Raptor migration in Greece: a review

Panuccio M., Agostini N., Barboutis C.



Abstract:

Greece is located at the southernmost end of the Balkan Peninsula and the shortest distance between Greece and north Africa is roughly 280 km. As raptors mostly fly over land exploiting thermal currents, the ecological barrier shaped by the Mediterranean Sea south of Greece, has a strong impact on the migration strategy adopted by each species. Using data from recent studies at three watchsites in Greece (island of Antikythira, Mount Olympus, National Park of Dadia-Lefkimi-Soufli) we discuss the migratory behaviour of some selected species. The three commonest species were the Eurasian marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus, the western honey buzzard Pernis apivorus and the short-toed snake eagle Circaetus gallicus. The first migrates on a broad front over the sea. A similar migration strategy is adopted also by the Eleonora’s falcon Falco eleonorae. The western honey buzzard performs a loop migration strategy concentrating over the island of Antikythira in autumn but bypassing it in spring. The short-toed snake eagle, on the other hand, avoids the crossing of the Mediterranean Sea performing a long detour and crosses the sea at the Bosphorus. Observations suggest that the levant sparrowhawk Accipiter brevipes and the lesser spotted eagle Aquila pomarina adopt a similar strategy. Finally, species such as the common buzzard Buteo buteo and the sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus do not cross the Mediterranean Sea but move across Greece to winter in southern Greece.