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  • Photograph of Golden Oriole

    The fabulous Golden Oriole is widespread across Europe during the northern summer. It is a shy bird though and difficult to see well, let alone photograph, hence this image, taken by Steve Fletcher, is remarkable.

    EUROPE

    The destinations listed and linked below are the ones we believe are the best in Europe. They have been chosen very carefully and for a multitude of reasons, but mainly based on personal experience of some of them and on dreams of visiting the rest, dreams resulting from what we have heard, read or seen.

    It is our intention to update this list regularly as we add destinations and it was last updated on the 13th of September 2016.

    If there are any other destinations you think should be on the list below then please Email us. Those that have not made it so far include Cyprus, Slovakia and Switzerland.

    The destinations are listed alphabetically with very brief, usually one-line, summaries for those linked to more detailed pages (to reach these pages click on the destination name). Those not linked to more detailed pages are described in a bit more detail here, in italics.

    For more information see Top 100 Birds, Top 100 Other Wildlife and Top 50 Other Natural Wonders.

    Destinations


    A

    Abruzzo National Park - Italy
    A good chance of Brown Bear and a few birds such as Golden Eagle.

    Austria
    Pygmy Cormorant, Great Bustard, possibly Saker and fine alpine scenery.

    Azores
    Sperm and other whales, Striped and other dolphins, and the rare endemic Azores Bullfinch.

    B

    Belarus
    Azure Tit, Aquatic Warbler, Great Snipe and Great Grey Owl in some really wild places.

    Bulgaria
    Wallcreeper inland, a migration flyway along the coast, especially good for waterbirds.

    C

    Corsica
    This scenic, sparsely populated, French island nearer the northwest coast of Italy than France supports the endemic Corsican Nuthatch, the near-endemic Marmora's Warbler and Corsican Finch (both of which occur only on Corsica and Sardinia), and the restricted-range Moltoni's (Subalpine) Warbler and Italian Sparrow. In addition there are several endemic subspecies, including the corsa race of Treecreeper. More widespread species include Lammergeier (rare and most likely at Haut Asco), Red Kite, Golden Eagle (scarce), Hoopoe, Alpine Chough, Dartford and Sardinian Warblers, Firecrest and Spotless Starling, with summer visitors such as European Bee-eater and Woodchat Shrike (the badius subspecies which breeds on Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearic Islands). Around the coast and on some etangs it is possible to see a few Audouin's Gulls and offshore, Scopoli's (Cory's) and Yelkouan (Balearic) Shearwaters. The few mammals include Mouflon (most likely at Haut Asco) but there is a rich flora which includes many orchids and those usually in flower during early May (the best time to look for birds) include Sword-leaved Helleborine, Violet Limodore, Yellow Ophrys, Heart-flowered Serapias, and Barton’s, Man, Milky, Pink Butterfly and Tongue Orchids.

    Croatia
    The limestone islands, cliffs, gorges and craggy mountains of Croatia support Rock Partridge, a bird which is endemic to Europe and very difficult to see anywhere else, as well as (Eastern) Black-eared Wheatear, Rock Thrush, Blue Rock Thrush, Sombre Tit, (Western) Rock Nuthatch, (Eastern) Orphean and (Eastern) Subalpine Warblers, Alpine Accentor (near Veti Jure in Biokova Nature Park) and Black-headed Bunting, while at wetlands like Lake Vrana it is possible to see a wide range of waterbirds including Pygmy Cormorant. During the winter Wallcreeper is possible. Mammals in Biokova Nature Park include Chamois and Mouflon, both of which are elusive. Butterflies are easier to see and there are about 190 species in Croatia, 130 of which have been recorded in the Velebit Mountains on the Dalamatian coast, including Clouded Apollo. The rich flora, including lots of orchids, is a fine sight in April and May which are also the best months to look for birds.

    Czech Republic
    It is possible to see all ten European woodpeckers in the Czech Republic. The best three areas for birds are: (i) the Sumava Mountains on the border with Germany, which, together with neighbouring Bavaria, support the most extensive forest remaining in Central Europe, home to some great but scarce and very elusive birds such as Black and Hazel Grouse, Eurasian Pygmy and Ural Owls, and Black, (Eurasian) Three-toed and White-backed Woodpeckers, most of which are best looked for on Mount Boubin where Ring Ouzel (alpestris) and Eurasian Nutcracker also occur; (ii) the five hundred fish ponds in the Trebon area which support White-tailed Eagle, as well as a few White Storks, Red-crested Pochard, Red Kite, Bluethroat, Collared Flycatcher, Reedling and Penduline Tit; and (iii) South Moravia where there is a possibility of seeing Barred Warbler, as well as Saker Falcon and Eastern Imperial Eagle (both most likely in the Hohenau area just across the border in Austria). The best time to look for birds is the middle of May when most of the summer migrants have usually arrived and some owls and woodpeckers are still nesting.

