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Terres de l'Ebre 
© Arxiu PNDE
© Arxiu PNDE


The Ebro Delta, a paradise for birds

According to the winter census of aquatic birds for this year, there were more than 287,174 birds at the delta, which is 24% higher than the average marked over the last ten years and corresponds to the second highest in history since 1972. The biggest difference from the last two censuses is that this year all of the rice fields in the north part of the delta were flooded.

The winter count of aquatic birds at the Ebro delta is incorporated in the International Waterbird Census (IWC), whose main objective is to give an annual count of the number of aquatic birds (anatidae, waders, herons, Eurasian coots etc.) which hibernate in more than 90 countries in Europe, Asia and North Africa. The information which is obtained informs people around the world of the state of conservation of these species, and on a local level, evaluates the carrying capacity of wet areas in the Ebro delta.

At the Ebro delta, which is the biggest area of wetlands in Catalonia, this census is carried out between the 7th and 30th January, thanks to the participation of 37 people, among whom are technicians from the natural park, Rural Officials and volunteers. Completing this task is a complex business, not only because of the variety of species and habitats (rice fields, lagoons, river, salt marshes, bays and marshes) but also because of the huge amount of birds.

Anatidae, the most prominent group

287,174 aquatic birds have been counted, which puts the amount at 24% higher than any of the average winter counts carried out over the last ten years, and making it the second highest since records were started in 1972. The most prominent group were the anatidae (making up 51% of the total), surpassing the common mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), common teal (A. Crecca) and the northern shoveler (A. Clipeada), with 73,340, 29,769 and 26,869 respectively. The common mallard has been the highest in numbers since 1972. As they are so rare in Catalonia, worth mentioning are the two examples of the greater white fronted goose (Anser albifrons), one barnacle goose (Branta leucopsis), eleven marbled ducks (Marmaronetta angustirostris), six ferruginous ducks (Aythya nyroca) and one common goldeneye (Bucephala clangula). The common coot (Fulica atra) has maintained a high number over recent years, and stands at 30,200 examples.

Broad billed sandpipers are the second highest group of aquatic birds to be represented with 76,714 examples (26.7% of the total). In 2013, for the third consecutive year, the absolute maximum in recorded history has been registered. As there are so many, it is important to mention the dunlin (Calidris alpina), lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) and the spoonbill, with 38,699, 11,013 and 9,590 examples, respectively. This last specie has registered more this winter than ever before. Among the most incidental of species is one marsh sandpiper (Tringa stagnatilis) and ten temmincks stints (Calidris temminckii).

Other species belonging to different groups and which are well represented in this census were 12,320 flamingos (Phoenicopterus roseus) and 2,287 glossy ibis (Plegadis falcinellus). There were also five examples of black swan (Ciconia nigra) and an extraordinarily high number of 421 aodoiun’s gull (Larus audouinii).

This last census confirms the ornithological richness of the Ebro delta, the biggest area of wetlands in Catalonia with a total of 7,736 hectares.

There are many different routes you can take to enjoy this richness. Discover them in the Terres de l’Ebre tourism website.