooperation should be established with HEP and artificial nests installed, making it less likely for the young to fall out, thereby increasing nesting success. This method was used in Hungary and had excellent results, and the highest growth of the number of pairs in Europe was recorded. Furthermore, it is very important that workshops be organised in order to popularise this species and its importance, and to alter the perception of humans, who are the greatest threat for this species. Better cooperation and information exchange should be established with individuals and organisations carrying out similar research in neighbouring countries.