Bulgaria Nature

Birding Bulgaria

Bulgaria is blessed with a variety of wildlife habitats—both natural and man made—which offer an impressive combination of upland, lowland and coastal birds. Bulgaria also features several regular species that are rare elsewhere in Europe, like Paddyfield Warbler, Isabelline and Pied Wheatears and Semi-collared Flycatcher. Vulnerable or threatened birds such as Dalmatian Pelican, Ferruginous Duck, Eastern Imperial Eagle and European Roller all have key populations in Bulgaria.

The coastal wetlands of the Black Sea are perhaps most popular with visiting birders. Colonies of Glossy Ibis, Eurasian Spoonbill, Collared Pratincole and a variety of herons and egrets breed here, as well as in the Danube valley. These same wetlands are important for passage birds too, with Great White Pelican and various raptors being particularly numerous in autumn. They also provide refuge for three more globally-threatened-species: White-headed Duck, some Lesser White-fronted Geese and tens of thousands of Red-breasted Geese.

Birders are apt to find a raptor bonanza in Bulgaria. Long-legged Buzzard, Levant Sparrowhawk, Short-toed, Booted, Lesser Spotted and Eastern Imperial Eagles and Eurasian Griffon and Egyptian Vultures all breed here. On autumn passage, tens of thousands of Lesser Spotted Eagles pass through the country. As well, it is not unusual for many thousands of White Storks and Great White Pelicans to pass along the coast in August. In winter, the highest mountains have an Alpine-like avifauna—examples are Rock Partridge, Wallcreeper, Alpine Chough, Alpine Swift, Eurasian Crag Martin and Eurasian Nutcracker.

Ten species of European woodpeckers occur in Bulgaria. For birders from northern Europe there are also some interesting subspecies, such as the Balkan races of Alpine Accentor and Shore Larklilfordi White-backed Woodpecker and alpinus Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker. Contributor: Gerard Gorman/PROBIRDER: www.probirder.com

What to See in Bulgaria

Notable Mammals and Other Wildlife

  • Bat species make up approximately 20% of all mammal species
  • Terrestrial mammals to be observed include:
    • Red deer
    • Roe deer
    • Marbled polecat
    • Brown bear
    • Gray wolf
    • Stoat
    • Eurasian Lynx
    • Northern white-breasted hedgehog
    • Water vole

Other Attractions

  • Rila National Park- Musala mountain is the highest point in Bulgaria reaching more than 9,500 feet. This sanctuary not only contains mountains but a variety of plant and animal life.
  • Shiroka Laka- An old and beautiful architectural village showcasing the history of Bulgaria with traditions carrying over from the 17th century. Hot Springs are close to here near the city of Beden.
  • Melnik- the village is located under immense sand dunes and is perfect for grape growing. Damianitza Winery is a must visit location!
  • Belogradchik- this small town is located at the foot of the Balkan mountains. Kaleto Fortress, an incredible ancient rock formation is located here.

Where and When to Go

Nature & Birding Hotspots in Bulgaria

  • Sofia
    • Around the summit of Vitosha mountain birds include: Black Redstart, Dunnock, Tree and Water Pipits. The lower forested slopes containing conifer and beech tree house Boreal ( Tengmalms) Owl, Black Woodpecker, Ring Ouzel, Firecrest, Goldcrest, Eurasian Treecreeper, Willow and Crested Tits, Eurasian Siskin, Eurasian Bulfinch, Red (common) Crossbill and Eurasian Nutcracker. In the city itself two parks are particularly good for birds. The Tzar Boris Gardens have wooded parkland with trees 70-80 years old. Long-eared Owl and Black, Green, Lesser Spotted, Great Spotted and Syrian Woodpeckers and Hawfinch are all resident.  In spring they are joined by Eurasian Scops Owl, Common Nightingale, and various warblers. Yuzhen Park has smaller woodlands, similar birds, but also Water Rail and some waterfowl on its ponds.
  • Srebarna
    • Srebarna is a remnant of the once numerous lakes that lines the Danube's route to the Black Sea.This is the only nesting site of the Dalmatian Pelican in Bulgaria and probably worth a visit for that reason alone, but Black-necked and Red-necked Grebes, Pygmy Cormorant, Great and Little Egrets, Purple, Squacco and Night Herons, Little Bittern, Eurasian Spoonbill, Glossy Ibis, and White-tailed Eagle are all other attractions. Breeding Waterfowl include Gadwall, Garganey, Northern Shoveler, Common Pochard, and Ferruginous Duck. The reeds hold Water Rail, Savi's, Mustached and Great Reed Warblers and Bearded Reedling Tit.
  • Durankulak
    • This natural coastal wetland is separated from the sea by a strip of dunes and beach and can be divided into three main sections: the so-called "eagle-marsh" in the north, the main brackish lake in the centre and a shallow reed- and-rush covered marsh in the southeast. The main reason for coming this far north is that this is an easy place to see the Paddyfield Warbler. The Yelkouan Shearwater is a regular off the coast in spring and autumn sometimes in large numbers. Red-breasted Goose numbers vary from winter to winter and can be between 6,000 and 60,000. This is also the most important site for the Ferruginous Duck with up to 25 breeding pairs in the marsh at the southeast section.
  • Rusenski Lom
  • Orsoya Fishponds
  • Danube Islands
  • Sabla Wetlands
  • Nos Kaliakra
    • The variety of birds that can be seen on this 2 km long headland is quiet remarkable because of the close proximity of several distinct habitats. As one leaves Balgarevo on the road to the cape, scrub and steppe on either side of the road have Red-footed Falcon, Saker Falcon, Long-legged Buzzard, Eurasian Hoopoe, Isabelline and Black-eared Wheatears and Black-headed Bunting. Most years see flocks of Rose-colored Starling here too. Kaliakra is a bottleneck and in certain conditions migrant passerines find refugee amoungst the bushes, ruins and walls. Red-breasted Flycatchers and a variety of Warblers are often numerous in autumn.
  • Albena & Zlatni Pjasaci
  • Kamchia
  • Stara Planina
  • Dyulinski Pass
  • Nos Emine
  • Atanasovosko
  • Lake Burgas
  • Lake Mandra
  • Poda
  • Lake Alepu
  • Ropotamo- Arkutino
  • The Rila Range
  • Kresna Gorge
  • Madzharovo
  • Studen Kladenec
  • Trigrad Gorge
  • Melnik

Bulgaria Birding and Nature Tours



Bulgaria Ecolodges/Accommodations

Branta Birding Lodge and Conservation Centre overlooks Durankulak Lake and the Black Sea

Tourist Complex Strandja located between the Burgas Wetlands and Sakar Mountains is an ideal stopover for traveling birders and nature lovers alike.

Pelican Birding Lodge is located in the village of Vetren, close to the town of Silistra, Bulgaria. Vetren is situated two kilometers from the River Danube, and close to the internationally important nature reserve at Lake Srebarna, a UNESCO heritage site.

Best Time to Go

May-June is the best time to visit to see an influx of migrating and breeding species. Higher elevations are best visited between July and August for later breeding species.

In autumn wetlands see large numbers of storks, pelicans and raptors along the Via Pontica, one of Europes main migration flyways, on the coast of the Black Sea with October being noted as the best time to observe rarities and vagrant species.

High numbers of wintering waterfowl are seen in January with the Rhodope Mountains hosting overwintering Vultures.

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