Interview with Vitaly Vetrov, Maxim Gavrilyuk, Sergey Domashevsky, Vasily Kostyushin and Yury Milobog about the Ukrainian Birds of Prey Research Centre (UBPRC)

Date of the interview: 05 December 2009

In this interview, Vitaly Vetrov, Maxim Gavrilyuk, Sergey Domashevsky, Vasily Kostyushin and Yury Milobog talk about the Ukrainian Birds of Prey Research Centre (UBPRC) and the current situationn for raptors in the Ukraine.

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Vitaly Vetrov

Vitaly Vetrov

Markus Jais: What is the Ukrainian Birds of Prey Research Centre (UBPRC)? How many people work at the centre?
Vitaly Vetrov: The UBPRC was founded in February 2008 by the initiative of 6 ornithologists, as a working group to study and protect birds of prey. Gradually, the Centre activity involved more people. At the present time we plan to register the Centre as a Ukrainian non-governmental organization. The Center has no staff; all work is carried out on a voluntary basis.

Markus Jais: What are the main achievements in the work of UBPRC?
Maxim Gavrilyuk: In October 2008 the UBPRC organized and hosted an international conference on birds of prey. It was attended by more than 70 ornithologists from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus. Soon, the proceedings of the conference were published, which included 72 papers. As an important achievement we also consider the development of the dedicated website covering the current status of populations of birds of prey in Ukraine. We began working on several projects, including attempts to organize the monitoring of birds of prey in Ukraine. Also, we published the brochure ‘Practical guides for the monitoring programme of birds of prey in Ukraine”.

Markus Jais: Are you working together with other organisations in the Ukraine and other countries?
Maxim Gavrilyuk: The UBPRC collaborates with other non-governmental organizations - the National Ecological Center, and Ukrainian Union for the Protection of Birds (BirdLife Ukraine). In 2008, members of the UBPRC participated in the project «Saker Falcon in Southeast Europe - Research and Conservation» together with the Southeast European Saker Network (SESN). In 2009, under support of Falcon Research Centre (United Kingdom) we carried out the expedition, which purpose was to identify areas, suitable to install nest boxes for Saker Falcons on pylons of power lines. In 2008 and 2009, there were expeditions to the southern regions of Russia jointly with Russian ornithologists to study the distribution and numbers of birds of prey.

Yury Milobog

Yury Milobog

Markus Jais: How many raptor species do occur in the Ukraine?
Sergey Domashevsky: Currently 33 species of diurnal birds of prey occur in Ukraine, of them 23 species breed, and 13 species of owls, of them 11 are breeding ones. The present status of birds of prey in different regions can be viewed at our website http://raptors.org.ua/en/status-of-ukrainian-raptors

Markus Jais: Is the overall trend for raptors positive in the Ukraine?
Sergey Domashevsky: Different species show different trends, but, as a whole, the majority increases in numbers. This primarily refers to the Buzzard, White-tailed Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, and Ural Owl. Negative trends of the Black Kite, Montagu's Harrier and Levant Sparrowhawk are of particular concern.

Markus Jais: What needs to be done for raptor conservation in the Ukraine?
Maxim Gavrilyuk: Among the conservation problems for birds of prey in Ukraine it should be mentioned current forestry activities and a low level of ecological culture of many people. To improve the protection it’s necessary to implement on the legislation level protective (buffer) zones around the nests of rare species, carry out activities to attract birds for nesting in artificial nests, contribute to further promotion of birds of prey, and prevent their illegal capture.

Markus Jais: What about electrocution? How many birds die because of electrocution and are power lines made safe?
Vitaly Vetrov: This problem isn’t the most burning for the conservation of birds of prey in Ukraine. According to various estimates, the power lines cause 4-11% of mortality of birds of prey.

Vasily Kostyushin

Vasily Kostyushin

Markus Jais: How is the situation for eagles in the Ukraine? How many pairs do exist for the different eagle species and are the populations increasing, decreasing or are they stable?
Vitaly Vetrov: The Spotted Eagle is a rare breeding species with a negative trend. Its number hardly exceeds 10 pairs. The population of the Lesser Spotted Eagle is generally stable with a little increase; about 1000-1500 pairs are breeding. The Imperial Eagle slightly increases its numbers; at least 130-140 pairs are breeding. The Golden Eagle is a rare breeding species with stable numbers. Its population doesn’t exceed 10-15 pairs. The Steppe Eagle had stopped breeding in Ukraine in the beginning of 1980s. It’s the rare migrating species now.
Maxim Gavrilyuk: The population of the White-tailed Eagle is increasing: 100-120 breeding pairs. The population of the Booted Eagle is generally stable with a little decline: about 450-500 breeding pairs. As for the Short-toed Eagle there are 250-300 breeding pairs of it in Ukraine now and its population is stable too.

Markus Jais: What gaps in knowledge about raptors in the Ukraine do exist?
Maxim Gavrilyuk: Ukraine is a vast country with relatively few ornithologists and birdwatchers. Therefore researches of distribution and numbers of birds of prey are still of high interest. I’d like to give at least two examples. B.-U. Meyburg (1996), basing on the number of the Lesser Spotted Eagle crossing the Bosporus, natural environment and the area of Ukraine, has estimated breeding population of this species as approximately 800 pairs. However, according to the number of breeding pairs known for that time the population was estimated as 180 pairs (2000). The results of recent studies carried by us showed the number of population as 1000-1500 pairs. Another example. Our recent research has revealed that the number of the Saker Falcon in Ukraine amounts to 270-310 pairs (2009), i. e. is the largest in Europe. You will agree that more comprehensive knowledge of the situation with birds of prey in Ukraine can help to develop optimal protection measures within the whole territory of Europe. Also the organization of large-scale monitoring of birds of prey in Ukraine is essential.

