Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis ©Anton Croos Website

Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the 20 regions of Italy, home to just under five million people. Its capital and largest city is Palermo with around 850,000 inhabitants. It is located in the central Mediterranean Sea, south of the Italian Peninsula, from which it is separated by the narrow Strait of Messina. Its most prominent landmark is Mount Etna, the tallest active volcano in Europe. The island has a roughly triangular shape, earning it the name Trinacria. To the east, it is separated from the Italian mainland by the Strait of Messina, just 3 km (1.9 miles) wide in the north, and about 16 km (9.9 miles) wide in the southern part. The northern and southern coasts are each about 280 km (170 miles) long measured as a straight line, while the eastern coast measures around 180 km (110 miles); the total coast length is estimated at 1,484 km (922 miles). The total area of the island is almost 26,000 km² (10,000 square miles), while the Autonomous Region of Sicily (which includes smaller surrounding islands) has an area of nearer 28,000 km² (11,000 square miles).

Mount Etna – ©Wilson44691, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The terrain of inland Sicily is mostly hilly and is intensively cultivated wherever possible. Along the northern coast, the mountain ranges of Madonie, 2,000 m (6,600 ft), Nebrodi, 1,800 m (5,900 ft), and Peloritani, 1,300 m (4,300 ft), are an extension of the mainland Apennines. The island is drained by several rivers, most of which flow through the central area and enter the sea at the south of the island. The Salso flows through parts of Enna and Caltanissetta before entering the Mediterranean Sea at the port of Licata. To the east, the Alcantara flows through the province of Messina and enters the sea at Giardini Naxos, and the Simeto, which flows into the Ionian Sea south of Catania. Other important rivers on the island are the Belice and Platani in the southwest.

Sicily is an often-quoted example of man-made deforestation, which has occurred since Roman times, when the island was turned into an agricultural region. This gradually dried the climate, leading to a decline in rainfall and the drying of rivers. The central and southwest provinces are practically devoid of any forest. In Northern Sicily, there are three important forests; near Mount Etna, in the Nebrodi Mountains and in the Bosco della Ficuzza’s Natural Reserve near Palermo. The Nebrodi Mountains Regional Park covering 86,000 hectares (210,000 acres), is the largest protected natural area of Sicily; and contains the largest forest too; the Caronia. The Hundred Horse Chestnut (Castagno dei Cento Cavalli), in Sant’Alfio, on the eastern slopes of Mount Etna, is the largest and oldest known chestnut tree in the world being between 2,000 and 4,000 years old!

The island has a typical Mediterranean climate.

Birding Sicily

The Zingaro Natural Reserve is one of the best examples of unspoiled coastal wilderness in Sicily. Surrounding waters including the Strait of Messina are home to varieties of birds and marine life, including larger species such as flamingos and fin whales. Sicily has a wide variety of fauna. Mammal species include Red Fox, Least Weasel, Pine Marten, Roe Deer, Wild Boar, Crested Porcupine and Hedgehog.

Réserve naturelle du Zingaro – ©Patrice78500, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Sicily is a wild, fascinating place, and, whilst birding is not easy, it can offer some incredible surprises! Sicily hosts the biggest Lanner population in Europe (100-120 pairs); 15-20 pairs of Bonelli’s Eagle, Egyptian Vulture (a few, and declining); the most important Collared Pratincole colony in Italy (Biviere di Gela); and is the most important raptor-migration hotspot in the Southern Mediterranean. The only records of Amur Falcon in the Western Palaearctic have been reported from the Stretto di Messina, along with 20-30,000 Honey Buzzards, some individual Long-legged and Steppe Buzzards, Pallid Harrier, Siberian Peregrine and the occasionally Barbary Falcon.

The Eastern Coast: (Foce del Simeto, Saline di Priolo, Saline di Siracusa, Vendicari, Longarini) is a poorly known area, but really is a vagrant trap for migrants crossing the Western Mediterranean towards the Balkans. Isabelline Wheatear, Isabelline Shrike, Sociable Plover, Caspian Gull, Great Black-headed Gull can sometimes be seen here (but is, of course, is matter of luck) in May-June, this part of Sicily is also very scenic!

On the opposite side of Sicily, Riserva naturale dello Stagnone e saline di Trapani and near Palermo, the Riserva dello Zingaro are two beautiful areas well worth a visit.

  • Maurizio Maudoc Sighele


Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 455

    (As at July 2024)
  • Avibase

    PDF Checklist
    This checklist includes all bird species found in Sicilia , based on the best information available at this time. It is based on a wide variety of sources that I collated over many years. I am pleased to offer these checklists as a service to birdwatchers. If you find any error, please do not hesitate to report them.
  • eBird

    PDF Checklist
    This checklist is generated with data from eBird (, a global database of bird sightings from birders like you. If you enjoy this checklist, please consider contributing your sightings to eBird. It is 100% free to take part, and your observations will help support birders, researchers, and conservationists worldwide.

