Bird Areas


Hungary is located in Central Europe and lies in the Carpathian Basin. 50% of the country's area is flat plains: the Great Plain occupying the entire eastern half of the country and the Lesser Plain located along the north-western border. The northern part of the Great Plain called the Puszta.Hungary in Carpathian basin map
The two largest rivers are the Danube (Duna) and the Tisza which traverse the country from north to south. The region lying between the two rivers is flat while the region west of the Danube, called Transdanubia, is hilly. The warmest lake in Central Europe, Lake Balaton is located there.
A mountainous region spans the country diagonally: the 400 to 700 meter high Transdanubian Mountains west of the Danube and the Northern Mountain Range with peaks between 500 and 1000 meters. The northern highlands, a southern extension of the Carpathians, contain the highest point in Hungary, Kékes (1014 m), which is situated in the Mátra Mountains.

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Birding Hotspots

In Hungary, at almost every part of the country there are good birding opportunities. However there are certain areas which are more popular among birders, these are the birding hotspots.

Hortobágy with Lake Tisza is surely the #1 birding hotspot in Hungary. Out of the four hundred birds recorded in Hungary, more than 340 species were also seen here. The grasslands and wetlands of Hortobágy offer excellent habitats for Great Bustard, Stone Curlew, Collared Pratincole, Dotterel, Saker, Red-footed Falcon, Long-legged Buzzard, Montagu's Harrier, White-tailed Eagle, Little Bittern, Night Heron, Squacco Heron, White Stork, Pygmy Cormorant, Ferruginous Duck, Glossy Ibis, Black, Whiskered and White-winged Terns, Caspian Gull, Moustached, Sedge, Marsh, Savi’s, Aquatic and Great Reed Warblers. The autumn Crane migration is a must-see for all birders. Hortobágy is also a Unesco World Heritage site with a stunning puszta landscape.

Kiskunság is a similar habitat to Hortobágy (grasslands, wetlands), but is much closer to Budapest, so it's very popular among birders of Budapest and foreign birders having only one day for birding. Like in Hortobágy you can see here Great Bustard, Stone Curlew, Collared Pratincole, Saker, Red-footed Falcon, White-tailed Eagle, Little Bittern, Night Heron, Squacco and Purple Heron, Spoonbill, White Stork, Ferruginous Duck, Black-headed, Mediterranean, Caspian and Yellow-legged Gull, Moustached, Sedge, Savi’s Warblers, Roller, and colonies of Bee-eater. Especially the pusztas and fishponds near Apaj are popular among Hungarian birders, but the southern saline lakes are also excellent birding areas.

Öreg Lake at Tata and Gerecse Mountains are also popular birding sites, because they can be reached by one hour driving from Budapest. Lake Öreg in Tata is a Ramsar site and an important roosting place for migrating and wintering Bean and Greater White-fronted Geese. The gallery woods of the lake offer excellent habitat for songbirds, thrushes and Lesser, Middle, Great Spotted, Syrian, Black and Green Woodpeckers. The nearby Ferencmajor fishpond system is an outstanding place to see and hear warblers. Black Stork, White-tailed Eagle are also regular at the fishponds. In the Gerecse Mountains Imperial Eagle can be seen.

Bükk Mountains is a popular hiking place. Since it is a mountainous habitat it many times combined with birding tours to Hortobágy. Síkfőkút near Eger is an excellent area to find woodpeckers (Lesser, Middle, Great Spotted, Syrian, Black and Green Woodpeckers), Wryneck, finches including Hawfinch, Spotted- and Collared Flycatcher. Hór valley is also popular place for birding where you can see Grey Wagtail, White-backed Woodpecker and with some luck even Rock Bunting. On the open areas of the Bükk Mountains raptors can appear, Lesser-spotted Eagle is regular. On the way to Bükk Mountains along M3 Motorway seeing Imperial Eagle is also possible.

Zemplén Mountains is a very romantic mountainous habitat, also combined usually with Hortobágy tours. Zemplén is an exceptional habitat for raptors like Short-toed Eagle, Lesser-spotted Eagle, Imperial Eagle, Honey Buzzard. Also the best area in Hungary to see the rare White-backed Woodpecker and the Grey-headed Woodpecker. Abandoned quarries of the mountains are excellent nesting places for Eagle Owl. And in Hungary you have the biggest chance to see Ural Owl in the forests of Zemplén. Tokaj Wine Region situated on the south part of Zemplén is a Unesco World Heritage site in Historic Cultural Landscape category.

