Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean covering an area of 9250 km2 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 Eurasia, with over 200 species occuring as regular passage migrants in varying numbers.
The birds that occur regularly on passage form a large percentage of the Cyprus list that totals over 400 species. Of these, only around 60 species are resident and around 40 are migrant breeders who regularly or occasionally breed in Cyprus. The number of birds stopping over during the spring and autumn migration is impressive as literally millions pass through the island.
Cyprus has two endemic species, the Cyprus Wheatear Oenanthe cypriaca and the Cyprus Warbler Sylvia melanothorax.
Spring migration in Cyprus starts early in February with the arrival of the first Hirundines and Wheatears, such as the Isabelline and Northern Wheatear, and 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 of April passerine migration drops off, but wader migration continues, with the possibility of the odd rarity arriving continuing into May.Eurasian Spoonbill © D.Nye
Breeding birds include the 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.
Autumn migrationAutumn migration starts in early August with the arrival of the Shrikes.
Passerines are less obvious in the autumn than they are in spring. 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 usually includes a variable passage of raptors including Egyptian Vulture, Lesser Spotted Eagles, good numbers of Honey Buzzards, Black Kite, Red-footed and Lesser Kestrels, and Black and White Storks. It continues into October, when winter visitors also start to arrive.Red-footed Falcon © D. Nye
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 both species require time and effort to locate. During winter one can find the odd rarity, with Rock Sparrow and Rock Buntings occasionally found amongst other Eastern European species.
During winter, the sea around Cyprus can produce occasional sightings of Scopoli’s and Yelkouan Shearwater off headlands, but is otherwise relatively quiet. 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.
Courtesy of the Birdlife International