© Günter Bachmeier

Bird habitats along the Adriatic Flyway

The water fowl of Central, North and Eastern Europe concentrate especially on one of the migration routes.This is the Adriatic Flyway which runs right across the Balkans, the Adriatic and Southern Italy to reach North Africa. Until recently little was known about this route but today we know that in fact millions of birds fly twice yearly along this migration route between their breeding grounds and their wintering places. The Mediterranean and the Dinaric Alps represent major hurdles they have to overcome on their way. To do so means a form of extreme exertion they can only survive if there are safe, intact resting places on their route.

Forgotten treasures in the Balkans

In the Balkans there are regions of exceptional species diversity and great importance for the protection of bird migration. Their description takes on the character of an endless row of exclamation marks: vast! to be protected at all costs! unique in Europe! They offer the space for over a million resting birds and numerous different bird species.


Habitat destruction and bird hunting

But dangers lurk in the seeming idyll. Particularly on the narrow coastal strip of the Eastern Adriatic a large part of the wetland areas has been severely degraded or completely destroyed through drainage, intensive cultivation and tourism. And every year cohorts of bird hunters gather in the few remaining intact wetlands along the Adriatic flyway. 

Where is EuroNatur in action on the Eastern Adriatic

In the centre of EuroNatur's project activities are the main resting places along the Adriatic Flyway: the karst region of Livanjsko Polje in Bosnia and the Neretva Delta in the border area between Croatia and Bosnia Herzegovina. A further focus is the section of the Balkan Green Belt in the border area between Albania and Montenegro where the Bojana-Buna river flows out of Lake Skadar to discharge some 40 kilometres down river into the Adriatic.

What actions are EuroNatur and its partner organisations taking?

  • Capacity building: There is a shortage of experienced bird watchers in the Balkans. Step-by-step, in regular workshops EuroNatur is building up an expanding network of competent nature conservationists.
  • Creating valuable databases: Accurate knowledge of the flora and fauna of the bird habitats on the Eastern Adriatic form the basis for achieving the designation of these areas as conservation areas.
  • Keeping an eye on bird population numbers: In the most important resting places on the Eastern Adriatic standardized observations of breeding and wintering birds are made and analysed.
  • Creating undisturbed resting places: The population data makes it possible to achieve the protection of these areas through international conventions and national laws. We support our partners in preparing a “Natura 2000 EU network of protected areas on the Eastern Adriatic” and are campaigning also for the designation of strict no-hunting areas.
  • Developing effective protection measures: We are working out measures to maintain the habitats of migrating birds for the long term and across national borders.
  • Raising public awareness: To draw attention to the natural treasures of the Balkans and to promote their protection we are carrying out intensive educational outreach and awareness raising activities (among these are exhibitions, talks, workshops, documentaries etc.)


What we have so far achieved - a selection of important successes:


  • Lake Skadar, Bojana-Buna Delta with Saline Ulcinj, Livansko Polje and the Neretva are all tremendously rich in ornithological and ecological treasures. We have proved the ecological value of these regions with regular population counts and documented it in black and white.
  • The network of trained bird watchers is growing: in the meantime local bird protectors are taking part in the counts in Montenegro, Albania, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
  • Numerous new nature conservation areas have now already been established.
  • The biotope maps we have created and population numbers documented have enabled us to put forward detailed protection concepts for newly designated nature conservation areas.
  • The Karst poljes in the Dinaric Alps play a key role in the conservation of waders and waterfowl. Together with our partners we succeeded in drawing international attention on the conservation needs of the Dinaric Karst poljes.

Partners: Partner organisations in Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Albania

Sponsoring: the Mava Foundation, EuroNatur donors and sponsors, Lufthansa Environmental Sponsorship 

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