Poecile palustris ■ Pátka, Hungary ■ Despite the name, I have never seen this species in a marsh. It prefers deciduous woodlands. It is recognized by the very small bib and by the call. It will join mixed flocks of tits, but you rarely see more than one or two at a time. It doesn’t form large, loose flocks with its own species like you see with Great Tits.
Phylloscopus humei ■ Ocsa, Hungary ■ An Asian species that on rare occasions wanders into Europe, usually during late fall. Members of the Phylloscopus genus are known as leaf warblers and the ID challenge is similar to the Empidonax flycatchers of the Americas. They all look similar and very tough to separate in the field if they are not singing.
Phalaropus lobatus ■ Pátka, Hungary ■ The three members of the Phalaropus genus are unusual in that the male and female roles during breeding are reversed. The females are the more colourful and aggressive, and after laying the eggs, it is the male that will incubate the eggs and raise the young, while mom goes to the casino. :D
Calidris canutus ■ Balatonfenyves, Hungary ■ Named after 11th century Norwegian King Canute, this medium-sized shorebird is another champion migrant. It breeds in the high arctic and migrates all the way to South America, South Africa and Australia for the winter. During breeding season, it is rust coloured but for most of the rest of the year it is a dull grey. The scaly appearance on the back of this individual indicates it is a juvenile.
Anthus trivialis ■ Bugyi, Hungary ■ Pipits are small, migratory passerines that like wide open, treeless countryside. This pipit, however, can often be found near trees and along forest edges, hence the common name. One of the field marks of this species is that the streaks along the flanks are much finer than on the breast, compared to the similar Meadow Pipit that has uniform streaks.
Falco tinnunculus ■ Male ■ Bugyi, Hungary ■ Kestrels are small, open country falcons that eat mostly rodents and large insects like dragonflies. They commonly hover in one place while they search for prey.
Limosa lapponica ■ Balatonfenyves, Hungary ■ This species is a champion migrant with the Alaska breeding populations flying non-stop for 10 days to New Zealand every fall. European birds don’t travel quite so far, breeding in Iceland and Norway and wintering in West Africa.
Calidris alpina ■ Pátka, Hungary ■ One of the commonest and widespread sandpipers in the northern hemisphere. This individual is showing hints of its breeding plumage with traces of rust on the shoulder, cap and ear patch. Most of the year the upperparts are a plain, dull greyish brown.
Buteo buteo ■ Bugyi, Hungary ■ This is the commonest hawk in much of Europe. It specializes in small rodents but, like most raptors, it is an opportunist. It will steal prey from other raptors and sometimes eat carrion.
Phylloscopus trochilus ■ Budapest, Hungary ■ One of the commonest and widespread old world leaf warblers. Juveniles in the fall, like this one, are very yellow, but the yellow fades to only a dull wash on the throat and undertake coverts by the time they acquire their adult plumage.
Budapest, Hungary ■ Two nightingale species are found in Europe. Left: Common Nightingale (Luscinia megarynchos) found in the western part of the continent. Right: the duller eastern counterpart, the Thrush Nightingale (Luscinia luciscinia). Both are incredible songsters.
Locustella fluviatilis ■ Budapest, Hungary ■ The scalloped appearance on the undertail coverts (due to white feather ends) is a diagnostic field mark of this species. That is, when you can see them. Very difficult to see in he field as they always stay deep under cover, even when singing.
Locustella luscinioides ■ Budapest, Hungary ■ A long, dry, insect-like trill coming from dense reed beds indicates a Savi’s Warbler is present. All Locustella species found in Hungary have very long undertail coverts, typically reaching to the end of the tail. This distinctive shape at the back end helps identification when they are not singing.
Coracias garrulus ■ Bugyi, Hungary ■ This large, powerful songbird often sits on wires to scan for food. It primarily eats large bugs but will take anything it can catch and subdue including frogs, lizards, mice and small birds. Satellite telemetry has indicated that many of the Rollers summering on the Hungarian plains, winter in Botswana.
Locustella naevia ■ Budapest, Hungary ■ A bird of open prairie and scrubland, it eschews anywhere where there are too many trees. Like many warblers in the Locustella genus, it sings like an insect. The soft, high pitched staccato trill can easily be overlooked.
