Thursday 20 January 2011

Barbary falcons in the deep south

I am grateful to Hungarian ornithologist Mátyás Prommer who told me about an article written in the Hungarian journal called "Heliaca" in 2009 (edition 7) on barbary falcon in the far south of Libya. I found it fascinating once I had used google translator and Matyas's useful English summary.

The author was an Hungarian geologist, Lantos Zoltán, who is also an amateur birdwatcher. He spent two months in Libya on an expedition in early 2009. . The article is called "Observations of nesting Barbary Falcons in the Libyan Desert".

As a geologist Lantos was able to visit usually restricted areas between Kufra and the borders of Chad and Sudan. He was given a wonderful chance to bird watch in an area no one else can. This is the area hundreds of kilometres south of Kufra and also south west of Uweinat.

It's difficult to image any birds living in this exceeding dry and remote place but Lantos did.

terrain south of Kufra by Lantos Zoltán

The area is mostly very flat sand desert with mini-hills often 10 or 15 metres tall. See the terrain in the above picture.

Lantos found that many of these mini hills housed barbary falcon nests with breeding pairs.

barbary falcon nest by Lantos Zoltán

The nests are usually just sheltered areas on the plateaus of the mini-hills with no added material. Another surprise is that they were often not far apart. Two nests were separated by under 7 kilometres.

barbary falcon in the desert by Lantos Zoltán

Lantos also found evidence that at least part of the diet of one bird was probably a yellow wagtail! I think we can safely assume that tired migratory birds are a large part of the barbary falcon's diet twice a year during the passage seasons. I wonder what they eat for the rest of the year?

No exact locations are given in his article to add double protection to the birds if the fact that they are in a restricted area doesn't suffice. Although, I would have thought that the biggest problem for these birds is the elements!

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