Berkut. Vol. 8. Is. 2. 1999. P. 198-202.



Using of the rare birds cadaster for monitoring

of ecosystems in North Belarus


V.V. Ivanovsky, V.V. Kuzmenko, V.Ya. Kuzmenko

. - .. , .. , .. . - . 8 (2). 1999. - 57 , , - - .


Abstract. On the base of cadaster estimation of 57 regional rare bird species of the Belarussian Lake Area (northern part of the country) the indicator species for monitoring wetland and forest ecosystems are proposed.

Key words: the Belarussian Lake Area, cadaster, rare species, monitoring, bioindicator.

Address: Vitebsk State University, 210036 Vitebsk, Belarus.


One of the most important problems in modern nature conservation strategy is the preservation of rare and endangered species, which usually are connected with less transformed habitats and being peculiar indicators of habitat status. Rare bird species have high sensitivity to the environmental changes, they are selective to different kinds of changes.


Materials and methods

Studies of landscape distribution and population dynamics of rare and endangered bird species in Northern Belarus (The Belarussian Lake Area) were initiated in 1976. Data are collected mainly by means of field expeditions in breeding season. Conventional principles and approaches to cadaster estimate of bird fauna and populations were used.

The most perspective habitats for rare species, e. g. raised bogs, large forest tracts, swamped flood-lands, lake groups, were inspected in the first instance; aerial surveys were used regularly. Data on observations and nest inspections were inputted into unified cards and stored in the specialised database. Questionnaires among local game and forest managers were used widely.


Results and discussion

At the moment (up to September 1999) database contains 967 records on 57 rare bird species (Table). Observations, conducted at the recorded localities, include registration of breeding phenology, estimates of changes in numbers and productivity, studies of feeding habits and new behavioural aspects in relation to different 1evel of human activities, general monitoring.


Estimation of numbers and status of rare bird species in the Belarussian Lake Area


Category in Category Total Part of population of

Species the Red Book of IUCN numbers, the Lake region from

of Belarus pairs population of Belarus

(Nikiforov et al., 1997)


Gavia arctica I V 20-30 95,0

Podiceps grisegena III R 15-30 30,0

P. auritus IV K 5-10 75,0

Tachybaptus ruficollis II R 50-100 4,2

Botaurus stellaris II R 300-400 33,6

Ixobrychus minutus II V 30-50 8,3

Ciconia nigra III R 250-300 23,0

Cygnus olor IV NT 120-130 14,4

Anas penelope IV I 0-20 100,0

Anas acuta II V 10-20 13,3

Bucephala clangula III R 400-600 42,8

Mergus merganser II V 30-40 80,0

Haliaeetus albicilla I V 30-35 38.9

Circaetus gallicus I R 80-100 16,4

Otus scops IV K 4-5 15,0

Aquila pomarina III NT 1300-1600 44,6

A. clanga I I 5-10 40,0

A. chrysaetos I V 20-25 50,0

Pandion haliaetus I V 100-120 73,3

Falco tinnunculus II R 400-600 29,4

F. vespertinus II E 5-10 20,0

F. columbarius III V 250-300 84,6

F. subbuteo III R 800-900 29,3

F. peregrinus I E 0-2? 100,0?

Lagopus lagopus I E 200-250 90,6

Porzana parva IV NT 330-500 16,6

Grus grus II R 180-230 15,4

Haematopus ostralegus III R 25-30 10,0

Pluvialis apricaria III R 200-250 95,0

Calidris alpina III I 0-10 100,0

Lymnocryptes minimus IV K 150-180 100,0

Numenius phaeopus III R 200-250 100,0

N. arquata II R 300-350 29,2

Xenus cinereus III R 0-5 6,3

Tringa nebularia III R 150-200 80,0

Larus minutus II R 900-1000 50,0

Larus argentatus III R 60-70 35,0

Sterna albifrons II R 5-20 2,0

Bubo bubo I V 40-60 15,0

Glaucidium passerinum IV K 300-400 20,0

Athene noctua IV V 100-120 12,0

Strix uralensis III R 700-1000 55,6

S. nebulosa I V 40-50 50,0

Asio flammeus II V 100-300 20,0

Aegolius funereus III R 700-800 16,0

Alcedo atthis III R 250-400 6,7

Merops apiaster I V 0-5 8,3

Coracias garrulus II E 60-80 8,9

Picus viridis III R 100-120 2,4

Picoides tridactylus III NT 250-300 6,0

Cinclus cinclus IV R 0-10? 100,0?

Luscinia svecica III R 600-800 8,0

Locustella luscinioides IV NT 150-800 8,0

Remiz pendulinus III R 100-120 4,0

Lanius excubitor III R 250-300 25,0

Fringilla montifringilla III K 40-50 90,0

Emberiza hortulana III R 150-300 7,5


Integrated scheme (Fig.) of rare breeding bird species distribution in the Belarussian Lake Area reveals that the main habitats, where their concentration occurs, are large raised bog tracts and barely transformed forest-lake complexes (I VIII).




Distribution of rare bird species in the Belarussian Lake Area.


