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Sochi Olympics site is a major migratory bird area

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The Russian city of Sochi, site of the 2014 winter Olympics has something in common with San Diego. The city is on a major flyway where hundreds of species of birds pass through. Actually, they are near where two major flyways intersect. The Black Sea-Mediterranean Flyway and the West Asian-East African Flyway both pass through or close to Sochi. The Central Asian Flyway is just to the east of Sochi, but an occasional species, using that flyway, may pass through or near the town. As a result, this area of the world is a great place to view birds, including several extremely rare species.

Some of the endangered birds that pass through or close to this area include the Siberian Crane, white-headed duck (similar to San Diego’s ruddy ducks), Dalmation pelican, and red-breasted goose. A critically endangered bird, the slendered-billed curlew, has also been seen near Sochi in its most recent years. The curlew may, now, be extinct, but it wouldn’t be unusual for a chance spotting in this area when they were more plentiful.

The Black Sea shoreline is home to various shorebirds and waterfowl such as wigeons, avocets, and pintails. The nearby Caucasus mountain range sports birds like the Caucasian snowcock, crossbills, and bullfinches. Raptors often migrate through the area. Most of these birds are either heading to the insect-rich arctic in Russia to breed or the warm environments of Africa and the Mediterranean for the winter.

It is important for countries along these flyways to work together to protect and preserve these birds as they pass through. Though some may argue about their imperfect environmental record, Russia has several programs to help preserve endangered species. Some of these programs, such as the one to help the spoon-billed sandpiper, are fairly well known. However, not all countries on the flyway are safe for these birds. Widespread hunting and trapping for falconry is a problem in many areas to the southwest of Sochi in the Middle East and southern Mediterranean.

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