Sylvia borin ■ Budapest, Hungary ■ Most European Warblers are plain, and this species is the plainest of the plain. What it lacks in bling, though, it makes up for with a robust, rolling song. The faint grey wash behind the ears and across the nape is a characteristic field mark.
Galerida cristata ■ Csákvár, Hungary ■ This lark likes bare dirt and freshly ploughed farm fields. It is resident through most of its range which encompasses Europe, North Africa and Central Asia.
Sylvia atricapilla ■ Budapest, Hungary ■ Male left and female right. One of the commonest European warblers. Largely resident in Western Europe but migratory in the eastern part of the continent. A few can usually be found in winter in Hungary.
Platalea leucorodia ■ Rétszílas, Hungary ■ The most widespread of the world’s six spoonbill species, it breeds from Western Europe to Japan and winters in Africa, the Middle East, India and Southeast Asia.
Great Reed Warbler
Acrocephalus arundinaceous ■ Apaj, Hungary ■ This largest European warbler usually delivers its loud, grinding, metallic song from deep in the cover of dense reed beds. The genus name Acrocephalus mans “peaked head”.
Ciconia ciconia ■ Apaj, Hungary ■ An iconic bird of Hungarian farms and villages, this species has benefited from man’s activity, as forests have been cleared for farmland. It is much more tolerant of human activity compared to Black Storks.
Chroicocephalus ridibundus ■ Rétszílas, Hungary ■ This small gull is the commonest in Central Europe by a huge margin. In Hungary, approximately 75 to 80 percent of all gulls you see will be this species. It is resident but will drift south in the winter if all the water is frozen.
Western Marsh Harrier
Circus aeruginosus ■ Female ■ Bugyi, Hungary ■ This is the largest and bulkiest harrier species in Europe. It used to be strictly a summer bird in Central Europe, but a succession of mild winters means it is not so unusual now to see them in the winter.
Curruca curruca ■ Rétszílas, Hungary ■ Slightly smaller and plainer than the Common Whitethroat, its rattling call is a familiar spring sound in Hungary. Like many old world warblers, this species is insectivorous but will also eat fruit during migration.
Vanellus vanellus ■ Bugyi, Hungary ■ This big, noisy plover is very common on farmlands and wetlands in Europe. Shorebirds generally have pointy wings, but not the lapwings. They have broad rounded wings… as round on the end as a frying pan.
Emberiza calandra ■ Bugyi, Hungary ■ This is one of the largest buntings in the world, and unlike most other buntings, male and female plumage is identical. Its stuttering trill is an iconic sound of summer on the Hungarian puszta.
Curruca communis ■ Female ■ Kunpeszér, Hungary ■ Lack of a contrasting greyish head identifies this as a female. This species likes open, bushy country and is found across Europe. It winters in sub-saharan Africa.
Turdus merula ■ Male ■ Budapest, Hungary ■ This handsome thrush is in the same genus as the American Robin, and like the latter species, is very comfortable living in close proximity to humans. The commonest thrush in urban parks and gardens in Europe.
Strix uralensis ■ Cserépfalu, Hungary ■ Scandinavia and the montane forests of Eastern Europe are the western limit of this owl’s range, which extends right across Siberia and northern China to Japan. It prefers mature forests (either conifer, deciduous or mixed) and the bulk of its diet is voles and other small mammals.
Emberiza cia ■ Bélapátfalva, Hungary ■ Found mostly around the Mediterranean Basin and the Caucasus, this bunting likes dry, rocky terrain. It is locally common in Hungary in the right habitat but is more common in the winter. In the summer it likely moves to higher elevations to breed.
Netta rufina ■ Délegyháza, Hungary ■ This large, flamboyant diving duck is a summer visitor to the Carpathian Basin. Small numbers can be found in the winter but most retreat to southern, sunnier climates during the cold months. The male’s spectacular colours make this species a favorite in zoos and waterfowl collections.