Lake Fertő and Hanság are excellent habitats at the North-West part of Hungary, at the Austrian border. The Hungarian part of the Neusiedler See is also very popular among Austrian birders, and can be reached within 45 minutes from Vienna. Geese, ducks, egrets and waders are the most characteristic birds for Lake Fertő: Bean, Greylag and Greater White-fronted Goose, Teal, Red-crested Pochard, Pintail, Shoveler, Ferruginous Duck, Bittern, Little Bittern, Avocet, Kentish Plover, Great White Egret, Purple Heron and Spoonbill can be seen here. The Hanság area has drained off marshes, swamp forests and wet meadows. White-tailed Eagle, Imperial Eagle, Black Stork, Bee-eater, Short-eared Owl, Night Heron and other egrets, herons, ducks and waders can be seen in the area.

Lake Balaton and Kis-Balaton. Lake Balaton is the #1 summer resort in Hungary, very busy in the high season and its shore is densely built-up. However it plays a significant role for migrating birds like Bean, Greylag and Greater White-fronted Geese, Pochard, Tufted Duck and Goldeneye. In autumn each year some rare migrant birds (like Arctic Tern) are recorded at Lake Balaton. Kis-Balaton is a protected area and most parts can be visited only with permission of the Balaton Uplands National Park. The extensive reed- and sedgebeds offer excellent habitats for Bittern, Little Bittern, Purple, Squacco and Night Heron, Great White Egret, Moustached Warbler. Pygmy Cormorant, Common, Black and Whiskered Terns as well as Ferruginous Duck is also breeding here. Like Lake Balaton Kis-Balaton is also an important stopping place for migrating birds.

Birding Hotspots Hortobágy and Lake Tisza Öreg Lake of Tata and Gerecse Mountains Bükk Mountains Zemplén Mountains Lake Balaton and Kis-Balaton

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National Parks

Hungary has 10 National Parks:

Aggtelek National Park
National Park sign
Bükk National Park
Hortobágy National Park
Körös-Maros National Park
Kiskunság National Park
Duna-Ipoly National Park
Fertő-Hanság National Park
Őrség National Park
Duna-Dráva National Park
Balaton Uplands National Park

In Hungarian language National Park is called 'Nemzeti Park', see first sign on the picture above. The second sign indicates that it is 'Strictly protected area' and the red message says 'Entry with permission only!'. In Hungary many times it is not clearly indicated on roads, dirt roads, whether you can drive or walk into an area which many times make conflicts between rangers and birders, tourists.

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Important Bird Areas

Important Bird Areas (IBAs) are sites that provide essential habitat for one or more species of bird. IBAs include sites for breeding, wintering, and/or migrating birds.

In Hungary there are 54 IBAs, covering 1.4 million hectares, representing 15.1% of Hungary's area (93,000 km2). IBAs may include public or private lands, or both, and they may be protected or unprotected; 84% of the area of Hungarian IBAs is under protection.

The qualifying birds for Hungarian Important Bird Areas are usually endangered and threatened birds listed in the Annex I of EU Bird Directive, however certain migrating waterfowls such as ducks and geese are also considered, because they are vulnerable due to their congregatory behaviour.

At the IBA description you can see the "Qualifying birds" for the IBA, "Special birds" that are either Annex I species or migrant waterfowls/waders and "Common birds" that are characteristic for the area. For 78 "IBA Qualifying birds" you find description and recent information on their occurrence in Hungary.

You can select a Hungarian Important Bird Area through the interactive map, or through direct links below.

Hungarian IBAs Aggtelek Karst Bukk Mountains Kaszalo Wood of Abony Lower Tisza Valley Lake Balaton Béda–Karapancsa Inner Somogy Bihar Plain Bodrogzug–Taktaköz Borsodi-Mezőség Börzsöny Mountains Csanád Pusztas Cserebökény Pusztas of Szentes Jászság and South Heves Ecseg Pusztas of Dévaványa Velence Lake−Dinnyés Lake Dráva River North Bakony Mountains Upper Section of Tisza River Lake Fertő Gemenc Pusztas around Jászkarajenő (Gerje Plain) Hanság Hernád Valley Heves Plain Hortobágy and Lake Tisza Karancs–Medves Kesznyéten Pusztas Kolon Lake Middle Section of Tisza River Mátra Mountains Moson Plain Nagy-berek of Fonyód Őrség Pacsmag Lakes of Regöly Péteri Lake Putnok Hills Sárvíz Valley Alkaline Lakes of Kiskunság Sumony Fishpond Szatmár-Bereg Szigetköz Öreg Lake of Tata Flood Plain of Tiszaalpár Tolnai-Hegyhát Hódmezővásárhely Pusztas Vértes Mountains and Zámoly Basin Zemplén Mountains Zselic Hill

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Birding in Budapest

Budapest is the capital of Hungary, and with a population of 1.8 million citizens, it is the largest city in the country. The city is often referred to as the Paris of the East or Pearl of the Danube and definitely deserves these names. Thanks to its picturesque geographic situation on the two banks of the Danube, the capital can be an ideal place for unforgettable travels.

