Birdwatching in Croatia

Birdwatching in Croatia is very interesting throughout the year. 390 bird species has been reported in Croatia. Between them 245 species has been reported as a breeding. Before first birdwatching trip in Croatia it’s a must to know few facts about migration and birds’ habitats in Croatia.


Birds migration

Croatia is a small country located in the south of Europe. Most of the eastern Adriatic Sea coast belongs to Croatia. One of the bird migration routes from northern and central Europe is placed along Croatia. During the migration, the birds avoid high altitudes of Alps and Dinarides mountains. Their route across Croatia to the south is one of the shortest in Europe.

Birdwatching in Croatia - the autumn birds migration route along the Croatia.
The autumn birds migration route along the Croatia (click on map to increase the size)

Frequently during spring migration to the north, while bad weather is on continent, birds often use the coastal area as an important station until the weather improves. Keeping them for a week or even more, allows to watch more bird species and take bird pictures more easily too.


Habitats

Along the coast of the Adriatic Sea there are small silt and wetland areas. These habitats are necessary for feeding during migration or wintering. For instance, Curlew (Numenius arquata) uses the coastal zone for wintering and migrates north to the Eurasian continent for breeding.

Curlew (Numenius arquata) with prey. Veliki pozviždač sa plijenom.
Curlew (Numenius arquata) with prey during winter time at the coast of Adriatic Sea

Bee-eaters (Merops apiaster) come to Croatia from Africa for breeding at the end of April. At the end of August and the beginning of September they migrate back to Africa. During spring Bee-eaters migrate along Croatia further to the northeast of Europe too.

Bee-eaters (Merops apiaster). Pčelarice.
Bee-eaters (Merops apiaster) – Dalmatia hinterland

There are numerous wild habitats in Croatia. In addition to the Adriatic coast, there are many rivers and hilly and mountainous areas that vary in vegetation type and relief forms. Above all the diverse diet and good conditions required for birds’ good nesting are available in many areas of Croatia.

Common Eurasian Hoopoe (Upupa epops) with Dalmatian Wall Lizard (Podarcis melisellensis). Pupavac sa krškom guštericom u kljunu.
Common Eurasian Hoopoe with Lizard – Dalmatia hinterland
Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) with prey (The smooth newt, Lissotriton vulgaris). Mali gnjurac sa plijenom (mali vodenjak).
Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) with Smooth Newt – Pokupsko
Birdwatching in Croatia. Ljubački Stanovi is the birds' habitats at the Adriatic coast.
For instance Ljubački Stanovi at the Adriatic Sea coast is a good habitat

Issues

The main issues that threaten birds are:

  1. Destruction of wild habitats for agricultural or other purposes,
  2. Hunting and poaching. Keep in mind the birds are very scared. Each Sunday is a hunting time,
  3. Poor education and bad behavior of the locals including some hunters.

It’s very important to not disturb birds during nesting time. In case you notice irresponsible behavior of people in relationship with wildlife like poaching or similar, you can submit your note and report it to the agency. I have very good experience with their work.


Birdwatching Areas

With the rise of tourism, the popularity of birdwatching in Croatia has increased in recent years. Significant funds have been invested in some areas for design of new trails and monitoring hot spots. Nevertheless, much remains to be done. It is very important to better educate the local population and prevent poaching. There is also a problem of lack of trained birdwatching guides.

However, if you want to enjoy birdwatching in wild habitats then Croatia is for sure a right choice for bird watching.

Birdwatching in Croatia - Vrana Lake
The birdwatchers trail in Vrana Lake (Vransko jezero) nature reserve

Important birdwatching areas in Croatia are shown in the map below. For sure, it doesn’t mean you can’t birdwatching in other areas too. The map is based on reference Natura 2000 GIS database. The map can be opened in a new large window with 2 separate layers for Important birds’ areas according to Nature 2000 directive and Ornithological Zones respectively.


According to Natura 2000 dorective classification below is the list of important areas:

 — near Adriatic Sea —

Northwest Dalmatia including The Island of Pag

Vrana Lake (Vransko jezero)

River Krka including National Park Krka

Mosor, Kozjak mountains and Trogir hinterland

Dinara and Kamešnica mountains

Biokovo mountain

Northern islands of Zadar archipelago

National Park Kornati and Nature Park Telašćica

Southern islands of Dalmatia and Pelješac peninsula

National Park Mljet

Nature Park Lastovo

Open sea islands

Ravni Kotari

River Cetina

Delta of Neretva river

Lika carst fields

Velebiti mountain

Učka and Ćićarija mountains

The islands of Kvarner

Gorski Kotar and Lika

— inland of Croatia —

Donja Posavina

Jelas Polje

Spačva river basen

Bilogora and Kalnik mountains

Poilovlje including fishfarms

Našice and Grudnjak fishfarms

Drava river

The mouth of Drava river and Dunav river

Pokupsko basen

Turopolje

Česma fishfarms   

National Park Plitvice Lakes

Papuk mountain

The section of Sava river near Hruščica and Rakitje Lake


In addition to Natura 2000 directive below is the list of ornithological zones too:

Palud (Istria)

Fojiška-Podpredošćica (The Island of Cres)

Mali bok-Koromačna (The Island of Cres)

Kuntrep (The Island of Krk)

The Island of Prvić

Kolansko Blato (The Island of Pag)

Veliko Blato and Malo Blato (The Island of Pag)

Vrana Lake (Biograd na Moru)

Pantan (Trogir)

Prud (Metković)

Orepak and Pod Gredom (Metković)

Southeast of Neretva river delta

The Islands: Mrka, Bobara and Supetar (Cavtat)

Crna Mlaka (Jastrebarsko)

Jastrebarski Lugovi (Jastrebarsko)

Sava river – section Strmec (Zagreb)

Sava river – section Zaprešić (Zagreb)

Veliki Pažut (Mura and Drava rivers)

Varoški Lug (Ivanić Grad – Čazma)

Rakita (Lonja)

Đol Dražiblato (Lonja)

Krapje Đol (Lonja)

Jelas fishfarm (Slavonski Brod)

Dvorina pond (Slavonski Brod)

Kopački Rit (Osijek)

Podpanj (Donji Miholjac)

Veliko Blato Ornithological Reserve on The Island of Pag
Veliko Blato Ornithological Reserve on The Island of Pag


Due to the configuration of the terrain and lack of roads, some areas are difficult to access. However, make sure you have a good access before visiting. Furthermore, check the weather report too. Take your binocular or scope and enjoy in birdwatching.

Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) in flight. Bjeloglavi sup u letu.
Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) in flight – The Island of Cres

Recommended Links

The list of birds of Croatia is here and the bird gallery is here.

Photographing birds in Croatia.

Below is a short video trailer about birds in Croatia.

The plan is to give more information including easy access to hot spots for birdwatchers and photographers too. In the meantime, in below comments section, share your experience about birdwatching in Croatia.

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