Larus armenicus

(last update: 24-1-2011)

Amir Ben Dov (Israel)
Mars Muusse (Netherlands)

2cy armenicus: October

Armenicus in Iran - Lake Orumiyeh

Larus armenicus in Iran: breeding population 4.000-5.000 breeding pairs at one lake, Lake Orumiyeh in N Iran. Last sensus was done in the 1970's.

Lake Urmia (or Orumiyeh) is a Ramsar Site 38;(WI Site 2IR003) in the Islamic Republic of Iran (Coordinates: 37°30'N 045°30'E), on elevation 1280 m - 1525 m, and about 483,000 ha large area. Lake Orumiyeh National Park is situated in a large internal drainage basin in Western Azarbayjan Province, 60 km southwest of Tabriz.

Lake Orumiyeh (formerly Lake Rezaiyeh) is a vast hypersaline lake of great scenic beauty with numerous small islands and extensive salt-encrusted flats and shingle beaches. The lake is about 140 km long (from northwest to southeast) and up to 55 km wide, near its southern end. There are marshes with abundant aquatic vegetation in the "deltas" of the many small rivers and streams that flow into the lake. The most extensive of these marshes is found at the mouth of the Jogatu Chay (river) at the south end of the lake. The lake includes 56 mostly small, uninhabited islands. The largest island, Kabudan or Ghoyoon Daghi, comprises 3,125 ha of hilly terrain covered with steppe vegetation and scattered trees. There are rolling wheatlands west and south of the lake, and semi-arid steppes and hills to the north and east. Much of the surrounding semi-arid steppe has been converted to wheat fields.

The lake supports an abundant growth of the algae Enteromorpha intestinalis and there is a build up of brine shrimp Artemia salina during the summer months. In years when salt concentrations remain low, Enteromorpha becomes so abundant that the whole lake takes on the appearance of a thin vegetable soup. The lake is too saline to support any other plants or animals. The shoreline vegetation is dominated by species of Atriplex and Suaeda. The marshes have typical saltmarsh plant communities with Juncus, some Phragmites reed-beds at river mouths, and some Tamarix stands. Remnant stands of pistachio Pistacia atlantica woodland survive on the larger islands, notably on Ashk and Abudan. Other conspicuous plants on those islands are buckthorn Rhamnus sp., species of wormwood Artemisia, Dianthus and grasses Hordeum and Bromus. The lake is extremely important for breeding Pelecanus onocrotalus, Egretta garzetta, Plegadis falcinellus, Platalea leucorodia, Phoenicopterus ruber, Tadorna ferruginea, Tadorna tadorna, Himantopus himantopus, Recurvirostra avosetta, Tringa totanus, Larus cachinnans armenicus and Larus genei. Other breeding birds include several pairs of Anser anser, Marmaronetta angustirostris and Aythya nyroca. Charadrius leschenaultii has been recorded during the summer months and may breed on the saline flats around the lake. Flamingos are known to breed in large numbers at lake Orumiyeh, and numbers still appear to be increasing slightly, with perhaps as many as 25,000 breeding pairs in recent years. Towards the end of the breeding season, the adults congregate in huge rafts to moult. The vast mudflats surrounding the lake are the most important autumn staging area for migratory shorebirds and garganey Anas querquedula in Iran. The lake appears to be an important moulting area for common shelduck Tadorna tadorna. The islands in Lake Orumiyeh are the only known breeding site for lanner Falco biarmicus in Iran (at least five pairs), and also provide nesting sites for at least ten pairs of Neophron percnopterus. Falco cherrug, Gyps fulvus, Aegypius monachus and Falco peregrinus have been recorded during the summer months as visitors from the surrounding hills; and Haliaeetus albicilla and Falco columbarius occur in winter. A population of about 25 great bustards Otis tarda frequents the area, and breeds there (at least 4 pairs). Wild sheep Ovis ammon were introduced on Kabudan Island in the 19th century, while Mesopotamian fallow deer Dama dama mesopotamica were introduced on Ashk in the 1970s.

The lake is a very good example of a natural brackish to saline lake, with special characteristics for the biogeographic region. The lake, the mudflats around the lake and the undulated plains at the west provide wintering habitat to many species of threatened birds: Pelecanus crispus, Phoenicopterus ruber, Oxyura leucocephala, Aquila heliaca, Marmaronetta angustirostris, Otis tarda, Cygnus bewickii, Falco cherrug, Haliaeetus albicilla, Aquila clanga, Haliaeetus leucoryphus, etc. Four of them also breed at the lake: Pelecanus crispus, Phoenicopterus ruber, Gyps fulvus and Otis tarda. This wetland supports over 1% of the regional Middle East wintering populations of at least 13 species of waterbirds.

- wetlands

Armenicus in Iran - Lake Orumiyeh; continues HERE

Larus armenicusLarus armenicus 2cy October 02 2009, Ashdod, Israel. Picture: Amir Ben Dov.
Larus armenicusLarus armenicus 2cy October 15 2010, Magaan Michael, Israel. Picture: Amir Ben Dov.
Larus armenicusLarus armenicus 2cy October 15 2010, Magaan Michael, Israel, Israel. Picture: Amir Ben Dov.
Larus armenicusLarus armenicus 2cy October 15 2010, Magaan Michael, Israel. Picture: Amir Ben Dov.
Larus armenicusLarus armenicus 2cy October 15 2010, Magaan Michael, Israel. Picture: Amir Ben Dov.