Rare birds of Belarus, as well as International Bird Day on April 1.

April 1 is one of the oldest holidays - international bird day. It started with the "World Convention for the Protection of Birds Useful in Agriculture" developed in 1902 in Paris. The document came into force on December 12, 1905, its purpose is to preserve the abundance and diversity of wild bird species.

bird photo

The date of the holiday coincides with such a joyful event as the return of birds from warm lands. Our ancestors called the first birds winged heralds of spring, with which many folk traditions were associated. For spring calls, they baked cookies in the shape of birds with open wings, made whistles, and sang themed songs.

"Lark, lark!

Take your winter

Give us spring."

Nowadays, on International Bird Day, it is customary to improve bird habitats, hang birdhouses and feeders.

autumn mountains

Also on this day, it is impossible not to remember such a monstrous mistake of the past as the extermination of birds. The most famous example is Mauritian dodo, whose population was exhausted by sailors within 174 years from the date of discovery of the island on which he lived. Now the dodo is a symbol of the destruction of species as a result of the barbaric invasion of the ecosystem. And to this day, the lists of disappeared and endangered birds continue to grow. This is facilitated by the destruction and transformation of their natural habitats, pollution and hunting. For migratory birds, high-rise buildings and oil spills in water bodies are of great danger.

According to ornithologists, the extinction of birds will lead to ecological disaster with unpredictable consequences. Therefore, it is so important for all ecologists, specialists and ordinary nature lovers to take part in the conservation of existing species of birds.

Birds of Belarus

Of 332 bird speciesfound in our country, about 230 nest on its territory, and 70 are listed in Red Data Book of Belarus. In 1999, 2003 and 2013 our country has acceded to three environmental conventions - Ramsar, Bonn и Bernese, and also signed the Agreement for the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds. However, despite the current republican environmental acts and international documents, the issue of preserving the populations of rare and endangered bird species Belarus does not lose its relevance. On International Bird Day, we bring to your attention the top 5 rare birds of our country.

Top 5 rare birds of Belarus

1. Black-throated Loon

A large waterfowl, the number of which is sharply declining in Belarus. Very noisy and noisy. Sometimes it sings melodiously, sometimes it croaks like a crow or makes sounds like laughter.

Black-throated loon
photo by: Denis Zhbir

The life of the loon is completely connected with water bodies, it swims and dives perfectly and can stay under water for more than 2 minutes. It takes off only from the water and from a running start, moves on land by crawling, so it builds a nest near the water itself, on a moss-covered shore or on a small flat island. Loons live in places with deaf forest lakes.

The nest usually contains 2 eggs, which are incubated by both parents for 25-30 days. When an enemy approaches, the bird quietly and silently leaves the nest, diving under the water and appearing on the other side. 3 days after birth, loon chicks go to the water and stay near adults for about 2 months. An interesting fact: when the chicks get tired, they climb onto the back of one of the parents and thus swim further.

The diet of the black-throated diver mainly consists of small fish. Sometimes birds prey on frogs, crustaceans and water beetles.

Today in Belarus there are 15 pairs of black-throated diver and about 600 individuals that do not breed.

The main factors of the threat to existence include the economic development of reservoirs, poaching and the factor of bird disturbance during incubation of eggs by tourists and fishermen.

2. barn owl

A very rare bird that lives only in the west of Belarus. Due to its peculiarity, to appear suddenly and without a single sound in the face of an unsuspecting person, in folk art the barn owl was called "ghost owl". Also in legends it is called a night owl and a bird with a monkey face. The official name of the owl comes from its hoarse, drawn-out cry, similar to a hiss.

The barn owl nests in secluded corners of the attics of abandoned buildings, under the roofs of outbuildings, in churches on bell towers, and also in hollows of old deciduous trees. The female lays 4-7 eggs on the bottom of the hollow or on the wooden and stone ceilings of the attics. Incubation lasts from 30 to 34 days. Hatched chicks leave the nest only after 2 months.

Owls feed on mouse-like rodents - voles, mice and rats, sometimes prey on shrews, small birds and invertebrates. Thanks to well-developed vision and auditory receptors, the barn owl perfectly orients itself in pitch darkness, which allows it to hunt at night.

Periodically, the bird flies around its own territory, rising to different heights. She attacks unwanted guests by loudly flapping her wings and frighteningly clicking her beak.

In Belarus, the number of barn owls is estimated at 5-15 pairs, which is less than 0,01% of the European population.

