One of the most important sites for bird watching in Cyprus is Akrotiri Peninsula. Akrotiri Peninsula due to its variety of habitats– coastal cliffs, Salt Lake and flats, reed beds, woodland, gravel pits and maquis–is an exciting birdwatching area, with an interesting mix of species throughout the year, and especially during the migration seasons, i.e. spring and autumn.
Akrotiri Peninsula is a large area and it is easy to just visit one of the locations mentioned below, for example the Marsh, or spend the whole day in the area stopping at all locations mentioned. Public transport is available to the Mall, from which it is possible to walk to Zakaki Marsh and the eastern end of Lady’s Mile. To explore the other locations mentioned a car is necessary. It is easy to drive, park and walk. The whole area is within the Western SBA and visitors should be aware that the RAF Akrotiri base itself and the southern cliffs (the ‘foot’ of the peninsula) are fenced off and out of bounds and that there are other – well signposted – military areas where discretion in the use of optics and cameras is advisable.
Further information of the best bird watching sites in Cyprus (and Akrotiri) can be found in the book “Birdwatching in Cyprus: Where to go and what to look out for” which is available to buy on: https://shop.birdlifecyprus.org/en/product/birdwatching_in_cyprus/
The key birding sites of Akrotiri Peninsula :
Akrotiri Marsh (Phasouri Reed-beds)
An area of freshwater marsh and reed beds hosting a rich variety of birds, as well as rare and threatened plant species. Free ranging cattle of the unique Cyprus local breed are in the area in order to sustainably graze the vegetation of the marsh. There is a road all along the edge of the marsh, that is possible to carefully walk or drive along. There are two hides, the tall hide is situated at the east end of the marsh and the ground hide is found a third of the way along the road heading west.
Species Highlights: Ferruginous Duck, Little Bittern, Collared Pratincole, Red-footed falcon, Jack Snipe, Bluethroat, Mustached Warbler, Spur-winged Lapwing, Western Yellow Wagtail, Black Francolin
Zakaki Marsh (also known as Lake Makria)
This natural marsh hosts important bird species, especially during the migration seasons. When the reed cover is not too dense, from the newly renovated overlooking hide it is possible to observe Herons, Egrets and Glossy Ibises. The Lake is also one of the few nesting areas of the Ferruginous duck. During late summer afternoons, swifts and swallows are gathering in large numbers to roost in the area.
Species Highlights: Ferruginous Duck, Purple Heron, Eurasian Penduline Tit, Moustached Warbler, Bluethroat, Squacco Heron, Little Egret
Lady’s Mile pools
This is the area of coastal dunes, salt lagoons and mud flats on either side of the road that runs along the eastern side of the Salt Lake. Kentish Plover and Black winged stilts breed here and are usually present all year, even when the area is dry.
Greater Flamingo feed here, and when the water levels are right in the spring feeding migrant waders occur too. Wheatears feed in the sand dunes when on migration, and shrikes, warblers, pipits and larks use the bushes inland from the salt flats.
Species Highlights: Little Egret, Black-winged Stilt, Kentish Plover, Citrine Wagtail, Greater Flamingo.
A relatively small, artificial lake on a fenced private land. Bishop’s Pool itself is inside the fenced area and access may not be possible. If it is possible to gain entrance, the main gate should never be left open by visitors as the area is a working farm. Soaring raptors can be observed over this area and over the pool itself and heron species and raptors roost in the surrounding groves during migration. The trees and the fields around the pool may hold feeding warblers.
Species Highlights: Ferruginous Duck, Little Bittern, Red-footed Falcon, Little Egret, Moustached Warbler, Eleonora’s falcon.
Akrotiri Salt Lake
Akrotiri Salt Lake, situated in the heart of the Akrotiri peninsula, is the island’s largest Salt Lake and one of the most important wetlands in the Eastern Mediterranean region, it is designated as a RAMSAR site, IBA, SPA and a SAC. Akrotiri Salt Lake is a popular wintering spot for flamingos, and is being used by thousands of water birds, which use the area as a vital stopover during the migration period. The Salt Lake can be viewed from several locations around it, such as the outdoor observation area of the AEEC, but access to its shores is limited and if approached should be with caution.
Species Highlights: Greater Flamingo, Common Shelduck, Honey buzzard, Red-footed falcon, Demoiselle Crane, Little Egret, Ferruginous Duck, Kentish Plover.
Akrotiri Gravel Pits (Akrotiri Merras)
This gravel pits area, found to the west of the main Salt Lake and behind Akrotiri village, includes salt flats, shingle coasts, sand dunes, small pools, scrub and gardens and is extremely interesting for birdwatching in the area. The sand dunes are not only an important home to birds but also to rare flora and fauna, such as the Fringe-fingered lizard. The gardens of the Agios Georgios chapel found in Merras area and the scrub and rocky surrounds, are feeding grounds for several small birds, such as warblers, buntings, pipits, wheatears, and flycatcher. The dunes and salt flats are ideal for migrating waders, such as sandpipers, lapwings and plovers. In autumn, migrating raptors can also be observed in the area.
Species Highlights: Greater Sand Plover, Cream-coloured Courser, Greater Short-toed Lark, Red-backed Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Collared Pratincole, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Kentish Plover, Blue cheeked Bee eater, Montagu’s harrier, Citrine wagtail.
Episkopi Cliffs are overlooking Zappalo beach and are home to the largest Griffon Vulture colony in Cyprus. These awe-inspiring cliffs also attract breeding pairs of Peregrine and Eleonora’s Falcons, drawn here by the safety and inaccessibility of the area.
Species Highlights: Griffon vulture, Peregrine Falcon, Eleonora’s Falcon, Blue Rock Thrush, Wallcreeper, Cyprus Warbler