International Waterbird Census in Armenia of January 2015

Current waterbird census is the 13th census held across the entire Central Asian Flyway. The census was held in the middle of January 2015. All days of the census were favored by fair weather which made it possible to organize counts in the right timeframes with very small deviations.

Like in the previous years, the counts were held in the Lake Sevan basin (capturing the entire water body), in Araks River Valley (the territory of Armash fish farming ponds) and across the Metsamor River System.

Participants of census were ASPB staff members, volunteers and IBA Sevan Caretaker.

During the counts the weather at Lake Sevan was stable, mostly sunny and windless. Various motorboats catching crayfish were the main disturbing factor, as they cruised along both the coastal and the central parts of the lake flushing the birds, so they constantly had to move away, hampering the identification process. Among the positive factors of the accounting period which should be mentioned is the lack of ice across the shoreline, associated with unusual warm weather for this period in the region. All of the above factors have determined the number of recorded waterbirds on the lake. A very high number of Coots (33,128) was observed, which in 50 % exceeds the previous year's number. The number of Anas representatives also increased. Hence, 4,533 Red-crested Pochard (only 918 the previous year) were observed. Mallard – 3,312, last year - 1,645. The number of Common Pochard stayed almost at the same level – 3,575 individuals. The remarkable observations were Ferruginous Pochard, Smew and Slender-billed Gull. As the previous year the Ruddy Shelduck was not observed.

The surveys carried out on the territory of Metsamor River System confirmed our assumption that this territory has lost its value as a wintering set for wetland fauna. The pressure coming from the hunters during the hunting season and irreversible changes of biotope across the territory of System, all those factors brought to complete impoverishment of wintering avifauna. For instance, during the first count day from 1,239 birds of 17 species 976 or 78.8% were White Storks, which winter here every year regardless the severity. During the counting year the number of herons also increased. Common Crane – 26 individuals, Great Egret – 7, whereas only one Common Crane has been observed last year. 

The counts held in the territory of almost frozen Armash fisheries showed that birds' presence is totally dependent on the climatic conditions. During the counts in the form of open water surfaces only small areas of water by few outlets of artesian springs leaved. Altogether 1,215 individuals of 24 species were observed. In warm and snowless years at the territory of these fisheries from 10,000 to 25,000 birds of 35 and more species were often observed. But despite the fact that the open water surfaces were only the 7-8 % of total area of fish ponds, the number of Pygmy Cormorants almost doubled – 167 individuals in current counting year to 81 individuals the last year. Compared to the previous year when no Eurasian Coots were observed, in the counting year its population was equal to 479. The species diversity and the quantity of Anas species also increased. Last year only 8 individuals of Common Pochard and this year 100 individuals of 5 species were observed.




Summarizing the winter census, it can be stated that the number of birds recorded in all the territories of Armenia equals 54,695 individuals belonging to 33 species. 95.5% of the observed birds (26 species) were taken into account in the basin of Lake Sevan. Unfortunately, due to the large distance about 3,900 Anas, 178 Larus and 16 Cygnus had not been identified, but they are included in the table of birds marked at Lake Sevan. At Armash fisheries the least number of birds (1,215 or 2.2% of all) were observed. The species diversity observed here included 23 species. The least data in quantity was obtained on the territory of Metsamor River System. The birds of 16 species were observed. The low abundance and the poorest species diversity of birds counted here is a direct consequence of the daily pressure on avifauna across the whole Araks River Valley, coming from the hunters during the hunting season, as well as from the poachers.

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