Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the 20 regions of Italy. Sicily is located in the central Mediterranean Sea, south of the Italian Peninsula, from which it is separated by the narrow Strait of Messina. Its most prominent landmark is Mount Etna, the tallest active volcano in Europe. has a roughly triangular shape, earning it the name Trinacria. To the east, it is separated from the Italian mainland by the Strait of Messina, about 3 km (1.9 mi) wide in the north, and about 16 km (9.9 mi) wide in the southern part. The northern and southern coasts are each about 280 km (170 mi) long measured as a straight line, while the eastern coast measures around 180 km (110 mi); total coast length is estimated at 1,484 km (922 mi). The total area of the island is 25,711 km2 (9,927 sq mi), while the Autonomous Region of Sicily (which includes smaller surrounding islands) has an area of 27,708 km2 (10,698 sq mi). The terrain of inland Sicily is mostly hilly and is intensively cultivated wherever possible. Along the northern coast, the mountain ranges of Madonie, 2,000 m (6,600 ft), Nebrodi, 1,800 m (5,900 ft), and Peloritani, 1,300 m (4,300 ft), are an extension of the mainland Apennines.
The island is drained by several rivers, most of which flow through the central area and enter the sea at the south of the island. The Salso flows through parts of Enna and Caltanissetta before entering the Mediterranean Sea at the port of Licata. To the east, the Alcantara flows through the province of Messina and enters the sea at Giardini Naxos, and the Simeto, which flows into the Ionian Sea south of Catania. Other important rivers on the island are the Belice and Platani in the southwest.
Sicily is an often-quoted example of man-made deforestation, which has occurred since Roman times, when the island was turned into an agricultural region. This gradually dried the climate, leading to a decline in rainfall and the drying of rivers. The central and southwest provinces are practically devoid of any forest. In Northern Sicily, there are three important forests; near Mount Etna, in the Nebrodi Mountains and in the Bosco della Ficuzza's Natural Reserve near Palermo. The Nebrodi Mountains Regional Park, established on 4 August 1993 and covering 86,000 hectares (210,000 acres), is the largest protected natural area of Sicily; and contains the largest forest in Sicily, the Caronia. The Hundred Horse Chestnut (Castagno dei Cento Cavalli), in Sant'Alfio, on the eastern slopes of Mount Etna, is the largest and oldest known chestnut tree in the world at 2,000 – 4,000 years old.
The island has a typical Mediterranean climate.
The Zingaro Natural Reserve is one of the best examples of unspoiled coastal wilderness in Sicily. Surrounding waters including the Strait of Messina are home to varieties of birds and marine life, including larger species such as flamingos and fin whales. Sicily has a wide variety of fauna. Mamal species include fox, least weasel, pine marten, roe deer, wild boar, crested porcupine and hedgehog.
Sicily is a wild, fascinating place, and, whilst birding is not easy, it can offer some incredible surprises! Sicily hosts the biggest Lanner population in Europe (100-120 pairs); 15-20 pairs of Bonelli's Eagle, Egyptian Vulture (a few, and declining); the most important Collared Pratincole colony in Italy (Biviere di Gela); and is the most important raptor-migration hotspot in the Southern Mediterranean. The only records of Amur Falcon in the Western Palaearctic have been reported from the Stretto di Messina, along with 20-30.000 Honey Buzzards, some individual Long-legged and Steppe Buzzards, Pallid Harrier, Siberian Peregrine and the occasionally Barbary Falcon.
The Eastern Coast: (Foce del Simeto, Saline di Priolo, Saline di Siracusa, Vendicari, Longarini) is a poorly known area, but really is a vagrant trap for migrants crossing the Western Mediterranean towards the Balkans. Isabelline Wheatear, Isabelline Shrike, Sociable Plover, Caspian Gull, Great black-headed Gull can be seen here (but is, of course, ia matter of luck) in May-June, this part of Sicily is also very scenic!
On the opposite side of Sicily, Riserva naturale dello Stagnone e saline di Trapani and near Palermo, the Riserva dello Zingaro are two beautiful areas well worth a visit.
If you need more information about the anti-poaching camp, please contact the contributor.
Maurizio Maudoc Sighele
Number of Species
Number of bird species: 433
(As at February 2019)
The Madonie nature park set up in 1989 covers an area of 40,000 hectares. It is one of the most famous mountain eco-systems of the Mediterranean basin due to the rich diversity of its flora and the considerable interest in its vegetation. It occupies the central-northern part of Sicily and includes 15 municipalities which from Cefalù emanate towards the interior of the island.
