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White-headed duck (Oxyura leucocephala)

Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 182515710

Searching for White-headed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala) Breeding and Wintering Grounds in Central Anatolia and Monitoring of Its Populations

Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation (Project No. 182515710) - White-headed duck - Awarded $10,000 on June 06, 2018

- News from the project, March 2019 - 

Winter is over and the only place white-headed ducks wintered is Hirfanlı Dam Researvoir. The total wintering population size remains 26, as we failed to locate any white-headed ducks during our search in February. We visited a total of 12 wetlands in February and spotted some possible breeding grounds which will be visited in spring.

With the start of spring, white-headed ducks started returning their breeding grounds. They have been spotted at least on five different days at Mogan Flood Control Dam and the highest number was 30 on the 3rd of March. When our team visited the place on the 24th, we could only find 6 of them. These were the first white-headed ducks of the season for us and they got us really excited! 2 males and 4 females were at the reservoir. They were mostly resting and feeding. Mogan Flood Control Dam hosts around 3 breeding pairs and thanks to exceptionally high precipitation our region received this winter, we believe this number may grow this year, simply because the reservoir is now holding around two times more water and the total area of the wetland is almost doubled. Sadly, other 12 wetlands, some of which used to have some pre-breeding and breeding populations in the recent past, we visited had no white-headed ducks. Fortunately, an old breeding ground of the species, a small wetland which was dry last year, has a lot of water this year and maybe white-headed ducks may return there to breed. We couldn't spot any white-headed ducks there in March but let's see if they will come back in April. Stay tuned for updates. Remember, you can always visit dikkuyruk.com to submit your white-headed duck sightings. 


- Project Summary -  

Vast steppes of Central Anatolia is home to several endangered bird species and among them are white-headed ducks which have fascinated people of Asia Minor for centuries. Various names given to the species by locals prove the interest the species gets from Turkish people. Now, white-headed ducks of the region are in trouble. Once relatively widespread and numerous, white-headed ducks have suffered steep declines in their numbers in Turkey, just as in most parts of its global range. Currently, they are found in the really small numbers and scattered through the semi-dry steppes of Central Anatolia Region of Turkey. Recent studies and observations have shown that the species can be found in remote and small wetlands in the region which are ignored by birdwatchers and scientists due to their small size and remoteness. The count done in Kazakshtan in 2016 when the researchers have spotted more than 20.000 individuals (higher than the global estimate of the time) proved that this cryptic species is out there somewhere, possibly living in small wetlands that are not visited by researchers and, as a result, we fail to make accurate population estimates and provide proper conservation for those unnoticed populations.

The current project, which will be launched on 01.09.2018, aims at tackling this issue by visiting relatively remote and unvisited wetlands of Central Anatolia and coming up with a proper population estimate. At the same time, we will also detect and document the threats the species is facing in the region and cooperate with stakeholders to eliminate them. Success of Spanish people in bringing back white-headed ducks from the brink of extinction in the recent decades shows that it's never too late for white-headed ducks and that the species has the potential to recover fast.

If you believe you can contribute to this project in any way, please feel free to contact me anytime by sending an email to kaanozg@yahoo.com. Official website of the project has been launched and you can follow the link dikkuyruk.com to go to the website. The website is only available in Turkish and has all kinds of information and a data submission form through which people can submit their white-headed duck sightings. Stay tuned for updates! 

 Photo credits: Serkan Mutan, 2012 (retrieved from trakus.org, on 03.04.2018) 

Project 182515710 location - Turkey, Asia