Lebanon, is a country in Western Asia, on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. It is bordered by Syria to the north and east, and Israel to the south. The country has something of a mixed reputation. During the 1960s it was a fashionable destination for film stars, royalty and the jet-set. The intervening period saw several protracted civil wars and invasions. These days it is mostly safe, with low levels of petty crime (see FCO Travel Advice) and the majority of the main birding areas are accessible.
Most of Lebanon is mountainous terrain. There is a narrow coastal strip in the west of the country, the Mt Lebanon range forms the backbone of Lebanon range running roughly north – south through the centre of the country. The moderately high - altitude Beqaa valley in-between the Mt Lebanon range from the Anti-Lebanon range and Mt Hermon which form the country’s eastern border.
Lebanon has a moderate Mediterranean climate. Summers are hot, but winters are surprisingly wet and cold. The high mountains receive considerable snowfall and there are several ski-resorts. Although Lebanon receives good levels of precipitation compared to other countries in the region the mountainous terrain creates rain-shadows, which results in semi-desert areas in the northern Beqaa valley.
The diversity of habitats and the fact that Lebanon lies on the Eastern Mediterranean Flyway means that even for its small size Lebanon has a very diverse avifauna. European and Middle-Eastern Species are represented and the country’s position is possibly why so many vagrant species have been recorded. The migration seasons are truly spectacular, on a good day 1000s of raptors, storks and other soaring birds can be observed along the flyways and at bottlenecks. There are also considerable passages of passerines along the coast and through the Beqaa Valley. In total to date, 403 taxa have been recorded, with several new species added to the country list since the last official checklist was published in 2008. At least 20 biome restricted species of Mediterranean, Irano-Turanian or Saharo-Sindian desert origins are fairly common to very common and breed in Lebanon at various locations. Lebanon is one of the only countries in the Middle East to have breeding populations of Blue-Tit and specialities include the Chukar, an endemic sub-species of White-throated Dipper and the globally Vulnerable Syrian Serin.
On top of the birds Lebanon offers great hospitality and has excellent food and wine. The food is food is world famous and among the wines Chateau Musar is considered one of the world’s greatest. The country is also famous for the Cedars of Lebanon, several groves remain, including some trees which are estimated to be at least 2000 years old.
There are also several historical and world heritage sites such as: The temple of Bacchus at Baalbek, one of the world’s best preserved and grandest Roman Temples; Byblos which has been continually inhabited since at least 5,000BC; Beaufort Castle which has been used in every war since it was built during the crusades; and Anjar which holds some of the world’s best-preserved Umayyad Caliphate ruins.
Aammiq Marshes Lebanon
The Aammiq Marshes lie in the Beka'a Valley in the centre of the country to the east of the capital, Beirut. This swamp is the largest and most important wetland area between Turkey and Israel and despite hunting and habitat loss remains the most important site for wetland birds in Lebanon. Early in the year the marshes can flood to nearly 300ha with meltwater from the mountains but by autumn they may be completely dry. Conservation programmes carried out in the marshes in recent years have involved returning some of the land loss to agriculture back into marshland. Surrounding the wetland are areas of rough grazing, cultivated land, drainage ditches, and an avenue of trees, all adding to the diversity of habitats in the area. On the nearby mountain slopes, small wooded areas and rocky shrubland give an even greater variety of habitats and species. Behind the nearby village of Aammiq is a woodland where Scops Owl and Syrian Woodpecker can be found. In spring and summer, shrubby hillsides are home to Great Spotted Cuckoo, various buntings, wheatears, warblers and shrikes, and rocky gorges host Rock Nuthatch and perhaps still Eagle Owl…
Palm Islands Natural Preserve
The Palm islands park is a unique and integrated natural marine basin in the eastern Mediterranean that was declared as a reserve in 1993. Its surface area is about 5 Km2. This maritime park lies 11 kms north-west off the shores of el-Mina in Tripoli. These flat rocky islands include the Palm (or Rabbit) island, Sanani island, and Ramkine (or Fanar) island. The islands are chosen as nesting sites by 10 species of migrant birds, including: Little Ringed Plover, Common Tern, Sand Martin, Little Crested Tern, Little Tern, Whiskered Tern, Black-Winged Stilt, etc. The islands has 24 recorded species of winter-visiting fowl, including: Manx & Cory`s Shearwater, Peregrine, Little Stint, Redshank, Marsh Hawk, White-Tailed Eagle, etc.. Visitors include: Ruff, Snowy plover, White-Winged Black Tern, Sandwich Tern, Black Tern, Osprey, Ruddy Turnstone, Sociable Plover, Sanderling, Gull-Billed Tern, Pied Avocet, etc..