Beside the lots of must sees, Budapest also offers excellent birdwatching opportunities thanks to its large (near 100 hectares) parks, the Buda Hills and the Danube (in Hungarian Duna). The best places to see birds are marked on the map below:

Birding in Budapest Normafa Városliget Margitsziget

Városliget (City park) is a 100 hectares old park, behind Heroes Square. The area of today's City Park used to be a swamp where the Hungarian kings were elected between the 13th-16th centuries. It was also a favourite hunting ground of noblemen. Later trees were planted in the territory. The swamp had been drained and the field was transformed into an English-style park in the 18th-19th centuries. Budapest City Park was among the first public parks in the world open to people for relaxation purposes. The old woods of the City Park, its artificial ponds and the vicinity of the Zoo where birds can find free lunch offer excellent habitat for birds. You can see here:
Winter: Blackbird, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Fieldfare, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Hawfinch, Brambling, Black-headed Gull, Great Cormorant, Little Grebe, Mallard, Coot, Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Robin.
Summer: Blackbird, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Robin.
To get there: take the M1 Millennium underground line and get off at Hősök Tere (Heroes Square) or at Széchenyi Fürdő stations.

Margitsziget (Margaret Island)
is a 2,8 km long, and in the middle 500 m wide island in the Danube on the Northern part of the city. Its 96.5 hectares area is mostly covered by landscape parks, and is a popular recreational area. The island's attractions include romantic walkways, medieval ruins, a small zoo, musical fountain, a water tower, swimming pools, lido and a relaxing atmosphere. Thanks to the old woods, parks, and the Danube, many birds live or feed on the island.
Winter: Black-headed Gull, Rook, Hooded Crow, Mallard, Coot, Robin, Green, Great Spotted, Middle Spotted, Black Woodpecker, Mistle Thrush, Fieldfare, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Tawny Owl, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Hawfinch, Brambling.
Summer: Black-headed Gull, Hooded Crow, Mallard, Coot, Robin, Green, Great Spotted, Middle Spotted, Black Woodpecker, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Tawny Owl, Hawfinch, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch.
To get there: take tram 4 or 6 and get off at Margitsziget stop, or sit on bus 26 departing from Nyugati Railway Station, which travels through the island

Buda Hills, Normafa is a popular excursion and ski destination, on the Eastern skirts of the Buda Hills. The name is derived from the name of a tree, the "Norma tree." Traditionally the beech tree was planted by King Matthias Corvinus in the 15th century. The name stuck when performers from the Hungarian National Theater visited it, where they performed Vincenzo Bellini's Norma. Beside hiking, the location also offers picnicking and biking opportunities. There are also some small restaurants and food stands here if you get hungry. The birds you can find here:
Winter: Green, Grey-headed, Great Spotted, Middle Spotted, Lesser Spotted, Black Woodpecker, Hawfinch, Chaffinch, Brambling, Thrushes, Treecreeper.
: Green, Grey-headed, Great Spotted, Middle Spotted, Lesser Spotted, Black Woodpecker, Hawfinch, Chaffinch, Treecreeper.
To get there: take bus 21 at Széll Kálmán tér (aka Moszkva tér) and get off at Normafa bus stop.

Duna and Kopaszi gát (Danube and Kopaszi dyke) offer excellent opportunities to see various gulls all year. Since many birds follow rivers during migration in spring and autumn various migrants can be seen on the sky above Budapest including ducks, geese, egrets, herons.
Kopaszi gát is a recently opened public park south of Rákóczi híd (aka Lágymányosi híd) the most southern bridge in Budapest. A former 15 hectares brown field area was transformed into a nice recreational park. The Danube flows at one side of the dyke and on the other side you can see the Lágymányosi Bay. You can find several restaurants, pubs, toilets, playgrounds for children and lots of green areas here. The birds can be seen along the Danube and Kopaszi dyke are:
Winter: Caspian, Yellow-legged, Black-headed, Common Gull, Mallard, Coot, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Goldeneye, Ferruginous Duck, Smew, Kingfisher, Grey Heron, Great Cormorant, Robin, Winter Wren, Thrushes.
: Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Robin, Mallard, Great Cormorant, Caspian, Yellow-legged, Black-headed Gull.
To get to Kopaszi Dyke: use the Danube cruiser boat service of BKV (Budapest public transport company) and get off at Kopaszi gát. Or take bus 103 at Népliget (M3 metro station) and get off at Pázmány Péter sétány.

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