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Acanthis cabaret ■ Budapest, Hungary ■ The Lesser Redpoll used to be conspecific with the Common Redpoll but was split into its own species a few years ago. It is smaller and much browner than the Common Redpoll. It is strictly a European species and rare in Hungary except during irruption years which occurs about every four or five years.
Gavia arctica ■ Abádszalók, Hungary ■ Also known as the Black-throated Diver, this loon is a palearctic species with occasional vagrancy to North America. It is an uncommon but regular winter visitor to Hungary. The white flanks showing above the waterline is one diagnostic field mark that helps separate this species from the similar Pacific Loon.
Corvus monedula ■ Budapest, Hungary ■ Europe’s pint-sized crow, the jackdaw is only about two-thirds the size of a regular crow. It has a very uncrow-like voice, sort of a high pitched, squeaky “kyow”. Unlike other corvids that build a platform nest, this bird is a hole and cavity nester.
Turdus iliacus ■ Budapest, Hungary ■ This handsome thrush is strictly winter bird in Hungary, although not as numerous as other winter thrushes such as Fieldfares and Blackbirds. It can usually be found where there is lots of mistletoe, as mistletoe berries are one of its favorite foods.
Turdus philomelos ■ Uszod, Hungary ■ One of the commoner woodland thrushes in the summer, its song can be easily recognized because it repeats every note three times before moving on to the next one.
Acrocephalus palustris ■ Budapest, Hungary ■ When singing, it is easy to distinguish this species from the very similar Reed Warbler. But when they are not singing, extremely difficult to separate under field conditions. Ringers often use things like the colour of the toes to separate them.
Luscinia megarhynchos ■ Budapest, Hungary ■ A small, relatively nondescript brown bird, that is hard to glimpse, as they like to stay under deep cover. But what a voice! Loud with such a rich tone. In the spring, they will sing all night long. In Hungary they arrive around mid-April and are gone by mid-September to winter in Africa.
Caprimulgus europaeus ■ Budapest, Hungary ■ The only representative of the extensive nightjar family found in Europe outside of Spain (which has two species of nightjar). Like other nightjars it is strictly nocturnal and strictly insectivorous. Very hard to see during the daytime as it rests along a branch and blends in with the colour of the bark.
Actitis hypoleucos ■ Szabadszállás, Hungary ■ This is Europe’s counterpart to North America’s Spotted Sandpiper. Unlike the latter species, it does not change plumage from summer to winter, remaining in the same livery year round. It is found in a variety of habitats usually near water and it is in perpetual motion, constantly bobbing up and down.
Short-toed Snake Eagle
Circaetus gallicus ■ Apaj, Hungary ■ As the name suggests, this eagle specializes in snakes. For its size, it has very small feet which is likely an adaptation for grasping skinny snakes. Summer visitor in Hungary with August being the best month for sightings.
Coturnix coturnix ■ Budapest, Hungary ■ Other than the buttonquail found in southern Spain, this is Europe’s only quail species. A very common summer bird in the Hungarian countryside, but you never see them. They always stay well hidden, and their presence is only revealed by their characteristic three-syllabled ‘whit-whit-whit” call. They are also raised commercially for meat and eggs.
Phoenicurus phoenicurus ■ Juvenile ■ Budapest, Hungary ■ Despite the name, this redstart is uncommon in Hungary, being far outnumbered by the Black Redstart. Unlike its much commoner cousin, this species doesn’t have the same affinity for being around human habitation.
Warblers of the Acrocephalus genus (meaning “peaked head” in Latin) are collectively referred to as the reed warblers as they are generally found in dense Phragmites reed beds. Here are two of the commoner species. Left is European Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus) and right is Sedge Warbler (Acrocepahlus schoenobaenus).
Asio flammeus ■ Dunavarsany, Hungary ■ These owls are crepuscular, meaning they are most active during the half-light of dawn and dusk, so I was surprised to find this one sitting out in the open on a bare tree on a really hot, sunlit afternoon.
Little Ringed Plover
Charadrius dubius ■ Dunaszentbenedek, 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.
Vanellus vanellus ■ Kisújszállás, Hungary ■ As the common name suggests this is the northernmost of the world’s 24 lapwing species. This large, noisy plover is a common breeder in European farmland and pastures.
