Berkut. Vol. 5. Is. 2. 1996. P. 141-146.




D.N. Nankinov


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Key words: Dotterel, Bulgaria, migration, phenology, flyway.


1. Introduction

Dotterel (Charadrius morinellus) has the parted breeding range in the zone of tundra of Eurasia, from Scotland to Bering strait (also can be found in North Alaska). There are isolated nestings in Europe (Holland, Austria, Italy, Romania, etc.), Ural and south Siberian mountains too. Its population in Europe numbers 36 500 couples, while 28 000 couples breed only in Norway. Dotterel winters in Mediterranean (Kozlova, 1961; Robbins et al., 1966; Hable, 1973; Cramp, Simmons, 1983; Piersma, 1986; Sackl, 1993). The territory of Bulgaria is situated between the breeding and wintering ranges of the species. Dotterel visits Bulgaria during migrations. These facts are little known and in the most recent monographs on birds of Western Palearctic there is no information about the presence of the Dotterel in the Bulgarian avifauna. Short notes about its meetings in Bulgaria can be found in some publications of the last decades (Robel, Knigstedt, 1979; Nankinov, 1982, 1989).


2. Materials and methods

For establishing the status of the Dotterel we have worked all the information about its meetings in Bulgaria: literature data, museum collections, our last field studies and also publications about migrations of the species in Europe. Dates from the old (Julian) calendar (before 31.03.1916) were up dated to the new (Gregorian) one. The observations of several birds were mentioned in two publications (Reiser, 1894; Buresh, Arndt, 1926). For being easy we accepted that about 5 birds were watched.



3. Results and discussion

3.1. Territorial distribution. Stop-over sites

Since 1889 to 1992 the Dotterel has been recorded 21 times in Bulgaria (Fig. 1). The chronology of these meetings is as following:

1889 17 (30).10, in environs of Sofia, several individuals (Reiser, 1894).

1890 25.09 (8.10), town of Sofia, 2 adult birds (Collection of the National Museum of Natural History in Sofia);

7(20).10, 2 birds were shot in environs of Sofia (Reiser, 1894);

? a bird was collected in environs of Plovdiv (Reiser, 1894).

1891 26.09 (9.10), village of Trebich (Sofia), 6 birds were shot, among of them 1 adult male and 2 immature (Reiser, 1894).

1892 14(27).09, 2 birds were shot in environs of Sofia (Reiser, 1894).

1904 7(20).04, town of Sofia, an adult female was shot (Collection of the National Museum of Natural History in Sofia);

? Bulgaria, 2 adult birds were collected (Collection of the National Museum of Natural History in Sofia);

December, environs of Sofia, several individuals (Buresh, Arndt, 1926).

1905 April, environs of Sofia, several individuals (Buresh, Arndt, 1926).

1932 28.08, village of Svoboda (Panagurishte), a bird was shot (Collection of the National Museum of Natural History in Sofia);

probably after then a bird is kept in the Museum in Panagurishte (Christov, 1982).

1933 14.10, environs of Sofia, a bird was shot (Collection of the National Museum of Natural History in Sofia).

1958 21.10, the place Poda near Burgas, flock of 6 birds (Prostov, 1964).

1965 14.10, between the villages Dolni Bogrov and Chepincy (Sofia), 4 birds (Simeonov, Sofroniev, 1968).

1966 3.10, between the villages Dolni Bogrov and Chepincy (Sofia), 5 birds (Simeonov, Sofroniev, 1968).

1976 24.09, cape Caliacra, group of 25 birds (Robel, Knigstedt, 1979).

19851988 Vracha mountain, 1 observation (Profirov, 1988).

1986 20.10, cape Caliacra, 2 birds (Brehme, 1991).

25.10, near the breeding-pool of Chelopechene (Sofia), 2+2 individuals.

1992 14.06, Atanasovsko lake, Burgas, 1 bird.

