No Fly Zone
Although it’s hardly what Iraq is most famous for right now, the nation is an ornithologist’s paradise — and war there could be a disaster for migrating birds. If combat begins during March or April, as expected, the situation will be especially grave, because during these spring migration months, millions of birds cross Iraq en route to their northern breeding grounds. The Tigris and the Euphrates, Iraq’s key rivers, are important stops on the long-distance migration routes for birds that winter in Africa, then head north to breed in Europe and western Russia in the summer. Such birds include pelicans, storks, and many species of shorebirds. “From a biodiversity point of view, this is the worst possible time of the year to have a war” in Iraq, because birds “could abort their migration or even starve to death,” said Phil Hockey, a migration specialist with the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology.