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Croatia

Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros © Peter Jones www.moroccanbirds.com

Target (breeding) birds are: Cory's Shearwater, Mediterranean Shearwater, Shag, Pygmy Cormorant, Herons (Bittern, Little Bittern, Night, Squacco, Grey, Purple); White and Black Storks, Glossy Ibis, Spoonbill, Greylag Goose, Ferruginous Duck, Griffon Vultures, Eagles (White-tailed, Golden, Lesser Spotted, Booted, Bonelli's); Red and Black Kite, Levant Sparrowhawk, Lesser Kestrel, Eleonora's Falcon, Peregrine, Lanner, Rock Partridge, Hazel Grouse, Capercaillie, Corncrake, Woodcock, Audouin's Gull, Marsh Terns (3); Rock Dove, Owls (Eagle, Ural, Tengmalm's, Barn, Little, Scops); Swifts (Alpine, Common, Pallid); Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Roller, all European Woodpecker, Larks (Short-toed, Calandra, Horned); Crag Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Tawny and Water Pipit, Yellow Wagtail (feldegg); Alpine Accentor, Black-eared Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Thrush, Ring Ouzel, numerous Warblers (Barred, Orphean, Sardinian, Subalpine, Icterine, Melodious, Olive-tree, Olivaceous, Bonelli's, Cetti's); Zitting Cisticola, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Sombre Tit, Penduline Tit, Bearded Tit, Rock Nuthatch, Wallcreeper, Woodchat Shrike, Red-backed Shrike, Lesser Grey Shrike, Nutcracker, Alpine Chough, Golden Oriole, Spanish Sparrow, numerous Buntings (Rock, Ortolan, Cirl, Black-headed, Corn)

Historically part of the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy and later Tito's Yugoslavia, Croatia only won its independence in 1990, and now undoubtedly one of the pearls of European birding. Before the dramatic war between 1991 and 1995 Croatia was among Europe's premier holiday destination, and now begins to be again, not least because it is the country's major source of income. Croatia is divided into two main parts:

1. Istria peninsula and the Adriatic seacoast (Dalmatia)
2. Eastern landlocked wing, which is located on the soutwestern edge of the Carpathian-basin (incl. Zagorje, Zumberak, Podravina, Turopolje and Slavonia).

Geographically (which determines the bird life) Croatia is unique in many ways. The great diversity of bird life and habitats, the remote, high and sometimes very rough mountain ridges, the huge forests, the steep karst terrains, the huge alluvial forests, and the very under watched bird life combines with the fantastic sea-coast, the most translucent sea of the World, the extremely friendly people, the cultural and architectural heritage, such unparalleled cities like the world-famous Dubrovnik or Koper, and last but not least the excellent foods (especially sea-foods) make it one of the best birding destinations in the continent for every keen European birdwatcher. Statistics show that 78 endangered (on a European level) species breed in Croatia and this is more, than any other small or medium-sized European country. In fact, Croatia is an ornithological oasis in Europe. I would say Croatia is simply the best!

The Istria peninsula and the Adriatic coastline includes dramatic stretches of almost 2000km of shoreline and over 1000 dry islands with endless possibility for birding explorations. On the seacoast there are many great estuaries of big rivers from the inland, and the giant watershed in the mountain chains along the whole coastline that instantly rises from sea level to 2500 m. The result of that watershed is karst - almost naked bushy hillsides on the seaside, and densely covered forests on the inland sides. The area gives one of the most diverse bird communities of Europe, especially with its extremely rich Passerine fauna.

Spring resounds to the songs of many warblers, buntings and wheatears. Sardinian-, Orphean- and Subalpine Warblers are very common, as well the Olivaceous too. Olive-tree warbler is more typical for the Southern coastline, while Melodious warblers are especially widespread in the North. Cetti's Warbler also lives along the coast, while Zitting Cisticola is possible only at the lagoons of the Istria peninsula, where they are even noisy in the autumn too. This is the only area for Bonelli's warbler too, but the latter lives in a different, very special habitat on the warm hillsides. Black-eared Wheatear is much more common than the Common! You can also find Blue Rock Thrush everywhere. Common Rockthrush widespread, but much more rare and shy.

The rocky walls attract many other interesting birds, like the Rock Dove, Crag Martin and the lovely Rock Nuthatch. Alpine Swift scream through the deep gorges, and with luck, especially at the southern part you can find the differently flying view of the Pallid Swift too. The high ridges hold the main population of the lovely and very friendly Alpine Choughs, which visits the lower settlements in the wintertime. This part is also the home of one of the most spectacular Croatian bird, the Rock Partridge, and the extremely lovely Alpine Accentor, probably the friendliest bird of the European avifauna.

Among other specialties worth a mention are the huge populations of the very common Cirl and Black-headed Buntings. Ortolan Bunting is frequent, while Rock Bunting lives usually on the northern coastline, however I suspect it is more common than the records suggest. Sombre Tits and Red-rumped Swallows live in the south up to the Velebit range, the latter is in territorial expansion now, and it is even possible to see on the Istria peninsula. Calandra Lark, Short-toed Lark, Kentish Plover, Tawny Pipit and Stone Curlew mainly inhabit the dry islands along the coast. Some very nice and rich sweet-water habitat adorns the area too. Vrana Lake, Plitvice and Krka National Parks with hundreds of waterfalls are among the most beautiful places of Croatia. Krka is a breeding place for Bonelli's Eagle, while Lake Vrana is important wintering ground for water birds with sometimes more than 20,000 birds. There is a list over 240 species, and you can find some really interesting birds, like Spanish Sparrow, Yellow Wagtail (race feldegg); Moustached Warbler, Pygmy Cormorant, many herons and waterfowl, and last but not least Eagle Owls. Red-backed Shrike and Woodchat Shrike are very common here, Lesser Grey Shrike, Nightjar, Scops and Little Owl are very widespread too.

Among the most unique birds you can find are the enormous Griffon Vulture, which used to be very common, but is now restricted to the northern archipelago, including Cres, where there is a rehabilitation center for the species, and the natural population is still over 70 pairs. The species is unfortunately extinct from the famous Paklenica National Park of the Velebit Mts. together with the former breeder Egyptian Vultures. Lanner Falcon is rare, some pairs live at the very southern edge of the country, as it is the same for Bonelli's Eagle too. The most beautiful raptor of the country is probably the Eleonora's Falcon which inhabit many small islands, especially around Vis and Korcula Islands. These islands gives the newly discovered breeding places of the internationally endangered Audouin's Gull too.

Inland part of Dalmatia (east of the watershed ridge of the coastal mountains) is covered with huge, completely untouched forests, which is among the greatest intact woodland heritage of all of Europe. In the wet valleys (poljes) we find rich wetland habitats, grassy plains and gallery forests. The area is good for some raptors, including Short-toed Eagle, Golden Eagle and such Passerines as the beautiful Red-breasted Flycatcher. The pine forest holds a significant population of Three-toed Woodpecker, and some difficult to find birds, such as Hazel Grouse and Capercaillie. White-backed Woodpecker are also definitely rare; they live only at the northern edge of the big forest area, while others, including Middle-Spotted Woodpecker and Black Woodpecker are relatively common. Ural and Tengmalm's Owls are there but rare and difficult to find. Nutcracker is common in the pine forests together with many other Pine-tree loving bird species (Coal Tit, Firecrest and Goldcrest, etc.). The high grassy plains and the nearby rocky walls are ideal habitat for Shore Lark, Alpine Accentor, Water Pipit and for some Wallcreeper and vagrant Egyptian Vultures from Macedonia. It would be nice to find some breeding Dotterel here.

North-eastern Croatia, which belongs to the Carpathian-basin, has a landscape that is totally different. On the left side of the river Sava downstream from Zagreb, several large field-depressions have been formed. They are Crnec polje, Lonjsko polje, Mokro polje, Crnac polje and Jelas polje. In the course of millennia, life in these depressions has developed under the influence of water. Most of the year the fields were periodically flooded, depending on the Sava water level. The great river plains of the Sava, Drava and Danube rivers have the greatest wetland gallery forests with extensive areas of broadleaved alluvial-forests in of all Europe. This is mixed with other natural water bodies, fishpond systems and arable lands. Lonjsko Polje area at the Sava river hold a very big population of Lesser Spotted Eagle and Pygmy Cormorants, while Kopacki-rit (Kopacevo-marshes) National Park in the north-eastern corner is truly worthy of its designation as a World Heritage Site with its unique landscape. Probably the last truly ancient gallery forest of the Old Continent with oak and willow trees that are hundred of years old. It is full with White-tailed Eagles, Black Kites, Corncrakes, Ferruginous Ducks and Black Storks.

