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White Pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus), Harbour near Chania

Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus), Georgioupolis, Chania

Habitat, Agia Lake, Chania

Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides), Agia Lake, Chania

Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola), Agia Lake, Chania

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Coot with young (Fulica atra), Agia Lake, Chania

Bird Watching on Crete

Birds, bird watching and birding sites on Crete

Raptor (Bird of Prey), Chania Area
Raptor (Bird of Prey), Chania Area

Crete has a fantastic variety of birds, not only its resident bird species which are numerous and include rare and endangered birds but also the migrants who stop over on Crete during their migrations to and from Africa and Europe. The diversity of habitats and the richness of the environment on Crete for bird-life, results in an impressive species list and many unexpected surprises, especially during Spring and Autumn migrations. It is well worth coming on holidays in Crete to see these beautiful birds.

The range of habitats includes: mountains and their foothills; gorges; scrubland; the marine environment; coastal strip and cliffs; estuaries; freshwater lakes both natural and artificial; streams and seasonal rivers. Water is a very important consideration for all birds. During the Winter and Spring there are many rivers and torrents from Winter rainfall and the Spring melting of the snow from the mountains. Most rivers and torrents are dry by the end of May.

Alpine Chough - uncertain - (Pyrrhocorax graculus)
Alpine Chough - uncertain -
(Pyrrhocorax graculus)
Alpine Chough - uncertain - (Pyrrhocorax graculus)
Alpine Chough - uncertain -
(Pyrrhocorax graculus)

Birdwatching on Crete will take you into some of its most beautiful, isolated and unpopulated areas, particularly when you are looking for raptors such as eagles, vultures and falcons.

White Stork (Ciconia ciconia), near the village of Agia, Chania
White Stork (Ciconia ciconia), near the village of Agia, Chania

However, you don't have to go to special designated bird watching areas to encounter raritities. Surprises such as transient Cattle Egrets or Storks can turn up in busy villages during Winter and early Spring, wandering over lush grassland in search of food.

Winter visitors arrive from November onwards. Many rare and common bird species overwinter on Crete including: Black Redstarts; Bluethroats; Starlings; and Robins.

The Spring passage migrants appear from late March onwards through to May. Species include: Bee-eaters; Flycatchers; Golden Oriole; Grey Heron; Little Bittern; Little Crake; Little Egret; Night Heron; Northern Wheatear; Purple Heron; Wood Warbler. In spring, the south coast of Crete sees many flocks of migrating herons, egrets and ibises.

Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus), near Vistagi, Rethymnon
Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus), near Vistagi, Rethymnon

All the prefectures of Crete: Chania; Rethymnon; Heraklion and Lassithi are great places for observing Crete's birds. Each prefecture has its own individual characteristics and areas where you will find both the common bird species in abundance and also very specialised habitats which are favoured by some of Crete's rarest birds. Bird watching in Crete is a great activity for tourists, so when planning a trip, be sure to include this in your travel plans with the necessary supplies - travel cases, binoculars, or other items.

Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius), Samaria Gorge, Chania
Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius), Samaria Gorge, Chania
Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola), Agia Lake, Chania
Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola), Agia Lake, Chania

- Chania

Agia Reservoir is an excellent wetland site, notable for breeding birds and migrants. Dense reeds and trees around parts of the lake provide cover for breeding birds and shy species such as Bitterns. Many birds overwinter here. It is an important site for the threatened Ferruginous Duck.

Over 200 bird species have been recorded at Agia including Eleonora’s Falcon, Marsh Harrier, Garganey, Little Crake, Spotted Crake, Baillon’s Crake, Little Bittern, Night Heron, Squacco Heron, Whiskered Tern, Black Tern, White-winged Black Tern, Ruff, Wood Sandpiper, Greenshank, Spotted Flycatcher, Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Wood Warbler, Willow Warbler, Moustached warbler, Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin, Swift, Alpine Swift. Red-rumped Swallow, Collared Pratincole, Yellow Wagtail, Pygmy Cormorant, Black-winged Stilt, Pelicans.