eBird Reviewer for Rwanda and Lebanon
Number of Species
Number of bird species: 384
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Birds of Lebanon, Syria and Jordan
by Vere Benson | BirdLife International | 1970 | 218 Pages, 8 colour plates. B/w drawings, map. (In Arabic)
ISBN: 9780946888016Buy this book from NHBS.com
Birds of the Middle East
By Richard Porter, Simon Aspinall, A Birch, John Gale, Mike Langman, Brian E Small | Christopher Helm | 2010 | Paperback | 384 pages, 176 colour plates, 636 colour distribution maps |
ISBN: 9780713676020Buy this book from NHBS.com
So far, 134 species have been recorded breeding in Lebanon. Only 110 breed regularly, the rest being either occasional or former breeders. Of the 110 regular breeders, 56 are exclusively residents (i.e. their populations remain within Lebanon) such as Sparrow, Palm Dove, Yellow-legged Gull, Graceful Warbler, Bulbul, Chukar, Long-legged Buzzard. 54 are exclusively summer breeders (i.e. winter elsewhere but breed in Lebanon) such as Turtle Dove, Pallid Swift, Swallow, Red-backed Shrike, White Wagtail.
SPNL Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon
SPNL strives to conserve biodiversity for the provision of a better quality of life through sustaining sites, habitats, species and people - Hima literally means “a protected place”. BirdLife International in the Middle East, led by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon (SPNL, BirdLife Partner), is now reviving hima in the region. The goal is to mesh these wise traditional practices with recent conservation science in order to achieve sustainable development…
BR Al Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve
Noura Jumblatt has been awarded the Forest for Kyoto Prize by the Italian Environment Ministry for her extensive ecological efforts in the Chouf. The prize, named after the Kyoto Protocol on climate change and improvement, entitles Jumblatt to select an area in Lebanon where the Italian government will plant a new forest…
BR Jabal Al-Rihane
A true mosaic of ecological systems broadly representing the 'evergreen forests' bio-geographic region within a Mediterranean biome. The Rihane differs from other protected areas in Lebanon by its situation at middle altitudes. All the others are either at high altitude with dominance of cedar trees (Tannourine, Ehden, Al-Chouf Cedar reserves) or at very low altitudes such as Palm Islands or Tyre Beach reserves. Also it differs by its nature from the Aammiq wetland.
BR Jabal Moussa
Located in Keserwan-Jbeil area, Lebanon, surrounded by Nahr Ibrahim and Nahr Ed-Dahab rivers, and located 50 km away from the capital Beirut, Jabal Moussa was designated in 2009 as the third biosphere reserve in Lebanon as part of the UNESCO Network of Biosphere Reserves
IBA Jabal Moussa
The site is a mountain which extends westwards from the main Mount Lebanon chain along the edge of the Nahr Ibrahim, just to the west of Jabal Aalmat on the opposite side of the river. Total area: 6500ha. The site is known or thought to be a ‘bottleneck’ site where at least 20,000 storks (Ciconiidae) or raptors (Accipitriformes and Falconiformes) or cranes (Gruidae) regularly pass during spring or autumn migration. 14 large and medium mammal species such as the Rock Hyrax. 215 plant species among which 20 tree species and 11 endemics.
IBA Ras Baalbek
The Ras Baalbek IBA is found at the extreme north end of the Bekaa Valley, in north-east Lebanon, extending up into the foothills of the Anti-Lebanon mountain range, in between the towns of Ras Baalbek and El Qaa. 10 biome-restricted species, mostly from the Saharo-Sindian Desert Biome breed here – Cream-coloured Courser, Bar-tailed Lark, Desert Lark, Temminck’s Lark, Mourning Wheatear, Streaked Scrub Warbler, Trumpeter Finch, Western Rock Nuthatch, Pale Rock Sparrow and Spectacled Warbler. Of these species, 7 are rare or unknown as breeders elsewhere in Lebanon. Several other species breed here commonly which are also scarce or rare breeders elsewhere in the country such as Little Owl and Greater Short-toed Lark.
Lake Qaraoun is the largest freshwater body by far in Lebanon, lying at the Southern end of the Bekaa valley, which is a continuation of the Rift valley itself, a well – documented flyway for raptors and other soaring birds. Observations suggest that over 20,000 raptors, Storks, Pelicans and other soaring birds pass over the lake annually. Several species of conservation concern have been recorded here in past years such as Sociable Plover, and Ferruginous Duck. Also the most important site in Lebanon for wintering ducks. Number of species observed: 110.
List of Wetlands of International Importance
Lebanon currently has 4 sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Sites), with a surface area of 1,075 hectares.
NR Bentael Forest
A steep sided valley mostly covered with dense woodland (Oak, Pine), and Strawberry Tree with some steep cliffs and caves. There is an estimate annual autumn passage of soaring birds exceeding 3000, including White Pelican, Common Crane, European Honey-buzzard and Levant Sparrowhawk. Number of species observed: 62. ammals including Wild Boar, Persian Squirrel, Red Fox and Porcupine.
