Bird Watching Cyprus
Cyprus is a must for bird watchers
Cyprus is a must-visit for birdwatchers as it lies on one of the major bird migration routes across the Mediterranean. With Africa to the south, Turkey and central Europe to the north and Syria and the Middle East to the east, Cyprus is a major staging post used twice a year as birds move between Africa, Europe and Euro-Asia. Almost 200 species occur as regular passage migrants, while another 20 or so occur irregularly.
Spring is the best time for bird watching in Cyprus
Probably the best time to visit Cyprus for bird watching is in the spring when, in addition to the hordes of migrants in their readily identifiable breeding plumages one can also see the resident and summer breeding visitors.
Some 374 species can be seen in Cyprus – including accidental or vagrant species and those like Stonechat and Black Redstart, which are abundant winter visitors.
Spring migration starts very early, by the end of February Great Spotted Cuckoo are numerous and the first Isabelline Wheatear are passing through.
Early March sees the first Hoopoe and by the end of this month larks, hirundines, pipits, wagtails, warblers and buntings are in super abundance. Wryneck can be very common and Nightingale seem to pop out from every piece of low vegetation, quite happy to hop on the ground in front of you, quite different behavior from that observed on their breeding grounds.
April is the prime month if you want the largest total of species, particularly the middle 2 weeks. Some of the winter visitors will probably still be hanging on, the migrant breeders will have arrived, including Black-headed Bunting, which is probably the latest arrival and the flocks of European migrants are streaming through; magic! It is also now that most vagrants occur as well!
Water bird and wader numbers start to build up in April and huge flocks of duck can be seen streaming by off shore. Both Cory’s and Mediterranean Shearwater add excitement to a spring [and autumn] sea watch, a pretty pointless exercise at any other time of the year.
Breeding birds include very high populations of Great Spotted Cuckoo, particularly in the west were their host species, Magpies are in plague proportions in some areas. Roller also breed in good numbers all over the Island, as does Masked Shrike in the foothills. Olivaceous Warbler sing from every bush and Cyprus Wheatear seem to occupy every available spot.
The spring raptor passage is only a fraction of the autumn passage but it is in spring that there are most Pallid Harrier sightings, particularly males. Breeding raptors include decent numbers of Bonelli’s Eagle but sadly the Imperial Eagle has now been lost. Griffon Vulture are now restricted to the Western Sovereign Base site, a result of illegal shooting and poisoning. Peregrine, Goshawk and Long-legged Buzzard also breed, the first Sparrowhawk breeding record being added recently. Eleonora’s Falcon are numerous on the western sea cliffs from May onwards and Kestrel are very numerous all over the Island.
The main raptor movement is from early September to the end of October. Honey Buzzard can be seen in the hundreds around the Akrotiri Peninsular and Black Kite and Steppe Buzzard can also be very numerous. Lesser Spotted Eagle is annual and in some years Booted Eagle can be quite numerous. October is the month for Red-footed Falcon, the area around Mandria near Paphos Airport and Phasouri Reed Beds being well known feeding sites for this species.
It is also in autumn that the Demoiselle Crane can be seen. They arrive early evening at the Akrotiri Salt Lake and rest there overnight before catching the early thermals the next morning.
The winter months can also be very productive. Stonechats, of every conceivable race, are very common as are Black Redstart. A specialty species is Finsch’s Wheatear, found in all suitable habitat, and Wallcreeper are to be found but require time, effort and some local knowledge to locate.
A villa holiday is an ideal way to enjoy bird watching in Cyprus. Spend your days in the countryside, then relax and enjoy a barbecue in the garden in the evening.