In terms of biodiversity, the Balkan Peninsula is recognized as one of Europe’s finest birding regions. Within it, Serbia compares well with already established birding destinations like neighbouring Hungary or Bulgaria, as it has a greater diversity of habitats and birds than Hungary and a better infrastructure than Bulgaria. Reasonably good (and improving) accommodation is available near birding sites and, with the new democratic government and the return of political stability, the country is poised to provide the traveller with an exciting birding experience.
The number of bird species recorded in Serbia is 360 species. In recent years, 239 bird species were recorded breeding in Serbia (123 non-passerines and additional 116 passerines), quite a few of them increasing their breeding ranges: Black-headed Bunting, Cetti’s Warbler, Red-rumped Swallow, Black Redstart, etc.
Significant percentages of European populations of Saker Falcon, Little Bittern, Purple Heron, Ferruginous Duck, Scops Owl, Middle Spotted and Syrian Woodpeckers, to mention but a few, breed in Serbia. Among the breeding birds, there are 103 species of European conservation concern (SPECs), which include six species of global conservation concern: Ferruginous Duck, Egyptian Vulture, Imperial Eagle, Lesser Kestrel, Great Bustard and Corncrake.
Interestingly, while they were not yet recorded in Serbia in the breeding season, Masked Shrike, Olive-tree Warbler and Sardinian Warbler were seen breeding just south of the border and it is not unlikely that some pairs might choose localities further north.
For more detailed bird species data, check under extensive Top Sites.
North of Belgrade, the Pannonian plain is a lowland landscape with large rivers (Danube, Sava and Tisa), and to the south, hilly/mountainous landscapes are intersected by river valleys. Forest covers 27% of Serbia (25,625 km2), with the proportion of conifers being only 10%. For more detailed data on birding sites and habitats, check under Top Sites.
When to go
Sun can be formidable: don’t forget a wide-brimmed hat, water bottle and sunscreen cream. For wetland areas, insect repellent is also heartily recommended. An early start to any birding day is essential - mid-day summer temperatures often climb well into the thirties.
Depending on your particular interest, opt for March/April (spring migration), May to July (breeding season), August to October (autumn migration and occasional vagrants), November/December when waterbird migration reaches its peak, or January/February period when more than 250,000 waterbirds overwinter on the lower Danube.
As Serbia is not a large country (only marginally smaller than Portugal, Hungary or the US state of Indiana) and the infrastructure is fairly well developed, it is possible to explore it in about dozen days and, with some advance planning and guidance from the local experts, build up a list of more than 150 species. Bear in mind that the local experts are concentrated in Belgrade and north of it and harder to find further south.
Among travel guides, due to its extensive coverage of natural history and birding sites, recommendation goes to Laurence Mitchell’s Serbia: The Bradt Travel Guide (4th edition, 2007). The time has finally come for Serbia to be appreciated as another excellent birding destination in the Balkans.
Confluence of the Sava and the Danube Rivers: (together with the river branches, ponds, willow and poplar forests of the Danube floodzone, along the northern bank, some dozen kilometres up and downstream), is surprisingly rich in birdlife. Local bird list is some 210 species long, about 100 of them breeding in the area. Another important breeding area is the neighbouring fish farm "Mika Alas" in the suburb of Krnjača (reachable by buses No. 95 and 96; leave the bus at Sebeški Canal stop). The most significant breeding birds of the area include black stork (easily observed during migration), ferruginous duck (especially numerous at the fish farm) and black kite. Night herons are easily seen, purple herons require a bit of effort and squacco herons require a bit of luck, too. Reedbeds of Mika Alas offer penduline tits. The area hosts about six pairs of white-tailed eagles, easily seen at the very confluence (one pair breeds at the Veliko Ratno island reserve, in the very inner-city zone). Some 700 pairs-strong mixed heronry is located downriver, closer to Pančevo town. Waterbirds become more numerous on migration and during winter (especially during cold spells, when more than 20,000 birds of 35 species gather at the Danube, many of them east of the Veliko Ratno island, including scaup, velvet scoter, smew and black-throated diver). At the same time, by the downstream end of the Ada Ciganlija Island in the Sava River, up to 7000 pygmy cormorants, or one tenth of their European population roosts in willow groves – the biggest known winter roost anywhere!