Tringa glareola ■ Kisújszállás, Hungary ■ This medium-sized sandpiper prefers grassy, fresh water wetlands. During spring and fall migration, it is one of the commonest Tringa species in the Carpathian basin. The long, defined supercilium is one way to distinguish it from similar species such as Green or Solitary Sandpiper.
Falco vespertinus ■ Male ■ Solt-járás puszta, Hungary ■ About the size of a Eurasian Kestrel, Red-footed Falcons are strictly a summer bird in Central and Eastern Europe. They migrate all the way to southern Africa to spend the winter. They are primarily insectivorous, taking far fewer small mammals than do their cousins the kestrels.
Panurus biarmicus ■ Male ■ Solt-járás puszta, Hungary ■ The most taxonomically unusual bird in Europe, it is not closely related to any other species. It is so unique that it has its own family (Panuridae) of which it is the only species. It is a common resident in Hungary in dense Phragmites reed beds.
Eurasian Marsh Harrier
Circus aeruginosus ■ Male ■ Solt, Hungary ■ Came across this sick harrier that had trouble flying. There were some dead gulls nearby so it made me suspect that it got bird flu from eating one of those. Or perhaps shot by a hunter or farmer. It is a protected bird but it does happen.
Dendrocopos syriacus ■ Solt-járás puszta, Hungary ■ Found in the SE corner of Europe and the Middle East in open country with a preference for parks and gardens around human habitation. Not often found in deep woods like Great Spotted Woodpeckers. It can be separated from that species by voice, face pattern and a pink vent compared to scarlet for the Great Spotted.
Curruca nisoria ■ Male ■ Inárcs, Hungary ■ This and the Great Reed Warbler are the largest warblers in Central Europe, being almost the size of a small thrush. The Barred Warbler likes open country with lots of dense bushes and shrubbery for nesting. It winters in East Africa.
Saxicola rubicola ■ Male ■ Apaj, Hungary ■ A tiny flycatcher of open country and farmland. In Central Europe, it is a short distance migrant, arriving early in the spring, leaving late in the fall and spending winters in the Mediterranean Basin. The common name comes from the call which sounds like two stones clacking together.
Himantopus himantopus ■ Bugyi, Hungary ■ You can see where this wader gets its name. Stilts have outrageously long, bubblegum coloured legs which allows them to forage in deeper water than other shorebirds. They are extremely active and noisy, even around nesting sites.
Great Spotted Cuckoo
Clamator glandarius ■ Tihany, Hungary ■ This large cuckoo is primarily an African species that can be found in extreme southern Europe (Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey) during the summer. Very rare in Hungary with this bird being the first record in 18 years.
Eurasian Tree Sparrow
Passer montanus ■ Apaj, Hungary ■ Probably the commonest and most widespread sparrow in the world, it is found throughout Europe and Asia and has introduced populations in other parts of the world. In Hungary, it is far commoner than the House Sparrow and unlike the House Sparrow, it can be found far from human habitation.
Eurasian Scops Owl
Otus scops ■ Apaj, Hungary ■ A tiny migratory owl, about the same size as North America’s Saw-whet Owl. It breeds throughout southern Europe and into Western Asia and winters in sub-Sahara Africa.
Regulus ignicapillus ■ Szilvásvárad, Hungary ■ A member of the kinglet family, this species along with the related Goldcrest are European smallest birds. It can be found in both coniferous and deciduous woodlands. Like all kinglets, it is constantly moving, flitting among the leaves in search of spiders, small insects, and moth eggs.
Picus canus ■ Rétimajor, Hungary ■ This bird belongs to the same genus as the Green Woodpecker but it is not as flamboyant, noisy or famous. It generally likes to stay close to cover and is the most sedate woodpecker I have ever seen. That combination can make it very hard to spot. Like the Green Woodpecker, its diet is primarily ants.
Luscinia svecica ■ Apaj, Hungary ■ This tiny, colourful bird belongs to the same genus as the nightingales. In summer, it is found right across the northern palearctic and even into Western Alaska. It is highly migratory wintering in sub-Sahara Africa and India. In Hungary its preferred habitat is dense phragmites reed beds, where it is usually very hard to see.
Ichthyaetus melanocephalus ■ Sárbogárd, Hungary ■ This gull’s range used to be the Eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea but it has undergone a huge range expansion westward in recent decades. It is now found breeding as far west as Ireland. Winters along the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts but for breeding it prefers inland sites.