The site holds more than 20,000 water birds in the wintertime, and also some Greater Spotted Eagles. All these rivers are full of reed beds (Marsh Terns, Penduline- and Bearded Tits); and also with heronries (Bittern, Little Bittern, Night, Squacco, Grey, Purple Herons); and there are many Egrets, Spoonbills, Greylag Geese and some Glossy Ibis too. Unfortunately some typical plain raptor species are on the verge of extinction. Only a very few Red-footed Falcons, Saker and Imperial Eagles breed in the area, while Levant Sparrowhawk and Lesser Kestrel are probably already extinct. The area is full of Golden Orioles, Kingfishers, Bee-eaters, and Hoopoes, and there are still some Rollers to adorn our list too. To complete our journey in Croatia it is well worth a visit to the Drava River area, where we can find breeding colonies of Little Terns, Little Ringed Plovers, and Common Sandpipers.

Croatia gives an opportunity for some pelagic- and sea-birding too. Cory's Shearwater, Mediterranean Shearwater, Storm-petrel breed on small islands, as well the Shag, but on ferry or boat trips you can even see other species like Eleonora's Falcon, Swifts, or accidentally such mega-rarities like Great Northern or Yellow-billed Loons in the wintertime.

Suggested Itineraries:
If you start your visit from Budapest (Hungary); you can get many more species on your list, and in this case it's well worth going on to the eastern part of Croatia, and concentrating on the seacoast, as Hungary will give you more opportunity to see the plains birds. From Budapest you can easily reach the Börzsöny Hills (Imperial Eagles, Saker, Ural Owls, White-backed Woodpeckers); the northern edge of the Kiskunsag National Park (an excellent place with more than 150 Great Bustards, numerous Red-Footed Falcons, Montagu's Harrier, Roller paradise, Saker, Avocets, Black-winged Stilts, Kentish Plover, Collared Pratincole, Stone Curlew, -here was the last sighting of Slender-billed Curlew in 2001- Bluethroat, Moustached Warbler); the Vertes Mts. (Imperial Eagles, Saker, Baillon's Crake); the Mts. Bakony (White-backed Woodpeckers, Red-breasted Flycatcher); and finally Lake Balaton and Kis-Balaton area with hundreds of wildfowl, Bluethroat, Moustached Warbler, Marsh Terns, many White-tailed Eagles and Black Storks (the only area in Hungary to see more than 110 species/day). The Principal Canal area of West Hungary is one of the best raptor migration spot of all Hungary. Furthermore in the wintertime Hungary is absolutely the best and most easy to see place for Wallcreeper, Alpine Accentors and Greater Spotted Eagles. At the border crossing, at the Drava River is the only reliable place to see the Common Rosefinches, however it is a real challenge to find them, (it doesn't compare to the easy Slovakian or Transylvanian sites). This place is also excellent for Little Terns.

On your way to Croatia, you will go across the Savinja Alps and Julian Alps in Slovenia, which will also add some very good high mountain specialties for your list, which are absent or very rare in Croatia. Capercaillie, Black Grouse and Hazel Grouse are widespread and sometimes common in both ranges, as well the Three-toed Woodpecker, Ural, Tengmalm's and Pygmy Owls. Lesser Redpoll are frequent, while Snow Finch, Ptarmigan and Wallcreeper inhabit the highest peaks, and it is sometimes difficult to find them because the rough terrain. If you are lucky, you can see Alpine Marmot, Chamois and Alpine Ibex around the peaks, and Mountain Hare at the lower region too. Alpine Chough is common in the area. The very rare Citril Finch and the scarce, but at some times common, Bonelli's Warbler are available in the most NW corner of Slovenia, near the Italian border. Rock Partridge also lives in the Julian Alps around Bohinj Lake, and more to the south at the Mt. Nanos area too.

Other Wildlife
Croatia is most famous among herpetologist, but lovers of mammals, butterflies and dragonflies are also able to find a great variety of species.

Contributor

Lajos Németh

GreenEye Ecotours & Images

greeneyehungary@freemail.hu

http://greeneye.org.uk

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 378

Useful Reading

Ptice Hrvatske Obale Jadrana [The birds of the Croatian coasts of the Jadran Sea)

Rucner, Dragutin 1998. Zagreb, 165x235, b/w photos, numerous maps, indices of Croatian and Latin names of birds, In Croatian with extended German summary. Ppb, 311pp. Price US$29.

