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Europe and Central Asia
20 May 2016

New colony of Dalmatian Pelicans established in Bulgaria

Ten pairs of Dalmatian Pelicans have been nesting on the wooden platforms. Photo: BSPB
By Emilia Yankova

A new colony of the globally threatened Dalmatian Pelican, 60 years in the making, has finally been formed in Bulgaria. Ten pairs now nest on one of two artificial wooden platforms built for them in the Peschina Marsh, located in the Persina Nature Park.

The Peschina Marsh is the largest on the Bulgarian part of the Danube River and was once a bird haven. In the past, the wetland dried up due to lack of sufficient water from the Danube. In 2008, restoration work on the marsh began with the financing of the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), as part of a World Bank-managed Wetlands Restoration and Pollution Reduction project. The project was the first of its kind under the umbrella of the GEF Black Sea/Danube Strategic Partnership – Nutrient Reduction Investment Fund which aims to control or mitigate nutrient inflow into the Black Sea.

Thus the marsh, situated on the largest of the Danube islands and part of the Ramsar site Belene Islands Complex, is once again rebuilding its position as a paradise for birds: since the restoration, about 250 Dalmatian Pelicans have used it for roosting and feeding. The Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB, BirdLife in Bulgaria) and the park’s directorate are monitoring the ecological effects of the wetland restoration project on biodiversity.

Dalmatian Pelicans have been threatened globally by a variety of manmade causes, including wetland drainage, illegal killing, human disturbance, water pollution and over exploitation of fish stocks, among other things. Until the Peschina Marsh site was developed, the only breeding habitat for this species, native to Bulgaria, was in the in Srebarna Lake near the town of Silistra.

In 2011 and 2012, as part of a conservation project, BSPB and the directorate of the park, with the help of WWF Bulgaria, Whitley Fund for Nature, and many volunteers, built three artificial wooden platforms in the marsh to stimulate the breeding of the Dalmatian Pelicans. These wooden structures were covered with reed bundles to make them attractive as nests to the pelicans at the beginning of the breeding season.

Four years after the platforms were constructed, the area is already occupied by a group of 30 Dalmatian Pelicans, including young birds. Public access to the island is still very limited, which helps to ensure minimal human disturbance, a vital factor for the pelicans to breed.

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“We are very happy to see the Dalmatian Pelicans returning to breed in the Belene marshes. After more than 60 years finally we have a second pelican colony established in Bulgaria!” Svilen Cheshmedzhiev, coordinator of BSPB in the region, says. “It's a great nature conservation success, and an example of good cooperation between institutions and non-governmental organizations.”


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