It could be seen that the records of the Dotterel are located in the west part of Bulgaria (mostly in the plain of Sofia) and along the Black Sea coast. In the plain of Sofia it stops most frequently on pastures. They were vast because of well developed sheep- and cattle-breeding. There were pastures just next to outskirts of the city and some of birds were collected there. During the last decades dotterels have been observed on unspoiled, uncultivated grounds around reservoirs in the plain of Sofia, near the river Iskar between Dolni Bogrov and Chepincy and near the breeding-pool of Chelopechene. The Dotterel is recorded on pastures and uncultivated fields in environs of Plovdiv and Panagurishte. The only one mountainous meeting is in the not so high Vracha mountain (1482 m). About meetings in Dobrudja (north-east Bulgaria) already in the end of the past century A. Alleon (1886) wrote that the Dotterel meets on slightly raised plateau without coming close to marshlands. The later observations are in the stony steppes of cape Caliacra, in the marshland Poda near Burgas and in the dried up basin of Atanasovsko lake.


3.2. Migrations. Moult. Wintering

Most (84,62 %) of dotterels recorded in Bulgaria migrate in autumn, between 28.08 and 30.10. The main passage goes during September and October (Fig. 2). It is well known (Maumary, Diflon, 1989) that adult females migrate at the end of August and at the beginning of September. Adult males and immature birds pass later. The spring migration goes during April. It unifies 7,69 % of migrants. Probably the Dotterel, watched on the Atanasovsko lake on 14.06.1992, can be accepted as a late spring migrant or as a wandering breeding individual. In spite of this, the presence of an isolated breeding, situated near Bulgarian mountains, can not be excluded. Such assumptions were made at the beginning of the century by H. von Boetticher (1927). At the same latitude Dotterel broods in the French Pyrenees, in the mountain Abruchy in Italy, in Caucasus and also in neighbouring Romania. In June 1956 it is recorded to the south from Bulgaria in Greece. There are summer meetings in Turkey (Pens, 1957; Di Carbo, Heinze, 1975; Glutz von Blotzheim et al., 1975; Belik, Danchenko, 1977; Carlino et al., 1984; Beaman, 1986). It was found out (Dennis, 1974) that the number of the species rises and its breeding range expands in connection with the climate changes in some parts of Europe.


Fig. 2. Seasonal occurence of Dotterel in Bulgaria.

. 2. .


J. Sterbertz (1966) determinates three migration routes of the Dotterel in Europe:

1) along the coast of Denmark, Holland and Belgium;

2) across the Hungarian lowlands to the Adriatic sea;

3) from Ukraine along the seashore of Romania and Bulgaria.


According to the received information we can say that two well distinguished migration routes of the Dotterel pass through the territory of Bulgaria: through West Bulgaria and along the Black Sea coast (Fig. 1, 4). The migration through West Bulgaria is more widely spread (28.0830.10), although sometimes separate groups of birds stay to winter there. The spring migration is in April. Passing flocks are not big and do not exceed 6 birds. This West Bulgarian migration route of the Dotterel can be a periphery of the flyway, which J. Sterbertz (1966) has determinated as Adriatic (2), but it could be also a separate route from Scandinavian peninsula to the coast of Libya.

The migration of the Dotterel along the Black Sea coast continues for a short time (24.0921.10). The number of birds in flocks reaches 25 individuals. In the past century A. Alleon (1886) wrote: It comes in small flocks in spring and leaves in the same way. A part of the migrants on this route probably winters along the shores of the European part of Turkey, where an adult male is in the collection of the National Museum of Natural History in Sofia (December 1892) from.

The migration of the Dotterel along the west Black Sea coast is less revealed than in north-east. In Ukraine the intensive passage goes over the Crimea. In spring it lasts from 18.03 to 20.05 (sometimes birds are observed also in June), in autumn from the end of August to 23.11 (Kostin, 1983). According to this author dotterels fly on wide front, passing the Crimean mountains over their highest parts. In steppes along the seashore they form congregations of hundreds of birds. The migration in steppes is most animated to the east from the Dnieper mouth, in Askania-Nova and in North Priazovie (Kozlova, 1961).

It seems that the flyway from Ukraine to the seashore of Romania and Bulgaria, described by J. Sterbertz (1966), have to be separated into two independent routes. The first one is less revealed along the west Black Sea coast, which dotterels most probably leads away to North Egypt. The second one pass over north Black Sea and peninsula of Crimea. North coast of the Black Sea, the Crimea and the North Priazovie are the places, where during the winter numerous flocks of dotterels concentrate, before they get over the Black Sea at its most narrow part, in their way to Asiatic Turkey and further to wintering places in Sinai peninsula and Persian Gulf. These our suppositions are confirmed by the big concentrations (October, November and April) of dotterels in Asiatic Turkey. For example on the lake Tuz 558 birds were recorded on 21.11. 1970; 2223.11.1971 369; 3.10.1973 455; 23.04.1981 800 + 200. There were more than 300 individuals in the steppes of Hortu on 5.04.1971. Flocks of hundreds dotterels migrate across the other parts of the Central Plateau of Asiatic Turkey (The OST Bird Report, 1975; Beaman, 1986). On its wintering places in Saudi Arabia the species stays from the middle of November to the end of February (Palfery, 1986).

According to E. Kozlova (1961), the spring migration from east Mediterranean begins at the end of February and the beginning of March. The animated passage proceeds in the middle of April in the Syrian desert, near Damask. Dotterels pass through South Crimea and the steppes of north Black Sea coast from the end of March to the end of April. In Askania-Nova (Kherson region of Ukraine) they come earlier - from the end of February, fly during March and April, some flocks (maybe composed from immature individuals) leave till May and even June (Scharleman, 1924).



Fig. 3. Recoveries of dotterels ringed in Europe

. 3. ,


The ringed birds, found until present (Glutz von Blotzheim u. a., 1975; Cramp, Simmons, 1983; Maumary, Diflon, 1989; Pulliainen, Saari, 1993; Clark et al., 1996), show that the Scottish dotterels winter in Morocco (21 ringed birds have been found) and Algeria (Fig. 3); individuals hatched in Norway were found in Holland and Algeria; from Sweden in Belgium; from Finland in South Spain, Algeria, Tunisia, along the Adriatic coast of Dalmatia, in Crimea and on the Caucasian coast of the Black Sea; from Austria in South France and Libya. Birds, caught and ringed in Switzerland, nest on Scandinavian peninsula. It is known that the birds from the Scottish population were found in Spain, France, Denmark and Norway (2 birds). An immature individual from Finnish Lapland was found in Jakutia (Siberia to a distance of 3979 km). A bird, ringed in Ireland in September, bred near a town in Jakutia, 5600 km to the east. Birds, ringed in Jakutia, were found in Tunisia (4050 km to the south-west). Dotterels from the East Siberian population get over a distance of 12 000 km during the migration from Chucotka to Africa (Tugarinov, 1931).

According to these results, we can assume that through the territory of Bulgaria the dotterels migrate, that hatched in Finland, in the south part of European Russia, in Romania and probably birds from the Siberian population. At the beginning of August dotterels form migrating flocks in their breeding places in Finland (Pullianen, 1970). They pass through Bulgaria after 28.08.

Probably the migration of dotterels is accomplished by stages. Birds fly away from their breeding territories, fly for a long period of time, alight on different places, where they enrich their energetic supplies, and again fly a long time and so on. They keep close to favourable for finding food and for nesting habitats (steppes, pastures and so on) and because the destination of their migratory roads is not connected with river valleys and lakes (Dolgushin, 1962).



The supposed roads of migration, received on the basis of published results of ringing and from the known places of concentrations of birds, are shown on the Figure 4. The migratory routes of the European and Siberian populations of dotterels, in some of their parts, coincide and intercept during spring and autumn, when birds migrate to their wintering places and just the opposite.

Except the already mentioned concentrations of dotterels in steppes of Ukraine, in the Crimea, on the North Black Sea coast and in Asiatic Turkey, there are numerous concentrations of migrating flocks on the upper current of the river Yenisei near the Krasnoyarsk city (Tugarinov, Buturlin, 1911) and in North Kazakhstan.

