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Final legal warning to the Bulgarian Government.

On Thursday 21 June, the European Commission issued a final legal warning against the Bulgarian Government over its failure to fully designate, protect, and prevent deterioration of the Kaliakra Special Protection Area and Site of Community Importance, required under the EU Birds and Habitats Directives.

This latest action by the Commission is the result of a prolonged campaign by the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB; BirdLife in Bulgaria) since 2005, supported by BirdLife Europe, for the full protection of the Kaliakra Peninsula on the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria.

he Kaliakra Peninsula is internationally important, forming part of the wintering area for the globally endangered Red-breasted Goose. It acts as a stopover for thousands of soaring birds such as white storks on the ‘Via Pontica’ migration route between Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Its habitats also include rare Ponto-Sarmatic Steppe grasslands, which are a priority habitat under the European Habitats Directive.

However, a large part of the Important Bird Area has been excluded from designation on spurious grounds, and many areas of the designated and undesignated parts of the site have been damaged by inappropriate wind farm and housing development, reducing at the same time the feeding areas available to the wintering geese, potentially jeopardising their winter survival.

The Bulgarian Government will now have an opportunity to react to the final warning.  However, if it fails to deal with the issues at hand (as  it has for the last seven years), then BirdLife Europe and BSPB (BirdLife in Bulgaria) fully expect the Commission to refer the case to the European Court of Justice by the end of the year.

BirdLife Europe and BSPB welcome this strong action from the Commission and hope that the Bulgarian government will finally get the message that it needs to take its European responsibilities seriously: Kaliakra should be fully designated, these damaging developments removed and the damage done to habitats rectified as soon as possible. Also, the recent plans for more wind farms in key sites for birds must be the subject of objective assessment and not developed.


Red-breasted Goose


The Red-breasted Goose - Branta ruficollis - is a brightly marked, endangered species which breeds in Arctic Siberia. Most winter along the northwestern shores of the Black Sea in Bulgaria.


With beautifully defined blocks of colour, the red-breasted goose is one of the most attractive goose species in the world, but also one of the rarest. The fore-neck, breast and sides of the head are chestnut red bordered with white. The wings, back and fore-belly are charcoal black, with a bright white stripe running down the side to the white rear belly. The short neck and dark belly stand out in flight. Juveniles are duller.


Adults make repeated ‘kik-yoik, kik-yik’ sounds in flight.


They feed on grasses, leaves and seeds.


It breeds in tundra or scrubby 'wooded' tundra, in close proximity to rivers and gulleys. Females lay between three and ten eggs in late June, which are incubated for about 25 days. The chicks fledge at between five to six weeks.

Conservation Status – Endangered.

The Red-breasted Goose is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies. It was considered a Vulnerable species by the IUCN. Over 80% of the population roost during the winter at just five sites, with nearby feeding areas threatened by changes in land use. In addition, there has been a strong decline in numbers in the last decades. As it is not clear to what extent the known population fluctuates in this species – as in other Arctic geese – and given the worsening outlook for the species as a whole, the Red-breasted Goose was uplisted from a species of Least Concern to Endangered status in the 2007. Hunting pressure on waterfowl as a whole is substantial in Bulgaria and Romania, including illegal shooting of Red-breasted Geese.


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