Despite its tiny size, less than 14 000 km2, Montenegro certainly offers some exciting birding destinations, either in the mountains or along the c.200 km of seacoast. Habitats to bird in vary from bare alpine terrain, rocky areas and pastures to coniferous forests, southern European and sub-Mediterranean forests, and, finally, Mediterranean vegetation.
Forests still cover an impressive 37% of Montenegro, but along the Adriatic coast grazing and fires have reduced the natural Mediterranean deciduous woods of oak to maquis and garigue. Coniferous woods (mainly black pine) are widespread on slopes of higher mountains, while dwarf pine on mountain tops is threatened by the illegal burning to create grazing land.
Total number of bird species recorded so far in Montenegro is 348; at least 204 of them are breeding species. Significant percentages of European populations of Rock Partridge, Baillon’s Crake, Pygmy Cormorant, Little Bittern and Scops Owl breed in Montenegro.
The main birding areas in the southern corner of the country are Ulcinj Saltpans (internationally Important Bird Area), Velika Plaza (12 km long sandy beach), Ada Bojana Island (also a tourist resort in the Bojana River delta), floodplain forests and wet meadows along the Bojana River, Sasko Lake (IBA) and Skadar Lake (IBA). There are a few more sites along the Adriatic coast, namely Buljarica beach and resort and Tivatska Solila lagoon. Further inland, there are areas such as Cemovsko Polje (dry steppe habitat at the outskirt of the capital Podgorica), Plav Lake, Niksic Reservoirs (especially Slano and Liverovici), Mt. Durmitor (IBA), Mt. Biogradska Gora (IBA), Mt. Bjelasica, Mt. Komovi and Mt. Prokletije, also canyons of rivers Piva, Tara, Moraca and Cijevna.
If you are birding Montenegro during migration, Ulcinj Saltpans are on a “must-see” list. If visiting in breeding season, concentrate on Skadar Lake and Durmitor.
See the page devoted to one of Europe's premier wetlands:
Durmitor & Tara Canyon
Durmitor & Tara Canyon (2523 m a.s.l.) offer majestic vistas of largely unspoilt mountains covered with coniferous woods, more than 20 peaks over 2200 m, 12 alpine lakes and the Tara Canyon, where 175 birds species were recorded (130 of them breeding birds). On the mountaintops look for Snowfinch (good localities are Velika Kalica and Zeleni Vir), Shore Lark (ssp. balcanica, pretty rare but check at Skrcka Jezera), Alpine Chough, Alpine Accentor, Water Pipit, Black Redstart and, if you get lucky, Wallcreeper. In the dwarf pine zone search for Ring Ouzel, Dunnock, Tawny Pipit, Linnet… Lower and warmer rocky places offer Rock Thrush, while coniferous forests are a place to look for Nutcracker, Three-toed Woodpecker, Firecrest, Crested Tit, Wood Warbler, Siskin, as well as Bullfinch, Mistle Thrush, Coal Tit, etc. In lower coniferous forests or deciduous ones in the Tara Canyon look for Hazel Grouse, and on the rocky slopes of Tara Canyon search for Rock Partridge. Other species include Tengmalm's and Eagle Owls, Honey Buzzard, Short-toed and Golden Eagles, Peregrine, Lesser Grey and Red-backed Shrikes, etc.
Skadar is the largest lake in the Balkans and one of the largest fresh-water lakes of Europe, where 281 bird species were recorded (90% of them migrating and wintering species). It is a shallow lake, 14 by 44 km, surrounded by wide flood plain on its northern bank, with willows, reedbeds and floating vegetation. Breeding birds here include Pygmy Cormorant (2,200 breeding pairs!), Dalmatian Pelican (the westernmost breeding site for this species), Squacco Heron, Ferruginous Duck, Whiskered Tern, etc. Breeding species aside, Skadar Lake had special significance for wintering waterbirds. Numbers fell steadily from 250,000 in 1999 to a mere 34,000 in 2006, which was thought to be due to human pressure but numbers have rinse again, c.108,000 in 2007 and close to 150,000 in 2008.
Ulcinj Saltpans, immediately east of the Ulcinj Town, consist of series of shallow pans, largely without vegetation, where 241 bird species were recorded. This site is most exciting during migration and winter period, when it attracts up to 20,000 waterbirds, including a hundred or so Dalmatian Pelicans and maybe a few Greater Flamingos. Some 100 pairs of Collared Pranticole breeds at the saltpans. Spotting scopes recommended.
Velika Plaza & Ada Bojana, south of the Ulcinj Town, are two important areas endangered by encroachment of tourism facilities. Velika Plaza is bordered with sand dunes and adjoining grassland, forests and wetlands and is an important breeding area and migration stopover. In summer, almost 1% of the European population of Baillon’s Crake breeds here, as well as Collared Pranticoles, Stone Curlews and Rollers. Great Bustard also occurs here. Ada Bojana has almost 4 km long beach where Loggerhead Turtles lay their eggs. Behind it, in a forested area there is a mixed heronry where Pygmy Cormorants and Spoonbills breed. Other breeding birds include Stone Curlew and Nightjar.
