European Countries



Birds of Slovenia

Birds of Prey and Owls of the Slovenian Istria

Milan Vogrin


Birdlife in Slovenia

Wetlands important for birds in Slovenia include Secovlje salina at the coast, the Drava and the Mura rivers, with flooded woodlands in northeastern Slovenia, Ljubljansko barje (marshes) and Lake Cerknica in central part of the country. Some fishponds have become important sanctuaries for biodiversity in areas of modern intensive farming, especially in northeastern Slovenia. The Racki ribniki fishponds (protected as a Landscape Park with neighbour area) and Vrbje pond are important both for breeding as well as for migrating bird species (e.g. various ducks, herons, waders, grebes).

Other very valuable bird habitats are the Krakovski forest, some forest areas in Notranjsko, in the Julian and Savinja Alps, and the Karst region, of course. A significant number of boreo-montane type bird species, including Tetrao tetrix (Birkhuhn) (Black Grouse), Tetrao urogallus (Auerhuhn) (Capercaillie), Glaucidium passerinum (Sperlingskauz) (Pygmy Owl), Strix uralenis (Ural Owl), Aegolius funereous (Tengmalm’s Owl), Picoides trydactylus (Three-toed Woodpecker) are found in the Alps and in the Dinaric region. Good nesting conditions exist also for various woodpeckers and raptors [e.g. Drycopus martius (Black Woodpecker), Picoides trydactylus (Three-toed Woodpecker), Aquilla chrysaetus (Golden Eagle)]. The Dinaric region also has relatively numerous populations of some other animals, especially big mammals such as Ursus arctos, Lynx lynx, and Canis lupus (Bear, Lynx & Wolf).

Areas of lowland meadows and non-intensively cultivated land have virtually disappeared, mostly as a result of intensive agriculture or construction of reservoirs. As a result of large-scale and intensive agriculture production, some species such as Perdix perdix (Rebhuhn) (Grey Partridge), Crex crex (Wachtelkönig) (Corncrake), Gallinago gallinago (Bekassine) (Snipe) are endangered. On the other hand, some species successfully colonize intensively farmed fields. Examples include Coturnix coturnix (Wachtel) (Quail), Vanellus vanellus (Kiebitz) (Lapwing), Charadrius dubius (Flußregenpfeifer) (Little-ringed Plover), Alauda arvensis (Feldlerche) (Skylark), Saxicola torquata (Schwarzkehlchen) (Stonechat), and Motacilla flava (Schafstelze) (Yellow Wagtail) complex. In this region, scattered and isolated forests in agricultural areas are important refuges for small passerines.

In the traditionally extensive rural landscape, fruit or traditional orchards are also very important bird habitats. Many endangered species, mostly hole-nesting, such as Athene noctua (Steinkauz) (Little Owl), Phoenicurus phoenicurus (Gartenrotschwanz) (Redstart), Upupa epops (Wiedehopf) (Hoopoe) and Jynx torquilla (Wendehals) (Wryneck) are commonly found in orchards across Slovenia.

Slovenia is one of the top 10 countries within the Western Palearctic for breeding of the following species: Alectoris graeca (Steinhuhn) (Rock Partridge), Otus scops (Zwergohreule) (Scops Owl), Emberiza cia (Zippammer) (Rock Bunting), Strix uralensis (Habichtskauz) (Ural Owl), Monticola saxatilis (Steinrötel) (Rock Thrush), Cisticola juncidis (Cistensänger) (Zitting Cisticola), Regulus ignicapillus (Sommergoldhähnchen) (Firecrest), Pyrrhocorax graculus (Alpendohle) (Alpine Chough), Montifringilla nivalis (Schneefink) (Snowfinch), Emberiza cirlus (Zaunammer) (Cirl Bunting). The first three species have restricted distribution in Slovenia; Alectoris graeca (Steinhuhn) and Emberiza cia (Zippammer) (Rock Bunting) live almost exclusively in the western Karst and Alpine regions, whereas Otus scops (Zwergohreule) (Scops Owl)is restricted mainly to the Karst region and the most north-eastern part of the country. It is worth mentioning that relatively high number of the globally threatened Crex crex (Wachtelkönig) (Corncrake) is also found in Slovenia.

Besides nesting, the Drava river and its reservoirs in north-eastern Slovenia are very important also for migrating and wintering species. During the wintering and migration period, the Drava and its reservoirs are the most important site for waterfowl in Slovenia. About 20,000 waterfowl [Bucephala clangula (Schellente) (Goldeneye) up to 3500, Aythya fuligula (Reiherente) (Tufted Duck) up to 7000] winter there. About 100 Mergus merganser (Gänsesäger) (Goosander), the same number of Mergus albellus (Zwergsäger) (Smew), and up to 6000 Anas crecca (Krickente) (Teal) regularly winter there too. The Ormoz reservoir on the Drava near the Croatian border is an important site for roosting geese (Anser fabalis (Saatgans) (Bean Geese) up to 4000, Anser albifrons (Bläßgans) (White-fronted Geese) up to 1500).

During spring migration, a huge number of Chlidonias niger (Trauerseeschwalbe) (Black Tern) (4000 - 8000) migrate along the Drava. The nearest agricultural area, Dravsko polje, is important for migrating raptors, including Pandion haliaetus (Fischadler) (Osprey) and Circus aeruginosus (Rohrweihe) (Marsh Harrier) and for wintering of Ardea alba (Great Egret) (up to 50 individuals).

With thanks to Milan Vogrin

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