At the end of the August, a young saker falcon was returned into the wild. It belongs to one of the rarest bird species living in Slovakia. The falcon was found back in July by the member of Raptor Protection of Slovakia Jozef Mihók, nearby the nest it flew out from. Another RPS member, Ján Lipták, handed the falcon to expert care. After a successful rehabilitation, this precious patient was ready to be released.
There are just over 30 pairs of saker falcons nesting in Slovakia. Up to 10 nests from this number are located in the Eastern part of Slovakia, where 27 fledglings were raised in 2017. In the 80's, the species reached the point of extinction as a result of egg stealing and massive deforestation of the mountains, where they used to nest. Another reason was disappearing of pastures where its main prey - ground squirrel lives. A total disappearance of saker falcons from our nature has been prevented by the activities of conservationists, especially thanks to the physical guarding of nests. For young birds, the first year of their life is critical. Throughout this period they may succumb to unpleasant conditions during their migration or became a victim of predation or a disease, only small percentages survive to adulthood.
"Under the LIFE Energia project, we carry out inspections of all sites with the presence of a saker falcon. In case of well-known pairs, regular visits are of great importance, as has been indeed shown in this case. This year's young falcon was found in July, during regular inspection of the area near Košice. We noticed that the bird could not fly and its wing was hanging low. We captured it and took it to the University of Veterinary Medicine and Pharmacy in Košice (UVLF)," said Ján Lipták and Jozef Mihók, who are monitoring the saker falcon in Slovakia.
The falcon was taken care of by Ladislav Molnár, the head of the Clinic of Birds, Exotic and Wild Animals: „The examination showed a fracture. Fortunately, it was situated at the end of the wing, where thinner bones are located, in which the bone healing process is quicker and therefore lasts shorter. The wing was just fixed; there was not an open fracture. After a month, the patient is in a good shape and ready to return into the wild. The bird was recovering at the rehabilitation station in Rozhanovce, the largest facility of its kind in the Košice region, which was reconstructed thanks to the LIFE Energy project.“
One of the possible causes of the injury is hitting an obstacle, which could also be a power line. Birds often suffer from collisions during the hunt or when they are engaged in other activities that reduce their attention. „Within the LIFE Energia project, utility company Východoslovenská distribučná, a.s. is installing bird flight diverters on power lines with the highest risk of bird collisions, in total length of 34 kilometers. They will increase the visibility of electric lines, preventing birds from collisions and thus injuries or even deaths. Most of the nesting areas of saker falcon will be secured this way, “informs Lucia Deutschová from Raptor Protection of Slovakia.
This case was already the second rescue this year. At the end of June, Ján Lipták managed to cure and release a young saker falcon, who suffered from serious illness. The bird's two siblings, unfortunately, succumbed to the illness.
Project is supported by European Union within a LIFE program. It contributes significantly to improvement of conditions for the criterial species of birds in Natura 2000 sites.
The University of Veterinary Medicine and Pharmacy in Košice contains a specialized clinical department and a rehabilitation station. It is capable of providing veterinary care for rare and protected animals, which are dependent on human care. This case also confirms the need of such specialist departments for protection of critically endangered animal species, as well as cooperation of conservationists and veterinarians under the LIFE project. In addition to the project, the University is currently reconstructing the Clinic of Birds, Exotic and Wild Animals, which will be larger and more modern after rebuilding.