Useful Information

Useful Facts

Country area: 56.540 km2
Population: 4.726.000 (density: 83.5/km2)
Species number: 378 confirmed (1997)
Number of IBA areas: 23 (754.533 ha, 13% of the country)
Ramsar sites: complete: 0; partial: 3; still lacking: 8

Organisations

Association for Biological Research (BIOM)

Website

Udruga za biološka istraživanja - BIOM / Association for Biological Research - BIOM is the BirdLife contact for Croatia. Postal address: Preradoviceva 34, 10000 Zagreb, Croatia - 1st landline: +385 1 4100 018 - 2nd landline: +385 1 2950 084 - Cell: +385 95 903 6051 – Krešimir (Executive Director) - Cell: +385 95 905 9948 – Vedran (Office Manager) - Cell: +385 95 814 7787 – Ivan (Conservation Manager) E-mail: info@biom.hr

Croatian Society for Bird and Nature Protection

Information

Ilirski Trg 9, HR10000 Zagreb. + 385 1 389 5445; jasmina@mahazu.hazu.cr

Reserves

Kopaèki Rit Nature Reserve

Information

Satellite View

Kopaèki Rit, a nature park not far from the confluence of the Drava and the Danube, situated at the very border and it is one of the most important, largest and most attractive preserved intact wetlands in Europe…

Kopacki Rit Nature Reserve

Information

Satellite View

The 42,000-acre park is covered in lush vegetation and is home to 285 bird species, including rare varieties such as the black stork…

Krka National Park

Website

Satellite View

The number of species (222); the structure of the bird community and the great importance that Krka has for the spring and autumn migrations mean that it is ornithologically one of the most important regions in Europe.

Paklenica National Park

Website

Satellite View

Paklenica is the second National Park in Croatia, proclaimed in 1949. Its designation is an indication of the natural diversity and richness of the area, at a place where the Mediterranean, continental and mountain climates meet. The Park is famous for its rich flora and also hosts a special kind of karst relief with many attractive features typical for this limestone system.

Plitvice Lakes National Park

Information

Satellite View

The area is faunistically rich, including European brown bear Ursus arctos, wolf Canis lupus, eagle owl Bubo bubo, and capercaillie Tetra urogallus. There are records of 126 species of birds, of which 70 breed…

Slavonski Brod-Natural Preserves

Satellite View

On the left side of the river Sava downstream from Zagreb, several large fields - depressions have been formed. They are Crnec polje, Lonjsko polje, Mokro polje, Crnac polje and last of them, Jelas polje. In the course of millenia, life in these depressions has developed under the influence of water. Most of the year the fields were periodically flooded, depending on the Sava water level.

Wetlands

Website

Croatia presently has 4 sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance, with a surface area of 80,455 hectares…

Trip Reports

CloudBirders

Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

2003 [June] Jeremy Barker & Sandra Göetsch

Report

This was a summer tour around Austria, cleaning up a few birds that Sandra particularly wanted to see, then a 10-day trip to Croatia, along the coast, returning inland. Effectively no information was available to us before we visited Croatia, so we missed a lot; however for the Austrian sites we visited we are indebted to Graham Tebb & Georg Juen for their help…

2003 [Summer] Kasper Hendriks & Rob van Bemmelen

Report

July 2003 was the moment for 4 young birders from The Netherlands to do some interesting birding in the eastern part of Europe. The month July is of course not the best time to go birding, because most birds are relatively non-active in summer. But, as all the participants attain some sort of school during the rest of the year, a trip this long in spring was no option. The group departed on Saturday the 28th of June and returned on Sunday the 27th of July 2003…

2005 [August] - Sander Bot

Report

This summer we decided to enjoy our holidays in Slovenia and Croatia. We are interested in birds, but also butterflies, dragonflies and hoverflies. For more information about our trip and its species, contact us at sanderbot@yahoo.co.uk.

2006 [October] - Bob & Dora Swann

Report

…The slopes were still in the shade and there was no sign of the birds. Lots of European Robins, Blackbirds and a few Wrens in the scrub but little else. I walked back down the road and down the track to the overgrown fields and orchards by the ruined houses. Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs were feeding in the bushes and a flock of Long-tailed Tits moved through. In the overgrown field I disturbed a Common Redstart, a pair of Dunnock, a European Serin and a few Rock Buntings. Finally a Common Raven flew overhead. Just as the sun was coming up on the slopes I had to leave to head back to the hotel for breakfast with Dora. On the way down I stopped briefly by the dump, where by the roadside I found a Blue Rock Thrush, a Stonechat and lots of White Wagtails…

2008 [May] - Honeyguide - Istria

Report

Pdf

2008 [May] - Mark Easterbrook

Report

We arrived in Croatia near Dubrovnik mid morning to brilliant sunshine and a refreshing sea breeze. Quickly heading off to the hotel in Mlini about 11Km east of Dubrovnik and 8Km from the airport at Chilipi; it was ideally situated and just below the hills described by Jon Hornbuckle; where the Partridges could be. En route Alpine Swifts, Swallows and House Martins hawked above us…

