Birding Trip Report Crete

Many species of birds can be seen around Sfakia, Crete

squacco heronredfooted falconcrested larkbonelli's eaglesanderling

by Elke Döschle and Jörg Hönle, Germany

It was less a birding, but  more a 'relax and enjoy trip' for the two of us! I missed some of the good birds, but for them I just didn´t do enough! It would have meant a lot of driving, and that was just not the thing I wanted to do on such a short trip.

The weather was very good, although the wind was present far to often and also far to strong on some days. Temperatures between 18-25° C I would say. The water was  still cold, but it got warmer day by day (or was it me who got braver and more used to the coldness day by day?)

It´s a good time of the year, and here down south it is worth for another trip. Not so much the birding, but the relaxing pace and speed in this area, the flowers and plants, the smell of the herbs, the sound of the sea.

It was nice to get a small image of the bird migration worldwide: on some days a lot of birds, then almost nothing, and then other species than the day before.

Our apartement STUDIOS STAVRIS, which we found in the internet, was excellent and quiet: it was just us, the sea and one or two other couples there, we had our own stripe of beach (although for swimming the beach at the castle was better). I wouldn´t mind to come here again, and then -why not- 2 weeks earlier and one or two weeks longer :-)

Main places for observation:

map Sfakia, Crete

90% of the birding was done around Frangokastello, both west and east of our apartement. A special spot was the Venetian Castle there and the beach below the castle with ist little pool at the beach taverna. Frangokastello is a two-and-a-half-hour-drive from Heraklion Airport and is on the southwest coast of Crete.

  • • On the 1st of May we went to Plakias and visited the Kotsitos Gorge on our way
  • • On the 3rd of May we made a quick drive to the car parking, overlooking the Imbros Gorge
  • • On  the 6th of May I made a very early morning drive to  Preveli Beach and  the Kourtaliotiko Gorge
  • • On the way back to the Heraklion Airport we stopped on a parking spot above the Imbros Gorge, at the water reservoir in Georgioupoli, at Petres River and finally at the Geropotamos River


  • • in English: "A Birdwatching Guide to Crete" by Stephanie Coghlan (1996 first published, 4th edition)
  • • in German: "Reiseführer Natur Kreta" von Dagmar Lange & Monika Wächter (1999, BLV)

List of sightings (Lars Jonsson´s "The Birds of Europe")

  • A: Frangokastello
  • B: Imbros gorge
  • C: Kourtaliotiko and Kotsitos gorge
  • D: Plakias
  • E: Preveli beach
  • F: Georgioupoli
  • G: Petres river
  • H: Geropotamos river
  English German Place Numbers
1 Little Grebe Zwergtaucher F 5+
2 Shag                Krähenscharbe A 1
3 Little Bittern                            Zwergdommel A, D, E, G  
4 Night Heron      Nachtreiher A, E  
5 Squacco Heron Rallenreiher A, D, E, F,G 1-4 birds
6 Little Egret Seidenreiher A seen daily
7 Grey Heron Graureiher A 7 - 12
8 Purple Heron Purpurreiher A 4 - 12
9 Griffon Vulture Gänsegeier B,C,G 3 - 12
10 Montagu´s Harrier Wiesenweihe A 1,1
11 Marsh Harrier Rohrweihe A 1 - 3
12 Common Buzzard Mäusebussard A common
13 Bonelli´s Eagle Habichtsadler B 2 (1, 1)
14 Red-footed Falcon Rotfußfalke A and on road to Plakias up to 40
15 Kestrel Turmfalke   common
16 Eleonora´s Falcon Eleonorenfalke B only 1
17 Chukar Chukarhuhn Plakias and Preveli 1 seen, many heard
18 Quail Wachtel A one flushed
19 Little Crake Kleines Sumpfhuhn E around 6, m and f
20 Moorhen Teichhuhn E 1, 1
21 Coot Bläßhuhn F 6+
22 Ringed Plover Sandregenpfeifer A single birds
23 Little Ringed Plover Flußregenpfeifer A 1
24 Grey Plover Kiebitzregenpfeifer A 1
25 Turnstone Steinwälzer A 12
26 Sanderling Sanderling A single birds
27 Curlew Sandpiper Sichelstrandläufer A 1
28 Little Stint Zwergstrandläufer A up to 3
29 Temminck´s Stint Temminckstrandläufer A 1-2
30 Ruff Kampfläufer A 1
31 Greenshank Grünschenkel 1
32 Wood Sandpiper Bruchwasserläufer A 2 - 3
33 Common Sandpiper Flußuferläufer A single birds
34 Yellow-legged Gull Weißkopfmöwe   common
35 White-winged Black Tern Weißflügelseeschwalbe A 1
36 Woodpigeon Ringeltaube D just one
37 Rock Dove                               Felsentaube C, E  
38 Collared Dove Türkentaube A common
39 Turtle Dove Turteltaube   widespread, but rare
40 Cuckoo Kuckuck A 2
41 Scop´s Owl Zwergohreule C, road to Plakias 2 singing birds
42 Alpine Swift Alpensegler A, B, C, E  
43 Pallid Swift Fahlsegler A some
44 Swift Mauersegler   common
45 Hoopoe Wiedehopf A 2 sightings
46 Woodlark Heidelerche road to Plakias  
47 Crested Lark Haubenlerche    
48 Short-toed Lark Kurzzehenlerche A  
49 Crag Martin Felsenschwalbe B, C  
50 Sand Martin Uferschwalbe  A  
51 Red-rumped Swallow Rötelschwalbe A 2 times one bird
52 Swallow Rauchschwalbe    
53 House Martin      Mehlschwalbe    
54 White Wagtail      Bachstelze    
55 Yellow Wagtail      Schafstelze    
56 Whinchat          Braunkehlchen    
57 Stonechat         Schwarzkehlchen    
58 Northern Wheatear      Steinschmätzer    
59 Black-eared Wheatear Mittelmeer- Steinschmätzer  B and in Preveli Area  
60 Blue Rock Thrush Blaumerle A, B, C, E  
61 Blackbird Amsel    
62 Cetti´s Warbler Seidensänger not A, more D  
63 Great Reed Warbler Drosselrohrsänger E one at Preveli Beach
64 Reed Warbler Teichrohrsänger H some
65 Sardinian Warbler Samtkopf-Grasmücke   very common
66 Wood Warbler Waldlaubsänger  A one
67 Chiffchaff Zilpzalp A 2-3 birds
68 Pied Flycatcher Trauerschnäpper A all around the house
69 Collared Flycatcher Halsbandschnäpper A all around the house
70 Spotted Flycatcher Grauschnäpper  A all around the house
71 Blue Tit Blaumeise    
72 Great Tit Kohlmeise    
73 Woodchat Shrike Rotkopfwürger A on 6 occasions
74 Golden Oriole Pirol towards the end
75 Chough Alpenkrähe C  
76 Jackdaw Dohle C  
77 Raven Kolkrabe A, B, C  
78 Hooded Crow Nebelkrähe   common
79 Spanish Sparrow Weidensperling   common
80 Chaffinch Buchfink    
81 Greenfinch Grünfink    
82 Goldfinch Stieglitz    
83 Linnet Bluthänfling road to Plakias  
84 Corn Bunting Grauammer A small numbers
85 Peregrine/Lanner Wander- oder Lannerfalke B no safe identification
crested lark