While Spring and Autumn are the best times of the year for observing the migrants, there are birds at Agia Lake all year round. The area is rich in natural springs which feed the reservoir. The lake can be accessed at several points from the ain road between Chania and Omalos about 5 km south of Chania. Each access point has parking.

Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides), Agia Lake, Chania
Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides), Agia Lake, Chania
Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides), Agia Lake, Chania
Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides), Agia Lake, Chania

Georgioupolis lake just south of the town can be seen from the main highway between Rethymno and Chania. It is accessed from the town of Georgioupolis. Parking available by the roadside but it is within easy walking distance of the town so you don't have to drive.

Birds include: herons, terns, waders, migrant passerines, ducks, geese, coots, Black-winged stilt, Kingfisher and Great Reed Warbler. Little Grebe, Squacco heron, Coot.

Lake Kournas, a natural freshwater lake south of Georgioupolis. A new hide was erected in 2008. While the site is a magnificent one with the backdrop of the mountains rising from the waters edge, it is not as popular with birds as the lake at Agia. Species at Lake Kournas include: Black-necked Grebe, several species of ducks, warblers in the surrounding scrub. Some birds of prey can be seen.

The Almyrou delta and Georgioupolis Beach.

Akrotiri peninsula, just east of Chania. Good sites near Agia Triada and Moni Gouvernetou. Souda Bay at the Moronis River Lagoon, is a protected biotope listed as Pera. It is a good wetland area with species including: (Egretta garzetta), (Ardea cinerea), (Egretta alba), (Tringa tetanus), (Haematophus ostralegus), Kingfishers, Greenshank, Oystercatchers, Cormorants, Dippers, Coots.

The Tavronitis river mouth to the west of Chania. Birds include Osprey.

Tiganis Peninsula, north-west of Chania. Notable as a breeding area for Eleanora’s Falcon (Falco eleonorae) (Greek: Mavropetritis).

Rodopou and Gramvousa peninsulas.

Gramvousa Islet, off Balos Beach is a breeding area for several bird species.

Frangocastello coastal strip by the Venetian fort is a good for migrants such as Wryneck and Black-eared wheatear. The adjacent plain has low scrub, good for spectacled warblers. Other bird species sighted here include: Shag, Little Bittern, Squacco Heron, Night Heron, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Montagu's Harrier, Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard, Red footed Falcon, Kestrel, Quail, Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Turnstone, Sanderling, Curlew Sandpiper, Litle Stint, Temmicks Stint, Ruff, Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Yellow-legged Gull,White-winged Black Tern, Collared Dove, Cuckoo, Alpine Swift, Swift, Pallid Swift, Hoopoe, Short-toed Lark, Sand Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Swallow, House Martin, White Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail, Whinchat, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Sardinian Warbler, Wood Warbler, Chifchaff, Pied Flycather, Collared Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Woodchat Shrike, Golden Oriole, Raven, Hooded Crow, Spanish Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting.

Gavdos Island and Little Gavdos (Gavdopoula Island), off the coast of south Crete are important for shore and migratory birds. Accessed from south coast port towns such as Chora Sfakion.

The White Mountains (Lefka Ori) including gorges such as Agia Irini Gorge and Samaria Gorge are a large mountain range with excellent remote and isolated habitats ideal for raptors such as eagles, vultures and buzzards.

Imbros Gorge. Species include: Griffon Vulture, Bonelli's Eagle (Hieraaetus fasciatus), Eleonora's Falcon (Falco eleonorae), Alpine Swift, Crag Martin, Black-eared Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush and Raven.

In south-western Crete, Mount Koutroulis, Mount Agios Dikaios and the Modia Plateau are important biotopes for the rare Bearded Vulture

White Pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus), Harbour near Chania
White Pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus), Harbour near Chania
White Pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus), Harbour near Chania
White Pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus), Harbour near Chania

- Rethymnon

Rethymnon Prefecture has some of the highest mountain ranges on Crete with inaccessible peaks, providing an ideal habitat for many raptors and alpine species including Bearded Vultures (Gypaetus barbatus) and Golden Eagles (Aquila chrysaetos). The Psiloritis Range with Mt Ida, which is the highest mountain on Crete.


