The foothills of the Lesser Caucasus along the Black Sea Coast in Georgia forms on one of the world’s biggest bottlenecks for migrating raptors. More than one million birds of prey pass through this region, during migration seasons in spring and autumn, the flight is very diverse, and at least 35 different species of raptors have been observed migrating through the region.
Unfortunately this migration process is impacted by illegal and indiscriminate hunting, a deeply rooted tradition in the rural communities. Estimates indicate that every autumn between 7000-9000 raptors get shot, among them a high proportion of endangered eagles and harriers.
We aim to make this spectacular flight more accessible for visitors, and involve the local community to appreciate this unique event more. The BRTD program intends to connect the existing migratory bird observation spots with an interactive trail, running from the Village SAKHALVASHO along to the Village SHUAMTA and into MTIRALA National Park.
The most numerous are the European Honey Buzzard / Pernis apivorus, Steppe Buzzard / Buteo buteo vulpinus and Black Kite / Milvus migrans migrans. Several endangered species use this flyway as well, including Egyptian vulture / Neophron percnopterus, Cinereous vulture / Aegypius monachus and Saker falcon / Falco cherrug. Also several thousands of eagles can be seen, including Booted Eagle / Hieraaetus pennatus, Lesser Spotted Eagle / Aquila pomarina pomarina, the rare Greater Spotted Eagle / Aquila clanga, the endangered Imperial Ealge / Aquila heliaca and Steppe Eagle / Aquila nipalensis orientalis. The concentration of harriers observed is unique, with many Western Marsh-Harrier / Circus aeruginosus aeruginosus, Montagu’s Harrier / Circus pygargus and Pallid Harrier / Circus macrourus migrating through. Of the smaller raptors, Eurasian Sparrowhawk / Accipiter nisus nisus and Levant Sparrowhawk / Accipiter brevipes are the most common and often Red-footed Falcon / Falco vespertinus, Peregrine Falcon / Falco peregrinus brookei and Common Kestrel / Falco tinnunculus tinnunculus can be seen.
The birds often migrate low, and good conditions for observing and studying these top predators are frequent and of high quality.