The flip side of the coin

Göksu Delta – amazing birding, but for how long?

Admittedly I was very impressed with the Göksu Delta. And it is likely the area in Turkey where you can see most different bird species at any given time of year.

But there is a flip side to the coin. I got up early two days ago. Win, the dutch guy, had given me a tip that the eagles were roosting during the night in the mountains and shortly after sun rise they would fly out to the delta.

Marsh Harrier

So I got the spot Wim had pointed out and there I found Wim. Together we saw 9 Greater Spotted Eagles and afterwards he had a few hours of birding together. While birding he told me the alternative story for the Göksu Delta.

Göksu Delta is a Ramsar Area and on paper it is one of the best protected areas in Turkey. But the reality on the ground is very different. Slowly new areas are drained or used for agriculture. In fact the delta east of the river is almost totally cultivated.

Hen Harrier

Furthermore very intensive hunting and fishing is going on. Every day I noted gun shots, but Win has counted as many as 150 shots in an hour. The hunters shoot from their cars and sail through the reed beds with small boats shooting everything that moves. When we were watching the Great Spotted Eagles a very loud Crake was calling nearby. But suddenly it changed to a very loud Quail. And then Wim told me, that it was a hunter that was hunting by using playback. In a special area I had seen about 20 Cattle Egrets a few days earlier and Wim had counted 45 birds. But now they were gone. Wim had checked it out and found out that some fish farmers had either shot the birds or chased them away by firing shots.

4 Audoiun’s Gulls and a Yellow-legged Gull

So the Göksu is under heavy pressure and the police accepts all the hunting by doing nothing. The numbers of breeding birds clearly indicate the pressure. Stone Curlews have decreased from 50 to about 3 pairs. Spur-winged Lapwing used to be very common, not there are 37 pairs left. Most herons and egrets have stopped breeding in the area. The Göksu Delta used to be the best place in all of Turkey for Marbled Teal. This year was the first year without any breeding records – it is gone it seems! Red-winged Pranticole is no longer breeding there and both Common Tern and Little Tern have disappeared.

Purple Swamphen ssp. poliocephalus

In fact the only bird that seems to be stable is the Black Francolin. There are about 45 pairs in the Delta. But 1/3 of them are in an old industrial area, and if that area is being used again they will disappear. Furthermore when hunters walk through the area hunting Quails I don’t think they’d hesitate to shoot a Black Francolin, if they flush one. And the Black Francolines are very vulnerable. They do occur further east, but the main areas for the birds in Turkey are the deltas along the mediterranean. This means that the birds primarily are found in small scattered pockets. If they are extinct in one pocket it will be difficult for these resident birds to come back from other areas.


I almost got the feeling of another Malta when hearing about and seeing the hunting. Add that to the increasing cultivation and the future of the Göksu as a birding paradise is all but bright. So my guess is that if nothing is done the Göksu Delta will some be nothing but a shade of itself.

Spoonbills and Little Egrets






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