People, Environment

More Flamingos Return to Urmia Lake in Summer

More Flamingos Return to Urmia Lake in Summer
More Flamingos Return to Urmia Lake in Summer

Urmia Lake and its vernal pools host over 10,000 flamingos, a figure expected to more than double in the migration season, according to an official at the Department of Environment in West Azarbaijan Province.

Over the past few years, migratory birds preferred to bide their time around estuaries of surrounding rivers and temporary ponds to access more water, since Urmia Lake has been battling desiccation for years.

“However, thanks to measures taken by the Urmia Lake Restoration Program in the past three years, the lake’s water level has increased, allowing flamingos to return to one of their most favored spots in the migration season,” said Omid Yousefi, director of the Wildlife Monitoring Office at the provincial DOE.

“Due to an increase in the population of artemia salina in the lake—a species of brine shrimp that flamingos feed on—more birds are expected to settle in the province’s wetlands and Urmia Lake,” IRNA quoted the official as saying.

Flamingos are generally non-migratory birds. However, due to changes in the climate and water levels in their breeding areas, flamingo colonies are not always permanent.

One of the largest hyper-saline lakes in the world, the Urmia Lake is marked by more than 100 small rocky islands that are stopover points in the migration of various waterfowl, including flamingos, pelicans, spoonbills, ibises, storks, avocets, stilts and gulls.

Prior to the onset of its water struggle, the lake used to host 100,000 to 200,000 birds in winter every year.

The lake has dried up drastically due to a variety of factors, including the construction of a 15-kilometer causeway to shorten the travel time between Urmia and Tabriz as well as the construction of several dams that have choked off water supply from the mountains towering on the two sides of the lake.

Earlier this month, Isa Kalantari, head of the ULRP, said measures to stabilize the lake’s water level have been successful, which means “we can begin the restoration phase” in October to return Urmia Lake’s water level to what it was more than a decade ago.

Officials have said the lake will be restored by 2023.