Perhaps the easiest place to observe waterbirds in cold months is at the Ušće Park (officially, Park Prijateljstva) at the New Belgrade bank, overlooking the Veliko Ratno island, and in front of it, mere 80 meters away, Malo Ratno islet. There, you can easily observe roosting pygmy cormorants, as well as teal, kingfisher, white-tailed eagle, and with a bit of luck, black-necked grebe, wigeon, gadwall, pintail, ferruginous duck, and uncommon species such as red-crested pochard and caspian tern; from late February onward - garganey; from the end of March - night heron, and little egret at the beginning of April.
Some 18 km to the south and reachable by buses No. 401, 403, 405, 407 i 408, Mt. Avala is a low, gentle sloping, wooded mountain (at lover altitude hornbeam and maple, oak on southern slopes; at higher altitude beech, at northern slopes planted conifers). One can follow a marked walking path, about 5 km long and with 300 metres of altitudinal difference, crossing the mountain from west to east, ending in the village of Beli Potok (take bus No. 402 to return to the city). Bird community is typical of such habitats, with raptors such as buzzard, goshawk and hobby, woodcock (very hard to see), tawny owl (there is even one recent surprise record of an eagle owl), wood pigeon, six species of woodpeckers - great, middle and little spotted, green, gray-headed (rare) and black (about two pairs) woodpeckers; robin, song thrush, blackbird, blackcap, chiffchaff, goldcrest, wren, five species of tits - great, blue, coal, marsh and long-tailed tits; nuthatch, short-toed treecreeper, raven, chaffinch, hawfinch, etc; in winter joined by mistle thrush, firecrest and bullfinch.
Carska Bara Near Zrenjanin, Carska Bara is renowned for its variety of birdlife, with over 260 species recorded. Among reserve’s pools with extensive reedbeds, wet meadows surrounded by willow and poplar woodland, and a fish farm, birdlife highlights are Great White Egret, Red-necked Grebe, Spoonbill, Greylag Goose, Gadwall, Northern Shoveler, Ferruginous Duck, Corncrake, Bee-eater, Radstart, Bearded Tit and Savi’s Warbler. Mammals of the area include otter.
Deliblato Sands Some 70 km east of Belgrade, sand dunes of Deliblato Sands (Deliblatska Peshchara in Serbian) are mostly covered by grazing pastures, steppe, woodland, scrub, conifer plantations and agricultural lands. While this area on the map extends furher north, focus only on those parts south of the road connecting villages of Deliblato and Susara. Birdlife: Imperial Eagle, Saker Falcon, Nightjar, Bee-eater, Roller, Hoopoe, Wryneck, Barred Warbler, Ortolan Bunting, etc. Mammals of this area include European molerat, marbled polecat and grey wolf.
Dubovac Wetland Adjoining Deliblato Sands, Dubovac Wetland lies at the beginning of the Djerdap Dam and harbors 1000-pairs strong heronry consisting mostly of Pygmy Cormorant, Squacco and Night Herons and Little Egret, with a few pairs of Grey and Purple Herons and Glossy Ibis. Other birds include Bittern, Little Bittern, Ferruginous Duck, White-tailed Eagle and Tawny Pipit. Habitats here range from willow, poplar, ash and oak forests, extensive clone poplar plantations, to marsh, wet meadows and dry grassland. An escaped rodent from South America, coypu has established itself firmly at the Cibuklija island. In winter, this section of the Danube river attracts more than 50,000 waterbirds and almost that many hunters.
Fruska Gora A large, forested massif situated in the north of Srem. Habitats include oak, lime, beech, hornbeam and ash forests interspersed with steppe and wooded steppe, pasture, meadows, vineyards and arable land. Birds to look for are Black Stork, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Imperial Eagle, Honey Buzzard, Saker Falcon, Black Woodpecker, Collared Flycatcher, Ortolan Bunting and Black-headed Bunting. Mammals of the area include suslik and wild cat (first one being rather easy to observe). For non-birding members of a group, there are 16 orthodox monasteries.
Obedska Bara A vast area of flood plain forest stretching along the River Sava in southern Srem. The site is a complex of willow, poplar and oak forest, wet meadows and stagnant waters of oxbow lakes and marshes. Best access is from the village of Obrez. Some of the 220 bird species of this area are Little Bittern, Black Stork, Black Kite, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Saker Falcon, Spotted Crake, Little Crake, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Syrian Woodpecker, Savi’s Warbler and Collared Flycatcher. Mammals of the area include beaver and otter.
