Bird Watching in North Cyprus

For many decades bird watching in North Cyprus was a forgotten frontier but its doors have finally crept open to reveal a fascinating world full of natural treasures, not least its clear blue skies abundant with life.

Northern Cyprus is an important migratory crossroads for birds flying between northern breeding and wintering grounds in Africa and Asia. Directly north of the Nile delta, it is perfectly situated to act as a staging post for thousands of birds as they pass over the Mediterranean. North Cyprus is host to nearly 350 species of birds, including almost 50 native birds. Needless to say it attracts not only flocks of birds but ornithological experts and bird-watchers from all over the world.

Undoubtedly the best time for bird-watchers to visit the north is during the spring and autumn migrations when millions of birds pass through the island. Migration starts early in North Cyprus with the Hirundine arriving mid-February, followed by the Wheatear and Great Spotted Cuckoo reliably putting in an appearance by the end of the month. At this time of year the north still plays host to many winter visitors so the selection of species can be truly unique.

By early to mid-March the Warblers and Wagtails stream in, quickly followed in April by the Swifts, Larks and the brightly coloured Bee-Eaters in their swarms. This is also a good time to catch up with the otherwise elusive Nightingale. During the spring months, birds are visible at the main migration points in their thousands and provide a documentary-style opportunity to witness a wide variety of birds in one location.

During the hot summer months of June, July and August, birds become less obvious although you can still rely on regular sightings of the resident species. The lively chatter of the Cyprus Warbler is a reassuring sound that the skies will soon be full again. Besides which, the long hot summer is well worth the wait with the predatory swoop of birds of prey, from Buzzards and Harriers to Osprey and Eagles, soaring across the clear autumn skies.

The autumn migration covers an even longer period than the spring migration with the return journey of thousands of birds seen passing through a few months earlier. This is the ideal time for bird-watchers to visit, and North Cyprus has a number of excellent bird-watching spots from which to wile away the day with your binoculars.

For spectacular results the Karpas Peninsula is undoubtedly the best place for birders. This is an unspoilt and protected area situated on the north-east panhandle of the island where visible migration is commonplace as geography alone makes it a magnet for migrants. On the very eastern tip of the peninsula is the migrant-rich Cape Andreas where it is possible to observe a single area on your way east and a couple of hours later the birds will have completely changed, having suddenly flown in off the sea.

If you opt to stay overnight in one of the modest hotels in the Karpas Peninsula, the lack of luxury is more than compensated for not only by the variety of birds but the beautiful deserted location.

The north also offers a number of reservoir locations that attract a wide variety of migrating wetland species like Heron, Stork, Bittern, Waders, Egret and the Great Reed Warbler. Excluding the very hot summer months the reservoirs of Gecitkoy, Gonyeli and Kanlikoy offer ideal bird-watching all-year-round. Here, birders can notch up all manner of different species. Alternatively, for mind-blowing views of birds of prey, head for the Kyrenia mountain range and in particular Cape Korucam where Harriers, Honey Buzzards and Falcons tease bird-watchers for a chance at the picture-perfect shot!

In North Cyprus, the skies and indeed, this side of the island rarely disappoint.