Birdwatching Croatia

more than a year ago

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 delta 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 recognized 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 behavior.

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 behavior. 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 colors 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 organizations in monitoring changes in the number of birds, in their behavior and habitats.

Since birdwatching in Croatia is still not very common, below we list a range of organizations 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 organization 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.

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.

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.

Učka Nature Park


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