Birds are admired for their beauty and song and in our traditional arts and crafts, birds symbolize love. Birds are referred to in folk songs and fairy tales and are depicted on ancient everyday pottery, as well as ceremonial vessels.
The eagle and Koukkoufkiaos (Little owl)
Once upon a time, an eagle had its nest in a cave high up the mountain. One day while looking for prey, he spotted a bird sitting in some ruins and decided to take a closer look.
«What’s your name? How are you?” the eagle asked and the bird replied, “My name is Koukkoufkiaos and I am having a hard time. You live like a king and I live like a prisoner. During the day I cannot hunt and I am all alone and at nighttime I have to prey to something to eat “. The eagle took pity of this beautiful bird with its big and shiny eyes and offered to accommodate the little owl in his nest. Koukkoufkiaos made himself comfortable in the eagle’s nest was having a good time; however, the good times did not last. It started to rain for days on end and the eagle could not go out to hunt and they both got hungry.
“It’s been many years ago, since I have seen such incessant rain showers” declared the owl “And how long ago was this?” asked the eagle. “Since Noah’s time” replied Koukkoufkiaos. “Who is Noah?” “Noah was the man who built the ark and saved the animals during the Flood. I was in that ark too” said Koukkoufkiaos. “Surely you are not as old as the flood!” exclaimed the eagle. “Yes, I am” said the owl. So, Cypriots flatter the older by saying to them “You are as old as Koukkoufkiaos”.
Birdwatching in Cyprus can be both educational and recreational. You can listen to the Robin (Cyp. Kokkinolaimis) and the Blackcap (Cyp. Ampelopoulli), which are two of the few birds that sing in winter. The Bluethroat (Cyp. Galazolaimis) imitates sounds of other species. Male Chaffinchs (Cyp. Spinnos) challenge each other as to who can sing more often and for longer periods. The male Pallid Harrier (Cyp. Asprosiachino) puts on a show of aerial maneuvers, when looking for a mate.
Cyprus lies on a major bird migration route across the Mediterranean and is a major staging post used twice a year by birds. Cyprus hosts millions of birds during their migration to Africa in the autumn to spend the winter and in the springtime on their way back to Europe to breed. Cyprus hosts three endemic bird species that breed here and nowhere else in the world: Skalifourta (the Cyprus Wheatear), Trypomazis (the Cyprus Warbler) and Thoupi (the Cyprus Scops Owl). In addition, there are three endemic subspecies mostly confined to the forests of the Troodos Mountain range: Kissa (the Cyprus Jay), Pempetsos (the Cyprus Coal Tit) and Dentrovatis (the Short-toed Treecreeper).
Interesting fact: Cyprus Warbler (Cyp. Trypomazis) was depicted on the old Cypriot ten-pound note.
Along the Heartland of Legends route, you will find a plethora of habitats where you can birdwatch. In the Akamas Peninsula, from the Baths of Aphrodite towards Cape Arnaouti, you can spot wagtails, wheatears, shrikes, all sorts of warblers and a large movement of westward coasting ducks, herons, egrets, waders and gulls. In the areas of the Evretou Dam, Little Porzana, Crake Porzana, you can spot both Great Snipe and Citrine Wagtails,
while in the nearby valleys and along the road towards Stavros tis Psokas you are likely to come upon Nightingales, Golden Orioles and Black-headed Bunting. The Akrotiri Salt Lake is the winter home of several thousand Greater Flamingos, wildfowls and gulls. Sometimes you may also spot Swans in the lake, when Europe experiences exceptionally harsh winters. The Episkopi area and the agricultural areas of Avdimou and Pissouri attract migratory birds such as chats, warblers and buntings, while Garganey rafts can be seen off the coast in spring. The rare Griffin Vulture nests up in the cliffs of Episkopi. In the summer good sightings include the local Eleonora’s Falcon and Alpine Swift populations. The Troodos Mountains have been declared as Special Protection Area for birds and are part of the NATURA 2000 network. Many species have their habitat in the Troodos Mountains, such as the Raven Corvus corax, Goshawks and the Bonelle’s Eagles just to name a few. The Larnaka Salt Lake hosts Greater Flamingos, White-fronted Gooses and Ruddy Shelducks, as well as Little Gulls and Spoonbills. The Oroklini Marsh is a very important breeding site for both the Black-winged Stilt and the Spur-winged Plover. In this you can hear and watch Grey, Purple, Night and Squacco Herons and many waders.
Whether you are a beginner looking through your first pair of binoculars or an experienced birder in search of unique experiences, in Cyprus you can immerse yourself in birding and nature and explore the beauty of birds and their songs.