Visit your favourite destinations
Western Europe
North America
Eastern Europe
South America
Middle East
East Indies

A Report from

Hungary and Slovakia: 3 - 10 June 2001,

Jon Hornbuckle

Roy Frost and I visited Hungary and Slovakia for a week at the invitation of my Sakertour friends, Zoltán Ecsedi and János Oláh. The timing was a little late, mid-April - end May being the optimum, because they were occupied with guiding bird tours till then, but was very successful. We saw all of our main target species well, most notably Pygmy, Ural and Eagle Owls, Imperial and White-tailed Eagles, Saker, Red-footed Falcon, Wallcreeper, with bonuses of Steppe Eagle, Little Crake, Corncrake, Red-necked Phalarope, Ortolan Bunting and Lady's Slipper Orchids. Great Bustard was the only significant dip (due to high vegetation and limited time). We could have seen Three-toed Woodpecker had we wanted, White-backed a few weeks earlier, and breeding White-winged Black-Tern and Tengmalm's Owl in "normal" years - this being a particularly bad one for them.

Red-footed Falcon


Great Reed Warbler


We flew with BA, booked a few days beforehand through, for the good price of £138 and booked a car through, group A for £214. The car-hire was sub-let to National; we were given a group B Skoda Fabia which was ideal, and paid an extra $3 a day for second driver and $15 for permit to enter Slovakia and Romania. We were also asked to pay a $100 insurance excess because of a dent caused by a low-flying Pheasant, which would be refunded back home by Holiday Autos, although at the time of writing this seems to have been waived.

Pygmy owl


Ural Owl

We spent the first 3 days in the Hortobagy NP, guided by Zoli, staying cheaply at a pleasant guesthouse in Balmazujvaros, and eating well in local restaurants. Then János took over and we drove to Slovakia for the owls and Wallcreeper, assisted one day by Bohumil Murin, an excellent guide/ teacher/ surveyor of Ruzomberok. We returned to Hungary to the Zemplen Hills and Debrecen Great Forest, staying in Janos's house in Debrecen. We had hoped to visit a village in Romania where large numbers of Rose-coloured Starlings were reported to be nesting but when its location was eventually discovered, it was too far to do on a day trip on bad roads. However, fired by the thoughts of seeing Romania we decided to cross the border (which took about 30 mins each way) to look for Ortolan Bunting, a rare bird in Hungary, and duly saw it at János's site by a large reservoir. On the last day we explored Kiskunsag NP, an hour south of Budapest, by ourselves and failed to find Great Bustard, Kentish Plover and Collared Pratincole which occur there.

Syrian Woodpecker

This is certainly some of the best birding in Europe but a good guide is essential if you want to see all the specialities. János and Zoli (of Sakertour,, ground agents for Birdquest and Sunbird), to whom we are most grateful, are brilliant and speak excellent English. It may also be possible to add on a couple of days in Romania where Brown Bears can be observed from hides in daylight, but the additional cost will be high because of Romanian demands. An October tour is also worthwhile, to see Lesser White-fronted and Red-breasted Geese, many 1000s of Cranes, White-tailed Eagles, etc.

Jon Hornbuckle 35 Grove Road, Sheffield S7 2GY, tel 0114 2363481,   


Little Grebe

 Tachybaptus ruficollis


Red-necked Grebe

 Podiceps grisegena

1 Hortobagy NP

Great Crested Grebe

 Podiceps cristatus


Eared Grebe

 Podiceps nigricollis

Several Hortobagy NP

Great Cormorant

 Phalacrocorax carbo


Pygmy Cormorant

 Phalacrocorax pygmaeus

Locally common Hortobagy NP

Grey Heron

 Ardea cinerea


Purple Heron

 Ardea purpurea

Fairly common Hortobagy NP

Great Egret

 Ardea alba

Common Hortobagy NP

Little Egret

 Egretta garzetta

Relatively uncommon

Squacco Heron

 Ardeola ralloides

Several Hortobagy NP

Black-crowned Night-Heron

 Nycticorax nycticorax

Fairly common Hortobagy NP

Little Bittern

 Ixobrychus minutus

Several incl. 5 or 6 at 1 site in Hortobagy NP

Great Bittern

 Botaurus stellaris

1 in Hortobagy NP

Black Stork

 Ciconia nigra

a few sightings

White Stork

 Ciconia ciconia

Common throughout with many nesting on

 telegraph posts in villages

Eurasian Spoonbill

 Platalea leucorodia

Fairly common Hortobagy NP

Mute Swan

 Cygnus olor

6-8 Hortobagy NP and Kiskunsag NP;