The main threat factors: the reasons why this species is so small in the territory of our country have not yet been fully clarified. However, the existence of barn owls is negatively affected by the reconstruction of old parks and the cutting down of old hollow trees where they live, as well as agricultural pressure on birds. Many barn owls die in winter from lack of food and severe frosts.

3. Avdotka

A very cautious bird, leading a predominantly twilight lifestyle. Able to run fast, keeping the body parallel to the ground, crouching and stretching out the neck. The main food of the Avdotka is insects, mollusks and lizards. For nesting, it chooses sandy wastelands with sparse vegetation or abandoned fields with depleted soil, closer to some reservoir, since it visits a watering hole 2 times a day.

Avdotka bird
photo by: Tatyana Zherebtsova

Avdotka nests are not built as such, usually the female lays 2 eggs in a small depression in the sand. Both members of the pair incubate eggs for about 27 days. When an enemy appears, the female Avdotka silently removes from the nest and flies to the side. After 200-300 m, it descends to the ground and freezes in place, horizontally stretching its body and neck. When you try to approach her, the bird runs back a few steps and freezes again, thus taking the danger away from the nest. The male, on the other hand, can aggressively pursue predators that have appeared at nesting sites. The chicks leave the nest immediately after hatching and fledge at 6 weeks of age.

At the beginning of the last century, the Avdotka was a fairly common bird in the Pinsk, Mozyr and Rechitsa Polissya, but by the 30s, its number had sharply decreased. Only 3 pairs were registered in the Bragin region in 1980 and 1 pair in the same place in 1991. Currently, the number of bird pairs is estimated at 1-10. Avdotka is found only in the extreme south-east of the country.

The main threat factors are: transformation and destruction of habitats of the Avdotka, attacks by corvids, grazing of farm animals in nesting areas.

4. Turukhtan

Small breeding migratory and transit migratory species. Inhabits swampy areas of wide open floodplains, in water-filled depressions in meadows and hummocky sedge marshes.

turukhtan bird
source: book Vertebrates of Russia

Turukhtans do not form permanent pairs, they are characterized by a type of polygamous relationship, when each female mates with many males, and each male, in turn, with many females.

Before nesting and mating, male turukhtans arrange tournament “fights”, which gather up to several dozen birds. Dressed in bright outfits, the males showily jump in front of each other, widely spreading their collars. At the end of the current, the females arrange nests on bumps or in earthen depressions, lay 4 eggs and incubate them for 23 days.

Already on the 3rd day of their appearance, the chicks independently follow the female, which feeds and heats them for about 10 days. In case of danger, the bird deceives the enemy, pretending to be wounded and taking him away from the children. Turukhtan males do not take part in the upbringing of offspring.

From the 23rd day of life, young turukhtans already fly well and completely move away from their mother.

Turukhtans feed on insects and earthworms, sometimes grass seeds and berries.

In Belarus, the number of turukhtans is 2 - 2 thousand pairs. In spring, birds make large non-stop flights, overcoming considerable distances, to get to nesting sites in the temperate zone of Europe and the European Arctic, as well as in Western and Central Siberia. Currently, 4 key places are known where the turukhtan stops to rest during the migration to the north: the agricultural meadows of Friesland (province of the Netherlands); floodplain meadows of Pripyat (Belarus); shallow estuaries on the Sivash (Ukraine). These stops are very important for birds, as they provide an opportunity to gain strength, increase body weight and change into breeding plumage.

In 2017, a record number of migratory turukhtans over the past 20 years was recorded on the Turov meadow - 120 thousand individuals.

The main threat factors are: land reclamation and construction of dams, plowing of drained marshes, spring shooting at the places of currents and migration.

5. Handrail

Quite a rare nesting migratory and migratory bird species in our country. The facts proving the nesting of the marshmallow in Belarus are rare. It occurs mainly in Polissya, some pairs were recorded in the vicinity of Minsk, in the Lyakhovichi district, near Rechitsa, near the village of Odnopole on the Sozh River.

photo by: Svetlana Medvedeva

These birds live in open swampy areas in the floodplains of rivers and near lakes, in hummocky swamps and damp meadows in forest-steppe and steppe zones. They prefer to settle in groups next to lapwings, marsh terns and godwit. The nest is a hole in the soil lined with vegetation. The female lays 4 eggs, which are incubated by both the male and the female.

Marshmallows feed on small mollusks, aquatic insects and their larvae.

Currently, the number of Marshmallow in the territory of Belarus is estimated at 40-70 nesting pairs.

Among the main threats are the destruction of nests by corvids, as well as grazing of farm animals in the nesting places of marshmallows.

text: Ekaterina Golubnicchaya
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