Birdwatching Croatia

Birdwatching in Croatia is only recently gaining in popularity, partly due to the interest shown by visitors from other European countries, notably Great Britain. However, local ornithological societies and other organisations, including schools, are also making a significant contribution through monitoring the numbers of birds, organising volunteer camps for tagging birds and raising awareness about the need not only to protect birds but the environment as a whole.

According to data from the State Directorate for the Protection of Nature and the Environment, in December 1999, there were 371 bird species in Croatia, an exceptionally high number for a country of this size. There are 228 nesting species, of which 78 are registered as endangered species in Europe. At the same time, Croatia has an exceptionally high number of endangered species due to disappearing habitats, especially wetlands, and due to poaching. The majority of protected species are to be found in hard-to-reach areas such as mountain peaks, cliff faces and gorges, and areas such as the Neretva delata on the Adriatic coast and along the Sava and Drava rivers in the north, as well as close to the large fish farms to be found in Pannonian Croatia.

Today in Croatia there are 19 bird reserves engaged in nature protection in areas where there are large bird populations, large numbers of species of birds, or where endangered species are to be found. Birdlife International has identified 23 Important Bird Areas in Croatia, while the State Directorate for the Protection of Nature and the Environment has recognised 40 areas which are important for bird life. Some of these areas are bird reserves, some form parts of national parks or nature parks, while others do not enjoy any form of protection.

Although there are birdwatching opportunities all year round, the liveliest seasons are spring and autumn. Autumn signals both the departure of species that nest in Croatia and the arrival of visitors from northern Europe and Asia. In spring, the species that spend their winters in the warmer climes of Africa return to nest. At any time, you might spot a species that is just passing through en route to somewhere else: Croatia is a bottleneck on the migratory route to and from Africa for a large number of European bird species. There are guide books available to help you identify species and understand their behaviour. 

The best times of the day for birdwatching are the early morning and early evening. At these times, birds are at their most active, especially during the summer when birds, like people, avoid the hottest part of the day.

Of course, if you do go birdwatching, it's vital to take care not to disturb the birds. Large numbers of visitors to national parks, nature parks and bird reserves may be distressing to their inhabitants, and disturbing the birds prevents us from being able to observe their natural behaviour. It is advisable to avoid getting too close to bird nests, since you risk the parents abandoning the nests, which is disastrous, especially where endangered species are concerned.

The equipment you need for birdwatching includes good quality binoculars and a handbook which classifies birds by species. You’ll also be glad of a good camera and sensible clothing. Obviously, you should avoid bright colours which will scare the birds away.

Many birdwatchers pass on the information they collect to the institutions responsible for the protection of birds or to ornithological societies, which is of great help to these organisations in monitoring changes in the number of birds, in their behaviour and habitats.


Since birdwatching in Croatia is still not very common, below we list a range of organisations which might be of interest to nature lovers, although there might neither be much information about birds in specific nor professional guides. Before visiting any protected area, we ask you to please contact the organisation responsible, which will give you any instructions and warnings necessary to protect fragile habitats, enabling as many people as possible to enjoy the beauty of nature as well as learning how to protect it.

The first bird reserve in Croatia

Krapje đol, not far from the villages of Krapje and Jasenovac in central Croatia, was designated a bird reserve in 1963. Here, a tributary of the River Sava provides ideal nesting conditions for the Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia). The tributary sadly dried up due to the construction of an embankment and became overgrown. However, the species which nest here, which are rare both in European and global terms, have been saved thanks to a canal which was built to restore the flow of water.

EuroBirdwatch

Bird lovers by now have a date in their diary every year for the first weekend in October, when the annual EuroBirdwatch is held. Organised by BirdLife, a global partnership of conservation organisations, the event aims to raise awareness of issues related to bird migration, to promote protection of endangered bird species and to recruit new members for the partner organisations. See www.birdlife.org.


Waterbird Census

Bird lovers can take part in the International Winter Waterbird Census, organised by Wetlands International on a global level. Taking place over three weeks at the beginning of January every year, the census aims to collect information on the ever more endangered bird species that inhabit marshes and other wetland habitats, as well as on species that nest in the far northern regions of Europe and Asia. Read more on www.wetlands.org.

Kvarner Islands

There are two bird reserves around the island of Krk, but be prepared – both are rather difficult to get to. The first is on the uninhabited island of Prvić, which can only be reached by boat from Baška on Krk island. The other, Kuntrep, is on Krk itself and can be reached by boat, by car or on foot. Among the most important inhabitants of the Kvarner island group is the Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus). The vultures can be spotted on the cliffs that rise above the sea, a legacy of the drop in the sea level since the end of the last ice age. It is really important to keep your distance as any noise from engines or voices scares the young birds, which may fall into the sea and drown as a result. Please also be careful if you visit by boat if a strong north wind is blowing in this area as this can be dangerous.