this is the genuine article

Greylag Goose

 Anser anser

Common in Hortobagy NP


 Anas strepera



 Anas crecca



 Anas platyrhynchos



 Anas querquedula

Fairly common Hortobagy NP

Northern Shoveler

 Anas clypeata


Common Pochard

 Aythya ferina


Ferruginous Pochard

 Aythya nyroca

Fairly common Hortobagy NP

Tufted Duck

 Aythya fuligula


European Honey-buzzard

 Pernis apivorus

1 Zemplen Hills

White-tailed Eagle

 Haliaeetus albicilla

4 Hortobagy NP

Short-toed Eagle

 Circaetus gallicus

1 over the big res.r in Romania

Western Marsh-Harrier

 Circus aeruginosus

Very common Hortobagy NP

Montagu's Harrier

 Circus pygargus

A few Hortobagy NP

Eurasian Sparrowhawk

 Accipiter nisus

Only 2

Northern Goshawk

 Accipiter gentilis

1 Hortobagy NP and in Slovakia

Eurasian Buzzard

 Buteo buteo

Common throughout

Long-legged Buzzard

 Buteo rufinus

A few Hortobagy NP

Lesser Spotted Eagle

 Aquila pomarina

1 near the Slovakian border

Steppe Eagle

 Aquila nipalensis

1 Hortobagy NP, a scarce visitor

Imperial Eagle

 Aquila heliaca

1 imm. near the border and close views

 of an adult hunting Susliks in Slovakia

Eurasian Kestrel

 Falco tinnunculus


Red-footed Falcon

 Falco vespertinus

Common Hortobagy NP but no large colonies

Eurasian Hobby

 Falco subbuteo

3 sightings

Saker Falcon

 Falco cherrug

A pair near a nest with young and 1 single

 Hortobagy NP

Grey Partridge

 Perdix perdix


Common Quail

 Coturnix coturnix

Heard occasionally throughout

Ring-necked Pheasant

 Phasianus colchicus


Common Crane

 Grus grus

Several Hortobagy NP

Water Rail

 Rallus aquaticus


Corn Crake

 Crex crex

1 heard then flushed in Zemplen Hills

Little Crake

 Porzana parva

1 at Hortobagy fish ponds

Common Moorhen

 Gallinula chloropus


Eurasian Coot

 Fulica atra


Black-winged Stilt

 Himantopus himantopus

Several Hortobagy NP and

Pied Avocet

 Recurvirostra avosetta

Several nesting Hortobagy NP

Eurasian Thick-knee

 Burhinus oedicnemus

Only 2 Hortobagy NP

Northern Lapwing

 Vanellus vanellus


Common Ringed Plover

 Charadrius hiaticula

Only 2 singles

Little Ringed Plover

 Charadrius dubius


Common Snipe

 Gallinago gallinago

Only 2 singles

Black-tailed Godwit

 Limosa limosa

Locally common

Eurasian Curlew

 Numenius arquata

A few

Spotted Redshank

 Tringa erythropus

1 in summer plumage Hortobagy NP

Common Redshank

 Tringa totanus


Common Greenshank

 Tringa nebularia

A few

Green Sandpiper

 Tringa ochropus

Only 2 or 3

Wood Sandpiper

 Tringa glareola

A few

Common Sandpiper

 Actitis hypoleucos

Only 2 singles

Little Stint

 Calidris minuta

8 noted

Curlew Sandpiper

 Calidris ferruginea

5 in summer plumage


 Philomachus pugnax

A few

Red-necked Phalarope

 Phalaropus lobatus

1 female Hortobagy NP

Mew Gull

 Larus canus

Only 1 noted

Yellow-legged Gull

 Larus cachinnans

Fairly common Hortobagy NP

Black-headed Gull

 Larus ridibundus

Common throughout

Mediterranean Gull

 Larus melanocephalus

2 or 3 at fishponds S of Debrecen

Little Gull

 Larus minutus

Fairly common Hortobagy NP

Caspian Tern

 Sterna caspia

2 at Hortobagy fish ponds

Common Tern

 Sterna hirundo


Whiskered Tern

 Chlidonias hybridus

Common Hortobagy NP

Black Tern

 Chlidonias niger

A few flocks of up to 20 birds

Rock Dove

 Columba livia


Stock Pigeon

 Columba oenas

A few

Common Wood-Pigeon

 Columba palumbus


Eurasian Turtle-Dove

 Streptopelia turtur


Eurasian Collared-Dove

 Streptopelia decaocto


Common Cuckoo

 Cuculus canorus


Eurasian Eagle-Owl

 Bubo bubo

2 fledglings in an old quarry Zemplen Hills

Ural Owl

 Strix uralensis

1 adult and 2 fledglings near Rejdova

Eurasian Pygmy-Owl

 Glaucidium passerinum

1 female near a nest hole above Ruzomberok

Little Owl

 Athene noctua

Only 2 singles

Northern Long-eared Owl

 Asio otus

3 singles and a nest with 2 or 3 juvs Hortobagy

Common Swift

 Apus apus


Common Kingfisher

 Alcedo atthis


European Bee-eater

 Merops apiaster

A few colonies and singles

European Roller

 Coracias garrulus

A pair Hortobagy NP and 1 S of Budapest

Eurasian Hoopoe

 Upupa epops

Only 2 Hortobagy NP

Eurasian Wryneck

 Jynx torquilla

1 Zemplen Hills

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

 Dendrocopos minor

1 by restaurant at Tokaj