Slano Kopovo East of Novi Becej, Slano Kopovo supports vegetation characterized by salt-tolerant succulents. Habitats include arable land, pasture and meadows surrounding the seasonal natron lake. This is the best place in Vojvodina to observe the noisy spectacle of migration of Common Cranes. Other birds to look for are Northern Pintail, Red-footed Falcon, Avocet, Kentish Plover, Eurasian Curlew, Short-eared Owl and Bluethroat.
Djerdap Gorge Situated in north-east Serbia along the border with Romania and about 6 km in width by some 100 km in length, this national park covers a section of the river Danube gorge and adjacent belt of 768 m a.s.l. high Miroc mountain. Deciduous forest and scrub cover some 70% of the park, the rest are grassland, streams and limestone cliffs. Birds of the area include Black Stork, Honey Buzzard, Black Kite, Golden Eagle, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Booted Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Hazel Grouse, Rock Partridge, Corncrake, Stock Dove, Eagle Owl, Alpine Swift, Sombre Tit, Ortolan Bunting. The added attraction of the park is the presence of large mammals such as chamoa, brown bear and lynx. For non-birding members of a group, there are well preserved mediaeveal fortresses Golubac and Fetislam as well as the Lepenski Vir, eight millenia old Neolithic settlement famous upon its fish-like human head stone sculptures – the oldest known sculptures in Europe.
Ovcar-Kablar Gorge A gorge along the Zapadna Morava river in western Serbia, between the towns of Cacak and Pozega. Limestone cliffs and rocky terrain are interspersed with thickets of oak, ash, hornbeam, elm and lime. Also meadow and pasture areas, small reservoirs and orchards. Birdlife of the area is characterised by Golden Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Honey Buzzard, Peregrine Falcon, Corncrake, Scops Owl, Eagle Owl, Kingfisher, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Syrian Woodpecker, Rock Thrush, Rock Bunting, Cirl Bunting, etc. For non-birding members of a group, there are 10 orthodox monasteries.
Resava Gorge lies mere 50 km off the main Belgrade-Nis highway, near the town of Despotovac. Limestone cliffs and pastures aside, forest covers 70% of the area (hornbeam, beech and oak). Birds to look for are Golden and Short-toed Eagles, Honey Buzzard, Peregrine Falcon, Corncrake, Eurasian Woodcock, Eurasian Eagle and Scops Owls, Common Kingfisher, White-backed Woodpecker, Eurasian Crag Martin, Collared Flycatcher, Common Redstart, White-throated Dipper and Common Nightingale. Mammalian highlights of the reserve are otter, wild cat, polecat, pine marten, wild boar and several species of bats. Gorges are dotted with a few dozen caves, including 3 km long Resavska cave. For non-birding members of a group, high walls and defending towers of the Manasija monastery, built in 15th century, is a site worthy of a visit.
Uvac & Milesevka Griffon Vulture Sanctuary Uvac and Milesevka gorges lie between the towns of Nova Varos, Sjenica and Prijepolje. Habitats include limestone gorges surrounded by coniferous or mixed spruce, fir, pine, beech and oak forests, and extensive pastures. Some of the 150 bird species that were recorded here are Goosander, Griffon Vulture (more than 90 breeding pairs), Golden Eagle, Lesser-spotted Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Rock Partridge, Corncrake, Eagle Owl, Scops Owl, Tengmalm`s Owl, Rock Thrush, Crested Tit, Wallcreeeper and Nutcracker. Mamals of the area include brown bear and grey wolf.
Mt. Kopaonik The largest and highest (2016 m a.s.l.) mountain of central Serbia and oversized winter sports centre. In the Ravni Kopaonik area coniferous forest (spruce) predominates, with a small area covered by alpine vegetation. Birds to look for are Honey Buzzard, Short-toed Eagle, Golden Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Rock Partridge, Corncrake, Woodcock, Tengmalm’s Owl, Eagle Owl, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Shore Lark (race balcanica), Firecrest, Rock Thrush, Ring Ouzel, Crested Tit, Siskin, Rock Bunting, Common Crossbill.
Mt. Tara Located inside the Drina river curve in western Serbia, with forests covering most of the land area (beech and oak, fir, pine, spruce – including endemic Serbian spruce recognisable upon its pencil-thin upper canopy). Altitude ranges from medium 1000 m up to the 1591 m high Kozji Rid peak. Some of the 153 bird species are Goosander, Honey Buzzard, Golden Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Hazel Grouse, Rock Partridge, Capercaillie, Corncrake, Woodcock, Scops Owl, Eagle Owl, Ural Owl, Tengmalm’s Owl, White-backed Woodpecker, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Rock Thrush, Ring Ouzel, Redstart, Wallcreeper, Siskin. Mamals of the area include chamoa and brown bear. For non-birding members of a group, Raca monastery (built in year 1276) is conveniently close.