Sturnus vulgaris ■ Csákvár, Hungary ■ Because it is such a common bird, we sometimes overlook just how beautiful a starling is in its breeding plumage. There are close to 50 starling species in the world, but this is the only one found in Europe. Same family as the mynas.
Dryocopus martius ■ Csákvár, Hungary ■ This is Eurasia’s largest woodpecker. It has a huge range extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific, but strangely it is not found in the British Isles. This female is busy excavating her nest hole.
Greater White-fronted Goose
Anser albifrons ■ Pátka, Hungary ■ In November every year, hundreds of thousands arrive in the Carpathian Basin from their arctic breeding grounds to spend the winter. It is the commonest wild goose species in the winter in Hungary.
Ardea cinerea ■ Pátka, Hungary ■ People generally don’t think of herons as predators but they are, big time. They are opportunists and will catch and kill anything they can swallow including fish, amphibians, reptiles, rodents and other small birds.
Regulus regulus ■ Szilvásvárad, Hungary ■ This is the type species for the Regulus genus, the same genus that includes North America’s Golden-crowned Kinglet. Due to its tiny size, drab plumage and weak vocalizations, it is very easy to overlook. It is partial to conifers.
Middle Spotted Woodpecker
Leiopicus medius ■ Uszód, Hungary ■ This medium sized European woodpecker is resident and rather sedentary throughout its range. It prefers mature deciduous forests. This individual looks somewhat scruffy, but I think it is only because it is a young bird having fledged not too long ago.
Acrocephalus schoenobaenus ■ Pátka, Hungary ■ This is one of the five common “reed” warblers found in Hungary, although it can also be found in brushy areas away from water. It is also one of the most vocal. Whistling phrases between staccato chatter is diagnostic of this bird’s song, and it frequently does short song flights during breeding season.
Arenaria interpres ■ Juvenile ■ Balatonfenyves, Hungary ■ This holarctic sandpiper has a very appropriate name. The adults are a bright, rusty colour and they turn over small stones and pebbles to search for bugs underneath.
Lanius collurio ■ Male ■ Apaj, Hungary ■ In late summer, this is one of the commonest birds on the Hungarian puszta but roughly 90% are juveniles like this bird. By September most of the adults have left on their migration to Africa.
Tringa erythropus ■ Pátka, Hungary ■ This large shorebird’s pale grey plumage turns jet-black at the height of the breeding season in May/June. Looks very cool but unfortunately the black plumage doesn’t last long. It is probably the most northerly breeder of all Tringa species.
Tringa nebularia ■ Pátka, Hungary ■ This large shorebird is the Eurasian counterpart to North America’s Greater Yellowlegs. Like most Tringa species, it is a subarctic breeder, wintering in the tropics. The slightly upturned bill is a diagnostic field mark.
Athene noctua ■ Kunpeszér, Hungary ■ Found across Eurasia, this is the commonest owl in the Hungarian farmland. It prefers open country rather than woods, and feeds primarily on small rodents. It is mostly nocturnal but often can be seen out and about during the day.
Muscicapa striata ■ Kunpeszér, Hungary ■ This flycatcher is a common summer resident in Europe but easily overlooked because of its small size, drab plumage and weak vocalizations. It is an easy ID as it is the only European flycatcher with a streaked forehead.
Actitis hypoleucos ■ Solt, Hungary ■ This is Europe’s counterpart to North America’s Spotted Sandpiper. It is found in a variety of habitats sometimes far from water and it is in perpetual motion, constantly bobbing up and down.
Falco vespertinus ■ Female ■ Dunatetétlen, Hungary ■ A small falcon of eastern Europe and Western Asia, it hunts mostly large insects in open grassland. They migrate all the way to south Africa to spend the winter. Like many falcons, they don’t build their own nest but will take over an old crow, rook or magpie nest.
Merops apiaster ■ Kunpeszér, Hungary ■ There are 27 species of Bee-eaters scattered across Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia and all of them sport spectacular colors. As the name suggests, they specialize in hunting bees and other flying insects. They rub the bee against a hard surface to knock the sting off while applying pressure with the beak to squeeze out the venom. Then it’s down the hatch!
