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Birdwatching in Cyprus

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Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean and covers an area of  9250 sq kms and 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. Over 200 species occur as regular passage migrants in varying numbers, where as the resident species are quite low in number, some 50 odd species, with a further 40 or more species that are migrants, which regularly or occasionally breed. The Cyprus list currently stands at 379 species.
Cyprus has two endemic species, Cyprus Wheatear Oenanthe cypriaca and Cyprus Warbler Sylvia melanothorax.In addition there are four endemic subspecies, Cyprus Scops Owl Otus scops cyprius, Coal Tit Parus ater cypriotes, Short-toed Treecreeper Certhia brachydactyla dorotheae and Jay Garrulus glandarius glaszneri.
Sadly in recent years Cyprus has lost as regular breeding species, Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca and Dipper Cinclus cinclus, whilst Black-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles leucopterus has been seen occasionally, but with no recent proven breeding records, and with Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus and Raven Corvus corax in serious decline.

Spring migration starts early in Cyprus starting in February with the arrival of the first Hirundines and Wheatears, such as Isabilline and Northern, with Great Spotted Cuckoo arriving towards the end of the month. Early March sees the first Hoopoe and by the end of this month the spring migration is under full swing with the arrival of Pallid Harriers, Wryneck, Larks, Pipits, Wagtails, Black-eared Wheatear, Sylvia Warblers (including Ruppell’s and Subalpine), Cretzshmar's  and Ortolan Buntings. This migration continues into early April with the additional arrival of various Egrets, Herons, Waders, Rollers, Bee-eaters, Olivaceous Warbler, Shrikes, Golden Orioles, and Black-headed Bunting. Towards the end April passerine migration drops off, but wader migration continues, with the probability of the odd rarity continuing into May.

Breeding birds include Griffon Vulture, Bonelli’s Eagle, Eleonora’s Falcon, Long-legged Buzzard, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Roller, Cyprus Wheatear, Cyprus Warbler, Olivaceous Warbler , Masked Shrike and Cretzschmar`s Bunting.
The autumn migration starts in early August and can be very good for Shrikes. Passerines are less obvious in the autumn than spring, but temperatures can still be high. At the very end of August/early September, Demoiselle Cranes stop off at Akrotiri Salt Lake and are occasionally seen flying over other parts of the Island.
Autumn migration, unlike spring, can include variable passage of raptors including Egyptian Vulture, Lesser Spotted Eagles, good numbers of Honey Buzzards, Black Kite, Red-footed and Lesser Kestrels, Black and White Storks. Autumn migration continues into October when it is augmented by winter arrivals.
The winter months can also be very productive, but can have quite a northern Europe feel to them, whilst still retaining an eastern species theme. Duck numbers increase and there is a small wintering flock of White-fronted Geese.  Species such as Black Redstart, Robin and Song Thrush are quite common, with Bluethroats and Reed Bunting found in marshy areas, with Dunnock, Redwing, Fieldfare, Mistle Thrush, Goldcrest, Brambling, Siskin present, but less common. Stonechats are very common and can include Eastern races such as ‘Armenian’. Finsch’s Wheatear is a Cyprus wintering specialty in suitable habitat and Wallcreeper can be found on cliffs or gorges but require time and effort to locate. Winter can still be time to find the odd rarity with Rock Sparrow and Rock Buntings occasionally found, amongst other species Eastern European species.
The sea around Cyprus can produce occasional sightings of Scoploli’s and Yelkouan Shearwater off headlands, but otherwise can seem relative quite and it requires effort to find any winter water species on the sea other than the resident and wintering Gulls, which can include the odd Greater Black-headed Gull; and Shags or Cormorants.

Article taken from BirdLife Cyprus’ website

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