    E

    Estonia
    Arguably the greatest variety of birds in Europe, during the spring.

    Extremadura - Spain
    The best place in western Europe for bustards and raptors, including Spanish Eagle.

    F

    Finland and Arctic Norway
    A good chance of Brown Bear, a chance of Wolverine, owls and other birds.

    France - Southern
    A wonderful combination of wetland and mountain birds in the Camargue and Pyrenees.

    G

    Georgia
    Caucasian Grouse, Caucasian Snowcock, Guldenstadt's Redstart and Caucasian Great Rosefinch.

    Greece
    Greater Flamingo, Pygmy Cormorant, pelicans and vulture feeding station. Also see Lesvos, below.

    H

    Hebrides (Outer) - Scotland
    Corn Crake, White-tailed and Golden Eagles, and a chance of Otter.

    Holland
    Hundreds of thousands of geese, as well as swans and Smews wintering.

    Hungary
    Saker, tens of thousands of Cranes in November and Red-footed Falcons in summer.

    I

    Iceland
    Killer and Minke Whales, and birds such as Harlequin Duck,in great scenery.

    Italy - Abruzzo National Park
    A good chance of Brown Bear and a few birds such as Golden Eagle.

    L

    Lesvos
    The Greek island of Lesvos is situated in the Aegean Sea to the east of mainland Greece, although it is actually next to the west coast of Turkey. It is a very popular destination with birders (some might say 'too popular') during the northern spring when large numbers of a wide variety of birds migrate through the island, including herons, Pallid Harriers, Eleonora's and Red-footed Falcons, Little Crakes, shorebirds including Collared Pratincoles, Whiskered and White-winged Terns, Rollers, Red-throated Pipits, Collared Flycatchers, warblers and shrikes. The numbers of passage migrant birds usually peak in the second half of April which coincides with the usual arrival period of breeding summer visitors such as Short-toed Eagle, European Bee-eater, Isabelline Wheatear, Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin (Rufous Bush Chat), Masked Shrike, Olive-tree, Eastern Orphean and Ruppell's Warblers, and Black-headed, Cinereous and Cretzschmar's Buntings. These join resident species such as Ruddy Shelduck, Greater Flamingo, White and Black Storks, Long-legged Buzzard, Sombre Tit, and Kruper's and Rock Nuthatches to make a fine selection of birds which may also include rarer migrants such as Levant Sparrowhawk, Baillon's Crake, Spur-winged Plover and Great Snipe, while around the coast there is a chance of Audouin's Gull (a rare resident) and offshore a better chance of Scopoli's (Cory's) and Yelkouan (Balearic) Shearwaters.

    M

    Madeira
    Bulwer's, Fea's and Zino's Petrels, Madeiran and White-faced Storm Petrels, and dolphins.

    Mull (and Scottish Highlands) - Scotland
    Otter, White-tailed and Golden Eagles, and Puffin.

    N

    Netherlands
    Hundreds of thousands of geese, as well as swans and Smews wintering.

    Norway (Arctic, and Finland)
    A good chance of Brown Bear, a chance of Wolverine, owls and other birds.

    O

    Outer Hebrides - Scotland
    Corn Crake, White-tailed and Golden Eagles, and a chance of Otter.

    P

    Poland
    Ancient lowland forest and the largest inland wetland left in Europe.

    Portugal
    Greater Flamingo, Azure-winged Magpie, bustards and Black-shouldered Kite.

    R

    Romania
    Brown Bear and waterbirds galore in the Danube Delta, including pelicans.

    S

    Scotland - Highlands to Mull
    Otter, White-tailed and Golden Eagles, and Puffin.

    Scotland - Outer Hebrides
    Corn Crake, White-tailed and Golden Eagles, and a chance of Otter.

    Scotland - Shetland
    Otter, Red-necked Phalarope, seabird cliffs and a chance of Killer Whale.

    Spain - Extremadura
    The best place in western Europe for bustards and raptors, including Spanish Eagle.

    Spain - Northern
    Lammergeier, Wallcreeper and Snow Finch in the beautiful Pyrenees.

    Spain - Northwestern
    A very good chance of Wolf, as well as a chance of Brown Bear.

    Spain - Southern
    A good chance of Iberian Lynx, and the spectacular migration of storks and raptors.

