Chiara Talia

Birding and bird photography in Molise, Italy

Ever heard of Molise? No, right? That’s not surprising since Molise is the least-known region of Italy! Far away from most of the major tourist routes, this is the region I am originally from. And I’m excited to take you on a journey through my local birding patch there. Although I left the country a few years ago, I’m fortunate enough to return there quite often to visit my family and friends. Today, I’ll be sharing with you the wonders of spring and summer birding in this quiet, picturesque region and the fascinating species that call it home. 

MolIS or MolISN'T?

Nestled in the southern part of Italy, Molise remains an undiscovered region for most – not only internationals. In fact, even Italians don’t really know about it and there is a popular saying “Molise doesn’t exist” because of its quiet and uneventful reputation. With no major cities or tourist attractions, a sparse population, and serene landscapes, Molise is often overlooked. My small village, located about 20 km from the Adriatic Sea, sits atop a hill in this region. And actually I grew up in the countryside, between two hills, which create a picturesque valley, with mostly an agricultural landscape. 

Fields around my house at sunset

Re-discovering my Roots through Birding

I embarked on my birding journey less than 4 years ago, and I remember well the first time I returned home in Italy with my new birding eyes. I realised how rich this area is in birdlife and felt quite some regret for all the missed birdwatching opportunities during my earlier years here! The diversity of bird species in southern Italy, especially during spring and summer, really amazed me, as it is quite different with what I encounter in northern European countries like Belgium, where I am currently based.

Lesser kestrel hovering in typical open farmland habitat

My local birding patch

Before we start introducing the birds, let’s discuss the concept of a birding patch. A birding patch is essentially a place that birders can visit repeatedly throughout the year and even over many years. This allows them to really get to know the bird species and even the individual birds that inhabit the area. Birding patches provide a unique opportunity to observe seasonal changes and the behaviour of resident and migratory birds.

My local birding patch in Italy spans an area within a 3-km radius around my house. A portion of my birding adventure involves walking, while the other part is conducted by car, mainly on secondary gravel roads. The habitat is mainly semi-arid with open fields used for agriculture and sparse trees. 

So now it is time to officially introduce my italian bird neighbours! 


Corn bunting singing from treetop

A sparrow drama: Spanish and Italian Sparrows

My birding adventure begins just a few meters from my doorstep, where I encounter a few palm trees bustling with activity. These trees host a mixed colony of Italian and Spanish sparrows. While you may be familiar with house sparrows, Italy’s main sparrow species is the Italian sparrow. However, recent years have seen the expansion of Spanish sparrows into new territories, including my area. Last summer, Spanish sparrows colonized the palm trees near my house, marking a significant shift in the local bird population.

Italian sparrow (male) on the palm tree
Spanish sparrow (male) on the palm tree

The palm tree colony is now shared by both Spanish and Italian sparrows, a fascinating coexistence of two sparrow species. This year, I’ve noticed a more balanced population of the two species, unlike last summer when Spanish sparrows dominated the scene. Watching these colonies during the breeding season reveals a lively spectacle of nesting and chick-rearing.

Aside from Italian and Spanish sparrows, we also have a third sparrow species, the Eurasian tree sparrow, albeit in smaller numbers. 

Other bird friends...and enemies!

As I continue my birding round, it is time to introduce my bird nemesis: the Sardinian warbler. Everyone has a bird that simply can’t be seen or photographed. Despite the Sardinian warbler really lives at my doorstep, I heard it more times than I can remember and also spotted it frequently I struggled to get a good photo of it! This slightly changed during this spring when I finally managed to get a photo of not only a Sardinian warbler, but actually of a pair! The birds were pretty distant but this photo was for me GOLD!  

Sardinian warbler pair (female on the left, male in the center)


Red kites are all-year residents and they soar gracefully, while black kites make their seasonal appearance for breeding, enriching the birding experience. Beyond some other common resident birds as the Common buzzard and the Eurasian sparrowhawk, during spring and summer it is also possible to spot short-toed snake eagles (mainly immature birds) and European honey buzzards. This year for the first time I also saw a Montagu’s harrier. 

Red kite above my house
Black kite above my house

Farmland birds and abandoned farmhouses

The fields and farmlands come alive with the melodies of corn buntings and crested larks, filling the air with their distinctive calls.

Molise’s abandoned farmhouse buildings offer unique nesting sites for various bird species, such as Little owls and European rollersEuropean rollers prefer these abandoned farmhouses for nesting, as natural cavities are scarce.  European rollers are among the most colorful birds we can observe in Italy and over 30 breeding pairs make their homes in my region. I monitor one particular European roller pair nesting in an abandoned farmhouse just 500m from my house. And talking about colourful birds, European bee-eaters also made their appearance this spring!


European roller on a wire next to an abandoned farmhouse
European bee-eater


I have recorded 3 shrike species in my birding patch: woodchat shrike, red-backed shrike and the lesser grey shrike. And beyond these… many more. My goal is to keep birding in my local patch and see as many birds possible there, despite I can visit it only a few times per year. Below you can see the list of all the bird species which I was able to see in the past few years of birding. 


My Italian Local Patch bird list

  • Common wood pigeon
  • Collared dove
  • European turtle dove
  • Feral pigeon
  • Common quail
  • Common pheasant
  • Yellow-legged gull
  • Common swift
  • European honey buzzard
  • Short toed snake eagle
  • Western marsh harrier
  • Montagu’s harrier
  • Eurasian sparrowhawk
  • Red kite
  • Black kite
  • Common buzzard
  • European roller
  • Corn bunting
  • Cirl bunting
  • Eurasian scops owl
  • Little owl
  • European bee-eater
  • Common kestrel
  • Lesser kestrel
  • Red-footed falcon
  • Eurasian hobby
  • Eurasian golden oriole
  • Woodchat shirke
  • Red backed shrike
  • Lesser grey shrike
  • Eurasian jay
  • Common magpie
  • Hooded crow
  • Crested lark
  • Eurasian blue tit
  • Great tit
  • Long tailed tit
  • Zitting cisticola
  • Barn swallow
  • Sardinian warbler
  • Common whitethroat
  • Common chiffchaff
  • European starling
  • European serin
  • Common redstart
  • Black redstart
  • White wagtail
  • Common chaffinch
  • European goldfinch
  • Italian sparrow
  • Spanish sparrow
  • Eurasian tree sparrow

And if you’re curious to see how my typical birding round really looks like, I have a vlog on it!

As I conclude this birding adventure, I encourage you fellow bird enthusiasts to embrace the power and beauty of local birding. Select a local patch, explore it throughout the seasons, and get to know the birds that call it home. While traveling to distant places offers unique birdwatching experiences, there is a special connection that forms with the birds that share “Home” with you! 

Thank you for joining me on this journey. And remember to follow me on Instagram to stay updated on all my birding adventures!


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