Birding in Hungary | Dávid Harangozó

Birding in Hungary

According to László Albert, professional birding tour organizer and leader, birdwatching trips are considered as one of the best outdoor team-building excersizes.

“Due to the unique geographical features of the Carpathian Basin, Hungary is one of the richest countries in Europe in terms of natural values, and so it’s probably the best choice in Eastern Europe for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts,” says László Albert, professional birding tour organizer and leader. “The fauna and flora here is very different from the European standard,” he continues, adding that for this very reason, he organizes his professional bird-watching tours mainly for foreigners and he has flocks of returning groups. “The famous Hungarian hospitality and excellent local cuisine also make Hungary an ideal destination for birding and natural history holidays. I’ve noticed that this kind of activity has become more and more welcomed in the corporate sphere as a new way for team-buildings.”

Hobby or obsession?

“Throughout our sweeping weekdays people can easily lose connection with the living nature,” says Albert. His decade old hobby eventually turned into a profession, in addition to his job at Budapest’s Zoo. “We, birdwatchers can see our object of interest almost anywhere and anytime. Whether being at home looking out of the window, crossing through a park or forest or driving, we might run a bird species that has not been seen or recognized before,” he explains. “And this is considered fun and exciting,” he laughs, at the look of our faces, as we journey to the Apaj Heath and the Ürbõ fishpond nearby, an area that provides opportunity to check out both overland and water birds.
Those, who have not experienced such a thing before, might reservedly approach this mystical activity and find it difficult to imagine that so many people follow this whim. However, this attitude changes immediately upon reaching a bird watching area. After running into a group of French birdwatchers, a lonesome Dutch turns up; Albert tells him where to go if he wants to see herons. Suddenly it seems everybody wants to observe birds and we do not understand why we have not recognized so far the people standing by the roads with special telescopes in their hands. During our journey, we saw bustards, red-footed falcons, teals, herons and also tiny, dreamy little villages with flowers everywhere, a very nice bartender and helpful locals, facing a completely different lifestyle from we normally see and follow.

On duty

If this activity becomes a passion, one might enrich themselves with a lot of exciting adventures, unusual situations and unforgettable moments. “We must always remember that birds are only parts of nature accompanied by many other different creatures. There are some birdwatchers who know the birds perfectly but do not recognize the tree on which a bird is sitting on or they cannot tell the difference between a shrew-mouse and a common mouse, Albert notes. “Bird watching should not narrow one’s horizon; but broaden it.”
After identifying a sitting bird and recognizing its characteristics; birdwatchers learn how to distinguish the species in unique, unusual circumstances, in uncharacteristic colors as well as in appalling visuals. Can you believe that an experienced field birdwatcher needs only a glance at a bird to identify it? “It is worthwhile to practice where birds are used to human presence as these species are less shy. When you watch a bird, try to identify its species,” Albert starts our training. “You must never forget that you are observing living animals which will not wait for you to be done with watching. On the contrary, they decide how long the “show” is going to last. The opportunity offered goes away within seconds.”

Birding in numbers

According to Albert, up to now, purportedly 401 bird species have been observed in Hungary. The tours he organizes take you to the world famous Hortobágy and Kiskunság National Parks, part of the once continuous Eurasian Steppe with its special landscapes. The grasslands, marshes and fishponds are a magnet for both breeding and migratory birds, while the forested Börzsöny, Bükk and Zemplén Hills in the North-Eastern part of Hungary are excellent for owls, woodpeckers, raptors and woodland birds. “There are, in fact, 43 important bird areas in Hungary, there is no county without at least one such area,” Albert adds.

Out of the regularly nesting 196 bird species in Hungary 75 are ranked as disparaging in terms of protection, while 121 species are safe. According to the extent of substance and the changes of that (based on the amount of decrease), 13 species are considered as imperiled. These are the following: booted eagle, hazel grouse, corn crake, collared pratincole, Kentish plover, white-winged tern, Eurasian eagle-owl, roller, greater short-toed lark, white throated dipper, thrush nightingale, rufous-tailed rock- thrush, ortolan bunting. A further 15 species are ranked as vulnerable, 17 as decreasing and 24 as so-called rare, furthermore 5 species are considered as pending on protection (black and white stork, white-tailed eagle, Eastern imperial eagle and saker falcon). In Hungary the first species protection plans were made in 1994. Several organizations deal with bird protection, this country has a great tradition of this activity.

Bird protecting campaign of BirdLife:

The BirdLife International, world association of bird-protecting organizations in which Hungary is represented by MME, has summoned an international communication program entitled Flyways to warn the world-wide scale problem of the ruinous substance decline of migrating birds. The aim of the "Born to travel" campaign is to draw the decision-makers and people's attention on the negative effects of climate changes and altered bird-areas. These weather and environmental effects highly affects the birds of agricultural areas, especially the long migrating species (to south from the Sahara). 2010 is the international year of bio-diversity after which Hungary is going to be the successive president of the EU in the first half of 2011 thus it will be Hungary's task to prepare the new European Union bio-diversity protection layout. The organization chose swallows as the birds of the year 2010 since the representatives of this species are highly concerned in the “Born to travel” and the bio-diversity topic. 

For more on birding trips, e-mail:

Réka Alíz Francisck

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