Flamingos flock to Tuz

Flamingos flock to Tuz

AKSARAY - Anatolia News Agency
Flamingos flock to Tuz

There are thousands of flamingo chicks at the Tuz Gölü this year. It is home the largest flamingo chick population in West Africa and the Mediterranean. AA photo

Tuz Gölü (Salt Lake), home to the largest flamingo colony in the Mediterranean, has once again welcomed thousands of flamingo chicks this year.

Tuz Gölü, which is located in Central Anatolia, is a haven for flamingos, said Nature Association scientific coordinator Süreyya İsfendiyaroğlu, adding that the association had been closely following the flamingos at Tuz Gölü and the Gediz Delta since 2003. “By taking photos from the air, we count the flamingos at the lake every year. We especially determine the number of chicks that have hatched and monitor the flamingo colony at the lake.”

He said the number of flamingos at the lake, Turkey’s second largest after Lake Van, changed every year. “Flamingos migrate according to the seasons to find food and nest. They choose salty areas and wetlands. Tuz Gölü is an important place for them to find food and reproduce. Some of them spend their winter at this lake, as well as their summer. The flamingos that do not incubate go to wetlands that we call ‘satellite lakes’ around Tuz Gölü to find food. The number of flamingos living and incubating at Tuz Gölü changes according to the condition of the lake water. Their number decreases during years when the water level is low at the lake.”

Isfendiyaroğlu said Tuz Gölü was the most important flamingo habitat and reproduction area in the Mediterranean basin.

Largest flamingo chick population

Most of the 68,638 flamingos hatched in seven Mediterranean countries in 2011 were in Turkey, he said, adding that 18,418 of those were at Tuz Gölü, giving the lake the largest flamingo chick population in West Africa and the Mediterranean. At two lakes in Italy, 11,039 flamingos were hatched, 17,133 flamingos were hatched at five lakes in Spain, 630 flamingos were hatched at one lake in France, 8,500 flamingos were hatched at three lakes in Algeria, 12,900 flamingos were hatched at two lakes in Mauritania and 18 flamingos were hatched at a lake in the United Arab Emirates, according to İsfendiyaroğlu.

İsfendiyaroğlu said they continued to count the flamingo population by photographing the colonies from the air and that they had pleasant results again this year after the record number of flamingos last year. “We estimate that over 35,000 flamingos came to the lake this year. There are thousands of flamingo chicks at the lake, and according to the result of the first analyses we expect almost the same number as last year,” he said.

Water shortages threaten the wildlife at Tuz Gölü, İsfendiyaroğlu said.

“With the desiccation of wetlands, flamingos lose their breeding grounds. A dam has been constructed on the lake’s water source, and no surface source feeding Tuz Gölü remains. Illegal wells that have been dug to irrigate plants needing a lot of moisture drain groundwater and also cause the lake’s water level to decrease,” İsfendiyaroğlu said. “A possible drought at the lake will prevent flamingos from incubating and may also cause the death of thousands of flamingo chicks. The lake and the creatures living there should be protected with comprehensive work.”