17 Nov 2023
Little Bustards were one of the most numerous wintering species in Azerbaijan. In 2007, it was estimated that at least 150,000 birds winter in the country (Gauger 2007). Additionally, during our migration counts in the Beshbarmag Bottleneck we estimated that more than 100,000 Little Bustards migrated through the area in 2011 (Heiss et al., 2013).
We did a preliminary survey for 10 days at the end of January and the beginning of February 2023 to gather initial data on the distribution, flock size and habitat choice of wintering birds and the main threats they face (Farajli & Mammadsoy 2023). We observed almost 20,000 individuals during the survey period and around the same amount afterward during the spring migration period (early March). We found that, despite legal protection, hundreds of birds are poached every year. Also, we found out that some wintering grounds were converted into intensive agriculture fields which not only restricted habitat use by the species but also created a major water crisis in the region. Considering all these complex matters, it is necessary to tackle the illegal hunting problem along with habitat management for the survival of the species.