Birdwatching in Bulgaria
Over the last years, Bulgaria has become a top birdwatching destination. The country’s crossroads location, the combination of Mediterranean and continental climate as well as the unspoiled environment all contribute to the unique biosphere, which is why bird lovers make Bulgaria their vacation place.
Over the last 15 years birding has really taken off in Bulgaria, but this is not really surprising when one considers the species that can be seen in this birding paradise. Dalmatian pelicans can be seen in the colony at the Srebarna UNESCO reserve, which is the best European colony and the home of Red-footed Falcons, Eastern Imperial eagles, Pygmy cormorant , Ferruginous duck and Ruddyshell duck. The country is dotted with fishpond systems and many small and bigger rivers, where the Penduline tit is common, and herons and egrets easily seen. The chain of the Central Balkan National Park, Pirin and Vitosha mountains National Parks, Rila mountain with many mountain reserves, Rhodope mountain and in the far South east Strandza mountain National Park and the local reserves, with their perfect woods and huge cliffs give great opportunities for raptors. These include Eastern Imperial, Golden, Booted, Short-toed, and Lesser spotted eagles, and Saker. The lower parts of the mountains and the whole of the rest of the country is good for Long legged buzzard, Levant Sparrow hawk, Red footed falcon, Montegu’s harrier, Honey Buzzard, Egyptian, Black and Griffon vultures, White-tailed eagle, and Black and White stork. Bulgaria is also the best place in the world for seeing Wallcreeper, the biggest European populations of Sombre tit, Masked and Lessergrey shrikes, short-toed treecreeper, Olive-tree and Paddyfield warblers, Spanish sparrow, Semi- collared flycatcher, Black-headed and Rock buntings, Black-headed yellow wagtail, Golden Oriole, Roller, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Rose-coloured starling, Rock partridge, Pied, Isabelline and Eastern Black-eared wheatears, Corncrake, Syrian woodpecker, Calandra and Short-toed larks also belong to the country’s fauna. Many rare European species, like Pallid swift, Little and spotted crakes, Stone-curlew, Collared and Black-winged pratincoles, Gull-billed and Caspian terns, White pelicans, Eagle owl, Ural owl, Scops owl, Pygmy and Tegmalm’s owls, Shore lark, Rock and Blue rock thrush, Sub-alpine, Barred, Sardinian and Orphean warblers, Nutcracker, Rock sparrow, and Dotterel can be seen. In almost every wood and the open area there are Black, Green, Grey-headed, Middle-spotted, Great-spotted, and Lesser-spotted woodpeckers. High in the mountain the three-toed woodpecker is to be found. There is a good chance of the rare White-backed woodpecker, as well as Syrian woodpecker and Wryneck in the open areas.
The best time to visit is spring, with, on average, 220-230 species, including many rarities but birding in autumn is also good, especially for large raptor migration, Pelicans, and shorebirds. There are huge number of birds every autumn with Honey Buzzards, Levant sparrow hawks, Common buzzards, Booted eagles, Lesser spotted eagles, Short-toed eagles, Pallid harriers, Hobbys, Red footed falcons, White storks, Black storks, White pelicans, Dalmatian pelicans, and many other rare and interesting birds such as thousands of wagtails, swallows, pipits, and larks etc. Bulgaria is one of the best European countries for birding in winter, as it holds thousands of Red-breasted and White fronted geese, a very good chance of lesser white-fronted geese and rare European ducks. In the last few years there have been very good numbers of White headed duck, Smew, Dalmatian pelican, Great white Egret, Whooper and Bewick’s swans, Rough-legged and Long legged buzzards. Bulgarian landscape is variable enough. The plains and marshes of the Danube and Maritsa rivers and Black sea coast give a great possibility of getting all the European herons, as well as Spoonbills and Glossy Ibis, Little Bittern breed. Even the forest in the center of Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital, gives perfect opportunities for birding, and the Vitosha mountain National Park is just a few minutes by car from Sofia. The dozens of reserves along with the numerous unprotected areas with their variety of landscapes, birds, plants insects and others mark out Bulgaria, a small country as it is, as a leading European country for birding.
The variety of bird species in Bulgaria is mostly attributed to the country’s diverse climate and relief. The climate is typically continental in Northern Bulgaria and the Dobrudza region, implying warm summers and cold winters. Along the Black Sea coast, winter is not so severe and summer - not so hot. Winters are longer and colder and summers and springs – much shorter higher up in the mountains. Along the southern border with Turkey and Greece, influence from the Mediterranean latitudes can be felt.
The Srebarna Nature Reserve is a freshwater lake, neighboring the Danube river and extending over 600 ha. It is the breeding ground of almost 100 species of birds, many of which are rare or endangered. Some 80 other bird species migrate and seek refuge there every winter. Among the most interesting bird species are the Dalmatian pelican, great egret, night heron, purple heron, glossy ibis and white spoonbill.
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