I22 number of plot with number of rare bird species



Plot I includes high productive Osveyskoe Lake (53 km2), large forest tracts and different forest types. Cores of the plots II and III represented by large raised bog tracts Obol (49 km2) and Elnya (145 km2) respectively. Fourth area of the concentration of rare and endangered bird species is the Braslav Lake Group together with neighbouring forests, it
nearly coincides with recently established National Park.

These concentration centres revealed during the cadaster estimate as well as existed protected areas would serve as model objects for long term monitoring, as comparative richness of rare species indicates relative ecological stability of these areas. If such monitoring will reveal clear changes in the species richness, it will indicate serious environmental transformation of the areas because in the case of condition stability only small changes in the bird fauna may occur even for a long period of time.

More precise forecasting needs the choice of the species, which respond to the changes in particular habitat most finely. Rare and vulnerable species are traditionally considered as good objects for the habitat monitoring, especially stenobiont species and representatives of the highest trophic levels, e. g. raptors.

Long-term studies of the raised bog birds in the Belarussian Lake Area make us sure that the most perspective indicator species for this habitat are characteristic stenobiont bog species. They breed in Belarus only in raised bogs and their presence, absence and population changes may be used as good estimators of the bog habitat status. Six species may be mentioned as indicator species for raised bogs, namely Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), Peregrine (Falco peregrinus), Willow Grouse (Lagopus lagopus), Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria), Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) and Great Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor). All of them are included into national Red Data Book, their density varies between 0,003 (Peregrine) to 55 (Whimbrel, Golden Plover) pair/km2.

Moreover, every mentioned species, being indicator species in general, reacts on some specific factors reflecting bog status. Numbers of Whimbre1 and Golden Plover reflect mainly the degree of water supply, they prefer to breed in areas with complex microrelief and numerous pools. Long-term dynamics of their number shows that they are usually much more abundant during wet springs than during dry ones. So, data on Whimbrel and Golden Plover density may indicate water regime of the bog.

Density of Willow Grouse (mean is 0,1 pairs/km2) is very stable in the intact bog tracts, but it decreased significantly after the initiation of drainage work and in the bogs actively visited by humans. Radical alternation of the bog and disturbance are the key factors for this species.

The level of disturbance is the key factor for Golden Eagle too. However, as main its prey consists of different wetland birds affected mainly by other factors, status of Golden Eagle population depends on different factors affected raised bogs.

Bird species which prefer raised bogs, but do not breed at the bogs exclusively, e. g. Black throated Diver (Gavia arctica), Common Crane (Grus grus), Curlew (Numenius arquata), Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), Merlin (Falco columbarius), Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gal1icus), have high indicator value too. Their reactions to the changes of bog habitats are less definite than in previous species group. For example, regular breeding of Black-throated Diver and Common Crane, establishment and growth or raised bog breeding populations of Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula), some gull and wader species may reflect poor breeding conditions in neighbouring habitats (i. e. lowland mires, flood-land meadows) rather than purity of raised bogs. Appearance of these species in raised bogs may be used for monitoring of bird populations in other habitats. At the same time, numerous bog species, e. g. pipits, ducks, are less dependent on specific habitat conditions, do not determine peculiarities of the bog avian communities and cannot be used as useful indicators.

Rare and stenobiont species may be used as bioindicators in other habitats too. Following species may be mentioned as useful potential indicators for forest communities Black Stork (Ciconia nigra), White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla), Spotted Eagles (Aquila pomarina and A. clanga), Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo) and other rare owls, rare woodpecker species, etc. For waterbodies Black-throated Diver, Bittern (Botaurus stellaris), Goosanger (Mergus merganser), Dipper (Cinclus cinclus), etc. Of course, this selection does not exclude the use of more common species as bioindicators, especially for monitoring of human transformed habitats.

These approaches were used in the studies of changes in avian communities of raised bog during last two decades (Ivanovsky, Kuzmenko, 1989) and in raptor monitoring (Tishechkin, Ivanovsky, 1992; Ivanovsky, Tishechkin, 1993).



We are thankful to V.P. Biryurov, V.P. Kozlov, A.M. Dorofeev and A.V. Naumchik for providing their own data and friendly advice.



Ivanovsky V.V., Kuzmenko V.Y. (1989): Changes of the composition of the bird fauna in the bogs of the Pooserye region in Belorusian SSR over the 1ast 10 -15 years. - Commun. Baltic Comission Study Bird Migr. 20: 31-35. (in Russian).

Ivanovsky V.V., Tishechkin A.K. (1993): Monitoring of Lesser-Spotted Eagle (Aqulia pomarina) in Belorussia. - The Ring. 15: 267-273.

Nikiforov M. E., Kozulin A. V., Gritschik V. V., Tishechkin A.K. (1997): Birds of Belarus on the edge of XXI century: status, numbers, distribution. Minsk: N. A. Koroliov. 1-188. (in Russian).

Tishechkin A.K., Ivanovsky V.V. (1992): Status and breeding performance of the Osprey in northern Belorussia. - Ornis Fennica. 69: 149-154.