Flamingos are thriving again in Turkey’s Lake Tuz after a drought

The mass death of flamingos last year on parched parts of Lake Tuz in central Turkey had raised concerns about the welfare of birds already at risk due to climate change. But a bird count and projections show flamingos can safely call Turkey’s second-largest lake again.

A census shows that 1,877 flamingos were born in Lake Tuz in 2021. Officials from the Ministry of Environment, Town Planning and Climate Change say the lake’s flamingo population could increase with adequate rainfall forecast and the high number of water resources feeding the lake.

Flamingos are among the animals included in the ministry’s program to protect endangered species. Lake Tuz, one of the most crucial wetlands for flamingo hatching, is designated as a preservation site.

The flamingo population in Turkey is about 34% of the entire flamingo population in Europe. The country is among the main destinations and habitats of birds, along with France and Spain. Up to 71,000 flamingos winter in Turkey each year. They are “semi-migratory” birds and some prefer to migrate to other Mediterranean countries while others spend the whole year in Turkey. Flamingos generally stay in the Aegean, Central Anatolia, and Mediterranean regions of Turkey, although some prefer the Black Sea and Marmara regions. Lake Tuz and the Gediz Delta in western Turkey are among the most important breeding grounds for flamingos.

Lake Tuz, home to a wide range of other birds, was last year a graveyard for hundreds of baby and adult flamingos whose carcasses were found strewn across its dried-out parts. Mass fatalities last summer have raised concerns because Lake Tuz is a sanctuary for most newborn flamingos who learn to fly over the wetland before departing in the fall.

Climate change is the main cause of drought, which is wreaking havoc on animals that rely on massive water resources that are now at greater risk of depletion. Although the last season of rainfall and snowfall proved prosperous and revived dry parts of the lakes, the danger is still there according to experts, who warn that future dry spells are still possible. Along with flamingos, dried up water resources have caused mass seagull deaths in other lakes in Turkey where temperatures are steadily rising.

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Sharon P. Juarez