Crested Lark

The main resident birds in the area of our apartement in Frangokastello were Crested Lark , Chaffinch and Collared Dove.

Migration did change a lot! At the beginning of the trip there were huge numbers of swifts and swallows and the red-footed Falcons could easily and daily be viewed on the fields while insect hunting (in groups of 4  to maximum 40).

On some days of the first half of the trips there have been 3 kinds of flycatchers around the house, at the end of the trip it were the yellow wagtails, which showed up in groups of 4 - 15 birds.



Waders showed up daily at our beach, mostly single Common Sandpiper, Ringed Plover and on two occasion a sanderling. At the beach below the castle there were Sanderling, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Ringed and Ringed Plover, Little Stints and Temmincks to see for a couple of  days.

A group of 12 Turnstones, a single Ruff (juv.) and a Grey Plover were obviously just stopping for a little while or at the most for one night.

squacco heron

Squacco Heron

The pool below the castle produced one male Little Bittern, one Night Heron, a few Little Egrets and Squacco Herons.

It was amazing to see groups of up to 14 purple herons to come in from the open sea. Little Egret and Squacco Herons seemed to migrate from bay to bay and were seen almost daily.

Bonelli's eagle

Bonelli´s Eagle

Birds of Prey: The Bonelli´s were a highlight, that´s for sure. Plenty of Griffon Vulture, but no Bearded Vulture.

redfooted falcon

Red-footed Falcon

The Red-footed Falcon was the TOP-Bird of Prey throughout the week, no doubt.

A Quail and two Hoopoes were quite a surprise, Woodchat Shrike as the only species of Shrikes was a bit of a disappointment.

On the trip back to the airport in Heraklion we stopped at  the mouth of  both the Petres and the Geropotamos River, both were rather dissapointing.

© Jörg Hönle, Pforzheim, Germany. Used by kind permission.

Hospitality Sfakia

Hospitality in Sfakia

The Sfakians are famous for their hospitality. The locals welcome their guests like friends. Many visitors come back to Crete to visit Sfakia year after year. Enjoy their generosity!

Impressive nature

Impressive nature

Rough white topped mountains up to 2453 metres high, split by 25+ gorges, fertile plains, forests, and the blue sea, and inbetween them small whitewashed villages with many coves and unspoilt beaches.

History and tradition

History and tradition

Brave people that have stood up against their many invaders, preserving their tradition of independence, celebrating their victories with music, poetry and dance, together with friends!