Endangered European Roller sighted in Van

A European Roller has been sighted at Lake Erçek in Northern Kurdistan. This colourful bird was common in Europe for a long time, in Germany the species is extinct. The total population of the European Roller is currently classified as almost endangered.

A European Roller (Kurdish Qelaşînk) was sighted at Lake Erçek in the province of Van in Northern Kurdistan. The salt lake, which lies about 20 kilometres east of the much larger Van Lake (Gola Wanê) on the route towards the Özalp district, is an important stopover for migratory birds. To date, 177 different species of birds have been observed on the banks of the Erçek, and 71 bird species occur all year round.

The snapshot of the European Roller was captured through the lens of nature photographer Vedat Atlı. He was visibly surprised to see the bird. "I was on the bank in Karagündüz in the reeds when I saw the European Roller. It is the first time I have seen this bird here," said Atlı. In Karagündüz in the 1990s, the grave stele of the same name from the Urartu kingdom was found. It comes from the reign of Menua and Išpuini.

The colourful European Roller was common in Europe for a long time, but the intensification of agriculture in the 1960s and 1970s destroyed its habitats and food sources. As a result, populations have declined massively and the European Roller is now only widespread in the Mediterranean and south-eastern Europe. In Germany too, its breeding grounds have been abandoned for decades.

As long-distance migrants, these beautiful birds, whose plumage shimmers predominantly in turquoise and azure, leave their breeding areas in late summer and move to South Africa to spend the winter there. Unfortunately they are illegally hunted and killed there. The use of pesticides on the pastures and fields also causes them problems.

Photo: Vedat Atlı