Close to 700 000 waterbirds counted during the IWC in Bulgaria

© Nikolai Petkov, www.naturephotos.eu

The preliminary results of the 41st International Waterbird Count (IWC) in Bulgaria that took place between 13th and 15th January revealed one of the highest numbers recorded in the recent decade. The counts show 400 000 Greater Whitefronts and 44 000 of the globally threatened Red-breasted Goose. The last such congregation of wintering geese has been found in January 2013 when the record number of 54 000 Redbreasts were counted in Dobrudzha – almost the entire global population.  Right now almost 80% of the data has been processed with registered 686 762 birds of 150 species.

The IWC count in Bulgaria was carried out by 41 field teams of experts and volunteers by the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB), Executive Agency of Environment (EAE), Regional Inspectorates of Environment and Water (RIEW), local Hunting Associations and other NGOs. They managed to cover during the count over 200 wetlands and collect data for the waterbirds present in them. More than 80% of the field teams used the new mobile application for data collection SmartBirdsPro, developed by BSPB for gathering of biodiversity data. Thanks to the use of this application on Monday morning large part of the data was already available for processing.


Amongst the interesting observations are large concentration of wintering geese in the Burgas region, including Lesser White-fronted Goose, an odd Barnacle Goose (off its normal flyway), observation of Greater Flamingos in the Eastern Rhodopes and unexpected number of White-headed Ducks in a new place – Rozov Kladenets reservoir. Amongst the more interesting species are Dalmatian Pelicans, Slavonian Grebes, Red-creasted Pochards and Common Pochards, Shags, Golden Eyes, Pallas’s Gull, Bittern, Red-necked Grebes and others.

The field teams had to cope with extreme weather conditions in the country that took over the country just before the start of the IWC. All small reservoirs and fishponds in the country were frozen due to the low temperatures since the beginning of January. The  ice formation on Danube river is over 50% on some sections.

 "The monitoring of the wintering birds are extremely important right now in the view of the climate change issues that are on the top of the agenda everywhere and concerns every one of us. At numerous places we found fatigued and exhausted birds, which highlights the need of securing refuges for the birds in these difficult weather conditions to minimize the losses of the populations. “, commented Svilen Cheshmedjiev – national coordinator of the IWC from BSPB. „The results could be interpreted as an indication for the changes in the environment and they highlight once again the role of birds as an indicator of the condition of the environment we live in.“


Bulgaria is a key wintering area for number of waterbirds. Amongst them globally threatened species listed in the IUCN Red Data Book as the Red-breasted Goose, Lesser White-fronted Goose, Common Pochard, White-headed Duck, Long-tailed Duck, Dalmatian Pelican, Horned Grebe and others.

The IWC count is global initiative coordinated since 1967 by Wetlands International and is one of the most wide spread global bird monitoring efforts in which over 15 000 people take part. The initiatives entered its 51st year and Bulgaria which joined 10 years later celebrates its 41st IWC count this year. The count is important data source for assessment of population trends and assessment of the wetlands, many of which in Europe are part of the Natura 2000 network.

More about the trends and numbers of the individual species you can find here.

Partners in the IWC in Bulgaria are Executive Agency of Environment, Balkany Wildlife Society, “Green Balkans” Federation, Fund for Wild Flora and Fauna, Bulgarian Union of Hunters and Anglers, Nature Park Persina. The Ministry of Environment and Water also has important role in the count providing vehicles and experts from its regional structures – the RIEW. The IWC this year was supported also by State Hunting Estate Dikchan, Satovcha village and State Forest Estate Gotze Delchev, which supported the counts in Gotze Delchev region and Dospat reservoir.


© Nikolai Petkov, www.naturephotos.eu