The Prespa Lakes are a very important breeding ground, particularly for Dalmatian and great white pelicans, but also for other rare waterbirds. In Lesser Prespa Lake, amongst others, 7 species of herons (black-crowned night heron, grey heron, purple heron, little bittern, squacco heron, little egret, great egret), glossy ibis, pygmy cormorant, great cormorant and ferruginous duck nest. Prespa hosts the largest colonies of pygmy cormorants and great egrets in Greece, with 1,000-2,500 and 100-120 pairs respectively. Also, Prespa is the only place in Greece where unique – possibly relict – populations of goosander and greylag goose breed. Furthermore, with over 40,000 individuals using the lakes in winter, the area is also internationally significant as a wintering area for waterbirds. The main importance of the Prespa lakes is due to the species richness of their nesting waterbirds, with only a few wetlands in Europe possessing comparable features of importance, clearly placing the Prespa lakes among the most outstanding wetlands in the continent for the conservation of waterbirds.
Maintaining and increasing the populations of these birds mainly depends on the existence of sufficient, suitable and safe places to nest and feed. As a result of scientific research, the Society for the Protection of Prespa (SPP) found that although nesting sites were plentiful in Prespa, waterbird populations were limited by the extent of their wet meadow feeding grounds – areas with shallow water and no tall vegetation that are found at the edge of the lake. Expanding these sites through proper lake water-level and reedbed management has been one of the organisation’s central strategic aims.
To help achieve this aim, the SPP has implemented a long-term programme for monitoring the size of waterbird populations. The programme uses a combination of methods, such as drone photography of colonies, counting birds flying to-and-from breeding colonies, monitoring feeding sites, counting nests from observation points, counting wintering birds in the lakes and other species-specific methods. The programme has provided valuable data on species needs, population trends and preferences. These results are unique for the area, and they continue to be used by different relevant stakeholders and the management body when taking management decisions. In addition, through work to manage the reedbeds and wet meadows, suitable areas for waterbirds to feed have been created around the lakeshore.
For waterbird monitoring activities, the SPP also collaborates with its partners in the PrespaNet network and with national parks in the neighbouring two countries.
Catsadorakis, G., Aleksi, P., Avramoski, O., Bino, T., Bojadzi, A., Rajanoski, Z., Fremuth, W., Kazoglou, Y., Koutseri, I., Logotheti, A., Malakou, M., Nikolaou, H., Nikolaou, L., Putilin, K., Shumka, S., Uzunova, D. & Velevski, M. (2013). Waterbirds wintering at the Prespa Lakes as revealed by simultaneous counts in the three adjoining littoral states. Macedonian Journal of Ecology and Environment. Vol: 15/ 1, p23-31.
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