Republic of Latvia

White Wagtail Motacilla alba ©Artur Mikołajewski Website
Birding Latvia

With an outline like a nestling, Latvia is on the east coast of the Baltic Sea. Flanked by Estonia to the north and Lithuania to the south, it stretches eastwards to the Russian and Belarus borders. It is, largely, a flat country, with a rather monotonous agricultural landscape, but it also has wide forests and wetlands of various types. Being an East European country, albeit slightly to the north, it has an impressive range of species mixed up in a cocktail that is rather different from that of Western Europe. A few examples of the notable breeding species are Black Stork, Lesser-spotted Eagle, Ural Owl, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Greenish Warbler, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Thrush Nightingale and Common Rosefinch; all these species are fairly common throughout the country. Some uncommon exotic species also breed, for instance, the Little Bittern, Short-toed Eagle, Great Snipe, Marsh and Terek Sandpipers, Whiskered Tern, Pygmy and Tengmalm’s Owls, Citrine Wagtail and Parrot Crossbill.

It is not only the location that makes it different from other countries. Ineffective agriculture and forestry during Soviet rule favoured many bird species. By way of illustration, the Corncrake remains widespread with no less than 26,000 breeding pairs, the Common Crane is a rather common breeder in bogs and wet forest clearings, and a number of species of woodpeckers maintain good populations. The White-backed Woodpecker, for instance, is estimated to be 1,500 breeding pairs, but the Middle-spotted is increasing and expanding its range. The Red-backed Shrike is common – many can be seen perching on wires and bush tops along the roads. The number of White Stork is also imposing – imagine 10,500 pairs for a territory of only 65,000 sq/km. But don’t be fooled into false optimism by this portrait. Times are changing – forest felling intensifies and agriculture may soon follow western models. Will the bird life remain unaffected? Definitely not, the only question is how seriously?

In Spring and Autumn many migrating birds pass over. Two bottle-necks in the western part of Latvia – Kolka and Pape, concentrate the largest numbers. Massive movement of divers and sea ducks take place along the west coast in spring. Grey geese passage happens twice a year, when many stop at our wetlands to rest. One of the most interesting wintering species is the Stellers’s Eider. It is not common, but currently one wintering site is known on the west coast. To conclude, Latvia is, without a doubt an interesting country for birdwatchers, and there are still lots of things to discover.

The Latvian Ornithological Society currently has several hundred members. Birdwatching is not yet a popular outdoor activity in the country, and people with binoculars are rarities in themselves…

Contributors
  • Agris Celmins

    | eastbird@latnet.lv

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 344

    (As at February 2019)

    National Bird - White Wagtail Motacilla alba

Checklist

  • iGoTerra Checklist

    iGoTerra Checklist
    Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web
Useful Reading

  • Birds of Latvia

    (Latvijas putni / Ptitsy Latvii) | By Viesturs Klimpins | Avots | 1986 | Hardback | 184 pages, Colour photos | Trilingual in English, Russian, and Latvian | ISBN: 9785899600258 Buy this book from NHBS.com
Museums & Universities
  • Laboratory of Ornithology

    Webpage
    Biological Institute, University of Latvia, Miera Street 3, Salaspils, Latvia, LV-2169Email: ornlab@latnet.lvMain research activities of the laboratory cover different aspects of bird life and their habitats, such as population ecology and demography, migration and wise use of bird resources. Studies are carried out mainly in two territories: Latvian National Long-term Ecological Research Network site (water ecosystems of Lake Engure Nature park), and 2) Pape Ornithological station (migration of birds and bats). The main objectives are to explain the factors directly or indirectly influencing changes in bird numbers, including anthropogenic impacts, climate changes, hunting etc. Besides, practical recommendations in prevention of negative effects and maintaining of biodiversity are developed.
  • Latvian Academy of Sciences - Institue of Biology

    Website
    New data have been obtained on the survival of birds and philopatry indices for several species of European ducks in Latvia, in conjunction with their reproductive activity and survival of offspring…
  • Museum of Zoology - University of Latvia

    Webpage
    The Museum of Zoology was established in 1920. It holds both historically inherited collections and recently collected specimens ranging from invertebrates, such as insects and molluscs, to vertebrates: fishes, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals. Exhibitions in the museum are aimed at pupils, students and nature lovers. It is also a centre for scholarly research into entomology, malacology and ornithology.
  • Natural History Museum Of Latvia

    Website
    The Latvian Museum of Natural History is the largest and one of the oldest complex museums of natural history and sciences in Baltic States. The Latvian Museum of Natural History originated from the museum of Riga Naturalists Society (Der Naturforscherverein zu Riga) that was founded in 1845.
Organisations
  • Latvian Ornithological Society - Latvijas Omitologijas Biedriba