The considerable migration proceeds in Precaspian lowlands, along the north-east coast of the Caspian Sea, between the rivers Ural, Emba and Urgiz, where during April and May flocks of 50100 birds are recorded. There are flocks up to 300 individuals in north-east Kazakhstan, on pastures near the town of Pavlodar (Dolgushin, 1962). Although the Dotterel was found in Kazakhstan in spring, as well as during the autumn migration (according to E. Kozlova (1961) around the river of Tobol and the town of Orenburg), numerous concentrations are recorded in spring. This urges us to suppose that in autumn the main part of the Siberian population fly to its wintering places through North Europe. In winter they accomplish an additional migration along the North African coast to east to the Persian Gulf. In this way they accomplish a semicircle. In spring they fly straight to north-east, across Kazakhstan towards their breeding places. It is possible the migration of some individuals have an opposite destination.

Our suppositions that some dotterels do not use one and same road during their spring and autumn migrations, are confirmed by the fact that in different parts of Eurasia they are more numerous in autumn or just in opposite - in spring. For example in Chehia and Slovakia 99 % of dotterels migrate in autumn, from August to November, mostly in September (Hudec, Cerny a spol., 1977). According to J. Sterbertz (1966), dotterels are found during August in Holland, Germany and Hungary, during September through whole Central Europe and during November in South Europe. There are records in Hungary in spring 180 individuals and in autumn fifth as much, i. e. 917 birds (Sterbertz, 1971). In Belgium and Holland the correlation between the numbers of recorded dotterels in spring (April-May) and autumn (August-November) is 22:89 (Lippens, Wille, 1972). At the same time, during the autumn migration dotterels are rare in Denmark, and in May, during the spring migration there are about 10 places of concentrations. Up to 300 birds gather in some of the places (Ostergaard, 1982). Therefore dotterels from Scandinavian peninsula fly in autumn straight towards Holland, Belgium and to the south, where are their wintering places. In spring some of places of the concentration are situated in Denmark.

This bird is very rare in the central part of European Russia (Ptushenko, Inozemtsev, 1968), which shows that dotterel rounds about this huge territory and accidentally only separate birds pass it.

We can talk about existing equal presentation of spring and autumn migrations only in Ukraine and Asiatic Turkey, although the concentrations in Turkey are more numerous during the autumn.

The information about the moult of the Dotterel in Bulgaria is very poor. Along the Black Sea coast A. Alleon (1886) had no observations of the breeding plumage in spring, in autumn he has watched birds with the breeding plumage mixed with winter feathers. One male of the two shot birds on 26.09 (9.10).1891 near Sofia was nearly moulted (from summer in winter plumage). Two dotterels, watched on 25.10.1986 near Chelopechene, were moulting. The adult bird, watched on 14.06. 1992 on Atanasovsko lake, was in the transitional plumage.

Places, situated around the North and East Mediterranean, also and Bulgaria, must be included to the wintering areas of the Dotterel together with the North African coast, Persian Gulf and Spain (Cramp, Simmons, 1983). Some dotterels were watched near Sofia in December 1904 (Buresh, Arndt, 1926). Also in December birds were recorded in Hungary, on the peninsula of Kerch (Sterbertz, 1966, 1971), in Switzerland (Maumary, Duflon, 1989) and in January in Azerbaijan (Kozlova, 1961). J. Gregori and J. Krecic (1979) wrote about wintering in Sicily, Sardinia, South Italy, South Greece, Crete and Cyprus. The Dotterel is a rare winter guest in the whole country of Greece and Turkey (Bauer et al., 1969; Beaman, 1986).

In Bulgaria the Dotterel is under the protection of the law, but its protection is formal, because hunters do not distinguish it from other game bird and shot it. Some of its stop-over sites (cape Caliacra, place Poda near Burgas, Atanasovsko lake) are protected areas.




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This work have been supported by the grant B-522 from the National Science Fund, Ministry of Education, Science and Technologies.


Dimitar N. Nankinov

Institut of Zoology

Boul. Tsar Osvoboditel 1

1000 Sofia