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Republic of Latvia

Black Woodpecker Dryocopus marts ©Arnis Dimperans Website

With an outline like a nestling, Latvia is on the east coast of the Baltic Sea. Flanked by Estonia to the north and Lithuania to the south, it stretches eastwards to the Russian and Belarus borders. It is, largely, a flat country, with a rather monotonous agricultural landscape, but it also has wide forests and wetlands of various types. Being an East European country, albeit slightly to the north, it has an impressive range of species mixed up in a cocktail that is rather different from that of Western Europe. A few examples of the notable breeding species are Black Stork, Lesser-spotted Eagle, Ural Owl, Blyth's Reed Warbler, Greenish Warbler, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Thrush Nightingale and Common Rosefinch; all these species are fairly common throughout the country. Some uncommon exotic species also breed, for instance, the Little Bittern, Short-toed Eagle, Great Snipe, Marsh and Terek Sandpipers, Whiskered Tern, Pygmy and Tengmalm's Owls, Citrine Wagtail and Parrot Crossbill.

It is not only the location that makes it different from other countries. Ineffective agriculture and forestry during Soviet rule favoured many bird species. By way of illustration, the Corncrake remains widespread with no less than 26,000 breeding pairs, the Common Crane is a rather common breeder in bogs and wet forest clearings, and a number of species of woodpeckers maintain good populations. The White-backed Woodpecker, for instance, is estimated to be 1,500 breeding pairs, but the Middle-spotted is increasing and expanding its range. The Red-backed Shrike is common - many can be seen perching on wires and bush tops along the roads. The number of White Stork is also imposing - imagine 10,500 pairs for a territory of only 65,000 sq/km. But don't be fooled into false optimism by this portrait. Times are changing - forest felling intensifies and agriculture may soon follow western models. Will the bird life remain unaffected? Definitely not, the only question is how seriously?

In Spring and Autumn many migrating birds pass over. Two bottle-necks in the western part of Latvia - Kolka and Pape, concentrate the largest numbers. Massive movement of divers and sea ducks take place along the west coast in spring. Grey geese passage happens twice a year, when many stop at our wetlands to rest. One of the most interesting wintering species is the Stellers’s Eider. It is not common, but currently one wintering site is known on the west coast. To conclude, Latvia is, without a doubt an interesting country for birdwatchers, and there are still lots of things to discover.

The Latvian Ornithological Society currently has several hundred members. Birdwatching is not yet a popular outdoor activity in the country, and people with binoculars are rarities in themselves…

Contributor

Agris Celmins

eastbird@latnet.lv

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 347

National Bird - White Wagtail Motacilla alba

Checklist

iGoTerra Checklist

iGoTerra Checklist

Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web

Useful Reading

Birds of Latvia

Viesturs Klimpins ISBN: 589960025X Out of Print

Useful Information

Laboratory of Ornithology

Institute of Biology - Miera Str. 3LV- 2169, SalaspilsLatvia Tel: (371)2945437/(371)9485626 Fax: (371) 783 02 91

Guides & Tour Operators

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Ibisbill Tours

Tour Operator

Contact: Algirdas Knystautas, 7 Holders Hill Gardens, London, NW4 1NP, England Phone: +44 (0) 20 8203 4317 E-mail: ibisbill@talk21.com

Eastbird Tours

Tour Operator

Contact: Agris Celmins, Box 1603, LV-1050 Riga, Latvia Phone: +371-6161077 E-mail: eastbird@latnet.lv

Birding Latvia

Tour Operator

Contact: Karlis Millers, Salmu 4, LV-3401, Liepaja, Latvia. Phone +37129252138, e-mail: info@birdinglatvia.lv Organise outings in Latvia as well as trips overseas for Latvian birders…

Baltic Wildlife

Website

laura@balticwildlife.eu, +371 28808440. Apart from the activities of owls (Eurasian Pygmy Owl, Ural Owl, Long-eared Owl, Short-eared Owl, Boreal Owl) and woodpeckers (Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, White-backed Woodpecker, Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker, Black Woodpecker, Grey-headed Woodpecker) in Ķemeri National park, there is a lot more to see in Cape Kolka – the best place for spring bird migration in Latvia and the Baltic Sea region - Western Capercaillie, Hazel Grouse, Black Grouse, Great Snipe, Horned Grebe, Marsh Sandpiper, Citrine Wagtail, Black-necked Grebe and more…

Dabas Tures (Nature Tours)

Tour Operator

info@dabastures.lv +371 28671971 - Latvia - Europe's biggest nature park, natural serenity and pristine, untouched habitats just waiting to be explored. The guided tours of Dabas Tures will help you to find the very best destinations for birding!….

Honeyguide

Tour Operator

Tucked away on the Baltic coast is, for British naturalists, the largely undiscovered country of Latvia. It offers an attractive mixture: partly Scandinavian in feel, partly eastern and partly continental, with the wildlife reflecting this mix….

Trip Reports

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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.