Number of Species
Number of bird species: 352
Fatbirder's very own checklists are now available through WebBirder
Collins Bird Guide
Large Print version - Lars Svensson Peter Grant, Killian Mullarny (Illustrator); Dan Zetterstrom (Illustrator) Hardcover - 399 pages New Ed edition ( 4 December, 2000) HarperCollins Natural History
ISBN: 0007100825Buy this book from NHBS.com
Ptice Srbije [Birdlife in Serbia]
by D. Simic & S. Puzovic -48 pages (21x12 cm), and covers 138 bird species on 30 pages, while the next 16 pages are devoted to Serbia's 35 Important Bird Areas… http//www.ptica.org
Where to Watch Birds in Europe and Russia
by Nigel Wheatley. Paperback - 432 pages (15 August, 2000) Princeton University Press
ISBN: 0713648708Buy this book from NHBS.com
Guides & Tour Operators
379 bird species have been recorded in Serbia and Montenegro. Of these, 333 occur regularly and 260 breed. Among the breeding species, there are five species of global conservation concern: Ferruginous Duck, Imperial Eagle, Lesser Kestrel, Great Bustard and Corncrake. Other Serbian specials include Pygmy Cormorant, Black Stork, Glossy Ibis, Spoonbill, Griffon Vulture, Saker Falcon, Common Crane and Collared Flycatcher…
Birdwatching tour operator in the Carpathians including Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine…
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.
2004 [August] - Mike Unwin - Vojvodina
This is a report on a nine-day guided bird-watching tour of Serbia on behalf of Birdwatch magazine by Mike Unwin. The tour was conceived as a press trip, for foreign journalists to review new ecotourism developments in Serbia. Upon arrival in Belgrade Mike discovered that he was this tour's first and only client. In fact, he was reputedly the first foreign birdwatcher to tour Serbia for 15 years.
2007 [April] - Dorothy Harper - Belgrade area
I have been to Europe many times, but never on a birding trip, that is, an excursion with experts who know where to go and what to see. This time I was determined to change that, while I was in Belgrade in late April 2007. I was lucky enough to come across Dragan Simic while surfing the net. Dragan is one of Serbia’s top birders, and he agreed to take me out with him for 2 days. He brought along a young man named Marko Rakovic, who proved to be another excellent birder! How lucky for me! I was in good hands…
2013 [June] - Jan Landsverk - Vojvodina
My wife and I spent a week in Vojvodina in northern Serbia in a town called Novi Knezevac, close to the Hungarian border from June 17 to June 23 2013. We went here because some friends had recommended the dentist in this town, and we needed to fix our teeth, which would save us a lot of money. The air-ticket with the Polish Wizzair cost only 25 US dollars both ways from Torp, Sandefjord to Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. We were picked up at the airport late at night and drove the 3 hours up to this town….
Dragan Simic - Birdwatch Belgrade
In an effort to answer the questions where to see the birds that epitomize the area, which sites should be visited and when is the best time to go there, this short guide describes the 14 birding spots in and around Belgrade, and makes brief mention of 6 Important Bird Areas nearby.
Dragan Simic - Top Birding Sites
In an effort to answer the questions where to see the birds that epitomize the region, what sites should be given priority, and when is the best time to go, this short article makes a brief mention of 18 globally Important Bird Areas…Dragan Simic reports…
Places to Stay
Village farm house - Stara Moravica
Stara Moravica in Vojvodina - Give yourself a break! - Enjoy the rhythms of village life. Rest in an older Europe…
Birds of Prey Protection Fund
Birds of Prey Protection Fund is dedicated to the conservation of diurnal and nocturnal raptors in Serbia. The most significant project undertaken by the BPPF was Save the Griffon Vulture Campaign which increased dwindling population of this species up to the biggest flock in the central Balkans. Write to the Fond za zastitu ptica grabljivica, Despota Stefana 142, 11000 Belgrade, Serbia; e-mail: email@example.com
Birds Protection and Study Society of Vojvodina
Birds Protection and Study Society of Vojvodina (Serbia's northern province) aims to conserve and protect birds and their habitats, e.g. by setting up artificial nests for White Stork. Membership fee includes a free copy of annual journal Ciconia, the only ornithological journal in Serbia. Write to the Drustvo za zastitu i proucavanje ptica Vojvodine, Radnicka 20a, 21000 Novi Sad, Serbia; e-mail (the secretary): mtucakov@EUnet.yu
Institute for Protection of Nature of Serbia
The Institute for Protection of Nature of Serbia was established in 1948, as a government institution, to research, study, and monitor nature. It is almost 60 years old institution today, but with modern, integrated and interdisciplinary approach to nature conservation, sustainable development and biodiversity protection.
