Rare, Vulnerable, Endangered Birds In Romania

excerptsThis work puts forth essential data on a number of 101 bird species in the Romanian fauna, which are rare, vulnerable and endangered. Emphasis is laid on the hatching populations, on recent and current tendencies, on factors imposing limitations on the existence of birds. The status of bird protection is indicated and measures are proposed with a view to their protection. The book is addressed to anyone interested in preserving the biodiversity of Romania, especially to ornithologists. THE SPOON BILL Platalea leucorodia LinnaeusOrd. Ciconiiformes, fam. Threskiornithidae General spreading areaVast but discontinuous southern-palearctic spreading area. The northern limit is situated on the isotherm of 17 degrees Celsius of the month of July. It is generally in decline. Its sporadic distribution is determined not only by its special conditions of hatching and nourishment, but also by the effects of reclamation of wet areas and of human persecution. In various sectors of its spreading area, the spoon bill can be either migratory or sedentary. Situation in Europe Unfavorable preservation status (SPEC2: rare), as a result of the reduced number (9000-15,000 pairs, despite the fact that the populations in some countries are stable, and in others they are increasing). Spoon bills are more numerous in The Netherlands (on the Rhine), Spain (the delta of the river Guadalquivir), Hungary and Russia. In Romania they are to be met primarily in the Danube Delta. Spreading area in Romania The spoon bill hatches mainly in the Danube Delta and, less frequently, in other places in the country: Balta Mica a Brailei (Onea, 2002); waters in the east of Muntenia: Amara, county of Buzau (Papadopol, 1974; pers.obs.); the meadow of the river Prut: Carja-Mata-Radeanu (A. Ignat, 2008); the north of Moldavia: Larga Jijia (C. Gache, 2002; A. Ignat, 2008). The extension of the spreading area in Moldavia, along the valley of the river Prut is recent (after 1990). On the other hand, the spoon bill as a hatching bird disappeared from other parts of the country last century. Thus, the colony existing in the 1980s at Dunareni, the county of Constanta (Munteanu, 1989, 2004) disappeared in 1996, as a result of the temporary leakage of the lake water during piscicultural works. The colony existing in the 1960s at Cernaghiol, commune of Cerna, the county of Tulcea (Vespremeanu, 1967, 1968) disappeared as well. Spoon bills disappeared from the meadow of the Lower Danube (Catuneanu 1958), as well as from the Carpathian basin, where they hatched in small numbers, in the 19th century in Transylvania (data centralized by Salmen, 1980), until the beginning of the 20th century in Banat (Lintia, 1955), and in Crisana until the 1960s (Polis, 1968; Babutia, 1985; possible comeback over the last years). Spoon bills are constantly present in the summer time in the Danube meadow, even as far as Oltenia (groups of several dozens of birds have been observed here), which suggests that they probably hatch in this area (pers. obs., information). They migrate above the Western Plain (Pannonic population).  Habitat Lakes and still waters with reed thickets, in whose proximity there are surfaces of shallow, still or slightly running water, with muddy bottom. The nests are generally built in the reed. Number of birdsAt present, there are 1100-1500 pairs hatching in the Danube Delta (Plateuw, Kiss, Sadoul, 2002), while around 1990 there were supposedly 600 pairs (Marinov et al, 1996). The spoon bill population from the mouth of the Danube made a significant comeback after the 1980s, when it had almost disappeared from the Delta (before this it had disappeared from the Danube Meadow, along which it had been signaled at the beginning of the 20th century even as far as Calafat). There are a small number of pairs outside the Delta. At Larga Jijia 30-35 pairs hatched in 2006 and 2007 (Alina Ignat 2008). Spoon bills have never been numerous in Romania. At the beginning of the 20th century, the hatching population in the country, in particular on the Lower Danube, was assessed to be of about 400 pairs (Dombrowski, 1912). Therefore, despite the limitation of the distribution area and of some numerical fluctuations/reductions, throughout the decades, the current number of spoon bills is bigger than the one existing one hundred years ago and manifests a slight increasing tendency. Biology. Summer guest (during months 4-9).They hatch in the reed thicket, either in