For more information, contact:  Baška Tourist Association, Kralja Zvonimira 114, Baška, tel. (+385-51) 85 65 44, (+385-51) 85 68 17, www.tz-baska.hr and www.ju-priroda.hr.

There are also two reserves on the island of Cres: Fojiška – Podpredošćica (Kruna, in the northern part of the island) and Mali Bok – Koromačna (Pod Okladi, in central Cres). These are the most significant habitats of the Griffon Vulture in the Kvarner islands. For more information, please contact the eco centre Caput Insulae Beli, Beli, www.supovi.hr, tel. (+385-51) 84 05 25.

Pag island


The island of Pag is home to the following bird reserves: Kolansko blato, Blato Rogoza, Veliko blato and Malo blato. All of these are marshlands which are home to species including the Gadwall (Anas strepera), Montagu’s Harrier (Circus pygargus) and Calandra Lark (Melanocorypha calandra), which are endangered in Europe. Call into the Tourist Association in Povljana to buy entry tickets for the Veliko blato reserve, which has a hide with a checklist.

Povljana Tourist Association, Stjepana Radića 20, Povljana, tel. (+385-23) 69 20 03, (+385)098 184 21 29, tz-povljana@zd.t-com.hr, www.tz-povljana.hr.
Kolan Tourist Association, Trg kralja Tomislava, Kolan, tel. (+385-23) 69 82 90, info@tzkolan-mandre.com, www.tzkolan-mandre.com.

Paklenica National Park

The Paklenica National Park occupies the coastal part of the southern Velebit mountains. The Park is famous for the large difference in altitudes you cross as you travel through it, complete with changes in climate, all in a relatively small area. Bird species you might spot on the rock and cliff faces include the Rock Nuthatch (Sitta neumayer) and the Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius). Rare and endangered birds of prey to be found here include the Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), Short-Toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus) and Goshawk (Accipiter gentiles). Entry tickets to the park cost 30-40kn depending on the time of year. Birdwatching as an individual is not permitted: please call ahead to organise a tour with one of the Park’s official guides.

Paklenica National Park, dr. F. Tuđmana 14a, Starigrad - Paklenica, tel. (+385-23) 36 92 02, prezentacija@paklenica.hr, np-paklenica@zd.t-com.hr, www.paklenica.hr.


Velebit Nature Park / Northern Velebit National Park

The Velebit is the longest mountain range in Croatia, stretching 145km from Vratnik near Senj to the River Zrmanja near Zadar. It is not classified as an Important Bird Area, nor does it have any bird reserves, but it does encompass three Parks: the Northern Velebit National Park, the Velebit Nature Park and the Paklenica National Park. It has two strict nature reserves (both in the Northern Velebit National Park) as well as nature reserves for plant life, and the area is rich in flora and fauna. Nesting sides of the following birds are to be found here: the Eurasian Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium passerinum), the Ortolan Bunting (Emberiza hortulana), the Western Capercaillie or Wood Grouse (Tetrao urogallus), White Backed Woodpecker (Dendrocopus leucotos) and the the Boreal Owl (Aegolius funereus).


Velebit National Park, Kaniža Gospićka 4b, Gospić, tel. (+385-53) 56 04 50, Krasno office (+385-53) 85 16 00, Obrovac office (+385-23)68 98 18, velebit@pp-velebit.hr,  www.pp-velebit.hr.
Northern Velebit Nature Park, Krasno 96, Krasno, tel. (+385-53)  66 53 80, npsv@np-sjeverni-velebit.hr, www.np-sjeverni-velebit.hr. Senj Info Centre, Obala kralja Zvonimira, tel.(+385-53) 88 45 51. There are no organised birdwatching activities.

Paklenica National Park

The Paklenica National Park occupies the coastal part of the southern Velebit mountains. The Park is famous for the large difference in altitudes you cross as you travel through it, complete with changes in climate, all in a relatively small area. Bird species you might spot on the rock and cliff faces include the Rock Nuthatch (Sitta neumayer) and the Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius). Rare and endangered birds of prey to be found here include the Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), Short-Toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus) and Goshawk (Accipiter gentiles). Entry tickets to the park cost 30-40kn depending on the time of year. Birdwatching as an individual is not permitted: please call ahead to organise a tour with one of the Park’s official guides.

Paklenica National Park, dr. F. Tuđmana 14a, Starigrad - Paklenica, tel. (+385-23) 36 92 02, prezentacija@paklenica.hr, np-paklenica@zd.t-com.hr, www.paklenica.hr.



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