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Important Bird Areas - Zhrebchevo Reservoir

Zhrebchevo Reservoir State: Sliven, Stara Zagora
Area: 2473,00 ха
Ownership: state - 99.8%; municipality - 0.2%

Zhrebchevo Reservoir is located in Southern Bulgaria, on the Tundzha river in the pre-Balkan plain south of Tvurditsa. The site includes the water body of the reservoir, which is about 14 km long, the adjacent flooded territories and the fishponds of Nikolaevo, located to the north-west. To the northe it borders on Hemus Highway and to the south – on the hills of Surnena Gora. To the east it is limited by the hill of Mezhdenik and to the west – by the Nova Zagora – Veliko Turnovo road. The reservoir is used mainly for irrigation, but also for recreation and sports. Its northern part is shallower, with low banks and shallows with hygrophyte vegetation. To the south and east the reservoir is surrounded by forested hills. The fishponds are partly overgrown with water fringe vegetation.

Zhrebchevo Reservoir is considered to be a site with international importance for the wintering waterfowl. Every year over 20,000 waterfowl of 33species concentrate there. The reservoir, together with the fishponds supports 77 bird species – mainly wintering ones, 23 of which are listed in the Red Data Book for Bulgaria (1985). Of the birds occurring there 62 species are of European conservation concern (SPEC) (BirdLife International, 2004), 3 of them being listed in category SPEC 1 as globally threatened, 5 in SPEC 2 and 18 in SPEC 3 as species threatened in Europe. The area provides suitable habitats for 20 species, included in Annex 2 of the Biodiversity Act, which need special conservation measures, of which 16 are listed also in Annex I of the Birds Directive. The reservoir, together with the fishponds, is of international importance for the wintering Common Teal Anas crecca, Mallard Anas platyrhynchos, White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons and Great White Egret Egretta alba. It is one of the few places in the country where the globally threatened Red-Breasted Goose Branta ruficollis overwinter inland, far from the coastal areas. The White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla regularly occurs in the area during the winter. During the breeding season the area is of a European Union importance for the Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus.

The area is situated close vicinity to settlements were intensive human activities take place. Access to the area is unrestricted. The area is sensitive to all human activities, which cause disturbance to birds, especially entering the reservoir by boats before the sunrise, when the birds roost in the water. The other problem is the illegal hunting on protected species, out of the hunting dates and with illegal means. The reservoir is used actively for fishery. Introduction of non-native species into the reservoir change the food base for birds. Change of the management practice of the fishponds, including drying up the wetland during big periods of time has negative impact on wetland habitats. There are conflicts between the fishermen and fish-eating birds.

Legal protection:
The area does not have legal protection by the national conservation legislation. In 2005 the area was designated as Important Bird Area by BirdLife International.

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