    Website
    Latvian Ornithological Society (LOB) has chosen Black Grouse Tetrao tetrix as the bird of the year 2003. The main reason for such a choice is concern, that the numbers of Black Grouse in Latvia might be decreasing as well as a will to pay greater attention to bogs and marshes as a habitat insufficiently researched within Latvian Breeding Bird Atlas. Since 1996, when The Bird of the Year campaign started, we have only chosen species of countryside, forests or waters. Black Grouse is the first Bird of the Year representing bogs. P.O. Box 1010, LV-1050 Riga, Latvia. Phone +371-7221580. E-mail: putni@parks.lv
Reserves

Abbreviations Key

  • BR North Vidzeme

    InformationSatellite View
    The North Vidzeme Biosphere Reserve is the only biosphere reserve in Latvia, located in the northern Vidzeme region along the border with Estonia. The reserve includes a multitude of diverse natural and semi-natural habitats. It encompasses vast areas of primeval and traditional landscapes. The area includes 25 nature reserves, one national park and two marine protected areas.
  • NP Gauja

    InformationSatellite View
    The Gauja National Park in Vidzeme is the largest national park in Latvia, with an area of 917.45 km² running from north-east of Sigulda to south-west of Cēsis along the valley of the Gauja River, from which the park takes its name. 149 bird and 48 mammal species found in the territory. Since 2004 Gauja NP is a part of Natura 2000 network as a territory, which is designed for conservation of protected species and biotopes.
  • NP Rāzna

    InformationSatellite View
    Rāzna National Park is a national park in the Latgale region of Latvia. It was established in 2007 and covers an area of 532 km2 (205 sq mi). This national park was created to protect Lake Rāzna, the second largest lake in Latvia, and the surrounding areas. Because of this, 14% of the surface area of the national park consists of water surfaces. Valuable ecosystems - natural deciduous forests with many rare species of plants are found on several of the 26 islands in Ežezers lake. Of high value are also the semi-natural grasslands.
  • NP Slītere

    InformationSatellite View
    Slītere National Park is a national park in Talsi district, Kurzeme Region, on the west coast of Latvia. It is one of the oldest nature reserves in Baltic States and is the smallest national park in Latvia. Slītere National Park lies along the Baltic migratory flyways, making Slītere one of the best places in Latvia for birdwatching. For example, its sea shore is a stopover in late Autumn for the bar-tailed godwit on its way south from the northern toundra; the great grey owl migrates here from Russia in winter. Virtually all species of bird found in Latvia have been observed in Slītere, with many as 60,000 birds per hour having been observed flying over during the spring and fall migrations.
  • NP Ķemeri WII

    InformationSatellite View
    Ķemeri National Park is a national park west of the city of Jūrmala, Latvia. Established in 1997, Ķemeri is the third largest national park in the country by area, covering an area of 381.65 km². The territory of the park is mostly occupied by forests and mires, the most significant of them being The Great Ķemeri Bog (Latvian: Lielais Ķemeru tīrelis). There are also several lakes, that are former lagoons of the Littorina Sea. Lake Kaņieris is a Ramsar site. The bog is home for a number of Latvian bird species, such as the Common crane, Wood Sandpiper and European Golden Plover. The latter two species only breeding habitat is the raised bog.
  • NR Cenas tīrelis

    InformationSatellite View
    The Cenas tīrelis is a bog located in the municipalities of Marupe, Babite and Olaine, approximately 30 kilometers west of Riga, Latvia. It is a Natura 2000 protected site and one of Latvia's 261 nature reserves. On the widest point away from the start, close to an old military road from WW1, a bird watching tower and picnic tables can be found.
  • NR Lake Engure Nature Park

    InformationSatellite View
    Lake Engure Nature Park is a protected park covering 197.62 km2 (76.30 sq mi), named for Lake Engure.
  • NR Moricsala

    InformationSatellite View
    Moricsala Nature Reserve is a nature reserve in western Latvia (Courland). It is situated on two islands in Lake Usma and consists of boreal, mixed broad-leaf and oak old-growth forest as well as swamps. 22 species of butterflies can be found here. For some of these butterflies, the nature reserve is the only known habitat in the Baltic states.
  • NR Pape

    InformationSatellite View
    Pape Nature Reserve is a Nature Reserve in Latvia about 15 km south of Liepaja. It stretches over 5700 ha and consists mainly of bogs, carr forests and dunes around Lake Pape. It is an important site for migrating birds. Every autumn about 50,000 birds rest in the reserve. Large grazers, like heck cattle, konik horses and European bison have been introduced to the reserve with support of the WWF. There is a visitor centre in the reserve.
  • NR Teiči

    InformationSatellite View
    Teiči Nature Reserve is a nature reserve situated in eastern Latvia, spread across Madona, Varakļāni and Krustpils municipalities. The area enjoys an unusually high degree of protection, being a "strict nature reserve" as defined by Latvian authorities. It is one of only four such nature reserves in Latvia (from a total of 683 specially protected nature areas). Specimen of most of the birds known to inhabit Latvian wetlands can be found here, some in large numbers — for example cranes and geese.
  • WII Lake Engure

    InformationSatellite View
    Lake Engure is a lake in the western part of Latvia, in the Talsi District. It is the third largest lake in the country after Lake Lubāns and Lake Rāzna. The whole lake and its vicinity have been included in the Lake Engure Nature Park since 1999, although the first natural reserve was established here in 1957. It contains a floating base for ornithologists. The lake was included in Ramsar list of wetlands of international importance in 1995.
  • WII Lake Kaņieris