The National Park of the Nebrodi mountains, stretching for around 70 kilometres, together with the Madonie mountains to the west and the Peloritani mountains to the east, form the siculan Appenines. The Park faces the Tyrrhenian Sea to the north and is bordered to the east by Etna, the Alcantara river and the upper reaches of the Simeto river.
NR Riserva naturale dello Zingaro
Riserva naturale dello zingaro was the first natural reserve set up in Sicily.
NR Torre Salsa
An uncontaminated stretch of coast extends between Siculiana Marina and Ericlea Minoa within the Nature Oriented Reserve of Torre Salsa, where chalky white cliffs of gypsum alternate with limestone marls which are, now and then, covered with layers of clay. The territory of the Reserve of Torre Salsa extends over 761.62 hectares and belongs to the province of Agrigento, within the the municipality of Siculiana
NR Trapani Salt Pans
The area comprising the Nature Reserve of the Stagnone Islands of Marsala and the Salt Pans of Trapani and Paceco is characterized by lagoons and marshes with shallow water ranging from 50 cm to 2 metres in depth. The reserve includes the 4 islands of San Pantaleo (Mozia), Isola Grande, Schola and Santa Maria in the area of Marsala and the stretch of coast at Paceco between Torre Nubia and Salina Grande in the territory of Trapani. The main points of interest are migratory birds such as herons and flamingoes which stop en route to Africa.
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.
2011 [04 April] - Brian Small & Andrea Corso
…We walked onto the headland for a stroll and lunch, finding our first Eastern Black-eared Wheatears and close views of libbanotica Northern Wheatears…
2012 [04 April] - Brian Small
…A couple of Isabelline Wheatears were found and on the flock of Yellow Wagtails we heard calls of a feldeggi, Black-headed Yellow Wagtail which sounds almost like a Citrine Wagtail. Also a couple of Stone Curlews were seen in flight and a Little Owl was perched on a stony wall far from us…
2012 [04 April] - Brian Small
…At Priolo we had great views of Ferruginous Duck and Audouin’s Gull; at the Penisiola we saw c.15 Stone-curlews and amongst a small cattle flock various flava wagtails (Blue-headed predominantly, but also Black- headed and one Yellow), Short-toed Larks, and a couple of Tree and Tawny Pipits…
2014 [09 September] - Mike Neale
Really just a species list...
2015 [04 April] - Dave Nevitt
...There was a strong wind which ensured that most birds were keeping their heads down, but we found the common birds of the area - Sardinian Warbler, Italian Sparrows and, overhead, Common Swifts. A large raptor turned out to be a Booted Eagle, and we also saw two Marsh Harriers. Two Bee-eaters flew overhead calling, as Cetti’s Warblers and Nightingales serenaded us with their lovely songs.
2017 [05 May] - Lucia Boscain
After lunch with the first unmissable Italian pasta, we left for a short drive to Capo Murro di Porco, one of the best sites in Sicily to find migrants. The Mediterranean maquis with dwarf palms, thorny burnets and shrubby Thyme was surprisingly rich in flowers, with millions of Barbary Nut Irises together with Byzantine Gladiolus, Italian Viper's Bugloss, Statices and Three-horned Stocks. Breeding birds were in full concert, with a lot of Crested Larks, Zitting Cisticolas, Sardinian Warblers and Spotless Starlings perching on prominent branches or flying above our heads.
2018 [05 May] - Jonathan Mycock
Later, we enjoyed a pre-dinner walk around the estate with Jon and Stuart. Breeding birds were in full concert, with a lot of Crested Larks, Zitting Cisticolas, Sardinian Warblers, Spotless Starlings and Tree Sparrows perching on prominent branches or flying above our heads. Migrants included seven superb Bee-eaters, two singing Nightingales, a gorgeous male Woodchat Shrike, and two Golden Orioles. We also discussed how to identify the very similar wall lizards present in Sicily, as both Italian and Sicilian Wall Lizards were seen.
2018 [09 September] - Lucia Boscain
...Going through a luxuriant marquis of Dwarf Palms and Mastic, we saw Northern and Black-eared Wheatear, Whinchat, Sardinian Warbler and Zitting Cisticola, all watched comfortably through our scopes. To have available a lot of pairs of eyes allowed to not loose Peregrine Falcon, Kestrel and Marsh Harrier, crossing over, and, at the same time, to notice some peculiar examples of micro-fauna, including Italian and Sicilian Wall Lizards, Cone-headed and Red Band-winged Grasshoppers and a Broad Scarlet dragonfly, but also nice flowers like Mandrake, Sea Squill and Myrtle....
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