small colonies or next to mixed colonies (months 5-7). The laying consists of 3-4 eggs. They feed on various aquatic animals, including those living in silt. Limitative factorsThe decline of the spoon bill was caused first of all by the reclamation of wet lands. To this can be added local activities such as: burning the reed during the hatching period, destruction of nests in other ways; disturbance of colonies; the limitation of trophic habitats and the limitation of access to food (through modifications of hydrological regime, implicitly of aquatic fauna). All these factors led to the disappearance of spoon bills inside the country and in the peripheral colonies of Dobruja. At present, the reduction in limitative factors allows the population in the Delta to grow again. An important contribution to this is probably brought by the fact that in the north part of the Chilia channel (on the Ialpug lake, Ukraine) there is a colony of about 1000 pairs; it is possible that the young birds over that area come and hatch in the Danube Delta (Marinov et al, 1996). Protection Declared natural monument (The Commission for Natural Monuments). Protected by Law 13/1993 (Bern Convention annex 2), Law 13/1998 (Bonn Convention, annex 2), Law 89/2000 (AEWA-annex 2), Birds Directive 79/409/EEC, OUG 57/2007 (annex 3), Law 407/2006 and 197/2007-Hunting Law (annex 2-forbidden hunting).In order to preserve the species it is necessary to maintain the natural characteristics of ecosystems in which spoon bills hatch as well as the strict protection of colonies that live both within and without the delta.  Status: Endangered species.  THE GOLDEN EAGLE Aquila chrysaetos (Linnaeus)Ord. Accipitriformes, fam. Accipitriadae General spreading areaHolarctic species, with a wide spreading area, from Western Europe and Northern Africa to Kamchatka and Japan, as well as over Alaska, Canada and the west of the USA, to Mexico. Situation in Europe Unfavorable preservation status (SPEC 3: rare). In Europe it is more widely spread in northern and western countries, with a population of 6000-8000 of hatching pairs. In some countries in the Eastern Europe there has been a decline. Spreading area in RomaniaUntil the beginning of the 20th century, the golden eagle was a constant, innumerous presence in all our mountains. For the second half of the past century, we can find information about it in works such as: Talpeanu, 1966; Puscariu, Filipascu, 1975; Maties, 1981; Klemm and Kohl, 1988 etc. At present, the golden eagle is a rare bird; birds that had been known for years or even decades were abandoned, and disappeared completely from some massifs. On the other hand, mention must be made of the fact that the introduction of the marmot in the Carpathians did not lead to the increase of the eagle population, as hoped in the 1970s. However, over the last years, the golden eagle has been monitored more closely, but not in high areas, rather in low mountains at the outskirts of the Carpathian mountains; in almost all massifs, there is one or two stable pairs, with an obvious territorial behaviour. There are few nests known, for example in Cheile Turzii (the county of Cluj), Cheile Intregalde (the county of Alba), the valley of Hasdatii (the county of Cluj), etc. Habitat Mountain area, in places with barren mountainsides, rocky slopes and wide grasslands, with big forests. Golden eagles find their food in open spaces, even in crops, but also on mountain slopes or in alpine meadows. Population The hatching population in the Carpathians has diminished over the last hundred years. At present, there may be more than 40-60 hatching pairs in the Carpathians, to which we must add the immature and young birds. It was found that over the 3-4 decades the population of golden eagles in Romania has been stable, which is encouraging for its future in the Carpathians. Biology The population in the Carpathians is sedentary, but in winter time the birds fly to lower lands (they were signaled as far as Dobruja). Sexual maturity is reached at the age of 4-5. The nests are built on cliff ledges or in high trees. Each pair builds several nests. The number of eggs laid is of one or two, but it is only the elder baby that reaches maturity (thus the rate of reproduction is of only one baby per pair per year). The territory of a pair unfolds on a surface between 50 and 200 km square. North European birds hardly ever come to our country as winter guests. Limitative factorsSeveral factors contribute to the decline of this