2009 [May] - Croatia & Montenegro

Report PDF

…During the eight days spent in Croatia and Montenegro we saw a total of 139 different species of birds plus 3 subspecies of Yellow Wagtail…

2010 [July] - Jacob Rudhe - Hvar

Report

Me and my family went to Croatia for one week’s vacation for a lot of swimming and basking in the sun, the last week of July. Although very little time was spent for bird watching, some nice birds were seen on the trip…

2011 [May] - Honeyguide - Istria

Report

…there were 3 Nightingales in the scrub at the eastern end close to the pumping house (with a dozen or so House Martin nests) drowning out the singing male Melodious Warbler. A single snatch of Grey-headed Woodpecker ‘song’ was heard from the wet oak forest along the River Mirna and we were rarely out of earshot of Cirl Buntings…

2011 [May] - John Wheeler

Report PDF

…I have written this from a personal angle. Again I hope any lack of objectivity is more than offset by sharing the emotions brought out by birdwatching….

2012 [April] - Croatia & Montenegro

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…After crossing the border to Montenegro we drove around the picturesque southernmost fjord of Europe, the Kotorsko-Risanski Bay. A pair of Golden Eagles was seen while having picnic lunch. We stopped to admire the agility of Crag Martins near Risan….

2012 [August] - Chris Stott - Istria

Report

…I was based just south of Porec at the Hotel Laguna Mediteran, which is part of a large resort complex of hotels and apartments situated on the coast. I can recommend this hotel for comfort, service and value for money….

2013 [August] - Rob van Bemmelen

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…The area is good for a variety of waterbirds. Notable were White-tailed Eagle, Ferruginous Duck, Squacco Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Little Bittern, Purple Heron, Whiskered Tern, Common Kingfisher, Great Reed Warbler and Savi's Warbler…

2013 [May] - Ian Merrill

Report PDF

…Walking the route to Velji Do, accompanied by an ever-changing and constantly stunning panorama, I add Black-eared Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Black-headed Bunting, European Bee-Eater, Whinchat, Woodchat Shrike, Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, plus Sardinian and Wood Warblers to my notebook list. At the quaint hamlet of Velji Do a few cultivated fields head a sheltered valley of lush green oaks which echo to the fluty notes of Golden Orioles and fluid trills of Nightingale…

2013 [May] - Paul Tout - Istria

Report PDF

…Walking back to take another route we were sad to find the large bee-eater colony with dozens of holes completely deserted. Bee-eaters are not popular birds in Istria when they set up home near people who make a living producing honey but sometimes the desertion of colonies may be for natural reasons such as a couple of snakes around the colony learning to raid the nests and finding that the nestlings make easy pickings….

2014 [May] - Bob Shiret

Report

This was our first trip to the Istrian Peninsular in Croatia for forty five years, back then it was Yugoslavia with a dour, suppressed feel. Things have changed completely now and it can be recommended for a wide range of different types of holiday.

Guides & Tour Operators

Birding Pal

Information

Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area…

Ecotours

Tour Operator

Our company was formed with the intention of popularising birding trips in Hungary, birdwatching, butterfly, wildlife and nature tours in Eastern Europe The natural Choice in Eastern Europe and worldwide…

Green Eye Ecotours

Tour Operator

Today we provide outdoor-oriented tours, adventures, expeditions…

Honeyguide - Istria

Tour Operator

At the crossroads of the Balkans, Central Europe and the Mediterranean, Istria has a fascinating history, geology, flora and fauna. In a relatively small area (about 4000 km2) one passes from a rocky coastline and a strip of Mediterranean scrub and woodland through areas of low-intensity agriculture rich in wild flowers and farmland birds…

iCroatiaTravel

Tour Operator

iCroatiaTravel offer professionally guided birding tours of Croatia, with its large number of protected wetlands and national parks, hotspots for migratory and resident birds, often with more than 250 bird species…

Val Tours

Tour Operator

Here you can learn about birding sites in Croatia, read descriptions of the various Croatian habitats, discover reasons to bird in Croatia - including a complete bird check list - and last, but not least, be introduced to local birding programs…

VDM - Birdwatching in Croatia

Tour Operator

Croatia .. a country of a thousand islands, surrounded by the beautiful Adriatic Sea, home to one of the last remaining European populations of free wolves, bears, lynx and other endangered wildlife species…also, a country where west and east met in order to create a unique mixture of culture, tradition, architecture and lifestyle… but, what about Croatia as a birdwatching destination? Interested?