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  • Photograph of Masked Shrike

    Masked Shrike by Michael McKee.

    BULGARIA

    Photograph of Wallcreeper

    A fantastic image of a Wallcreeper captured in the Trigrad Gorge in 2016 by Simon Colenutt.

    Best Wildlife in Bulgaria

    Mammals
    Bottlenose Dolphin and Harbour Porpoise. Also an outside chance of Brown Bear, Wolf, Wild Cat and Stone Marten, mainly in the Rhodope Mountains, but all are highly unlikely to be seen, at least during a short visit. One tour company, Branta Tours, does run a tour during which it is possible to look for Brown Bears, from a hide in a private reserve.

    Birds

    Specialities
    Chukar, Dalmatian and Great White Pelicans, Pygmy Cormorant, Imperial and Lesser Spotted Eagles, Long-legged Buzzard, Levant Sparrowhawk (mostly passage migrants which pass through during the second half of May), Masked Shrike, Nutcracker, Wallcreeper, Paddyfield and Olive-tree Warblers, Isabelline and Pied Wheatears, Semicollared Flycatcher and Rosy Starling (mostly after mid-May). Also a chance of Rock Partridge and Yelkouan Shearwater.

    Others
    Ruddy Shelduck, Ferruginous Duck, Black-necked (Eared) Grebe, Shag (desmarestii), Little Bittern, (Black-crowned) Night Heron, Purple and Squacco Herons, (Eurasian) Spoonbill, Glossy Ibis, White and Black Storks, Egyptian, (Eurasian) Black and (Eurasian) Griffon Vultures, Booted, Short-toed and White-tailed Eagles, Red-footed Falcon, (Pied) Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Collared Pratincole, Mediterranean Gull, Black, Whiskered and White-winged (mostly April) Terns, Alpine and Pallid Swifts, Golden (European) Bee-eater, (European) Roller, Hoopoe, Middle Spotted and Syrian Woodpeckers, Lesser Grey, Red-backed and Woodchat Shrikes, (Eurasian) Golden Oriole, Calandra Lark, Red-rumped Swallow, (Eurasian) Crag Martin, (Eurasian) Penduline and Sombre Tits, Rock Nuthatch, (White-throated) Dipper, Firecrest, Barred, (Eastern) Bonelli’s, Great Reed, (Eastern) Olivaceous, (Eastern) Orphean, Sardinian, Savi’s and Subalpine Warblers, (Eastern) Black-eared Wheatear, (Common) Nightingale, Blue and Rufous-tailed Rock Thrushes, (Black-headed) Yellow Wagtail, Black-headed and Rock Buntings, and Spanish Sparrow. Also a chance of Little Crake, Broad-billed, Marsh and Terek Sandpipers, Slender-billed Gull, Eagle Owl, Black and Grey-headed Woodpeckers, and Moustached Warbler. For more information on the birds of Bulgaria see the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB) website.

    Plants
    The flora is one of the richest in Europe and includes many endemic species

    Best Sites for Wildlife in Bulgaria

    Best Times for Wildlife in Bulgaria

    Spring bird migration usually peaks during May. The second half of June is usually the best time to see the greatest variety of butterflies and plants. Autumn migration usually peaks during September, especially the second half. The numbers of wintering Lesser White-fronted and Red-breasted Geese usually peak in January-February.

    Recommended Books etc. for Bulgaria

    Bradt Travel Guide: Central and Eastern European Wildlife by G Gorman. Bradt, 2008.

    Collins Bird Guide by L Svensson et al. Collins, 2010 (Second Edition).

    Birds of Europe by L Jonsson. Helm, 1999.

    Birding in Eastern Europe by G Gorman. WildSounds, 2006.

    Finding Birds in Bulgaria by D Gosney. Easybirder, 2004.

    Where to Watch Birds in Bulgaria by P Iankov. Pensoft Publishers, 1996.

    Mammals of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East by S Aulagnier et al. Helm, 2009.

    Mammals of Britain and Europe by D McDonald and P Barrett. Collins, 2005.

    Collins Butterfly Guide by T Tolman and R Lewington. Collins, 2009 (Third Edition).

    Butterflies of Britain and Europe: A Photographic Guide by H Aarnio et al. A & C Black Publishers, 2009.


    Apps etc.

    Collins Bird Guide.

    Where to watch birds in Europe & Russia by N Wheatley. Helm, 2000.

    Don’t know which country/countries/regions to visit in Europe? Then it may be worth considering taking a look at this book, written by this website’s author. It is many years old of course but it still provides a starting point, an overview and a guiding light to the best birds and the best places to look for them in the region, and could save hours of searching for similar information on the internet. However, it is important to check more up-to-date sources for sites which have been opened up, sites and species which have been discovered, lodges that have been built etc. since the book was published.

    Trip Reports for Bulgaria

    Many trip reports, some for Bulgaria, are posted on the websites listed here. On some of these websites some reports are independent and some are posted by tour companies who organize tours to Bulgaria. These tour companies and others also post their own reports on their websites, which are listed under 'Some Organized Tours to Bulgaria' below.

    Local Guides and Tours in Bulgaria

    The costs of organized tours partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ. If you are travelling independently, employing such local guides will greatly increase your chances of seeing the wildlife you wish to see.

    Accommodation in Bulgaria

    Some Organized Tours to Bulgaria

    There are many tour companies who organize tours to see mammals, birds, other wildlife and other natural wonders. The cost of these tours vary considerably according to such variables as the airlines used, the number of days the tours last, the number of sites visited, the number of people in the group (an important consideration if you wish to see such wildlife as rainforest mammals and birds), the number of tour leaders, the standard of accommodation and transport, and the percentage profit the company hopes to make. Generally, where the number of days tours last and the number of sites visited are similar, the cheapest tours are those that use the cheapest airlines, accommodation and local transport, that have the largest groups with the least number of leaders, and that make the least amount of profit. The most expensive tours tend to be those which are exceptionally long, use the most expensive accommodation (ridiculously lavish in some cases, even for single nights) and which make the most profit. Some tour costs partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ.

    While tour companies organize tours with set itineraries many also organize custom tours for individuals and private groups who instead of taking a tour with a set itinerary want to follow their own itinerary to suit their own personal tastes, whether it be mammals, birds, other wildlife, other natural wonders or even man-made attractions, or a mixture of them all. Many organized tours with set itineraries are also fast-paced and target as many species as possible, whether they are mammals, birds or other wildlife or everything, which usually leaves little time to enjoy the best sites and individual species, but on a custom tour those taking part can specify the pace and the sites and species they wish to concentrate on. Custom tours also suit people who like to travel with people they already know, rather than with a group of strangers, and people with partners with different interests. Individuals and small groups will almost certainly have to pay more than the price of an organized tour with a set itinerary but a large group of friends may be able to travel for less than the price quoted for a set tour.

    Tour companies who run organized tours or can arrange custom tours to Bulgaria include the following.