Abbreviations Key

  • NP Madonie

    WebpageSatellite View
    The Madonie nature park set up in 1989 covers an area of 40,000 hectares. It is one of the most famous mountain eco-systems of the Mediterranean basin due to the rich diversity of its flora and the considerable interest in its vegetation. It occupies the central-northern part of Sicily and includes 15 municipalities which from Cefalù emanate towards the interior of the island.
  • NP Nebrodi

    WebpageSatellite View
    The National Park of the Nebrodi mountains, stretching for around 70 kilometres, together with the Madonie mountains to the west and the Peloritani mountains to the east, form the siculan Appenines. The Park faces the Tyrrhenian Sea to the north and is bordered to the east by Etna, the Alcantara river and the upper reaches of the Simeto river.
  • NR Riserva naturale dello Zingaro

    InformationSatellite View
    Riserva naturale dello zingaro was the first natural reserve set up in Sicily.
  • NR Torre Salsa

    WebpageSatellite View
    An uncontaminated stretch of coast extends between Siculiana Marina and Ericlea Minoa within the Nature Oriented Reserve of Torre Salsa, where chalky white cliffs of gypsum alternate with limestone marls which are, now and then, covered with layers of clay. The territory of the Reserve of Torre Salsa extends over 761.62 hectares and belongs to the province of Agrigento, within the the municipality of Siculiana
  • NR Trapani Salt Pans

    WebpageSatellite View
    The area comprising the Nature Reserve of the Stagnone Islands of Marsala and the Salt Pans of Trapani and Paceco is characterized by lagoons and marshes with shallow water ranging from 50 cm to 2 metres in depth. The reserve includes the 4 islands of San Pantaleo (Mozia), Isola Grande, Schola and Santa Maria in the area of Marsala and the stretch of coast at Paceco between Torre Nubia and Salina Grande in the territory of Trapani. The main points of interest are migratory birds such as herons and flamingoes which stop en route to Africa.
  • NR Vendicari

    WebpageSatellite View
    The Vendicari Nature Reserve covers an area of 1,500 hectares and is located in the Province of Syracuse between Noto and Marzamemi. T
Sightings, News & Forums
Guides & Tour Operators
  • Limosa

    Tour Operator
    Designed exclusively for Limosa by Andrea Corso, Sicily’s foremost ornithologist, our one-week birdwatching tour to eastern Sicily combines an opportunity to look for regional specialities such as the endemic Sicilian Rock Partridge, Scopoli’s Shearwater and ‘Sicilian’ Long-tailed Tit with the chance to also enjoy the spring migration. With a southern coastline which is south of northern Tunisia, Sicily is an important 'steppingstone' for birds heading north into Europe and during our trip we expect to see a great range of both resident and migratory species...
  • NatureTrek

    Tour Operator
    A relaxing 7-day holiday focusing on the spring bird migration, Sicily's varied fauna, flora and beautiful scenery from a delightful base.
  • Paradise Birding

    Tour Operator
    Spring: Eastern Sicily & Pantelleria Fall: Western Sicily & Sardinia
Trip Reports
  • 2018 [05 May] - Jessica Turner

    PDF Report
    The birds, insect life and other wildlife were also enjoyed, along with delicious food and comfortable hotels. Thanks to the group members for their contributions towards a great week in a delightful location.
  • 2019 [05 May] - Luca Boscain

    PDF Report
    ...In the grassy corners the vegetation was in full bloom, with stunning blue carpets of Barbary Nuts (Moraea sisyrinchium), Three-horned Stocks (Matthiola tricuspidata) and Wavyleaf Sea Lavender (Limonium sinuatum), while here and there we noticed the interesting Ragusa’s Nine-spotted Moths (Amata kruegeri), with its showy night blue colour with white spots and the orange bands along the abdomen, and the ubiquitous Italian Wall Lizards (Podarcis sicula)...
  • 2019 [09 September] - y Luca Boscain

    PDF Report
    The week in Sicily was rather special, with particularly good birds on the Vendicari wetlands. While the number of species was rather lower than sometimes, and many wetlands dry or, in one case, burnt by a fire, we compensated with a lot of historic and artistic visits and gastronomic breaks that really enriched the holiday. We also recorded some interesting butterflies, moths and other insects, plus a selection of late-summer plants. During the week we visited three different UNESCO sites and, for most of the group, something unforgettable will be the noise of the Mount Etna explosions at the summit craters that we could enjoy from a safe distance.
  • 2022 [04 April] - Henk Hendriks

    PDF Report
    Our main target was to observe the endemic Sicilian Partridge and additionally some interesting endemic subspecies, mainly the subspecies of Long-tailed Tit and Marsh Tit.
Places to Stay
  • Hotel Villa Schuler

    For further informations about our exclusive private birdwatching day excursions contact us.

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