species in the Romanian Carpathians: shooting, egg gathering; organochlorined pesticides which have negative effects on the proliferation of hatching pairs. According to Salmen (1980), the massif forest exploitations obliged the golden eagles to leave the beech tree forests gradually and to go into the “rocky area”, where the trophic offer is smaller. Even if this was valid during the period in which Salmen wrote his paper (the 1940s-1950s), we underline the fact that at present Aquila chrysaetos mustn’t necessarily be considered a bird of high mountain. Another possible cause for the decrease of the population living in the Carpathians is the decrease of the wild fauna which ensures the food for this bird of prey, as well as the decrease of the number of sheep brought in the mountains in the summer time. Since they are obliged to feed on corpses in heavy winters, some eagles may have died poisoned by the substance used for killing wolves. Collision with high tension wires can result in injuries or death of the birds. Protection Natural monument (The Commission for Natural Monuments), protected by Law 13/1993 (Bern Convention, annex 2 ), La w 13/1998 (Bonn Convention, annex 2), Birds Directive 79/409/EEC, Law 407/2006 and 197/2007-Hunting law (annex 2-forbidden hunting), OUG 57/2007 regarding the status of protected natural areas, preservation of natural habitats, of wild flora and fauna (annex 3). Proposed measures of protection: public campaign for protection of the species; ban of alpine routes in the proximity of nests; feeding the hatching pairs with known territories on food wastes from slaughterhouses (the eagle feeds on corpses, too); monitoring inhabited nests. Status: Endangered species   THE EUROPEAN BLACK GROUSE Lyrurus tetrix (Linnaeus)Ord. Galliformes, fam. Tetraonidae General spreading area Large area that lies from the British Isles (in the West) to the Eastern parts of Siberia and of China. In Europe, the south limit of spreading includes the Alps and the Carpathians, and in Asia the Altai mountains. The isolated populations from the mountains of central and southern Europe (including those from the Carpathians) are considered to be post-ice age relics that remained in these areas after the species moved towards north. Situation in EuropeUnfavorable preservation status (SPEC 3: decrease of the number of birds), since in the 20th century, the populations from several European countries have been decreasing in number and underwent a great territorial fragmentation. Nevertheless, the species is still flourishing in northern countries (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia), with a total of over 2 million members. In the Alps, the restrictive factors are: a decrease in the number of pastures (or their invasion by wooden vegetation, as a result of renouncement to traditional pastoral practices, tourist boom (especially related to skiing) and illegal hunting (poaching). Spreading in RomaniaBlack grouses lived in the Carpathians during post-ice age warming, but in modern times they disappeared from the forest areas. Until the 19th century, they were present along the Oriental Carpathians, as well as in the north of the Apuseni Mountains and on the sub-Carpathian hills in Transylvania. There is information on their past existence in the Meridional Carpathians, according to which they were hunted in Fagaras and Bucegi (Nania, 2000), as well as a hybrid member of the species coming from Retezat (the Adam Buda collection, from Rea, Hateg, at present in the Natural Sciences Museum of Sibiu; it probably disappeared in the meantime, since it is no longer to be found in the catalogue drawn up by C. A. Popescu, 2002). Without tenable counterarguments, Filipascu (2004) denies the past existence of the black grouse in the Meridional Carpathians. Evidence was recently offered by J. Roberts (2000), who observed a female with 10 babies in the mountains of Lotru in 1995. Disjunctive populations, which may belong to the subspecies of plain L. T. Viridanus used to be present until the 19th century on the hills in Arges (Rosetti-Balanescu, 1968) and in Dobruja (Filipascu 2004). From the beginning of the 19th century (as signaled by Cornescu), but especially in the 20th century, Romania witnessed a sharp decrease in the number of black grouses; this decrease became obvious through their fragmentation (in isolated groups), the reduced number and their disappearance from the forests, concurrent with the withdrawal of birds to higher altitudes, in