League for Ornithological Action (LOA)
The goal of the League for Ornithological Action (LOA) is protecting the birds through the preservation of their species, habitats and sites through the involvement of people. Belgrade group has monthly evening meetings at the Institute for Protection of Nature of Serbia featuring talks and slide shows, while bird walks take place in and around Belgrade. Membership fee includes a free copy of quarterly pdf newsletter Dvogled (The Binoculars, with short English summaries). For information, please write to: Goran Sekulic, Secretary, Liga za ornitolosku akciju, Dr. Ivana Ribara 91, 11070 Belgrade, Serbia; or firstname.lastname@example.org . See also ‘Mailing lists’ bellow and Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/LOASRB
Belgrade Natural History Museum
Founded on December 19, 1895, it is one of the oldest specialised scientific institutions set up in Serbia. Rich tradition of studies of Gea, Botany and Zoology…
Djerdap National Park
The Djerdap National Park embraces part of the area of the Djerdap Canyon known as the Iron Gates in the central part of the Danube river course,and is divided by the international border running along the middle of the river into the southern - Yugoslav and the northern - Rumanian part. The total area of the National Park is 63.600 ha and the protection zone consists of another 93.968 ha…
Djerdap National Park
The National Park Djerdap is located in South-eastern part of Europe, in SCG, on national crossover with Romania. Total area of national park is 63.608 ha, and under safety zone is embraced 93.968 ha…
Fruska Gora National Park
Fruska Gora is an isolated, narrow, island mountain in Pannonia plain. It is intended by river courses extending to the south and north, with some side ranges with steep slopes, spreading from the main narrow range. Its location, specific geological history and different microclimatic conditions make it very interesting and important to science. Thanks to unique and very rich deposits of fossil fauna and flora, Fruska Gora is called the 'mirror of geological past'…
Kopaonik National Park
Situated in the central part of Serbia, the Kopaonik National Park with its 11810 hectares encompasses the highest parts of this mountain range marked by the valleys of the rivers of Ibar, Jošanica, Toplica and Brzeæa reka…
Serbia and Montenegro presently has 4 sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance, with a surface area of 39,861 hectares…
Zasavica Wetland Reserve
The Special Nature Reserve Zasavica is situated in the South-East Europe, in the Republic of Serbia, on the territory of South Voivodina and North Macva, east of the Drina River and south of the Sava River. It comprises territories of Sremska Mitrovica and Bogati municipalities…
Forums & Mailing Lists
Liga Ptice (Bird League)
This is the mailing list of the League for Ornithological Action members. In Summer 2009, the League had 150 members. The group language is Serbian, but more than 50% of the people do speak English, so do not hesitate to join and post your questions…
Dvogled I Veslo
Albicilla Belgrade, Serbia, naturalist, author, editor, translator… See also: http://blog.b92.net/blog/84706/albicilla/
Birding the Labudovo okno Ramsar site in winter
Half past six, barely one degree Celsius, but the snow is melting fast. East, down the Danube we go, to the Labudovo Okno Ramsar site (Serbian for “swan lake”). Near the sand dunes, the first “V” made out of a hundred or so Greater White-fronted Geese, They spend the night on the water and in the morning they spread over arable fields to forage; but most of them do so at the crack of dawn and these 100 must have overslept...
Where to watch birds in Belgrade
While there are some two dozen birding spots in Belgrade, Serbia, that stand out, in this guideblog I will focus on the river Danube and its floodplain, inside the Important Bird Area “Confluence of the Sava and the Danube Rivers...
Where to watch birds in the Iron Gates / Djerdap National Park
Beside birds, in this park you stand a chance of spotting the Eurasian Lynx, Brown Bear and Gray Wolf! Well, do you really? I was about to say that I haven’t seen any of these in the wild (only tracks of Bear and Wolf in the snow, but not in this park) and then I remembered one Serbian ornithologist who often visited this area and once, while driving through the forest in the night, had the most elusive of the trio – the Lynx – framed in his headlights. So, yes – it is possible, but by no means easy...