Surrounded by three continents, Cyprus is an important migratory junction for birds. Millions of birds pass through the island every autumn and spring. Some birds arrive in spring and spend the summer in Cyprus to breed, some birds winter in Cyprus, escaping the cold harsh winters of mainland Europe and many more are passage migrants, that just use Cyprus as a stopover to briefly rest and refuel, before continuing their long journeys.
One of the most important, diverse and species-abundant areas of the island is the Akrotiri Peninsula, where more than 300 bird species are recorded here so far. Birds are using the area for wintering and migration, roosting, resting and feeding. Freshwater and saline habitats, as well as sand dunes and shingle coasts, provide great habitats for large congregations of water birds, such as Greater Flamingo. Additionally, there are agricultural fields, orchards and forested areas (mainly eucalyptus). The peninsula is also a raptor bottleneck site in the autumn with European Honey Buzzard the most numerous, but with good numbers of Black Kite, harriers and falcons, such as Red-footed with the occasional Saker and Levant Sparrowhawk, and eagles such as Lesser Spotted, Short-toed Snake Eagle and Booted. Demoiselle Crane occur at the end of August and early September in variable numbers. Episkopi Cliffs have a breeding colony of Eleonora’s Falcon in the summer, as well as Alpine Swift and also the cliffs are one of the last roosting and nesting places of the Griffon Vulture on the island. The marshes and reed-beds hold crakes and various heron species during migration with a breeding colony of Black-crowned Night Heron at Zakaki. Spur-winged Lapwing and Ferruginous Duck breed at Akrotiri Marsh (also known as Phassouri Reed-beds). The eucalyptus plantations at the entrance to Akrotiri Marsh are a good place to watch for migrating raptors during early autumn afternoons. Larks and pipits use the salt flats to the south of the marsh and waders rest at some of the pools in that area – known as the Gravel Pits. Gardens and orchards in the area are used for flycatchers, warblers and shrikes. Flocks of ducks, mainly Garganey, can rest in the bay to the west of the Gravel Pits.
Akrotiri peninsula supports an important breeding population of bird species. Specifically, the site is one of the five most important sites in Cyprus for breeding populations of Black-winged Stilts (Himantopus himantopus), Kentish Plovers (Charadrius alexandrinus), and Spur-winged Lapwings (Vanellus spinosus), which are all considered threatened within the European Union. The site is also amongst the best breeding sites in Cyprus for the Ferruginous Duck (Aythya nyroca), a species of global conservation concern. Worth also mentioning the Reed Warbler and the Black-headed Yellow Wagtail, which breed only at a few sites in Cyprus.