the alpine area. At present, the species of black grouse is represented by a few nuclei in the north of the country: The mountain of Maramures, the mountains of Tibles, the mountains of Rodna, Culmea Suhardului, the mountain Omul, the mountain Calimani (Almasan, Popescu, 1963; Ardelean, Beres, 2002; Beres, 1990; Decei, 1994a, 1994b; Filipascu, 1958, 2004; Ganga, 2008 – the most informed Romanian work on the black grouse; Klemm, Kohl, 1988; Kohl, 1970; Matic, 1965; Philipovici, 1960; Decei, 1994; Radu, 1996; Nania, 2000). Relatively new information from more southern parts of the country: the mountains of Nemira, the mountains Cindel (Stein-Spiess, 1957), the southern part of the mountains of Rodna (the basin of Somes Mare) could not be confirmed. Fortunately, the pessimism of those who put the black grouse on the list of extinct birds in Romania (Cotta, Bodea, Micu, 2001: Nania, 2000) is infirmed by reality. HabitatAt present, in the Romanian Carpathians, Lyrurus tetrix is a bird living in high mountains. It lives in the higher part of the spruce fir forest, in places with clearings and in the alpine area, in bushes and shrubs, alternating with areas with rich vegetation. It is considered (Filipascu 2004) that in the Carpathians shrubs are essential for the existence of these birds; however, we emphasize the fact that they do represent a habitat adopted quite recently (probably in the 19th century) as a result of the high anthropical pressure put on them at lower altitudes. PopulationIn 1992-1993 the foresters recorded no more than 50 birds, in the known places (Decei, 1994a). Filipascu (2004) estimated that in the 1970s there were 130-200 birds left. According to A. Ganga (2008), in 2007 there were around 220-240 black grouses in the country, with a ratio of 3 males to one female. BiologyPolygamous bird. The nuptial parade takes place in May, on the ground, on ice, respectively, in clearings and shrubs. It lays 6-9 eggs. Hatching takes for about 25-28 days (Couturier, 1964). The babies are nidifugous. Sedentary bird. It only travels locally and in winter time goes to the limit-forest and on the mountainsides that are oriented towards the South. The food of adult birds is predominantly vegetarian, the food of baby birds is mostly of animal origin. In the west of Europe the black grouse produces damages in pine plantations, as it eats tree buds (Nef, 1959). Limitative factorsHunting, limitation of specific habitats, deforestation, pastoral pressure (intense pasturing, dogs), intense picking of fruits of rowan trees and cranberry trees, development of tourism, all those added to the background of a relatively low biologic potential of a small, isolated population living at the periphery of the spreading area, in rough environmental conditions. The influence of predatory animals (foxes) also cannot be ignored. Another factor is the harsh climate in the alpine area. It was proven that in the alps successful hatching (0,1-3,2 babies/adult female) is affected by weather conditions in June-July (Couturier, 1964).An activity of colonization of the black grouse in the mountains Cindrel, with birds brought from Russia, initiated and organized by A. von Spiess in 1913 (Philipovici, 1960), failed. Over the last years, projects of introduction of species in some areas in the Romanian Carpathians, in view of extending the distribution area. ProtectionDeclared natural monument (The Commission for Natural Monuments). Protected by law 13/1993, Bern convention, annex 3). Birds Directive 79/409/EEC, Law 407/2006 and 197/2007- Hunting Law (annex 2-forbidden hunting), OUG 57/2007 (annex 3).In 1971, in the north of the country, a special reservation for the protection of the black grouse (Cornedei-Ciungii Balasanii, of 800 ha, in the mountains of Maramures) or mixed reservations in which one can find Lyrurus tetrax (Bila-Lala, of 234 ha in the mountains of Rodna; 12 Apostles, of 200 ha, in Calimani); at present these reservations are a part of the Natural Park of Maramures, the National Park Calimani.Proposed measures of protection: preserving shrubs; restricting the area of sheepfold dogs in conformity with legal norms in force in the area where black grouses are; in the same areas, limitation/ban of grazing is recommended until the day of 15th of July; efficient protection of natural reservations in which Lyrurus tetrix live, especially during reproduction period (the months 5-7). Status: Critically endangered species. Translated by Fabiola Popa

by Dan Munteanu