2011 [06 June] - Ernesto G. Occhiato

Report

Estonia and Latvia are really great countries for birding: there are superb and unspoiled wild places where Corncrake, Thrush Nightingale, Common Rosefinch, Marsh, River, Grasshopper and Icterine Warblers are amazingly common; places where Red-breasted Flycatcher is one of the most easily heard bird; and there are gems such as Citrine Wagtail, Great Snipe, and Red-necked Grebes all to be found in a relatively small area. White-tailed Eagle is a frequent sight, and Lesser Spotted Eagle almost the same…

2013 [04 April] - Howard Taffs - Latvia & Estonia

Report PDF

…For me the highlights were good numbers of species I rarely see such as bramblings, woodlarks, waxwings and snow buntings plus the steady trickle of BOPs (11 species in all though I did not confirm golden eagle until I checked my photos more thoroughly). Where the sea was beginning to thaw goldeneye displayed and goosanders were always present. Long tailed ducks stayed farther out but a smew came by at point blank range one morning….

2013 [05 May] - Chris Durdin

Report

At Kolka, migration was again in full swing. A group of some 70 yellow wagtails moved around us, some of them settling in birch trees, many on the short grass over the fence, before they were spooked – perhaps by one of the many migrating sparrowhawks – and they’d be on the move again. We counted more than 100 honey buzzards altogether; twice an osprey flew in the opposite direction to the main raptor stream; hawfinch and golden oriole flew over at the same time; five hawfinches in a group; siskin flocks …”

2014 [05 May] - Rob Macklin

PDF Report

With south-easterly winds we were treated to a migration bonanza with hordes of honey buzzards moving through with sparrowhawks, cranes and thousands of dragonflies. The bushes here were alive with warblers including river, Blyth's reed, marsh and icterine warblers with many caught and ringed and allowing close observation in the hand. Slītere National Park turned up good numbers of greenish warblers and excellent views of lesser spotted eagles plus new butterflies including black-veined white and northern chequered skipper...

2015 [05 May] – Rob Macklin

Report PDF

...Two great reed warblers were chuntering away from deep cover and we had good views of a Savi's warbler singing from reed stems. More singing birds included reed warbler, thrush nightingale, cuckoo and reed bunting plus a male red-backed shrike perched up in full view.

Organisations

Latvian Ornithological Society - Latvijas Omitologijas Biedriba

Website

Latvian Ornithological Society (LOB) has chosen Black Grouse Tetrao tetrix as the bird of the year 2003. The main reason for such a choice is concern, that the numbers of Black Grouse in Latvia might be decreasing as well as a will to pay greater attention to bogs and marshes as a habitat insufficiently researched within Latvian Breeding Bird Atlas. Since 1996, when The Bird of the Year campaign started, we have only chosen species of countryside, forests or waters. Black Grouse is the first Bird of the Year representing bogs.
P.O. Box 1010, LV-1050 Riga, Latvia. Phone +371-7221580. E-mail: putni@parks.lv

Latvian Rarities Committee

Website

List of committee with email addresses…

Latvian Academy of Sciences

Website

Lists ornithologists

Museums

Latvian Academy of Sciences - Institue of Biology

New data have been obtained on the survival of birds and philopatry indices for several species of European ducks in Latvia, in conjunction with their reproductive activity and survival of offspring…

Museum of Zoology - University of Latvia

http://www.muzeji.lv/

The Museum of Zoology was established in 1920. It holds both historically inherited collections and recently collected specimens ranging from invertebrates, such as insects and molluscs, to vertebrates: fishes, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals. Exhibitions in the museum are aimed at pupils, students and nature lovers. It is also a centre for scholarly research into entomology, malacology and ornithology.

Natural History Museum Of Latvia

Website

The exhibit “Birds of Latvia” was formed in 1973 by I. Stolbovs. Most of the birds found in Latvia are on display here (more than 320)…

Reserves

Wetlands

Website

Latvia presently has 3 sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance, with a surface area of 43,300 hectares.

Kemeri National Park

Webpage

Satellite View

The National Park boast also of considerable international ornithological significance. It must become an undisturbed resting place for migrating birds. A considerable number of objects in the KNP are included into the data base of the Coordination Program of Environment Information (CORINE)…

Gauja National Park

Website

Satellite View

Gauja NP was founded in 1973, and it was the first national park in the territory of Latvia at that time. It focuses mainly on nature protection but it is also used for educational and leisure tourism. Its territory of 91745 ha is divided into five functional areas. The most important of them are nature reserves and restricted nature areas. Nature reserves take up a small but particularly valuable part of the Gauja NP, and access to these territories is restricted…

Parks & Nature Reserve

Website

Background on the protected areas of Latvia…

Forums & Mailing Lists

Putni

Mailing List

To post to list: putni@yahoogroups.com

List contact: putni-owner@yahoogroups.com

To subscribe to list: putni-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Agris Celmins owns and moderates Putni for Latvian birdwatchers - there are about 70 members so far.

Other Links

Latvian Birding

Website

Description of several bird watching sites in Latvia. Location, maps, advices and species lists provided for 11 areas, and few others briefly mentioned….

The Ministry of Environment

Website

News, events etc…

Birds in Latvia

Website

Checklist

Birding Latvia - Latvijas Putni

Website

Bird news from Latvia and much more; probably the useful site for Latvian birders…

Photographers & Artists

Photographer - Arnis Dimperans

Gallery

Pictures of Latvian birds by Arnis Dimperans…