Bird Flu at Lake Prespa, Greece

The H5N1 avian influenza, or ‘bird flu’, virus has been particularly rampant this winter. The death of thousands of cranes in the Hula Valley in Israel attracted widespread attention. Now, the disease is also threatening the world’s largest colony of very rare Dalmatian pelicans.

dead pelicans

This drone image shows many dead or dying Dalmatian pelicans at Great Prespa Lake.

© SPP Archive I O. Alexandrou
A pelican swims on the water

Probably the most striking feature of the Dalmatian pelican is its huge bill which has an elastic pouch of skin beneath it.

© Peter Sackl

A major outbreak of avian influenza has struck the Prespa National Park in north-western Greece. Particularly hard hit have been the Dalmatian pelicans, whose colony at Lake Prespa is the largest in the world. The mass bird deaths began in February, when the first pelicans returned to Lake Prespa from their overwintering grounds in the north east of Greece and western Turkey. Since then, the number of dead birds has risen to 600.

The dead pelicans were reproductively mature birds that should have started breeding around this time. Instead of a flurry of nest-building activity, a number of dead pelicans can now be seen lying on the nesting islands, or close to them in the water. "This is an immensely painful loss," said Dr Stefan Ferger, migratory bird expert at EuroNatur. "The mortality rate among Dalmatian pelicans already stands at 60 percent. Unfortunately, we must expect a poor breeding season at Lake Prespa this year," Dr Ferger added.

In order to contain the spread of bird flu at Lake Prespa, the carcasses need to be collected. This is a logistically difficult task for the Greek authorities. These interventions also disturb the breeding activities of pelicans that are uninfected or immune.


Background information:

  • The Dalmatian pelican (Pelecanus crispus) can achieve a length of up to 180 centimetres and a wingspan of almost three metres. This makes it one of the largest flight-capable birds on earth. Its population has declined dramatically since the 19th century, and today, only around 11,400 to 13,400 individuals remain worldwide. In south-eastern Europe, however, measures being taken to protect the Dalmatian pelican are paying off. Populations have been stable there for years.
  • The Prespa Lakes, situated in the border region between Greece and Albania, are among the most important wetlands in south-eastern Europe. EuroNatur has been involved there since 1994. Working together with its partners, the Foundation was able to get large parts of the area placed under conservation protection. The Great Prespa Lake is home to the world's largest colony of Dalmatian pelicans.
  • Avian influenza (H5N1), also known as bird flu, is an infectious disease caused by influenza viruses. It occurs - especially in wild aquatic birds - almost every winter, but this year its impact has been more dramatic than ever. In Israel's Hula Valley, more than 5,000 cranes and many other birds have died, and in Germany too, bird flu is particularly rampant.

Enquiries: Christian Stielow, E-Mail: christian.stielow(at)euronatur.org, Tel.: +49 (0)7732 - 92 72 15

 

How you can help

Donation

Future needs nature. EuroNatur cares for it. Please use your possibilities to help. With your donation you will make an effective contribution to a more livable environment.

Sustaining membership

EuroNatur focuses on long-term nature conservation projects instead of quick fixes. With your regular donations, you give us the planning security we need.

News

New Brown bear project just started

An important step for the protection of the Dinaric-Pindos bear population: In close cooperation with our partners in the Balkans and the Italian…

Putin's war of aggression and the EU’s Energy Crisis

Russia invaded Ukraine. Our blog-author Bruna Campos is still shocked by what is happening. War is sickening and there is never an excuse to start…

Bird conservationists campaign for a safe Adriatic Flyway

++ Bird migration is in full swing ++ Every year, thousands of migratory birds are killed illegally in the Balkans ++ 4th Adriatic Flyway Conference…

World Water Day 2022 - Groundwater: The Liver of our Rivers

The theme of this year’s World Water Day is “making the invisible visible” with a special emphasis on the importance of groundwater.

Hydropower as a climate saviour? A myth long outdated

River valleys are fertile habitats for humans and animals. Destroying them – to generate supposedly climate-friendly hydropower – has nothing to do…

Four Cinereous Vultures poisoned in Bulgaria

Tragedy for nature conservation in Bulgaria: Several released Cinereous Vultures were poisoned near the village of Ticha. A bitter setback for the…

Bird Flu at Lake Prespa, Greece

The H5N1 avian influenza, or ‘bird flu’, virus has been particularly rampant this winter. The death of thousands of cranes in the Hula Valley in…

Can forests really be all things to all people?

We have high expectations of our forests. They should provide diverse habitats, fulfil our wildly-romantic desires, act as carbon sinks and, at the…

Illegal logging of Romania’s natural forests increases despite court threat

New data reveal that the destruction of the EU’s last large remaining primary and old-growth forests in Romania is continuing unabated.

BESTbelt - More power for the European Green Belt

++ EU-funded project „BESTbelt“ starts with calls to proposals ++ Initiative aims to make it easier for local nature conservation organisations…

Last Webinar on White Storks

The four-part webinar series on "Human impacts on the ecology of the white stork" is coming to an end. The last event will take place on Saturday, 19 …

EuroNatur starts new energy transition blog

Are nuclear and gas really sustainable energy sources? The proposals announced by the EU Commission on New Year’s Eve have now come into effect:…

Airport construction in Albania threatens to destroy important wetland area

++ Albanian government planning to build airport in Narta Lagoon ++ Possible revision to boundary of Vjosa-Narta protected area ++ 2nd February is…

Major blow to Bosnia hydropower project as Germany’s KfW drops financing plans

German development bank KfW has today confirmed that it has dropped plans to finance the controversial Janjići hydropower plant on the river Bosna in…

Increase in bat numbers in the winter roost

Bat conservationists have been taking advantage of the cold weather to count the winter roosts of greater mouse-eared bats and other species. It was…