Corvus frugilegus ■ Sárbogárd, Hungary ■ A common and highly social corvid found right across Eurasia. Despite the Latin name meaning “fruit eating”, its main food is grubs and earthworms which it digs from the soil using its strong beak. Their large, communal nest sites is where the term “rookery” come from.
Mergus merganser ■ Male ■ Szántod, Hungary ■ Mergansers are ducks but have a very un-ducklike bill. It is narrow with serrated edges and a hooked tip, perfect for gripping slippery fish.
Mergus merganser ■ Male ■ Szántod, Hungary ■ Mergansers are highly aquatic, fish-eating ducks. As the name suggests, this species is by far the most common of the six extant species worldwide. It has a huge range extending right across the Northern Hemisphere.
Gallinula chloropus ■ Szántod, Hungary ■ A member of the rail family, Common Moorhens used to be conspecific with North America’s Common Gallinule but are now recognized as separate species. In Hungary, they inhabit marshes with dense reed beds and like to stay in the cover of thick vegetation most of the time. The specific epithet means “green feet”.
Cygnus columbianus bewickii ■ Zamardi, Hungary ■ This is the palearctic form of the Tundra Swan. The North American and Asian populations can be separated by the amount of yellow at the base of the bill, with the North American birds only having a small yellow spot in front of the eye. As the Bewick’s form breeds in eastern Siberia, it is rare anywhere in Western Europe.
Great Crested Grebe
Podiceps cristatus ■ Balatonmáriafürdő, Hungary ■ The commonest grebe in Central Europe. This bird is in the drabber winter plumage. Drabber except for the beak, that is. During breeding the bill is a dark grey, but in winter it turns a lovely pink. One way to distinguish it from winter Red-necked Grebes, as the latter species has a yellow beak in winter.
Gavia immer ■ Balatonfenyves, Hungary ■ The Common Loon is a North American species that has become more frequent in Europe in recent years. Hungary’s first record was in 2006, but now, even though still rare, there are one or two records every winter.
Passer domesticus ■ Male ■ Balatonszemes, Hungary ■ The House Sparrow was often overlooked or taken for granted by birders because they were so ubiquitous. The European population, however, has dropped in half in the last 40 years. That’s 247 million fewer birds! The usual culprits likely responsible for the decline… habitat loss and industrial farming.
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.
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.
Merops apiaster ■ Solt, Hungary ■ There are about 30 species of bee-eaters spread across Eurasia and Africa and all of them have spectacular colours. All species are strictly insectivorous. They are partial to bees and are adept at rubbing the bee’s abdomen against a branch or other hard surface to remove the sting before they eat it.
Motacilla alba ■ Kunpeszér, Hungary ■ This small, insectivorous passerine is widespread across temperate Eurasia. It is well named as its long tail is in perpetual motion.
Western Yellow Wagtail
Motacilla flava flava ■ Kunpeszér, Hungary ■ The Yellow Wagtail was split into Western and Eastern species several years ago. There are 12 recognized subspecies of the Western Yellow Wagtail. This form, known as the Blue-headed Wagtail is by far the most common form in Central Europe.
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.
Eurasian 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.
Ardea purpurea ■ Bugyi, Hungary ■ A medium-sized, colourful heron found across southern Eurasia and Africa. The European populations are summer birds, spending the colder months in sub-Saharan Africa.
Aegithalos caudatus ■ Apaj, Hungary ■ Twelve siblings just out of the nest. That may seem like a large brood, but this member of the bushtit family has been known to lay up to 20 eggs at one time! Now that’s some parenting!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Short-toed Snake Eagle
Circaetus gallicus ■ Apaj, Hungary ■ A southern European specialty, this eagle is commonest in Spain. It winters in sub-sahara Africa.
Falco subbuteo ■ Kunpeszér, Hungary ■ This smallish falcon is usually found in open country with scattered groups of trees. It is partial to dragonflies, but is fast and agile enough to catch small birds on the wing.
Ardeola ralloides ■ Csösz, Hungary ■ This tiny heron is primarily an African species but can be found in the spring and summer in southeast Europe and the Middle East.
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).
Anthus campestris ■ Kiskörös, Hungary ■ This large pipit is one of only two pipit species that breed in Hungary. They winter in sub-Sahara Africa and the Arabian peninsula.