Carpodacus erythrinus ■ Köszeg, Hungary ■ This finch has a huge range extending through much of Eurasia, but it is rare in Western Europe. Hungary is about the western limit of its range, where it is regular but very local.
Egretta garzetta ■ Aba, Hungary ■ This small heron is the Eurasian counterpart to America’s Snowy Egret. It is resident in most of its range but European populations migrate to Africa during the winter. Like all herons, it will eat anything it can catch and swallow including fish, amphibians, lizards, mice, large insects and even baby birds.
Otis tarda ■ Bugyi, Hungary ■ This large Eurasian bustard is classified as vulnerable due to widespread habitat loss. It has very patchy distribution in Europe with Spain and Hungary being the populations strongholds.
Lanius collurio ■ Male ■ Apaj, Hungary ■ This is Hungary’s most common shrike species. It is present during the spring and summer and spends winters in Africa. It feeds primarily on large insects.
Strix aluco ■ Rácalmás, Hungary ■ A pair of jays alerted me to the presence of this owl. It was so well hidden in the thickest, densest part of the branches that it took me a while to find it. When I did there was just no way for a clear photo.
Oenanthe oenanthe ■ Bugyi, Hungary ■ Wheatears are small, open country passerines belonging to the family of old world flycatchers. There are 29 species of wheatear and this one, as the name suggests, is the most northern and the most widespread of all.
Upupa epops ■ Kunpeszér, Hungary ■ This spectacular bird nests in holes and cavities and forages on the ground for beetles, grubs and worms. There used to be only one Hoopoe species, but now the South African and Madagascar populations are officially recognized as separate species.
Corvus frugilegus ■ Budapest, Hungary ■ The rook is a very common and highly social corvid found right across Eurasia. It is distinguished from all other corvids in its range by the bare patch of skin at the base of the beak. Their large, communal nest sites is where the term “rookery” come from.
Eastern Imperial Eagle
Aquila heliaca ■ Juvenile ■ Apaj, Hungary ■ Pale brown body, dark flight feathers and tail, fine streaks across the breast and pale “windows” in the inner primaries make an unmistakable flight pattern for young Imperial Eagles. This species is officially referred to as “Eastern” Imperial Eagle only to distinguish it from the Spanish Imperial Eagle (Aquila adalberti).
European Crested Tit
Lophophanes cristatus ■ Balatonfenves, Hungary ■ In Hungary, this tit is generally found only in large stands of tall conifers. It has a soft, rattling call that is unlike any other European tit.
Prunella collaris ■ Tapolca, Hungary ■ A small passerine resident in high mountain regions above the treeline in southern Europe and parts of Asia. In winter, small groups can be found in the lowlands in micro-habitats similar to what would be found in the mountains, such as rock quarries.
Eurasian Blue Tit
Cyanistes caeruleus ■ Kunpeszér, Hungary ■ This is the second most common European Tit after the Great Tit. It is found everywhere from the Mediterranean to subarctic Scandinavia. It prefers mixed deciduous woodlands, and in winter can often be found in marshes and reedbeds.
Ardea alba ■ Apaj, Hungary ■ This is one of the world’s most widespread heron species, being found in North America, South America, Africa, Europe and parts of Asia.
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
Dryobates minor ■ Male ■ Pátka, Hungary ■ Europe’s smallest woodpecker.
Oenanthe oenanthe ■ Bugyi, Hungary ■ The parents have gone and now this hatch year bird is left to figure out the migration business on its own. No instruction manual, no Google, no Trip Advisor …. it just has to “wing it”. :D
Phoenicurus ochruros ■ Juvenile ■ Hódmezővásárhely, Hungary ■ A small flycatcher of southern Europe, North Africa, Arabia and India. In Hungary it is very common around human habitation for most of the year, only disappearing during the coldest winter months when it heads a short distance to Mediterranean coastal areas.
Little Ringed Plover
Charadrius dubius ■ Dunavarsány, Hungary ■ When this small plover was first classified in the 18th century, naturalists thought it was probably a variant of the Common Ringed Plover. Hence the specific epithet of “dubius” meaning doubtful. Its specieshood, however, has withstood the test of time. The bright yellow eye-ring is just one of the many features that separate it from the Ringed Plover.
