Protecting birds in Armenia

11 October 2013 | Article
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Founded in 2002 by experienced and dedicated conservationists, the Armenian Society for the Protection of Birds (ASPB) has grown over the past decade and has developed into a leading bird conservation organization in Armenia. As affiliate of Birdlife International, ASPB is involved in research and conservation projects, education and awareness raising programs.

ASPB’s first successful conservation effort focused on the Cinereous Vulture (Aegypius monachus), which is the iconic image featured on ASPB’s logo. Back in 2002, ASPB started out with its first efforts to study and rescue one of the then disappearing populations of Cinereous Vulture in Armenia. The bird population had declined by more than 60% in 40 years, leaving only 2-4 breeding pairs in the Khosrov State Reserve, in the central part of the country.

ASPB has worked to identify and prevent threats to the species which has resulted in halting its rapid decline and even increase its breeding success through supplemental feeding and guarding of the nests. In 2012, the population raised to 10-12 breeding pairs. ASPB has also ringed and tagged juvenile birds to study their movements within the country and in wintering grounds, the habitat choice and the distribution. Data from satellite have shown that juvenile birds embark in long journeys and winter in Saudi Arabia or Persian Gulf. At the moment, three tagged Cinereous Vulture juveniles are on their journey and hopefully will come back to their natal area to breed.

Over the years, ASPB has continued to study wild birds and the habitats on which they depend in order to observe, detect and prevent the potential threats that endanger the survival of birds well before these become a problem. One example is the Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni), a small falcon breeding in the South of Armenia, which is an Important Bird Area (IBA). When the breeding colony was initially discovered it counted more or less 20 pairs and was located at 2,000m occupying a TV broadcasting station. Time went by and the population started to gradually decline. Some preliminary research revealed that the reason for that decline was the reduced nest-site availability due to some roof repair done by the local TV management. Limiting the nesting of birds could have resulted in the loss of entire colony in very short periods of time.

Therefore, in 2008, ASPB worked with local schoolchildren to build 18 artificial nest boxes and secure breeding of Lesser Kestrels in the site. Then, studies suggested that Lesser Kestrels prefer buildings with many roof and wall cavities. Following this discovery, ASPB mounted a new breeding facility with 30 additional nest boxes available for birds. This artificial breeding facility is the first in the Caucasus region showcasing the success of a direct on the ground conservation action, which was able to prevent the decline of the population. As with the Cinereous Vulture, ASPB ringed about 100 individuals with coloured rings since 2009 in order to find out where they go breeding when not in their natal area. These studies are underway and the results will be hopefully made available in the forthcoming future.

More information is also available on the website.


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