Research on waders in southern Azerbaijan, one of the last under-surveyed areas of the Western Palearctic
11 – 24
1 April 20
Hunnenstraße 17a, 17489 Greifswald, Germany
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The Caspian Sea, as a hub of the West Asian-East African Flyway, connects the breeding grounds of Eastern Europe and Western Asia with wintering grounds in the southern Caspian region, India, the Middle East and Africa. Within the Caspian region, the Gyzylagach Gulf in southern Azerbaijan is one of the most important stopover and wintering sites on the Caspian Sea, and forms, together with the Gilan region in northern Iran and the northeastern Caspian shore, an area which hosts around 10 million waders on migration. Despite its importance for waders and other waterbirds, monitoring and conservation work along this flyway is sparse with little information about population sizes and trends of waders. The last comprehensive census of waders in southern Azerbaijan was conducted in 1984 and 1985. Due to the lack of current data and the negative population trends of many wader species globally and in particular along the West Asian-East African Flyway, I conducted a wader count in southern Azerbaijan during July–September 2017. Seven wader species were recorded in numbers exceeding 1% of their flyway populations. Areas where this critical threshold of 1% of a world or flyway population is reached on a regular basis, need special protection. Vast and inaccessible wetlands made counts in southern Azerbaijan difficult. Thus, a single-band remote-sensing technique was used to assess the potential habitat for waders. This revealed that just 5% of the potential wader habitat was surveyed. This small proportion hosted 181,469 waders during autumn migration. Consequently, southern Azerbaijan represents an important stopover and wintering site for crucial numbers of waders, but is currently facing severe hunting problems.