Buljarica is more than 2 km long beach with adjoining wetland with numerous canals and reedbeds, surrounded with olive groves; southeast of the lovely but overcrowded Petrovac resort. Birds of this area include Olive-tree Warbler, Sombre Tit, Rock Nuthatch, Pygmy Cormorant, Rock Partridge, Eleonora’s Falcon, Syrian Woodpecker, Levant Sparrowhawk and Blue Rock Thrush. This site is of greatest importance during migration.
Solila Special Nature Reserve
Tivatska Solila (south of the town of Tivat in the Bay of Kotor) is a shallow lagoon and former saltpans, part of it filled with tidal sea water. This area is an important migration stopover for waders, Common Crane, Osprey, Snipe, Greater Flamingo, Pygmy Cormorant, etc. but cannot accommodate larger numbers due to the heavy hunting pressure. There is an abandoned water utilities house – you can use upper floor to scope the area, or you can walk along the dyke.
Other material – Marko Rakovic
Ornithologist, bird guide (specialty area: Mt. Durmitor & Tara Canyon)
Other material – Darko Saveljic
Ornithologist, bird guide (specialty area: Ulcinj Saltpans)
Environmental and Travel Journalist, Editor, Translator & Bird Guide
Number of Species
Number of bird species: 348
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Green Eye Ecotours
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…Lake Skadar has been recognised as a RAMSAR wetland of international importance and an International Birding Area. More than 260 different species of bird are attracted by its rocky shores, wetlands, open waters and flood plains, including the rare Dalmatian pelican and pygmy cormorant. During your holiday you'll visit some of the best birding sites in Southern Europe…
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.
2009 [05 May] - Gareth Knass
…Aside from Rock Partridge however, a number of Eastern European Med. specialists find the western extent of their range here along the eastern shores of the Adriatic Sea. These include the locally declining Pigmy Cormorant and Dalmatian Pelican, as well as goodies such as Levant’s Sparrowhawk, Eastern Black Eared Wheatear, Eastern Subalpine Warbler, Eastern Orphean Warbler, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Olive Tree Warbler, Sombre Tit, ‘Black Headed’ Wagtail, Black Headed Bunting, and Western Rock Nuthatch amongst others. I failed to see Levant’s Sparrowhawk, Dalmatian Pelican or Olive Tree Warbler but the rest were seen on numerous occasions…
Places to Stay
Prepare to be seduced by Villa Miela, the only luxury villa accommodation within the borders of Lake Skadar National Park. Offering panoramic views and a prime location near Virpazar, it's ideal for families, couples and groups of friends…
Centre for Protection and Research of Birds (CZIP)
[site on line Oct 2006] - Centre for Protection and Research of Birds was founded in 2000 and has realised more than 30 projects involving more than 100 individuals. Better known projects include anti-poaching campaigns and Dalmatian Pelican breeding platforms at Skadar Lake. Write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Skadar Lake National Park
In summer, Skadar - the biggest lake in the Balkan Peninsula, straddling the border between the Yugoslav republic of Montenegro and neighboring Albania - has an area of 370 square kilometers. But in winter, its waters swell and expand to cover all of 540 square kilometers; or, to put it in other words, it's 44 km long and 7 km wide in summer - and 14 km wide in winter! With its vast area, comparatively shallow water (between 5 and 8 meters on average); lush vegetation and moderate Mediterranean climate (the lake is only 25 km from the Adriatic Sea); the Skadar Lake National Park is a winter sanctuary for numerous birds that migrate from the frozen marshes of Northern Europe. When ice grips the northern hemisphere, up to 250,000 ducks, grebes and Coots find here a plenty of food. For an amateur-ornithologist like me, it's an irresistible lure.
Durmitor National Park
Durmitor National Park comprises Mount Durmitor plateau and the valley formed by the canyon of the River Tara, incorporating three major geomorphological features: canyons, mountains and plateaux, ranging in elevation from about 450m-2,522m. Because of its geographical location and range in altitude, the park is under the influence of both Mediterranean and alpine micro climates which has resulted in an exceptional range of species… Its very nice - I went there many years ago… Fatbirder
Montenegro presently has just one site designated as a Wetland of International Importance, Lake Skadar…
…Skadar Lake and its surroundings was declared as National Park in 1983. National Park (NP) functions as a part of Public Company National Parks of Montenegro. The main office of NP Skadar Lake is in Vranjina…
List of birds of Serbia and Montenegro
This is a list of the bird species recorded in Serbia and Montenegro. The avifauna of Serbia and Montenegro includes a total of 381 species, of which 1 have been introduced by humans, and 6 is rare or accidental in Serbia and Montenegro and are not included in the species count. 10 species are globally threatened…