Maxim Gavrilyuk

Maxim Gavrilyuk

Markus Jais: What needs to be done in the future to protect raptors in the Ukraine?
Vasily Kostyushin: Each species needs its own action plan. In general, it is important to monitor populations, increase the area and network of protected territories. Unfortunately, the legislation in Ukraine still doesn’t foresee the existence of a protective zone around nests of rare bird species, and only the nest itself and the birds are protected. For some species the construction of artificial nests is necessary. The important thing is to provide effective control of illegal shooting of birds and removal of chicks.

Markus Jais: What can people in the Ukraine do to help?
Vasily Kostyushin: Perhaps to propagandize the protection of birds of prey among local people is the most essential since the main cause of death of raptors in Ukraine is shooting. Therefore, any projects for the protection of birds of prey should involve the local people.

Sergey Domashevsky

Sergey Domashevsky

Markus Jais: Are there any English publications about the raptors in the Ukraine?
Yury Milobog: Only a few publications in the theses and conference proceedings:
  • Gavrilyuk M. Wintering of the White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla in Ukraine / / 6-th World Conference on Birds of Prey and Owls. Budapest, Hungary, 18-23 May 2003. Abstracts. - P. 65.
  • Gavrilyuk M., Grishchenko V. Breeding success of the White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) in Ukraine in 1988-1998 / / The Ring. (Abstracts of the 2-nd Meet. of European Ornithologists Union and 3-rd Internat. Shrike Symposium). - 1999. - V. 21, № 1. - P. 142.
  • Gavrilyuk M., Grishchenko V. Analysis of nests of the White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) in Ukraine / / 3-rd Eurasian Conf. of Raptor Research Foundation. Buteo. Suppl. - 1999. - P. 49.
  • Gavrilyuk M., Grishchenko V. Current status of the White-tailed Eagle in Ukraine / / Sea Eagle 2000. Proceedings from an international conference at Bjorko, Sweden, 13-17 September 2000 / Helander B., Marquiss M. & Bowerman W. (eds.) - Stockholm: Swedish Society for Nature Conservation / SNF & Atta. 45 Tryckeri AB, 2003. - P. 129-132.
  • Grischtshenko V. Die gegenwartige verbreitung des Kaiseradlers Aquila heliaca in der Ukraine / / Orn. Mitteilungen. - 1993. - Bd. 45, Heft 9. – S. 247−250.
  • Griscenko V.N, Gavrilyk M.N Der Seeadler Haliaeetus albicilla am mittleren Dnepr / / Populationsokologie Greifvogel-und Eulenarten. 3. - 1996. - 147-153.
  • Vetrov V.V Status of the Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca in Ukraine between 1897 and 1993 / / Eagle Studies / Ed. by B.-U. Meyburg & RD Chancellor. - Berlin-London-Paris, 1996. - P. 435-438.
  • Vetrov V. Saker falcon in Ukraine / / Proceeding of the II International conference on the Saker Falcon and Houbara Bustard, Mongolia, 1-4 July 2000. - 2001. - P. 55-57.
  • Vetrov V.V & Milobog Yu.V. Updating the present status of Long-Legged Buzzards Buteo rufinus in Ukraine / / 6-th World Conference on Birds of Prey and Owls. Budapest, Hungary, 18-23 May 2003. Abstracts. - P. 37.
  • Vetrov V.V, Prokopenko S.P, Milobog Yu.V. Disrtribution and number of the Peregrine in Ukraine / / Peregrine Falcon population - status and perspectives in 21st century / J. Sielicki and T. Mizera (eds.) - Warsaw-Poznan: Turul / Poznan University of Life Sciences Press, 2009. - P. 277-280.

Markus Jais: Do you think that bird watching tourism can help to protect raptors in the Ukraine by making them valuable to local people?
Yury Milobog: In recent years the first projects for the organization of bird watching tourism have appeared in Ukraine. The main routes of bird watching are concentrated in the Crimea, the Carpathians and Odessa region. Birds of prey are one of the most important and valuable objects of observation for the tourists. To promote the protection of predators the ornithologists of our Centre with other Ukrainian ornithological NGOs provide round-table discussions for local people, and trainings within village councils dedicated to business planning and strategy principles for the development of the bird watching tourism. Local communities received recommendations from ornithologists and ecologists to develop bird watching routes. In addition, some communities have made proposals to local councils regarding the inclusion of bird watching tourism in the strategic plan for their districts. The Ukrainian Birds of Prey Research Centre hopes that the bird watching tourism will increase public awareness of problems of environmental protection and attract local people to conservation of ecologically valuable areas.

Markus Jais: How do you see the future for raptors in the Ukraine?
Yury Milobog: The future of birds of prey in many respects will depend on the economic situation in Ukraine. It will determine people's attitudes towards birds of prey and the amount of funds, directly or indirectly allocated to the protection of birds of prey.

Markus Jais: Vitaly, Maxim, Sergey, Vasily and Yury, thank you very much for the interview

Further Information

Ukrainian Birds of Prey Research Centre