Fereidoonkenar is an artificial wetland (damgah) on the coastal plain of the South Caspian, 5 km south of the village of Fereidoonkenar and 13 km south-west of Babolsar. It was created and is maintained primarily as a privately-owned duck-hunting area, but also serves to supply irrigation water in summer. The core of the damgah comprises a series of shallow freshwater impoundments with a rich submerged and floating aquatic vegetation, including Nalumio nucifera and extensive beds of Phragmites and Typha. The impoundments are almost entirely surrounded by an embankment and narrow belt of tall trees in which there are c.100 duck-trapping stations. The wetland is situated in the middle of a large expanse of rice paddies which provide excellent feeding habitat for ducks, geese, shorebirds and cranes. Live decoys are used to lure ducks into flight nets. The duck netting is licensed by the Department of the Environment, each trapping station of two men being permitted to capture five birds per day.
See box for key species. The artificially maintained shallow impoundments and extensive rice fields at Fereidoonkenar provide excellent feeding and roosting habitat for large numbers of wintering waterfowl, notably dabbling ducks (up to 200,000), Anser anser, Vanellus vanellus and Limosa limosa. These concentrations attract a variety of wintering raptors including Haliaeetus albicilla and Aquila heliaca. Large concentrations of Philomachus pugnax have been recorded on spring migration. In 1978 ornithologists from the Department of the Environment discovered a tiny wintering population of Grus leucogeranus at the site. The local duck-hunters were very familiar with the cranes, and reported that they had been coming to this area for many years. Since their discovery, 7-11 birds have wintered each year. At least 11 were present in January 1992, including two juveniles, and thus the alarming rumours in early 1991 that 4-5 cranes had been shot or captured for zoos were clearly erroneous, as nine of the ten birds present in the winter of 1990/91 could still be accounted for. Other winter visitors include Cygnus olor, Gallinago gallinago, Scolopax rusticola, Tringa totanus and Emberiza schoeniclus.
Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Part of the area (148 ha) is under protection as the Fereidoonkenar Protected Area, originally established in the late 1970s as a Wildlife Refuge but since downgraded. To ensure that the waterfowl are not disturbed, the duck trappers enforce a very strict ban not only on shooting in the area, but also on all other unnecessary human activity. As a result, the damgah wetland and surrounding paddies constitute one of the best protected and least disturbed wetlands in the South Caspian lowlands. Few birds other than A. platyrhynchos and A. crecca are trapped, and thus for the many thousands of other ducks, geese and shorebirds, and for the cranes, conditions are ideal. Towards the end of each season, when duck-netting becomes unprofitable, the area is opened up to hunting with guns in a massive 'shoot-out'. Large numbers of waterfowl of many species are shot at this time, and there is a danger that Grus leucogeranus could be killed accidentally.
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Fereidoonkenar marshes. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 08/04/2020.