Central Anatolia's Flamingo Lakes
Flamingos are fairly widespread in Turkey, and can be seen in
almost every region of Anatolia apart from the region of Trakya
to the northwest, the Black Sea and southeast Anatolia. They are
most common in central Anatolia.
Flamingos are striking birds with their bright colours - a
combination of white, scarlet and black, their long legs, curved
necks and blunt beaks, and elegant appearance in flight. And only
in flight, or preparing for flight, is their brightly coloured
plumage fully visible. They tend to congregate in large flocks of
several thousand in Turkey's wetlands, and where conditions are
appropriate will gather in groups of ten thousand or more. Most
such sightings are in the central Anatolian region.
It is no coincidence that flamingos are concentrated in this
region of Turkey, because it is here that wetlands with an
ecological structure suitable for flamingos are mainly to be
At the centre of the region is Tuz Golu or Salt Lake, Turkey's
second largest lake in terms of its area. This lake is the most
important breeding ground and habitat for flamingos in Turkey.
Five other lakes in the vicinity, Kulu, Tersakan, Bolluk, Kozanli
and Esmekaya, and a little further away Lake Seyfe near Kirsehir,
Sultansazligi marshes near Kayseri, and the Eregli reed marshes
in the province of Konya are all home to large numbers of
The ecological feature common to most of the lakes named above is
that the water is saline and has a high soda content. Although
flamingos prefer water of this type, they also sometimes gather
at freshwater lakes with extensive reed beds such as Kozanli,
Esmekaya and Eregli because of their proximity to wetlands whose
ecology is salt based.
The thick blunt beaks of the flamingos are designed to pick up
the tiny marine life and algae which form their diet. They dredge
the mud on the lake bottom and hold it between their thick
tongues and palate. The edges of their beaks serve as a filter
which holds back the microscopic foodstuffs on which they feed,
while the grains of soil are washed away. That is the secret of
how thousands of flamingos manage to survive in the seemingly
arid wastes of salt lakes without any obvious food source in
sight. They owe it all to their marvellous beak.
Since very ancient times the people of Anatolia have been
fascinated by flamingos, as we see from artefacts uncovered in
archaeological excavations. At the Museum of Anatolian
Civilisations in Ankara there are jars and jugs with pouring lips
in the form of flamingo beaks.
A flock of flamingos in flight is an awe-inspiring sight. When
they first take to the air it is the flapping of thousands of
wings which dominates the picture, then as they rise higher they
seem to flow through the air rather than fly. Your horizon is
transformed into bands of black, scarlet and white. The sky is a
mass of colour and movement, and not birds but colour flows into
the distance. This dream-like scene ends when they glide silently
down to rest at the chosen point.
* Tansu Gurpinar is a biologist and photographer.