“There are a total of 435 bird species including those that reproduce in Turkey and those that visit the country during the winter. About 70 percent of these are under the threat of extinction. Ninety-five species will have significant decreases in their numbers, while 101 species face possible extinction,” İlhami Kiziroğlu, a professor in the department of biology education at Ankara’s Hacettepe University told the Anatolia news agency.
Kiziroğlu, who also heads the university’s Environmental Education and Bird Research Center, noted that ornithologists have identified 502 bird species in Turkey, of which 437 were found in abundance in the country. “The other 65 species are seen only at certain times. They do not reproduce in Turkey and they cannot be observed very often. However, of the 437 species, the Oriental Darter and Bald Ibis have already disappeared from the natural habitat in Turkey,” he said.
“Bird populations in Turkey have decreased by 50 percent in the past 20 years, while the populations of some species have dropped as much as 75 percent,” he added.
The birds that live in and reproduce in wetlands are those facing extinction, the professor said.
The Oriental Darter is a species that once nested around Lake Amik in Hatay; however, they have not been observed in the region since the lake dried up in the 1960s. “This species has now disappeared in Turkey. It was seen for the last time in 1963,” Kiziroğlu said.
He said the last time Bald Ibises were observed in Turkey was when three were found in Şanlıurfa’s Birecik district in 1988.
“They all died. Since 1988, Bald Ibises haven’t reproduced in naturally in Turkey. The Environment and Forestry Ministry has bred them in captivity at an aviary in Birecik. But they are domesticated. It would not help to release them into the wild. At this stage it would not be possible for them to reproduce naturally,” Kiziroğlu said. He said these birds were so tame that they weren’t capable of adapting to the natural environment.
Industrial waste threatens birds near Lake Burdur
The endangered White-headed Duck is another species facing extinction in Turkey. “One-seventh of the European population of the White-headed Duck exists in Turkey, spending winters in Lake Burdur in the Mediterranean region. However, this species is threatened by the level of industrial waste and the decreasing water levels in the lake,” Kiziroğlu explained.
He added that flights from the nearby airport in Isparta also pose a threat to bird populations around the lake.
Kiziroğlu pointed out that a significant number of raptor birds are also endangered in Turkey. “One such species is the Imperial Eagle. The symbol of the Beşiktaş club is an American Eagle, but we suggest that [Beşiktaş Chairman] Yıldırım Demirören change it to the endangered Imperial Eagle,” he said and added that the Turkish Air Forces Command has changed its symbol to the Imperial Eagle.
Kiziroğlu warns authorities of the urgency in putting an end to the drying up of important wetlands.