Extinction Countdown

Extinction Countdown

News and research about endangered species from around the world

70 percent of Turkey's birds are headed toward extinction


Turkey's wetlands and lakes are drying up, and with them the nation's bird species are also disappearing. Total bird counts have dropped 50 percent in the past 20 years, and now up to 70 percent of the bird species regularly observed in Turkey are threatened with extinction, according to lhami Kiziro lu, a professor of biology at Ankara's Hacettepe University.

Eastern Imperial EagleA total of 435 different bird species can be found in Turkey, "including those that reproduce in Turkey and those that visit the country during the winter," Kiziro lu told the Anatolia News Agency. "Ninety-five species will have significant decreases in their numbers, while 101 species face possible extinction."

Because many of these birds are migratory and don't recognize national borders, most of these Turkish bird species can be found in other parts of Europe, Asia and Africa, and may maintain healthy populations elsewhere. Turkey, however, has historically been an important breeding or wintering location, and the loss of suitable habitat there can affect species's total health.

For example, "one seventh of the European population of the white-headed duck exists in Turkey," Kiziro lu said. The duck (Oxyura leucocephala), which is listed as an endangered species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, winters in Turkey's Lake Burdur. But Kiziro lu says the duck "is threatened by the level of industrial waste and the decreasing water levels in the lake." According to BirdLife International, Lake Burdur is "very important for wintering water birds, and is the single most important wintering site" for the white-headed duck—two thirds of its world population spends winter there.

Species that have already disappeared from Turkey include the oriental darter (Anhinga melanogaster) and critically endangered northern bald ibis (Geronticus eremita), the latter of which now only breeds in captivity.

Another species at risk in Turkey is the eastern imperial eagle (Aquila heliaca), which according to the IUCN has already stopped breeding in nearby Greece.

Kiziro lu is calling on Turkish authorities to stop draining the country's wetlands.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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