Northern Long-eared Owl
Asio otus ■ Alsoörs, Hungary ■ In the Carpathian Basin in winter, it is not unusual to find Long-eared Owls roosting in towns and cities.
Corvus cornix ■ Balatonfüred, Hungary ■ Many consider the Hooded Crow to be conspecific with Western Europe's Carrion Crow (Corvus corone).
Anas crecca ■ Female ■ Fertőújlak, Hungary ■ Ready to be ringed and then released. Some birders still consider the Common Teal to be conspecific with North America’s Green-winged Teal (Anas carolinensis).
Accipiter nisus ■ Juvenile female ■ Budapest, Hungary ■ With a Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) in its talons.
Garrulus glandarius ■ Budapest, Hungary ■ One of only two species of jay in Europe.
Chloris chloris ■ Budapest, Hungary ■ In the winter, this common European finch is more grey than green. When the spring rolls around, it becomes much more green, and the beak turns pale pink.
Coccothraustes coccothraustes ■ Budapest, Hungary
Fringilla montifringilla ■ Budapest, Hungary ■ The moult to breeding plumage, when the head turns from winter grey to jet black, is well underway for this individual.
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.
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
Cygnus cygnus ■ Budapest, Hungary ■ The type species for the genus cygnus, this large swan is widespread across northern Eurasia.
Botaurus stellaris ■ Apaj, Hungary ■ Bitterns are virtually always under the deep cover of reed beds, but limited open water because of very cold weather can sometimes force them to forage out in the open.
Turdus pilaris ■ Budapest, Hungary ■ Enjoying a bit of peanut butter on a very cold day. This large thrush is a common winter visitor to Hungary.
Mareca strepera ■ Male ■ Budapest, Hungary ■ This large duck is widespread in both Eurasia and North America. Its latin name (“noisy duck”) is a bit of a misnomer as it is one of the quieter members of its clan.
Emberiza pusilla ■ Ocsa, Hungary ■ This smallest bunting in the western palearctic has a huge breeding range extending from Sweden and Finland in the west, to the Bering Sea in the east. It is highly migratory, wintering in Southeast Asia.
Hippolais icterina ■ Budapest, Hungary
Lesser Grey Shrike
Lanius minor ■ Kunpeszér, Hungary ■ An eastern European / western Asian bird of high summer, it arrives in May and is gone by August, on its 8,000 km migration to South Africa.
Fringilla coelebs ■ Tata, Hungary ■ An adult in nice breeding plumage. This is one of the commonest woodland birds in Hungary.
Calidris minuta ■ Juvenile ■ Apajpuszta, Kiskunság National Park, Hungary
Limosa limosa ■ Apajpuszta, Kiskunság National Park, Hungary
Gallinago gallinago ■ Apajpuszta, Kiskunság National Park, Hungary
European Scops Owl
Otus scops ■ Juvenile ■ Kiskunság National Park, Hungary ■ Ready to be returned to the nest box after ringing.
Riparia riparia ■ Hortobágy National Park, Hungary
Jynx torquilla ■ Izsák, Hungary
Acrocephalus agricola ■ Farmos, Hungary
Remiz pendulinus ■ Male ■ Apajpuszta, Kiskunság National Park, Hungary
Rissa tridactyla ■ First winter immature ■ Balatonboglár, Hungary
Glareola pratincola ■ Bugyi, Hungary
Glareola pratincola ■ Bugyi, Hungary
Eurasian Collared Dove
Streptopelia decaocto ■ Törökbálint, Hungary ■ Originating in central and southern Asia, the Collared Dove did not expand into Europe until the 20th century, and it is now rapidly expanding across North America.
Falco peregrinus ■ Zalavár, Hungary
Hirundo rustica ■ Hortobágy halastó, Hungary ■ The most widespread swallow species in the world, it is the only member of the 15 species Hirundo genus found in the Americas.
Blyth's Reed Warbler
Acrocephalus dumetorum ■ Izsák, Hungary ■ This eastern Europe / Asian species is very hard to distinguish from the European Reed Warbler in the field if it is not singing.
Phylloscopus inornatus ■ Izsák, Hungary ■ A rare but regular visitor to Europe from Siberia.
Prunella modularis ■ Naszály, Hungary
Alcedo athis ■ Naszály, Hungary ■ Sometimes if a bird is laid gently on its back after ringing, it will remain motionless like this kingfisher. Just after this shot was taken, the bird flipped over and flew away.
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