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CYPRUS WILDLIFE ECOLOGY
Birdwatching, nature conservation and consultancy in North Cyprus

birds

Birding in North Cyprus

North Cyprus has excellent tourism infrastructure and roads. Food and accommodation are relatively cheap due to the favourable exchange rates on the Pound, Dollar and Euro. Crime is barely existent and Turkish Cypriot people very welcoming.

You can get here directly from UK via Pegasus Airlines or Turkish Airlines where planes touch down at Istanbul before heading on to Nicosia in North Cyprus. Or you can fly to Larnaca or Paphos in South Cyprus and transfer to your hotel in the North. If you specifically want to come on a birding holiday you can book one of our week-long birding breaks through Direct Traveller.

Being less developed than the surrounding Mediterranean and other parts of Cyprus, you will find birding here extremely relaxing. The weather is nearly always sunny and warm with 300 days of sunshine per year. At the South-Eastern most extremity of the Mediterranean, you can experience a taste of birding more typical of the Middle East and Africa, without travelling quite so far.

Throughout the year North Cyprus has plenty to offer to birders and naturalists. In spring the scrublands, forests, plains and wetlands are brimming with life after our wet winters and over 70 bird species are able to raise their young on Cyprus in these diverse habitats. In fact, two of our regular breeders, the Cyprus Warbler and Cyprus Wheatear, are breeding endemics i.e. they are only found breeding on the island. Not only does this make Cyprus instantly important for bird conservation as Europe’s only Endemic Bird Area, but it makes the island an important destination to birders worldwide. And whilst birders are here in pursuit of endemics and our other endemic sub-species, opportunities for them to stumble upon other life list birds are plentiful.

cyprus Wheater
Warbler
Cyprus Wheater
Photo: Steve Rogers
Cyprus Warbler
Photo: Birtan Gökeri.


For much of the year, Cyprus hosts more than 200 passage migrant species. They use our island as a fuelling station as they travel to and from their breeding grounds stretching from the Turkish coast to the high Arctic and their wintering grounds in the Middle East and throughout Africa. Our temperate winters also attract over 90 winter visitor species which flock to Cyprus to escape the cold. When the size of North Cyprus is considered, its bird diversity is impressive and at the right time of year it is possible to total over one hundred species in a few days. This is because a huge diversity of habitats lay just a stone’s throw apart, negating the necessity for lengthy travel between sites, providing more birds per buck than for example a regional mainland site.

In spring, migrants travelling north funnel into the Karpaz Peninsula where they become increasingly concentrated before making their next sea crossing to continental Europe and Russia. At the end of the peninsula migrating raptors such as Red-footed Falcon are seen in flocks and Palid Harrier, Montagu’s Harrier and Black Kite are among the daily conveyor belt of raptors heading north through this bottleneck.

Pallid Harrier
Red-footed Falcon
Pallid Harrier
Photo: Birtan Gökeri
Red-footed falcon
Photo: Barış Saydam


Meanwhile temporary shallow wetlands, brimming with invertebrate life and amphibians provide perfect stop-over habitats for migrants like Bittern, Little Bittern, Night Heron, Little, Spotted and Ballion’s Crakes, Garganey, Ruddy Shellduck and a diversity of waders including eastern flyway birds such as marsh sandpiper. Swathes of coastal maquis along the North and West Coast and in Karpaz are in pristine condition and in spring these stunning habitats can be extremely rewarding with Red-backed, Masked, Lesser Grey and Woodchat shrikes all common and with Isabelline, Black-eared and occasionally Dessert Wheatear in more open habitats

bittern.
Little bittern.
Photo: Jay Nicholson


Through the summer the Kanlıdere waterway in Nicosia is used to irrigate crops on the Mesaoria Plain where large areas of flowering fodder vetch draw in pollinators and with them insectivorous birds. Here Bee Eaters and Rollers maintain nests in the mud banks of the waterways and Spur-winged Plover and Black-winged Stilts raise their young on the pools, Stone Curlew, Little, Long-eared and Barn Owl are also common. Meanwhile, Famagusta Freshwater Lake is the only site on Cyprus where you can regularly see Glossy Ibis, Cattle Egret, Squacco and Black-crowned Night Heron nesting.

Kanlıdere River
Kanlıdere River.
Photo: Robin Snape


During the driest months from late July through October, migrants returning south continue to make use of the water offered by the Kanlıdere system, where anything can show up around the pools and irrigated vetch fields which provide a wet and green oasis throughout the year. An autumn morning at the Sadrazamköy lighthouse at the tip of the Koruçam Peninsula may yield sightings of hundreds of herons, waders, terns and raptors, in particular Honey Buzzards as they make landfall in droves on their way south, whilst the surrounding coastal scrubland is packed with warblers, wheatears, shrikes, pipits and flycatchers returning from the North.

Flowering Fodder
Flowering fodder vetch is irrigated all year round on the Mesaoria plain and provides for pollinating insects which in turn provide
food for breeding birds throughout summer and during the autumn migration when the surrounding plains are dry.
Photo: Robin Snape


Another spectrum of species sit-out the European winter here with us. These include the stunning Greater Flamingo which winters at seasonal wetlands around Famagusta as does the Bluethroat, Moustached Warbler, Ferruginous Duck, Grey Plover and Curlew. Regular winter visitors include Pied Kingfisher, Short-eared Owl and Penduline Tit. On the towering walls of the Five-finger Mountains and among the three crusader castles, Wall Creeper and Rock Bunting can be seen.

Bluethroat
Bluethroat are common winter visitors to our wetlands and are seen on migration.
Photo: Bariş Saydam


A host of resident birds are here throughout year including the threatened Bonelli’s Eagle which builds eyries in precipices of the Kyrenia Mountain range, Black Francolin, whose population in Cyprus is the only population in EU, Blue Rock Thrush and off the Karpaz islets Audouin’s Gull.

Bonelli’s Eagle
Bonelli’s Eagle.
Photo: Barış Saydam


And the wildlife does not begin or end with birds. Our flora includes a range of reptiles including two species of sea turtle, amphibians, butterflies and many insects and other invertebrates, all of the above with a high degree of endemism. Particularly impressive are our plants, within which the spring orchids and endemic tulips attract the great attention. With the exception of Sea Turtles, we do not claim to be experts in these areas, but during our trips we strive to point out some of the more interesting specimens and can also arrange, for example, a botanist or a herpetologist to accompany us on our tours. 

Lizaed
Starred Agama.
Photo: David Sparrow

  

  

 

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