Join us as we take a closer look at 12 different species of birds of prey that you can spot in Croatia.
Nestled along the Adriatic Sea, Croatia’s landscape is as varied as its avian residents. From the serenity of Plitvice Lakes to the ruggedness of the Dinaric Alps, the Croatian skies hold tales of ancient feathers and age-old flights. Journey with me as we unveil five enthralling birds of prey that grace this Slavic land.
1. Rough-legged Buzzard (Buteo lagopus)
Venturing from the Arctic tundras in the colder months, the Rough-legged Buzzard is a winter guest in Croatia. With feathered legs (a rare trait among buzzards) and a conspicuous belly band, it’s distinct in appearance. Hunting from a perch or hovering, they primarily feed on small mammals. The northern parts of Croatia, especially around the Podravina region, offer glimpses of these winter wanderers.
2. Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)
Also found in Croatia, this majestic bird’s golden nape stands out against its brown plumage. The rugged terrains of the Dinaric Alps and the Velebit Mountain Range are its playgrounds. From high vantage points, it scans for prey, swooping down with unmatched precision on mammals like marmots and hares. Their aerial displays, especially during courtship, are a dance of raw power and elegance.
3. European Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus)
Don’t let the name fool you! Despite being called a ‘buzzard’, this bird has an uncanny resemblance to kites. And the ‘honey’? Well, it refers to its taste for bees and wasps. With a slender body, long wings, and a distinctive face, the Honey Buzzard is fascinating to watch, especially when it raids wasp nests. Croatia’s dense forests, particularly in regions like Gorski Kotar, serve as prime habitats for these unique birds during their summer visits.
4. Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)
This petite raptor, with its sharp gaze and barred underparts, is a common sight across Croatia. From gardens to forests, its presence is widespread. With a burst of speed, it often ambushes small birds, making it a formidable predator. During migration seasons, the islands of the Adriatic Sea, like Cres and Krk, witness a flurry of these raptors.
5. Eastern Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca)
A more rare and regal presence, the Eastern Imperial Eagle, is a sight to behold. Sporting a dark brown body with a characteristic white shoulder patch, this bird enjoys the open landscapes of Croatia. Preying mainly on mammals and birds, they have a stately demeanor, whether in flight or perched. The plains around the Danube, especially near the Kopacki Rit Nature Park, offer chances to spot this magnificent eagle.
6. Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus)
Croatia’s mosaic of landscapes is also home to this specialized hunter. As the name suggests, its preferred meal is snakes, including venomous ones. With a light underbelly and a dark upper body, it soars high, using its keen eyesight to spot serpentine prey. The karst regions, with their rocky outcrops, are prime territories for this eagle. Places like the Paklenica National Park offer glimpses of their skyward soars.
7. Lanner Falcon (Falco biarmicus)
The Lanner Falcon, with its sleek grey-brown body and a reddish back of the head, is a speed demon. These birds prefer rocky terrains and open plains, hunting birds and large insects mid-air with agility. Their spectacular aerial maneuvers, especially during courtship, are a delight. The rocky outcrops along the Dalmatian coast provide a picturesque backdrop to witness these falcons in action.
8. Black Kite (Milvus migrans)
With a forked tail and an agile flight, the Black Kite often graces Croatia’s skies, especially during migration. They’re scavengers as much as they are hunters, feeding on carrion, fish, and small mammals. Their aerial displays are a mix of graceful glides and swift maneuvers. The wetlands and river valleys, notably areas around the Drava River, are ideal locales to witness these birds.
9. Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo)
Ubiquitous across Europe, the Common Buzzard is equally at home in Croatia. Their variable plumage, ranging from deep brown to whitish undersides, often causes excitement (and sometimes confusion) among enthusiasts. With broad, rounded wings, these birds of prey love soaring over open fields and woodlands, searching for rodents and other small prey. The hinterlands of Istria and Slavonia are particularly good spots to see these birds, especially during the cooler months.
10. Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)
Synonymous with sheer speed, the Peregrine Falcon is the fastest animal on the planet, diving at speeds over 240 mph to catch its prey. With a blue-grey back, barred underparts, and a strong, black mustache, its appearance is as striking as its hunting prowess. Coastal cliffs, urban landscapes, and mountain ranges in Croatia, such as those near Paklenica, offer a window into their world, watching them hunt or tending to their cliffside nests.
11. Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis)
Silent and deadly, the Goshawk reigns supreme in Croatia’s dense forests. Its dappled plumage makes it a master of camouflage. This woodland sentinel preys on unsuspecting birds and mammals, using its agility to weave between trees. The dense woodlands of Gorski Kotar are prime territories for these secretive hunters.
12. Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus)
This medium-sized eagle has a compact build and is known for its two distinct color morphs – pale and dark. They primarily hunt small mammals and birds, utilizing a mix of soaring and perch-hunting techniques. Croatia’s varied landscapes, especially the regions around Plitvice Lakes National Park, are frequented by this eagle, making it a cherished sight for many bird enthusiasts.