Montenegro is a country in southeastern Europe on the Adriatic Sea that lies between latitudes 41° and 44°N, and longitudes 18° and 21°E. It borders Bosnia and Herzegovina to the north; Serbia and Kosovo to the east, Albania to the south and Croatia to the west. Montenegro is a very small country having an area of just 13,812 square kilometres. The country ranges from high peaks along its borders with Serbia, Kosovo, and Albania, a segment of the Karst of the western Balkan Peninsula, to a narrow coastal plain that is only 1.5 to 6 kilometres (1 to 4 miles) wide. The plain stops abruptly in the north, where Mount Lovćen and Mount Orjen plunge into the inlet of the Bay of Kotor.
The diversity of the geological base, landscape, climate, and soil, and the position of Montenegro on the Balkan Peninsula and Adriatic Sea, created the conditions for high biological diversity, putting Montenegro among the "hot-spots" of European and world biodiversity. The number of species per area unit index in Montenegro is 0.837, which is the highest index recorded in any European country.
Despite its tiny size, 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 reliably recorded in Montenegro is 330; at least 204 of which are breeding species. Significant percentages of European populations of Rock Partridge, Baillon’s Crake, Pygmy Cormorant, Little Bittern and Scops Owl breed in Montenegro.
Where to see the birds
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: 330
(As at February 2019)
Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web
Centre for Protection and Research of Birds (CZIP)
CZIP Mission is to protect birds and other animal and plant species, their habitats, biodiversity monitoring of Montenegro, citizen education, popularisation of scientific research, as well as cooperation with other organisations at home and abroad, dealing with the protection of nature. The objectives of the organization are:
- To initiate, encourage and support scientific and professional research of ornithofauna and other biodiversity groups in the area of Montenegro;
- To promote and present to national and international public the richness of biodiversity;
- To educate and raise awareness of people about their knowledge of birds and other members of biodiversity;
- To indicates to the needs and means of protection of birds and their habitats, as well as other members of biodiversity.
The vision of the Center is the harmony in the relationship between people and nature and economic development based on the principles of sustainable use of resources.
IBA Ulcinj Salina
Ulcinj Salina is located in the outermost southern part of Montenegro and covers approximately 14.5 km2 of salty basins. It has been built in the region with the largest number of clear sky days and the most sunshine on the Adriatic - 2,567 hours - and the largest number of tropical days in ex-Yugoslavia. Hence, this is an ideal place for a saltpan, which in this case based its salt production exclusively on evaporation. The Salina is 1 km of air distance from the city of Ulcinj and the same distance from the border with Albania. If we were seeking for the most exclusive habitat for bird watching in the Adriatic, the Balkans or even the whole Mediterranean, the Ulcinj Salina would definitely be at the top of the list. Currently 241 bird species have been registered in this "cultural lagoon", which is 50% of the total bird species registered in Europe. In the wider region, there are habitats where the number of registered birds is even higher, but what makes the Ulcinj Salina special is the quality of species and their number. The number of birds using the Ulcinj Salina basins for breeding, wintering or resting during spring or autumn migration exceeds the threshold of 1% of the total global bird population. Amazingly, an area of 15 km2 hosts 3% of the total global population of the Dalmatian Pelican (Pelecanus crispus), 3% of the global population of the Blackitailed Godwit (Limosa limosa) and the same percentage of the Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus)!
NP Biogradska Gora
Biogradska Gora is a forest and a national park in Montenegro within Kolašin municipality. It is the site of one of the last three large virgin forests in Europe. The landscape is one of mountain ridges, glacial lakes, and temperate forest. The National Park is 54 km² in area. Although it is the one of smallest of five national parks in Montenegro, Biogradska Gora National Park contains great diversity of flora and fauna with 150 species of birds,
This breathtaking national park was formed by glaciers and is traversed by rivers and underground streams. Along the Tara river canyon, which has the deepest gorges in Europe, the dense pine forests are interspersed with clear lakes and harbour a wide range of endemic flora.
NP Skadar Lake WII IBA
Lake Skadar, the largest in the Balkans is the only national park dominated by aquatic and wetland ecosystems. With 281 species, Lake Skadar represents an internationally important area for the habitat of many birds. Because of this, the lake is included in the IBA and RAMSAR lists.
Montenegro currently has 2 sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Sites), with a surface area of 20,150 hectares.
Guides & Tour Operators
Green Eye Ecotours
Today we provide outdoor-oriented tours, adventures, expeditions…
…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.
2016 [05 May] - Simon Collins
I managed to take a few days’ holiday before attending a work conference in Dubrovnik. Two things drove my decision to spend the time birding primarily in Montenegro – firstly, the lure of Dalmatian Pelicans and Pygmy Cormorants on Lake Skadar; and secondly the ease of dealing in euro, coming from Ireland.
2016 [06 June] - Tony Benton
The annual June trip with birding and non-birding mates this year was to Montenegro, a tiny Balkan country boasting a fabulous coastline and alpine-like mountains. We arrived via Dubrovnik airport, Croatia, on 7 June 2016. The car hire pick-up at the airport was a little chaotic - but it did at least allow some time for checking out the birds in and around the car park!
2016 [09 September] - Bob Shiret
The town has been developed into the existing scrub and forest, a few hundred yards south from our hotel was a clearing surrounded by woodland and a few houses and held a number of birds including:-Cetti’s Warbler, Whitethroat, Black Redstart, Red-backed Shrike, Jay, Magpie, House Martin, Swallow, Greenfinch, Collard Dove, Crow, Hooded Crow, House Sparrow, Blackbird, Great Tit, Spotted Flycatcher,Hoopoe and Olivaceous Warbler.
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…