Cyprus & birds

Cyprus & birds

Cyprus is a really important and special place for birds on a European and international level. The rich variety of habitats, from coastal areas to wetlands and mountain forests, ensures great variety in bird species all year round. 

Cyprus has 34 areas identified as Important Bird Areas, covering wetlands, forest, scrub and farmland habitats both inland and in coastal areas and peninsulas, ranging from sea-level to the highest peaks of the Troodos range, at almost 2000 metres. Located on one of the major bird migration routes across the Mediterranean, Cyprus is a major staging post used twice a year as birds move between Africa and Europe.

Endemic birds of Cyprus

Cyprus hosts three endemic bird species that breed here and nowhere else in the world: the Cyprus Wheatear Oenanthe cypriaca, the Cyprus Warbler Sylvia melanothorax and the Cyprus Scops Owl Otus cyprius.

Endemic Bird Areas are the most important places for habitat-based conservation of birds. Being an island, the third largest island in the Mediterranean, Cyprus has a high degree of endemism of both flora and fauna, especially reptiles and birds. As a result, BirdLife International has identified Cyprus as a unique Endemic Bird Area (EBA) in Europe.

Cyprus Wheatear

The Cyprus Wheatear comes to Cyprus to breed, having spent the winter in countries like Ethiopia and Sudan. From March - October it is common all over the island from the mountains of Troodos down to the coast. Cyprus Wheatear is very easy to spot, as its black and white plumage makes it very distinctive, as does the male’s habit of singing from a high post for hours on end, especially between April - June. It can nest in holes in almost anything – in walls, by road edges, in trees, in a crack between two stones. It usually nests between April - June.

Cyprus Warbler

This small greyish warbler was featured on the old ten-pound note. Most Cyprus Warblers stay in Cyprus all year round, although some may leave Cyprus for the winter and have been recorded in nearby Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt. They are more likely to be found on the west and south west of the island, where the male can often be seen sitting on the tip of the branch of a low bush, singing his scratchy song. Cyprus Warblers like dense vegetation and can be difficult to see as they flit from branch to branch.

Cyprus Scops Owl

With an estimated abundance of 5,000 to 12,000 breeding pairs, the Cyprus Scops Owl, Otus cyprius, can be found all over the island, in forests, gardens, olive groves, farms and often in or near towns or villages, in parks and in cultivated areas with groves. During the day, it can occasionally be seen sitting very still on the branches of trees, although it is more likely to be heard at night than seen in daylight. Its territorial two-note call, a characteristic sound of early spring in Cyprus, is what usually signifies its presence. This whistling call differs from that of the Eurasian Scops Owl, which is a one-note whistle.

Cyprus Endemic Sub-species

In addition to the three species, there are three endemic subspecies mostly confined to the forests of the Troodos range: the Cyprus Jay Garrulus glandarius glaszneri, the Cyprus Coal Tit Parus ater cypriotes and the Short-toed Treecreeper Certhia brachydactyla dorotheae.

Although you can find these birds in other countries, those that are in Cyprus are slightly different from those on mainland Europe.

Cyprus Jay

Throughout Europe there are different variations in the feather colours of the Jay, which is a reddish-brown member of the crow family. In Cyprus, the Jay has a reddish forehead striped with black, a black moustache-like stripe and bright blue feathers (also striped with black) on its wings that you cannot miss when it flies. The Jay is very common in the forested mountains of Troodos and Pafos. It can be noisy, giving away its presence as it shrieks harshly. However, it is generally shy and is usually only seen as it flies away.

Cyprus Coal Tit

This tiny little bird is common in the forests of Troodos, Pafos and Machairas. It is easy to spot as it flits from branch to branch of the pine trees searching for insects. Coal Tits nest in holes in trees, walls and crevices in rocks. They breed between April and June, making a nest of moss and feathers.

Cyprus Short-toed Treecreeper

This little brown bird is difficult to spot as it creeps like a tiny mouse around tree trunks and branches to find insects and spiders, which it then extracts from the tree bark with its thin curved beak. It works its way up and around the trunk and large branches in a spiral. Before it reaches the top it flies to the bottom of another tree and begins again. Like the Coal Tit, this is a common resident of the forests of Troodos and Pafos. It depends on large trees for the insects on which it feeds and for places to nest. When insects are hard to find it may also eat small pine seeds.
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