    Spitsbergen (Svalbard)
    Polar Bear, Walrus and birds such as Ivory Gull in spectacular settings.

    Sweden
    Most people in search of bears and owls visit Finland where Wolverine and Red-flanked Bluetail are also possible but if it's Cranes you are after then Sweden is the place to go. During the first half of April 20,000 or so gather at Lake Hornborga (Hornborgasjon) a few hours from Stockholm and in early September the same number come together at Bergslagen, along with up to 20,000 (Taiga) Bean Geese. This is also a good time to see Elk (Moose) because the bulls have a full rack of antlers ready for the autumn rut. Up north in southern Lapland the best time to look for Reindeer and birds such as lekking Great Snipe, Long-tailed Skua and Lapland Bunting is late May-early June. In July Brown Bears can be seen at night from a luxurious purpose-built hide three hours by road from Stockholm with Naturetrek who operate lots more tours to Sweden, in search of mammals, birds, butterflies, dragonflies and plants. Each autumn, about 500 million birds migrate from Scandinavia to Europe and Africa, and four million are recorded annually at Falsterbo, a migration bottleneck at the southern tip of Sweden. This is a particularly good place to watch migration in action, involving, on good days, usually when a southwest wind blows, big numbers of raptors, (Common) Wood Pigeons and Blue Tits. Birds occuring in smaller numbers include Greater and Lesser Spotted Eagles, and (Eurasian) Nutcrackers. The best time to be at Falsterbo is from late August to October.

    T

    Turkey
    Some of the most exciting birding in the Western Palearctic, but Turkey is a huge country and to see all of its best birds it would be necessary to travel hundreds of miles, so most visitors opt to cover certain areas. The Bosphorus, especially in September, is a great place to watch the visible migration of tens of thousands of raptors including Lesser Spotted Eagles and Levant Sparrowhawks, along with huge numbers of White Storks and some Black Storks, on their way from Eurasia to Africa. The narrow strait between Europe and Asia is also regularly traversed by Yelkouan (Balearic) Shearwaters. In southwest (as well as southern and eastern) Turkey it is possible to see the likes of Dalmatian Pelican (Lake Karine near Bafa), Spur-winged Plover, Smyrna (White-throated) Kingfisher (scarce in the Dalyan Delta), Finsch’s Wheatear (Pamukkale area), White-throated Robin, Olive-tree (Pamukkale area), (Eastern) Orphean and Ruppell's Warblers, Sombre Tit, Kruper's and Rock Nuthatches, Masked Shrike, Black-headed, Cinereous (Pamukkale area) and Cretzschmar's Buntings, and Red-fronted Serin (Gulubeli Pass, east of Dalaman). The south coast is famous for the (Western) Brown Fish Owls at Oymapinar Barrage/Reservoir near Antalya and the chance of seeing the very elusive 'Lilford's' White-backed Woodpeckers at Akseki. East from there is where most of the regionally-endemic (or breeding-endemic) Western Palearctic specialities are though, including Caspian Snowcock, Radde's Accentor and (Asian) Crimson-winged Finch at Mount Demirkazik (along with Wild Goat (Bezoar Ibex) and Asia Minor Souslik). Caspian Snowcock and Caucasian Grouse occur in the far northeast near Sivrikaya and to the south it is possible to see Grey-necked Bunting and Mongolian Finch at Dogubeyazit.

    The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office advise against all travel farther southeast, specifically to within 10 km of the border with Syria and to the city of Diyarbakir, and against all but essential travel to the remaining areas of Sirnak, Mardin, Sanliurfa, Gaziantep, Diyarbakir, Kilis and Hatay provinces, as well as Siirt, Tunceli and Hakkari. This region includes the Birecik area, a well-known birding hotspot where Pygmy Cormorant, See-see Partridge, Pallid (Striated) Scops Owl, Pied Kingfisher, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Menetries's Warbler, Iraq Babbler, Desert Finch, and Dead Sea, Pale Rock and Yellow-throated Sparrows occur (along with a feral colony of Northern Bald Ibises), with Red-wattled Lapwing near Batman to the east. The best time to look for most birds in Turkey is May.

    U

    Ukraine
    Demoiselle Crane, Saker, Great Bustard and Great Black-headed Gull.

    Photograph of Where to Watch Birds in Europe and Russia

    Don’t know which country/countries to visit? Why not take a look at Where to watch birds in Europe & Russia written by this website’s author. It is many years old of course, having been published by Helm in 2000, 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 it was published.

    Reviews of the six books in the 'Where to Watch Birds' series written by this website's author, and covering most of the world, can be read at Reviews (pdf 236KB).