The site lies about 25 km south-west of Annaba and consists of a shallow, seasonally flooded depression in the flood-plain of the Oued Seybouse. In the nineteenth century there was a large freshwater lake on the site, regarded as ‘one of the great freshwater lakes of the Maghreb’ and the site with the richest concentrations of breeding waterbirds of any in Algeria. It was the key site in Algeria for Marmaronetta angustirostris which was ‘breeding in countless numbers’. The lake was drained in 1937 and its ornithological value declined dramatically. In the late 1970s, the site was dry for much of the year (May 1976 and January 1978), but in the early 1980s, an annual closure of the sluice on the outflow channel was instituted to retain winter floods. The water is released slowly down-stream to permit springtime irrigation and the slow fall in the lake levels also produces good spring and summer grazing on the lake shore. As a result, the lake now frequently holds water in the winter and beds of Scirpus maritimus, S. lacustris and Eleocharis sp. have developed in the depression, with patches of Juncus sp. The site is heavily grazed when not inundated and is surrounded by arable land. There is some hunting.
See Box for key species. Since the re-flooding in the early 1980s, the site regularly holds total numbers of wintering waterbirds in excess of 20,000 (60,000 unidentified ‘ducks’ in 1989 and 35,000 in 1981). This is now one of the most important wintering sites in North Africa for Anser anser with several recent records exceeding 10,000 birds. In addition to those in the Box, species recorded regularly during the 1980s and 1990s in significant numbers include Anas crecca (10,000 in 1980), A. platyrhynchos (4,850 in 1994) and A. acuta (6,500 in 1981). There are also thousands of wintering Vanellus vanellus and Pluvialis apricaria, which continued to use the site even during the years when it was largely dry (mixed flock of 5,000 in 1976/77), one record of ‘innumerable’ Gallinago gallinago in 1978 and up to 3,000 Larus ridibundus. Other wintering species include Tachybaptus ruficollis, Egretta garzetta, Casmerodius albus and Circus aeruginosus.There are nineteenth century breeding records for Marmaronetta angustirostris (reported as ‘very common’), ‘masses’ of breeding Aythya nyroca and Oxyura leucocephala. Other species recorded breeding in the nineteenth century include Ardea cinerea, Ardeola ralloides, Nycticorax nycticorax, Plegadis falcinellus, Platalea leucorodia, Anser anser, Anas strepera, Netta rufina and ‘thousands’ of breeding Porphyrio porphyrio. More recently, there are records from the 1980s of breeding Ardea purpurea, Bubulcus ibis, Ciconia ciconia (‘in number’) and Glareola pratincola and it has been suggested that Marmaronetta angustirostris may still breed in the remains of the lake. Raptors recorded from the site include Gyps fulvus, Neophron percnopterus, Milvus migrans, Circaetus gallicus, Circus aeruginosus, C. pygargus, Buteo rufinus, Aquila clanga, Hieraeetus pennatus and Pandion haliaetus.
Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Lac Fetzara. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 18/01/2020.