By Darwin Museum
The great bustard is the inhabitant of the steppe zone of Eurasia. At first, human activities increased population of the great bustard but later on intense hunting and plowing of the steppes put the species on the brink of extinction. Their nests can be found in fields. These birds often leave their nests because of restless environment; many eggs and chicks die under the wheels of agricultural machinery.
The habitat of Pygmy cormorants includes lakes, floodplains and river deltas with dense thickets of reeds and willows. Pygmy cormorants are excellent divers. They often have to wait until their plumage is dry again because it usually gets wet after hunting in the water area. These birds dry their plumage by taking an interesting pose: stretching out their long necks and spreading their wings. The main causes of the population decrease are water pollution and the lack of fish.
Altai snowcocks prefer high mountainous environments. Despite its appearance, Altai snowcocks can be extraordinarily nimble and quick. These birds can easily climb the hills using wings and strong calloused feet. Harsh environment of high mountains in summer (snowfalls and low temperatures at night) cause the population decrease. The hunting of Altai snowcocks is prohibited.
The females of Golden eagles are significantly larger than males, and can weigh almost seven kg. These birds are known for their extremely keen eyesight which allows them to find their prey in hardly accessible places. For example, this species is able to see a hare at a distance of a few km. Golden eagles have to move their head to look around because their eyes are too big to move in the eye sockets. The population decline is primarily caused by human activities (illegal hunting, poison baits, loud noise near the eagles’ nests, and destruction of nesting habitats).
Gyrfalcons are the most northerly birds of prey and the largest species among falcons. Gyrfalcons mostly feed on willow ptarmigans. Gyrfalcons are very strong, they are able to rapidly fly up and kill their prey even in flight. The main reasons of decreasing population are poaching and the arctic foxes traps. Illegal trapping and trade of gyrfalcons are stimulated by their high value as hunting birds.
Peregrine falcons are the fastest birds in the world. The bird is able to exceed 300 km/h in a dive flight. During the Second World War, the peregrines were used to intercept the pigeon post. Today they prevent collisions of airplanes with other birds by dispersing them at the airports. Also peregrine falcons can be used in guarding architectural monuments by scaring away pigeons and crows. Peregrine falcons like other large falcons (saker falcons and gyrfalcons) are one of the most vulnerable birds. They are included into the Red Lists of Threatened Species of almost all countries where peregrine falcons used to be very common.
It is impossible to confuse the red-breasted goose with any other bird. It has a very exquisite appearance and became the symbol of international ornithological congress in Moscow in 1982. The images of red-breasted geese were found on ancient Egyptian frescoes. Red-breasted geese have been highly valued for a long time and often were kept in captivity. In the XVIIIth century “the red geese” were brought from Siberia according to imperial decrees. This species has a very limited habitat and breed only in Russia. In 1992 a commemorative coin of 10 rubbles nominal value with an image of a red-breasted goose was issued by the Central Bank of Russia.
Along with the Siberian tiger this large bird can be called the symbol of the Ussuri taiga. Blakiston's fish owl prefers to live in hollows of old trees with plenty of aquatic prey nearby. However old forests and hollow trees are often harvested which inevitably reduces the area of original habitat. These birds can hunt in two different ways: they look out for prey, quickly dive into the water snatching it or start probing the bottom by foot having lifted wings and a tail.
The bird got its name due to unusual plumage that looks like marble: sandy-brown color with light spots. In Russia the species habitat is not varied, it includes the Pricaspian region and the Volga Delta. It mainly caused by human activities (agricultural land development, diversion of water for irrigation and drainage of wetlands). Although marbled duck hunting is prohibited in Russia, these birds are still endangered because hunters can’t always identify the marbled duck in flight.
Poaching is the main reason for the inclusion of this species in the Russian Red Data Book. There is a significant difference between the lesser white-fronted goose and the greater white-fronted goose: the lesser white-fronted geese are smaller and have a large white spot on their foreheads reaching their crown. These birds often become the hunters’ prey. This species is known for a subtle squeak during the flight. The birds nest in the Northern mountainous taiga region, and spend winter in the southern regions. The lesser white-fronted goose spend almost half of their lives in the air, they can cover almost 8 th km per year.
The swan goose also has another name – the Chinese goose because it was domesticated in China over 3 th years ago. The species is the same size as a domestic goose, but its neck is thinner and longer, so it looks more like a swan on the pond or in flight. The main reasons of the population decline are credulity and curiosity of these birds as well as noticeability and accessibility of their habitat during the breeding season.
The characteristic features of these large ducks are a white head with black crown and a blue beak. White- headed ducks spend most of their life in the water; they almost never come ashore, because these ducks don’t walk well. They swim and dive wonderfully. White-headed ducks are reluctant to fly, in case of danger they prefer to escape by diving or hiding in the reeds. One of the reasons for the population decline is the destruction of natural habitats caused by human activities.
This representative of an order of Anseriformes has a strikingly beautiful and harmonious plumage. The main habitats of these miniature ducks are mountain rivers with lush vegetation in the coastal zone. Couples prefer building nests in hollows of trees high off the ground. After hatching chicks leave their nests. Thanks to light weight, they can glide like parachutists. Mandarin ducks live in the Far East. Raccoon dogs often destroy their nests. Hunting also causes the decrease of population.
This predatory bird has a very unusual name. It reflects the peculiarity of this bird’s lifestyle which includes feeding on larvae of social hymenopterans, primarily wasps. A predator rakes a wasp nest, opens its cover and pulls out cells with delicious larvae. European honey buzzards are rare in all habitats. Many birds become the hunters’ prey during migration period over the southern Europe.
The main habitat of Dholes includes mostly mountains. These animals don’t dig any burrows, their dens can be found in caves and rock crevices. The species can be confused with a fox because of its fluffy fur and a long tail. The main causes of Dholes’ low population are unknown. Scientists suggest that Dholes shared the same habitat with gray wolves and were eventually replaced by them. In 2005 a commemorative coin of 1 rubble nominal value with an image of a Dhole was issued by the Central Bank of Russia.
A Marbled polecat is a nocturnal predator. This animal inhabits the steppes and hills covered with bushes. The Latin name “vormela” has the German origin and means "little worm". Plowing of steppes and mass extermination of rodents (the main food of the species) brought this species to the brink of extinction.
The animal used to live on the vast territory, but under the influence of changing conditions this species went extinct in many places. Now the individual groups of Giant mole-rats have survived only in Russia and Kazakhstan. The animal’s fur has a unique feature: it can be equally combed in all directions which allows Giant mole-rats to move in any direction at the same speed.
The fur of this species is the most fluffy and thick among cats (9000 hairs per 1 square cm). The tips of hair are white which gives the impression that an animal is covered with snow. The animals are considered to be one of the most slow and clumsy among wild cats, in danger it prefers to hide or climb a rock. A Pallas's cat is a rare animal, and poaching rapidly decreases the population.