NR Ehden Forest (Horsh Ehden)
editerranean forest ecosystem, Cedars, firs, junipers, oak mixed with fire colored maples. The site contains the country’s last protected community of wild apple trees (Crabapple), and a multitude of rare and endemic plants. Situated between 1200-2000 m elevation on the upper northwestern slopes of Mount Lebanon. Total area: 140 ha. Most balanced Mediterranean forest ecosystem in Lebanon. A1 & A2 migration stop over site for a number of threatened bird species such as Imperial Eagle, Lesser Kestrel and Syrian Serin.
NR Palm Islands - Tripoli
The Palm islands park is a unique and integrated natural marine basin in the eastern Mediterranean that was declared as a reserve in 1993. Its surface area is about 5 Km2 (1.4 x 1.08 nautical miles). This maritime park lies 6 nautical miles (11 Km) north-west off the shores of el-Mina in Tripoli (Latitudes: 34d 29m - 34d 30m 30s N and Longtitudes 35d 44m 30s - 35d 47m E). These flat rocky islands include the Palm (or Rabbit) island, Sanani island, and Ramkine (or Fanar) island…
PA Ebel Es-Saqi
Southern Lebanon between Marjayoun and Hasbaya, west of the Hasbani River. Village lies on the Rift valley flyway, well documented for migratory raptors and soaring birds. A1 presence of globally and regionally threatened soaring bird species in Lebanon such as Dalmatian Pelican, Greater Spotted Eagle, Egyptian Vulture, Pallid Harrier, Imperial Eagle, Lesser Kestrel, and Corncrake stresses the importance of this area on an international scale. A3 evidence of 5 biome restricted species breeding: Masked Shrike, Upcher’s Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Cretzchmar’s Bunting and Black-headed Bunting. A4iv Very large numbers of migrating soaring birds in spring and autumn, including at least 17 species. 60,000 Common Crane witnessed on one day in February 2005 sufficient alone to ensure IBA status. Large numbers of European Honey-buzzard, White Stork, and White Pelican have been seen in autumn. Rock Hyrax, Wild Cat, Red Fox, Jackal, possible Otter, Wild Boar.
PA Kfar Zabad Wetlands
Eastern Bekaa, at foot of the Anti-Lebanon mountain range, in the municipalities of Anjar and Kfar Zabad. Total area: 326 ha. At least fifteen breeding pairs of Syrian Serins (Serinus syriacus) were present at the site in spring 2005, plus Lebanon’s second only record of Bearded Tit. Number of species observed: 69. Common Otter (Lutra lutra), Wild Cat (Felis sylvestris), reptiles and amphibians.
Protected areas of Lebanon
Written records dating back 5000 years indicate that forests covered most of Lebanon. Today less than 7% of the country is forested, and what remains of its flora and fauna are under threat. To reverse this trend, the Lebanese government is developing a system of protected areas that link nature conservation with sustainable human development. A project has been conducted by a co-operation between the ministries of Environment and Agriculture with other national and international organizations…
RCS Aammiq Wetland
The Aammiq Wetland is the most significant remaining freshwater wetland in Lebanon, a remnant of much more extensive marshes and lakes that once existed in the Bekaa Valley. It has been designated an Important Bird Area in the Middle East (Birdlife International, 1994) and is included in the Directory of Wetlands in the Middle East (IUCN, 1995). The Aammiq Wetland lies on one of the most important bird migration routes in the world, and over 250 species of bird have been recorded in the area, including the globally vulnerable Great Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga, Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca, and Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni. Records of globally near-threatened bird species in the area include Great Snipe Gallinago media, Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca and Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus…
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.
2008 [03 March] - Richard Prior
April to early May is the best period for witnessing spring migration in full swing, but Easter being early this year meant our trip to Lebanon had to fall on the above dates, luckily, the weather was actually better than when I did my April 2007 visit, and, despite spending time sightseeing, socialising and shopping, we clocked up a good total and visited some sites for the first time.
2011 [10 October] - Benoît Forget
…There is a spring and pond on this walk (Ain Lejje) which is a great attraction for birds (Sombre Tit included). Syrian Woodpecker is lower down on this walk in 'Skaff Woods' just above the village of Aammiq. However, you either need 2 cars, or someone to drop you up near Col de Kefraya to do this lovely walk….
Hunting in Lebanon
For over three years, hunting has been totally banned in Lebanon. The ban came after a prolonged struggle between the government on one side, and the hunters, gun shops (especially in Shtoura), and gunshot manufacturers on the other side. It finally took effect in January 1995. By August 1995, when I visited Lebanon, the difference was already noticeable in both the peaceful countryside and the chattering of large numbers of birds.
Photographers & Artists
Photographer - Fouad Itani
Due to its wide diversity of habitats and its position on a major world bird migration route, Lebanon offers some of the best birdwatching in the world.