During the 2016 field season, we investigated the influence of intense nest digging predation at a Sand Martin colony that is situated in natural habitat along the Tisza river. Over this season, foxes dug a large number of holes which either partly or fully destroyed 39% of burrows in a large colony, comprising over 1,500 pairs. This high level of predation caused death and/or injury to between 7% and 44% of breeding individuals and lowered the reproductive success of the colony as on average 20% (between 5% and 43%) less nestlings were fledged. The level of digging showed a negative exponential growth with burrow density. Our observations show that the burrows were most at threat between 0 m and 0.4 m from the top and between 0 m and 1.4 m from the bottom of the wall. These observations show that it is critically important to decrease the number of foxes and other potential nest predators, whose numbers have increased well above ‘natural’ levels over the last decade, in regions where Sand Martins are nesting as this species is in drastic decline.
The Common Buzzard is a widespread and abundant raptor in Europe. Recently, game keepers have argued that the buzzard population has increased in Hungary and is threatening valuable small game species. Hunting of the buzzard has been prohibited since 1933, and since 1954 it has also been protected by law, in Hungary. Here we review scientific literature on recent population changes of the species, prey composition, and anatomical constraints of foraging. We show that according to the Common Bird Monitoring Program the breeding population remained stable in 1992-2012. Because of its anatomy and its hunting techniques it is not able to hunt efficiently for valuable small game. According to studies made with different methods in different parts of Europe in the last century, most of its prey species are small mammals. Therefore, the Common Buzzard population may help sustain rodent populations, thus providing essential ecosystem services for agriculture. Game species can also occur in the diet, however the proportion is negligible and buzzards usually acquire such prey as carcasses or handicapped individuals. We found no justification in favour of lifting the hunting ban of Common Buzzards in Hungary.
Based on the Hungarian common bird monitoring scheme (MMM), which is the longest running country-wide monitoring using formal sampling design with representative data for the main habitats in Central-Eastern Europe, we investigated the population trends of common breeding and wintering species. Habitat preference and occupancy of the common breeders, migration strategies and relationships among these characteristics could act behind the population trends. We pointed out that long distance migrant bird species had strong decreasing trends in Hungary and very probably in the entire Pannonian biogeographical region, whereas the partial and short migrant species has increasing trends. Farmland birds had declining trend, which trend became more obvious since the joining of Hungary to the EU. The negative changes in the farmland habitat could influence bird species nesting/foraging mainly in this habitat independently from their migration strategies. Our investigations let us to develop indicators on the basis of migration strategy and habitat usage of common birds to provide regular information about condition of groups of species and their habitats in Hungary and the Pannonian region. The MMM database provide unique opportunity for further investigations of several species, habitats and area specific in a part of Europe where this kind of information is rare yet.
The Hoopoe is a widespread species in Hungary with the strongest populations on the Great plains. The fact that in 2015 it became ‛The Bird of the Year’ in Hungary offers the possibility to summarise the information about the distribution, population size, dispersion, migration as well as the nature conservation status of the Hoopoe population breeding in Hungary. In the period of 1999–2014 the number of breeding pairs and trend of population level was estimated based on the Common Bird Census database. The population size was estimated as 13,500–17,500 pairs with a stable trend (slope=−1.3%, SE=2.5%) over 1999–2014. There is very limited information on migration from bird ringing, only 8 recoveries between 1928–1963 indicate, that the Hungarian population is migrating on a south-southeast direction in autumn, wintering in the eastern parts of the Sahel, possibly in Chad and Sudan and migrates back in spring following a loop migration pattern further to the east. The main conservation issues are agricultural intensification impacting feeding possibilities, lack of nesting cavities and hunting during migration.
The Corncrake is a strictly protected species in Hungary and a qualifying species of many Natura 2000 sites. Despite its Least concern global conservation status, it receives much attention and was elected as “Bird of the Year” by MME BirdLife Hungary in 2016. In this paper, we estimate its population trends and analyse the suitability of the protected area system and agri-environment schemes for the species. We compiled information on major threatening factors and conservation measures applied for the species. We reviewed international publications on the ecology and conservation management of the species to extract information for practical conservation. We estimated that 500–2000 pairs of Corncrakes breed in Hungary. Although their breeding sites are well covered by protected areas, Natura 2000 sites (42%) and High Nature Value Areas (67%), their population has declined by 55% over the last 20 years. We found that most of the major threatening factors are addressed by conservation management, and appropriate measures are applied in most cases. Recent research findings and recommendations by the BirdLife International Corncrake Conservation Team suggest that mowing of grasslands around nesting places should be delayed until 1–15 August either in the entire field or at least on 2 hectares around nests. Prescriptions of agri-environment schemes should also be adjusted to the above requirements and more farmers should be encouraged to enrol in Corncrake conservation programmes. We strongly suggest that more emphasis should be devoted to combat important threats for the most important breeding sites such as aridification and flooding.
The European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster Linnaeus, 1758) is known as ‛beekeeper bird’ and an effective ecosystem engineer species. The fact that in 2013 it became ‛The Bird of the Year’ in Hungary offers the possibility to summarise the information about the distribution, population size, breeding and feeding ecology, dispersion, migration, intra- and interspecific relationships as well as the nature conservation status of the bee-eater population breeding in Hungary. Though this review focuses on the Hungarian population trends, but also summarises the major research results from other countries. In the period of 1992-2013, the number of breeding pairs were surveyed in 5897 2.5×2.5 km UTM squares in the frame of the Monitoring of Rare and Colonial Breeding Birds programme. In the surveyed area during the period of 1992-2013, the most accurate estimate suggests a 10600-19600 breeding pair population. The larger nesting colonies were observed in the following regions: Zala Hills, Outer Somogy, Gerecse, Velencei Hills, Mezőföld, Gödöllő Hills, Tápió, Bükkalja, Taktaköz, Körös region. The annual population indices showed marked fluctuation with stable long term population trend in Hungary. The national monitoring and protection project of the European Bee-eater revealed the most important factors endangering the nesting populations, these are weed invasion and the collapse of vertical banks, mining carried out in the nesting period and direct human-caused disturbance (e.g. shooting, tourism).