RAPTORS WINTER 2006 COUNT IN GEORGIAA series of counts of wintering Birds of Prey were carried out at the territory of Georgia in 2006 between 7 and 20 February. Coverage of visited areas was at least 70% of total wintering habitats. Study area was divided into 5 main sectors (western part of Kolkheti Lowland -and Black Sea coastal lowlands, eastern part of Kolkheti Lowland, Mtkvari (Kura) River valley, Iori Plateau and Alazani River valley) with 27 count sites.
Raptors are distributed at wintering habitats unevenly and prefer areas, favorable from the point of view of food resource abundance and prey getting conditions. Preferred wintering habitats are located in areas with warm and snow-less winters, especially at Kolkhida Lowland, Black Sea coast, banks of Rioni, Kura and other large rivers, non-freezing lakes, Iori Table-land, semi-deserts, Kartli Plain. Sometimes winter conditions are more favorable in agro-landscapes, than in wild habitats (stable food base and low level of meteo-factors impact, hampering feeding). Birds are concentrated in mosaic habitats, thickly alternated by small forests, which are used as shelters against bad weather and roosts. The most important wintering area is Kolkheti Lowland, holding up to 65% of the wintering raptors; valleys of large rivers, Iori Table-land, semideserts hold another 30-35%. Black Kite was by far the most numerous winterer raptor. It is adapted to almost all lowland landscapes.
52 died raptors were found during survey. Illegal shooting was the main reason.
Further study of the wintering birds of prey in Georgia is urgently needed; it''s quite actual to continue regular surveys of wintering raptors, as effective methods of their monitoring.