Bulgaria Birding Tours

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The Republic of Bulgaria (“Bulgaria” hereafter) is one of Europe’s premier bird watching destinations. Located in southeastern Europe on the Balkan Peninsula, the country is made up of breathtaking geography, fascinating history, and sensational avifauna. Bulgaria is Europe’s sixteenth largest country at 42,855 square miles (110,993 square kilometers) which makes it around the size of Ohio, in the United States of America. Bulgaria’s population is falling due to migration and at 6.95 million people it is considered a relatively small population. The capital, Sofia, is a vibrant city and has become popular for its history, architecture (especially Orthodox churches), and nightlife. Sofia crams over 1.6 million people into its metropolitan area, around 23% of the country’s population.

Bulgaria is one of the longest inhabited countries in Europe with the earliest societies forming around 6,500 BC. Since then Bulgaria has been a battle ground for many rival factions to fight over. Thracians, Persians, Celts, Macedonians, Romans, Bulgars, Ottomans, and the Soviet Empire have all held Bulgaria. Some of the bloodiest fighting of the 20th century conflicts took place in the country. In 1989 Bulgaria broke away from communist Soviet rule, before transitioning into a democracy in 1991. Since then Bulgaria has joined the European Union but a shrinking population is beginning to cause issues for the economy of the country.

For a relatively small country, Bulgaria has a wide range of habitats and many neighbors. Starting to the north of the country and working clockwise Bulgaria shares borders with Romania, Turkey, Greece, North Macedonia, and Serbia. Its entire east coast borders the Black Sea and this area is one of the key migratory flyways in Europe, with hundreds of thousands of birds moving south along the coast before crossing the Bosporus Strait of northern Turkey. Bulgaria’s geography ranges from impressive mountain ranges to coastal plains and almost every habitat in between. Our Bulgaria tours will take in this range of habitats to see the widest range of species possible. Bulgaria’s climate is varied due to its positioning and topography, its mountain ranges have a great effect on temperature and precipitation, with the north of the country being cooler and wetter than the south. Despite its southerly position in Europe, high amounts of snowfall are common in winter, due to continental airmasses from the north.

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Following International Ornithological Congress (IOC) taxonomy, Bulgaria has a bird list of 429 species (IOC v10.2 in September 2020), 23 of these species being globally threatened. Birding Ecotours is delighted to be able to offer two superb Bulgaria tours that take in this amazing country. To help maximize your European bird list and enjoy Bulgaria’s exceptional birdlife, we run these tours over two contrasting seasons and have listed some of the highlights below.

Our spring tour visits a huge variety of Bulgarian habitats and we will visit many of Bulgaria’s 114 Important Bird Areas (IBAs), listed by BirdLife International, including Pirin IBA (which is also a national park), Trigrad Gorge (within the Trigrad-Mursalista IBA), and Studen Kladenets IBA volcanic region. This tour then heads towards the Black Sea before finishing in neighboring Romania, where we explore the mighty Danube River and its delta. This tour offers a huge variety of species with far too many to list here. Some are also found on our winter tour (details below) but notable additions include Ruddy Shelduck, Ferruginous Duck, a number of gulls and terns, a range of shorebird (wader) species (including Broad-billed Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, and Collared Pratincole), an exciting array of raptors such as Egyptian Vulture, Griffon Vulture, Cinereous Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Booted Eagle, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Levant Sparrowhawk, Pallid Harrier, Red-footed Falcon, and more! Other sought-after species include European Roller, European Bee-eater, ten species of European woodpeckers (that is all of them except for Iberian Green Woodpecker – you need to join our Spain tour for that!), Eurasian Golden Oriole, Wallcreeper (the monotypic family), Western Rock Nuthatch, Common Rock Thrush, White-throated Dipper, and multiple exciting species from families such as shrikes, larks, warblers, flycatchers, wheatears, pipits, finches, and buntings. There are simply too many to list here so please read our detailed tour itinerary for a full range of target species.

Our winter tour covers the Black Sea coast, including Durankulak Lake IBA, Pomorie Lake IBA, and Kaliakra IBA, before visiting the stunning Vitosha Mountain National Park, which is also an IBA. On this tour we hope to discover huge numbers of the increasingly rare Red-breasted Goose along with other wildfowl such as Greater White-fronted Goose, Lesser White-fronted Goose, and White-headed Duck, plus Tundra (Bewick’s) Swan, Whooper Swan, and Smew. We also hope to find six woodpecker species, these being Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Black Woodpecker, European Green Woodpecker, and Grey-headed Woodpecker, plus raptors such as White-tailed Eagle, Long-legged Buzzard, Rough-legged Buzzard, and the globally threatened Dalmatian Pelican and Pygmy Cormorant. Passerines such as Spotted Nutcracker, Sombre Tit, Eurasian Penduline Tit, and Calandra Lark will also be targeted, again see the detailed itinerary for more target species.

There is obviously a vast array of amazing species in Bulgaria and we have listed some of the highlights above. Whichever tour you decide to undertake you will get to enjoy the birds in Bulgaria along with the outstanding scenery, welcoming people, and fantastic local food the country has to offer. A visit to this fascinating country is always popular with tour leaders and clients alike and its extensive variety of avifauna is just one part of a truly brilliant part of Europe.

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