Middle Spotted Woodpecker

 Dendrocopos medius

2 sightings

Great Spotted Woodpecker

 Dendrocopos major

Fairly common

Syrian Woodpecker

 Dendrocopos syriacus

An adult feeding a juv at Balmazujvaros

Black Woodpecker

 Dryocopus martius

Heard twice

Green Woodpecker

 Picus viridis

A few heard

Crested Lark

 Galerida cristata


Sky Lark

 Alauda arvensis

Very common

Bank Swallow

 Riparia riparia

Only a few

Barn Swallow

 Hirundo rustica


House Martin

 Delichon urbica


White Wagtail

 Motacilla alba


Yellow Wagtail

 Motacilla flava


Grey Wagtail

 Motacilla cinerea

Only a few

Tawny Pipit

 Anthus campestris


Tree Pipit

 Anthus trivialis



 Regulus regulus


White-throated Dipper

 Cinclus cinclus

Only 1, in Slovakia

Winter Wren

 Troglodytes troglodytes



 Prunella modularis


Rufous-tailed Rock-Thrush

 Monticola saxatilis

I Zemplen Hills

Eurasian Blackbird

 Turdus merula



 Turdus pilaris

Fairly common outside Hortobagy NP

Song Thrush

 Turdus philomelos


Mistle Thrush

 Turdus viscivorus


Grasshopper Warbler

 Locustella naevia

1 seen and heard near Ruzomberok

Eurasian River Warbler

 Locustella fluviatilis

I in Slovakia near the border

Savi's Warbler

 Locustella luscinioides

Several Hortobagy NP

Aquatic Warbler

 Acrocephalus paludicola

3 at 1 site Hortobagy NP

Sedge Warbler

 Acrocephalus schoenobaenus


Eurasian Reed-Warbler

 Acrocephalus scirpaceus


Marsh Warbler

 Acrocephalus palustris

Fairly common

Great Reed-Warbler

 Acrocephalus arundinaceus

Very common

Icterine Warbler

 Hippolais icterina

Only 1

Willow Warbler

 Phylloscopus trochilus

Surprisingly few

Common Chiffchaff

 Phylloscopus collybita

Only a few

Wood Warbler

 Phylloscopus sibilatrix

A few, mainly in Slovakia


 Sylvia atricapilla


Garden Warbler

 Sylvia borin


Greater Whitethroat

 Sylvia communis


Lesser Whitethroat

 Sylvia curruca


Barred Warbler

 Sylvia nisoria

A few Hortobagy NP and Zemplen Hills

Spotted Flycatcher

 Muscicapa striata

Only a few

Collared Flycatcher

 Ficedula albicollis

2 males bathing in a puddle Debrecen Gt Forest

Red-breasted Flycatcher

 Ficedula parva

Heard in the Pygmy Owl wood

European Robin

 Erithacus rubecula


Common Nightingale

 Luscinia megarhynchos

Very common


 Luscinia svecica

Several heard and a few seen

Black Redstart

 Phoenicurus ochruros

Very common

Common Redstart

 Phoenicurus phoenicurus

Very few


 Saxicola rubetra

Only 2

Common Stonechat

 Saxicola torquata


Northern Wheatear

 Oenanthe oenanthe

A few

Bearded Reedling

 Panurus biarmicus

Fairly common

Long-tailed Tit

 Aegithalos caudatus

Only a few

Willow Tit

 Poecile montanus

A few

Coal Tit

 Periparus ater


Crested Tit

 Lophophanes cristatus

A few in Slovakia

Great Tit

 Parus major


Blue Tit

 Cyanistes caeruleus


Eurasian Nuthatch

 Sitta europaea



 Tichodroma muraria

A pair feeding at a nest above Ruzomberok

Eurasian Treecreeper

 Certhia familiaris

A few in the Slovakian hills

Short-toed Treecreeper

 Certhia brachydactyla

A few in Debrecen Gt Forest

Eurasian Penduline-Tit

 Remiz pendulinus

Commonly heard but not easy to see

Eurasian Golden Oriole

 Oriolus oriolus

Fairly common

Red-backed Shrike

 Lanius collurio


Lesser Grey Shrike

 Lanius minor

Fairly common

Eurasian Jay

 Garrulus glandarius

Fairly common

Black-billed Magpie

 Pica pica


Eurasian Jackdaw

 Corvus monedula



 Corvus frugilegus


Carrion Crow

 Corvus corone


Common Raven

 Corvus corax

Several in Slovakia

European Starling

 Sturnus vulgaris


House Sparrow

 Passer domesticus


Eurasian Tree Sparrow

 Passer montanus



 Fringilla coelebs


Red Crossbill

 Loxia curvirostra

A few heard in Slovakia

European Greenfinch

 Carduelis chloris


European Goldfinch

 Carduelis carduelis


Eurasian Linnet

 Carduelis cannabina

Only a few

European Serin

 Serinus serinus


Eurasian Bullfinch

 Pyrrhula pyrrhula

A few


 Coccothraustes coccothraustes

Several in Debrecen GF, incl. bathing in puddles


 Emberiza citrinella


Ortolan Bunting

 Emberiza hortulana

3 or 4 singing at the res.r in Romania

Reed Bunting

 Emberiza schoeniclus


Corn Bunting

 Emberiza calandra

Very common.


Why not send us a report, or an update to one of your current reports?