Chiara Talia

Birds of Greece – exploring Athens and beyond

Hello fellow birdwatching enthusiasts! So, here’s the scoop – when I found out I was going to Greece, I wasn’t exactly thinking “birdwatching paradise.” Greece had always been more synonymous with ancient history, stunning landscapes, wonderful beaches, and sea for me. But let me tell you, I was in for a pleasant surprise.

My trip to Greece was primarily for personal reasons, and my schedule was quite tight. To make the most of my limited time and maximize my chances of spotting some incredible birds, I decided to join a birding tour. My guide for the adventure? Spyros from Greece Bird Tours, who kindly offered to bring me around!

My visit fell in end of September. While I had missed the chance to see some of the breeding birds, I was just in time to witness some of the migratory species passing through.

The birding adventure begins

My day began early, as it is usual for any birdwatcher. I met up with Spyros at a metro station, grabbed a delicious koulouri (a typical sesame bread ring) and a coffee to fuel our day, and we were off, leaving Athens behind.

Our destination was the Erythres Plain in the northern part of Attica. This area offers a mix of agricultural landscapes, including grape orchards, cotton and corn fields, along with pockets of natural beauty like rocky hills and macchia vegetation (typical Mediterranean shrubland).

Our first stop was like stepping into a bird carnival. Hundreds of Barn swallows were gearing up to leave Greece, and among them and the sand martins, I spotted my first “lifer” of the day: a Red-rumped Swallow. In birdwatching language, “Lifer” indicates a species you see for the first time in your life. 

Red-rumped swallow

Exploring greek countryside

As we ventured further, we came across… a Short-Toed Snake Eagle perched on a tree. What made this sighting quite special is that I had never seen this species in such a relaxed pose before. It was fascinating to appreciate the bird’s form and colors while it rested on the tree. It looks like all the short-toed snake eagles I often spot in Italy like only to fly!

The dominant species in the area turned out to be the Spotted flycatcher. These birds were everywhere, perching on conspicuous branches, hunting insects, and returning to the same spot. Their cooperative nature made them great subjects for bird photography. I obtained quite a few interesting photos, because 1) the background was very far away from the subjects and 2) the background was really varied with different colors thanks to the great agricultural variety of this region. A small selection of photos is below:

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, a Red-Breasted Flycatcher made a brief appearance. It perched for less than a minute, but allowing us to admire its characteristic upward-flicked tail. It was mind-blowing to think that this little bird was on its way to India!

Red-breasted flycatcher

We also had numerous encounters with Red-Backed Shrikes, mainly juveniles, which were extremely collaborative! 

Red-backed shrike

On the other hand, the Cirl Buntings, despite being resident species in the area, proved to be quite elusive and challenging to photograph. It was a reminder that bird photography can be quite unpredictable! It is just part of the experience! 

From Rocks to Raptors: The Thrill Continues

We then moved to an old quarry with rocky terrain, where we hoped to spot a special bird. After a bit of patience, the Western Rock Nuthatch, typically associated with rocky habitats, made an appearance. Luckily, they like to call from rock edges, so we were able to locate a few individuals.


Western rock nuthach

While we were on the lookout for the nuthatches, the Long-Legged Buzzard, a resident bird of Attica, swooped in, almost as if to steal the show. Two birds, possibly forming a pair, circled around us for quite a while, allowing me to admire their eagle-like silhouette with long, broad wings.

Long-legged buzzard in flight
Long-legged buzzard in flight

The surprises just kept on coming when Spyros spotted two Griffon Vultures soaring high in the sky. Though they were distant, the use of a spotting scope gave me a closer view.

In addition, we were also treated to a passage of at least ten European Honey-Buzzards, which was a delightful surprise as I have never seen this species from so close.

On the way back

During our drive, we were intrigued by an unfamiliar call, which led us to identify a Eurasian Wryneck (although we didn’t see it). We also briefly glimpsed a Syrian Woodpecker, though it was too quick for me to capture with my camera.

 In just a few hours, I was able to observe 47 different bird species, including several lifers. My birdwatching adventure in Greece far exceeded my expectations, and I’m already planning my next trip to explore more bird wonders in this beautiful country.

Red-backed shrike surrounded by insects in backlight

My Greek Bird List

This is the full list of the birds seen during the birding tour (except for the Blue rock thrush which I spotted on the next day when I was not even really birding!). In bold the lifers. 

  • Feral Pigeon
  • Collared Dove
  • Common Swift
  • European Honey-buzzard
  • Griffon Vulture
  • Short-toed Eagle
  • Common Buzzard
  • Long-legged Buzzard
  • European Bee-eater
  • Eurasian Wryneck
  • Syrian Woodpecker
  • Lesser Kestrel
  • Common Kestrel
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Red-backed Shrike
  • Eurasian Jay
  • Common Magpie
  • Hooded Crow
  • Common Raven
  • Eurasian Blue Tit
  • Great Tit
  • Crested lark
  • Sand Martin
  • Barn Swallow
  • Red-rumped Swallow
  • Wood Warbler
  • Willow Warbler
  • Common Chiffchaff
  • Eurasian Blackcap
  • Sardinian Warbler
  • Western Rock Nuthatch
  • Eurasian Blackbird
  • Spotted Flycatcher
  • European Robin
  • Red-breasted Flycatcher
  • Common Redstart
  • European Stonechat
  • Northern Wheatear
  • Eastern Black-eared Wheatear
  • House Sparrow
  • Grey Wagtail
  • Western Yellow Wagtail (feldegg)
  • Common Linnet
  • European Goldfinch
  • Corn Bunting
  • Cirl Bunting
  • Blue rock thrush

Want to learn more about birds of Greece and the available tours of Greece Bird Tours? Check their website!

And if you want to see more photos and videos from the trip, you can also have a look at this Reel I shared on Instagram. 

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


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