Upupa epops ■ Kiskörös, Hungary ■ This species of hoopoe has a very extensive summer range, from Portugal in the west all the way to Korea in the east. It winters in Africa, India and southeast Asia. It is strictly insectivorous and prefers bare or very sparsely vegetated ground for foraging.
Saxicola rubetra ■ Female (left) male (right) ■ Kunpeszér, Hungary ■ This small, colourful passerine is a summer visitor to the Hungarian puszta, wintering in Central Africa. It likes open grasslands with very few shrubs. Like its cousin the European Stonechat, it is now classified as a member of the old world flycatchers (Muscicapidae).
Black-crowned Night Heron
Nycticorax nycticorax ■ Soponya, Hungary ■ Widespread on every continent except Australia and Antarctica, this small heron forages for frogs and fish mainly at dawn and at dusk. It is one of the few heron species that have been known to use a baiting technique - tossing small objects in the water to attract fish.
Aythya ferina ■ Female (left), male (right) ■ Apaj, Hungary ■ Although the pochard is a diving duck, it prefers somewhat shallower water than other diving ducks. Despite an extensive range across Eurasia, it is now classified as vulnerable. The population has been declining likely because of habitat loss and overhunting.
Tichodroma muraria ■ Lilefüred, Hungary ■ A small, palearctic bird of high mountain rock faces, it is found from southern Europe to China. It is uncommon but regular in Hungary during the winter when it moves to lower elevations. It is so unique that it is the only member of its genus and family. Ornithologists feel it is probably most closely related to the nuthatches.
Tringa totanus ■ Apaj, Hungary ■ This noisy sandpiper is a common breeder in wetlands across temperate Eurasia. For a shorebird it is a relatively short distance migrant with European birds wintering around the Mediterranean basin and the Persian Gulf. It is not so closely related to the Spotted Redshank, but rather the Wood Sandpiper is its closest kin.
Common Wood Pigeon
Columba palumbus ■ Törökbálint, Hungary ■ Europe’s largest pigeon is a summer visitor to Central and Eastern Europe but a year round resident in Western Europe, North Africa and Asia Minor.
Calidris pugnax ■ Male ■ Rétimajor, Hungary ■ This species probably has the most extreme sexual dimorphism of all shorebird species. Big males can be almost double the size of small females. During breeding season, the males develop multi-coloured plumage and a big ruff of feathers around the neck and head, giving the bird its common name. Until recently the species was placed in the monotypic “Philomachus” genus, but is now considered to belong to the typical sandpipers (ie: Calidris genus).
Erithacus rubecula ■ Budapest, Hungary ■ This is the bird for which the American Robin is named, because of the similarity in breast colour. The two species are not related though, and the European Robin is about one quarter of the size of its American namesake.
Phylloscopus collybita ■ Budapest, Hungary ■ One of the commonest European warblers, its “silt, salt, silt, salt” song is absolutely unmistakable. Being a hardy species, a few can still be found in Europe during mild winters, but most migrate to Mediterranean regions or northern Africa.
European Reed Warbler
Acrocephalus scirpaceus ■ Budapest, Hungary ■ As the name suggests, this warbler is found almost exclusively in dense Phragmites reed beds. In Hungary, its nest is one of the favored targets for the European Cuckoo, the quintessential brood parasite.
Cuculus canorus ■ Solt, Hungary ■ One of Europe’s more iconic birds, the cuckoo arrives in April, and the adults are gone by the end of July on their migration to sub-Sahara Africa. A few individuals can still be seen in August and September, but these are almost always juveniles who haven’t quite figured out the migration business yet.
Northern Lapwing nest
Vanellus vanellus ■ Bugyi, Hungary ■ While wandering through a flooded farm field in search of Great Snipe, I stumbled upon this lapwing nest. Although the adults were not around, I quicky left the area after snapping a quick photo.
Northern Long Eared Owl
Asio otus ■ Bugyi, Hungary ■ Owls are poor nest builders so they sometimes take over old nests of other species, such as this Long-eared Owl using an old Hooded Crow nest. The white nylon string is a nice decorating touch. :D