Birdwatching in Turkey
Turkey is blessed with a distinctive, diverse habitat that supports a wide array of wildlife, including forests, steppes and wetlands. Located along a major bird migration route between Europe and Africa, the widespread availability of marshlands makes Turkey a prime spot for birdwatching. Many species can be observed flying over the Bosporus Strait, such as eagles, hawks, falcons, buzzards, ibises and both white and black storks. The season for birdwatching extends from April through to November, with the best time to see indigenous and reproducing species being between April and June. Over 460 species, including 330 breeding birds, can be seen around the country. Certain species at risk of extinction, such as the marbled teal, Dalmatian pelican, greater spotted eagle and sociable plover can also be seen. Although birdwatching is not as popular in Turkey as it is in European countries, tourists interested in birds flock to Istanbul and Turkey from all over the world. To closely watch birds make their way back to warmer climes, there are some places you should certainly visit. Read birdhouses in Turkey.
Bird Routes in Turkey
For centuries, migratory birds have followed routes over lands, passing massive water bodies through narrowest points. The shortest land connection on migration route determined by birds, is in Turkey. Migratory birds that have to cross the sea, prefer the narrowest points such as the Bosphorus and Dardanelles Strait. They use lower passages as Arhavi, Borçka-Artvin and Belen-Hatay as they fly over high mountains.
Best Birdwatching spots in Turkey
Istanbul Black Sea Shores
We recommends Istanbul‘s Black Sea shores to look for divers, waterfowl, gulls and terns. Lake Terkos, Belgrade Forest and Lake Büyükçekmece are three other options for birdwatching around Istanbul. In spring, large flocks migrating from Africa to Europe fly through the city. Observers may come across ospreys, greater spotted eagles, eastern imperial eagles, storks, short-toed snake eagles, black kites, sparrow hawks, black storks, buteos, Eurasian hobbies and stock doves. Most of these birds fly over land to save energy, taking advantage of warm air currents.
Birdwatching in Manyas Bird Paradise
As Turkey’s first bird shelter with a Class A certification from the European Council, famously called “Bird Paradise,” Lake Manyas, lying in Balıkesir’s Bandırma district is home to between 2 and 3 million birds each year. Manyas Bird Paradise National Park takes its name from Manyas Lake, one of the four largest lakes of the Marmara Region. Manyas Bird Paradise National Park in South Marmara, with its mild transition climate, is one of the points where 2-3 million birds of 239 bird species have come through during their migration. Here you can observe birds like spoonbills, herons, cormorants, bulbuls, pelicans, swans, geese and ducks. Hiking trails are connected to observatory towers and the park has a museum featuring the region’s bird species with detailed descriptions. The area is also known to house more than 118 plant and around 20 fish species. Also, every year, an international festival is organized to raise awareness about protecting the national park. The International Bandırma Bird Paradise is held on the first week of June with a five-day program covering concerts and cultural events. Recently, however, environmentalists are warning about pollution in the lake, mostly due to waste from factories, and the need to take measures to protect it.
Birdwatching in Sultan Marshes Bird Sanctuary
Turkey’s second most important bird sanctuary is the Sultan Marshes Bird Sanctuary. It hosts more than 250 species of birds and is a great hangout spot for those who want to observe nature. Some of the birds you’ll see are cranes, flamingos and perc. They prefer this beautiful wetland to either stand around and rest or to nurture their newborns.
Birdwatching in Efteni Lake Bird Sanctuary
Another important bird sanctuary, Efteni Lake Bird Sanctuary is not only located on migration routes but also hosts a total of 150 kinds of birds, 35 of which are permanent. Bird species that love wetlands such as crested white herons, wild ducks, storks, angit and swans are the most abundant birds here. This lake is also famous in the production and protection of waterfowl.
Birdwatching in Bafa Lake Bird Sanctuary
Bafa Lake Bird Sanctuary, located between Söke district of Aydın and Muğla, has significance since it hosts endangered bird species such as crested pelicans and sea eagles. The Lake and its wide range of environment offer value for ornithology. 260 bird species can be observed in 16 thousand hectares. The largest lake in Turkey’s Aegean region, Lake Bafa is another birdwatching spot that draws ornithologists from around the world, mostly in spring.
Lying between the cities of Muğla and Aydın with 50 kilometers of shoreline and encircled by the Beşparmak (Five Fingers) Mountains, the lake is a great place to spot flamingos, cormorants and pelicans. Small islets inside the lake serve as bird breeding grounds and the area’s rich flora and fauna make birdwatching more impressive. Lake Bafa houses more than 200 bird species, among which are the spoonbill, little grebe, great crested grebe, pygmy cormorant, Dalmatian pelican, spur lapwing, and water birds such as the flamingo and meke clumsy.
Birdwatching in Göksu Delta
The Göksu Delta in Mersin is an internationally important region that offers the opportunity of living, breeding, feeding and accommodation to rare and endangered bird species. Approximately 300 species of birds use one of the world’s leading bird migration routes, as a wintering and incubation area, contributing to the formation of an interesting and lively landscape in almost every season of the year. Besides the domestic birds, the purple gallinule, which is seen in rare parts of the Mediterranean and becoming harder and harder to see, is the symbol of the region.
Lake Kuyucuk in Eastern Turkey
One of the most valuable wetlands in northeastern Turkey, Lake Kuyucuk, within the borders of Kars, is a breeding site for many bird species including those which are threatened with extinction. Again, the area is the habitat to more than 200 bird species and new species pop up each year during observations. The lake is an important spot, as it is located along the African-Eurasian migration route. The area is also protected under the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty for wetland conservation. An islet on the lake provides a breeding place for bird species and protects them from predators. Since 2011, a two-day bird watching festival is held in mid-June.