Raptor Watching & Photography close to Athens

Raptors observation and photography at Kopaida plains, Central Greece 

Common Buzzard GREECE BIRD TOURS
Common Buzzard is about to land

Kopaida plain, only 1 hour drive from Athens center, in the ideal area to enjoy big birds of prey in winter. Here is a trip report from a recent birdwatching tour in the area, on December 17th 2022. Even during mid winter, Athens and Central Greece are ideal destination in Europe for a birding break and winter birding holidays.

Raptors roosting GREECE BIRD TOURS
Raptors roost, mostly Kites and Buzzards

Apart from being an excellent spring and summer birding destination (breeding species include Bee-eaters, Lesser Grey Shrikes, Black-eared Wheatear, Short-toed Eagle, Black-headed Bunting, Western Rock Nut and much more), the area attracts big raptors in winter. The aboundance of food is excessive in the fields and there are big poplar trees for roosting, not to mention the neaby rocky hills. 

So, on December 17th, we run a half day tour in the area, aiming for raptors activity and plenty of photography chances. Indeed, the weather was ideal that day, a light northern breeze with sunshine.  As soon as we reached the reshly plowed fields, the sighting was mindblowing: more that 100 Common Buzzards, 3 Long-legged Buzzards, 50+ Black Kites and 5 Red Kites were observed during our first hour! Red Kites are scarce winter visitors in Greece, so their presence was very satisfactory.


Common Buzzard GREECE BIRD TOURS
Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo)

Long-legged Buzzard GREECE BIRD TOURS
Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus)

Black Kite GREECE BIRD TOURS
Black Kite (Milvus migrans)

Red Kite GREECE BIRD TOURS
Red Kite (Milvus milvus)

Driving around the area, we found two spots with Tawny Owls and Little Owls. The surrounding rocky hills were full of breeding and very active Western Rock Nuthatches. Two more Long-legged Buzzards, a couple of Sparrowhawks and dozens of Common Kestrels were seen too. In one of these flocks of raptors, 6 Black Storks were soaring, a species that is rather rare for Central Greece. 

Western Rock Nuthatch GREECE BIRD TOURS
Western Rock Nuthatch (Sitta neymayer)

Western Rock Nuthatch GREECE BIRD TOURS
Western Rock Nuthatch (Sitta neymayer)


A breeding pair of Western Rock Nuthatches
was highly active, singing loudly from the nearby rocky hills

As for smaller passerines, the day was not very productive. Very small numbers of Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Chaffinches, but also hundreds of Meadow Pipits, White Wagtails and Skylarks.

Little Owl GREECE BIRD TOURS
Little Owl (Athene noctua)

Northern Harrier GREECE BIRD TOURS
Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus)

Sparrowhawk GREECE BIRD TOURS
Sparrowhawk (Accipter nisus)

Here is the full bird list of the day, December 17th:

Rock Pigeon
Feral Pigeon
Collared Dove
Black-headed Gull
Yellow-legged Gull
Black Stork (6)
Grey Heron (15)
Marsh Harrier (1)
Hen Harrier (1)
Sparrowhawk (8)
Red Kite (5)
Black Kite (50+)
Common Buzzard (150+)
Long-legged Buzzard (5)
Little Owl (1)
Tawny Owl (2)
Common Kestrel (30+)
Merlin (1)
Magpie
Hooded Crow
Great Tit
Sky Lark
Chiffchaff
Sardinian Warbler
Cetti's Warbler
European Robin
Stonechat
Black Redstart
Blackbird
Wren
Western Rock Nuthatch
House Sparrow
White Wagtail
Meadow Pipit
Chaffinch
Greenfinch
Goldfinch
Reed Bunting
Corn Bunting