    InformationSatellite View
    Kaņieris Lake or Lake Kaņieris is a lake in Latvia located in the Ķemeri National Park west of the city of Jūrmala. It is a former lagoon of the prehistoric Littorina Sea. Since 1995 it is designated a Ramsar wetland of international importance.
  • Wetlands

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Latvia currently has 6 sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Sites), with a surface area of 150,318 hectares.
Forums & Mailing Lists
  • Birding Latvia - Latvijas Putni

    Website
    Gallery, Sightings, Activities etc
Guides & Tour Operators


Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

  • Baltic Country Holidays

    Tour Operator
    Latvia is among one of the world’s three most important bird migration paths, and during migration seasons in spring and autumn, tens of thousands birds can be seen at one place. Latvia’s flat terrain and a climate in which precipitation exceeds evaporation means that particularly along the seashore, there are wetlands that are appropriate for water birds – shallow lagoons and high swamps.
  • Bird Holidays

    Tour Operator
    ...For this reason, Latvia’s rich natural resources have survived intact to the modern day. The peace-loving Latvians have been welcomed into the European Union and much of their landscape is protected. A low population density means that there is little threat to the wild areas; something few countries can still boast...
  • Bird Watching Tours

    Tour Operator
    Latvia is a superb location for bird watching because migration routes cross the country – in autumn many birds are traveling from Scandinavia and northern Russia across Latvia to South Europe, and returning in spring. The country’s location by the sea, its lakes, rivers, forests and floodlands make it a good dwelling place for many species of migratory birds.
  • Dabas Tures (Nature Tours)

    Tour Operator
    The main aim of our tours is to introduce visitors to the unique natural heritage and wildlife of Latvia, which have fortunately been preserved at many places in our country.
Trip Reports


Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

  • 2011 [06 June] - Ernesto G. Occhiato

    Report
    Estonia and Latvia are really great countries for birding: there are superb and unspoiled wild places where Corncrake, Thrush Nightingale, Common Rosefinch, Marsh, River, Grasshopper and Icterine Warblers are amazingly common; places where Red-breasted Flycatcher is one of the most easily heard bird; and there are gems such as Citrine Wagtail, Great Snipe, and Red-necked Grebes all to be found in a relatively small area. White-tailed Eagle is a frequent sight, and Lesser Spotted Eagle almost the same…
  • 2013 [04 April] - Howard Taffs - Latvia & Estonia

    Report PDF
    …For me the highlights were good numbers of species I rarely see such as bramblings, woodlarks, waxwings and snow buntings plus the steady trickle of BOPs (11 species in all though I did not confirm golden eagle until I checked my photos more thoroughly). Where the sea was beginning to thaw goldeneye displayed and goosanders were always present. Long tailed ducks stayed farther out but a smew came by at point blank range one morning….
  • 2013 [05 May] - Chris Durdin

    PDF Report
    At Kolka, migration was again in full swing. A group of some 70 yellow wagtails moved around us, some of them settling in birch trees, many on the short grass over the fence, before they were spooked – perhaps by one of the many migrating sparrowhawks – and they’d be on the move again. We counted more than 100 honey buzzards altogether; twice an osprey flew in the opposite direction to the main raptor stream; hawfinch and golden oriole flew over at the same time; five hawfinches in a group; siskin flocks …”
  • 2014 [05 May] - Rob Macklin

    PDF Report
    With south-easterly winds we were treated to a migration bonanza with hordes of honey buzzards moving through with sparrowhawks, cranes and thousands of dragonflies. The bushes here were alive with warblers including river, Blyth's reed, marsh and icterine warblers with many caught and ringed and allowing close observation in the hand. Slītere National Park turned up good numbers of greenish warblers and excellent views of lesser spotted eagles plus new butterflies including black-veined white and northern chequered skipper...
  • 2015 [05 May] – Rob Macklin

    PDF Report
    ...Two great reed warblers were chuntering away from deep cover and we had good views of a Savi's warbler singing from reed stems. More singing birds included reed warbler, thrush nightingale, cuckoo and reed bunting plus a male red-backed shrike perched up in full view.
  • 2016 [03 March] - Sue Bryan

    Report
    Paul and I had a look at his schedule and as I had a few days holiday allowance to use up before the end of March, I contacted Lee saying that we wished to go on his proposed trip to Estonia and Latvia. There was only one potential tick in it for me and two for Paul so we just regarded it as a few days away with like-minded birders.
Other Links
  • Birding Latvia - Latvijas Putni

    Website
    Bird news from Latvia and much more; probably the useful site for Latvian birders
  • Latvian Birding

    Website
    Description of several bird watching sites in Latvia. Location, maps, advices and species lists provided for 11 areas, and few others briefly mentioned
Photographers & Artists
  • Photographer - Arnis Dimperans

    Gallery
    Pictures of Latvian birds by Arnis Dimperans

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