Kedros foothills.

The Potami Dam reservoir just south of Rethymno is a new large freshwater lake which was only completed in late 2008 but which is already proving very popular with a variety of Herons and other waterfowl. Species already include: Grey Heron; Squacco Heron; Coots. As the site matures, it will no doubt attract more species.

Kourtaliotiko and Kotsiphos Gorges.
North of Plakias is the Kourtaliotiko gorge. Parking is available in a layby halfway down the gorge, which gives magnificent views and is ideal for taking photographs. Kotsiphos gorge, north west of Plakias and parallel to Kourtaliotiko,is also an excellent birding area. Species include: Blue Rock Thrush; Raven; Chukar; Jackdaw; Rock Dove; Alpine Swift (Apus melba); Griffon vultures (Gyps fulvus) ; and Crag Martins.A great rarity which can be seen here if you are very fortunate, with less than a handful of pairs on the whole of Crete, are the Lammergeiers (Gypaetus barbatus).

The mountainous area around Moni Preveli is another excellent birding location in Rethymnon.
The trees and scrub by the monastery attract a variety of migrants. Species include Nightingales; Flycatchers; Turtle Doves; Golden Orioles; Ortolan Buntings; and Ruppell`s Warbler.

Preveli Beach.
Species include: Little Bittern; Night Heron; Squacco Heron; Little Crake; Moorhen; Rock Dove; Alpine Swift; Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius); and Great Reed Warbler.

The area of fields and scrub east of Plakias are popular with migrants. Species include: Montagu`s harrier; Short-toed Larks; Spanish Sparrow; and Woodchat Shrike. The rocky places around Plakias attract Rock Doves and the rare Eleonora's Falcon (Falco eleonorae). In Plakias Bay, Garganey can be seen. Other species in the area include: Little Bittern, Squacco Heron, Chukar, Wood Pigeon, Cetti's Warbler

Geropotamos River
Species include: Reed Warblers

Pertres River
Species include: Little Bittern; Squacco Heron; and occasionally Griffon Vulture

Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis), Platanes, Rethymnon
Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis), Platanes, Rethymnon
Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis), Platanes, Rethymnon
Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis), Platanes, Rethymnon

- Heraklion


Votamos Lake

Rouvas Gorge

Thrapsano Lake

Aposelemis River, Gouves Lagoons and the adjacent gorge: Migrants and breeding birds. Species include: Black-eared Wheatear; Black-winged Stilt; Buzzard; Garganey; Greater Flamingo; Griffon Vulture; Kestrel; Little Crake; Little Egret; Little Stint; Northern Wheatear; Purple Heron; Richard`s Pipit; Short-toed Lark; Sociable Plover; Stonechat; Woodchat Shrike; and Wood Sandpiper.

Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), Zaros Lake, Heraklion
Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), Zaros Lake, Heraklion
Little Bittern - adult (Ixobrychus minutus), Agia Lake, Chania
Little Bittern - adult (Ixobrychus minutus), Agia Lake, Chania

- Lasithi

Bramiana Reservoir, north east of Ierapetra. Birds including gulls and ducks in winter, migrating waders, birds of prey. Species include: Black-winged Stilt; Eleanora`s Falcon; Garganey; Glossy Ibis; Red-footed Falcon; Green Sandpipers; Wood Sandpipers.

Zakros Gorge and the area around Kato Zakros are excellent birding sites in the east of Crete.

The lagoon behind Chionia beach is good site for observing waterfowl.

Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus), Agia Lake, Chania
Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus), Agia Lake, Chania
Coot with young (Fulica atra), Agia Lake, Chania
Coot with young (Fulica atra), Agia Lake, Chania

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Books can be purchased online by clicking on the links below :

Bird watching on Crete

Bird watching in Greece

Useful Links

Fatbirder - Online guide to birds and bird watching worldwide

Crete Natural History Museum

Map of Bird Watching on Crete



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