Birding Abruzzo

In the heart of the Apennines, the limestone peaks of the Abruzzo region tower over valleys cut by fast-flowing streams, and medieval villages cling to the steep hillsides. Centuries-old forests, among them some of the oldest in Europe, cover the mountain slopes, while the valleys preserve a working rural landscape with traditional sheep and cattle raising.

Some 300 species of birds have been recorded here, among them such rarities as the lanner falcon and the eurasian eagle-owl. The forests hold goshawk, red crossbill, and the rare lilfordi race of the white-backed woodpecker, originally described as a distinct species. High elevations are home to golden eagle, alpine acccentor, red-billed chough, rock partridge, rufous-tailed rock thrush, snowfinch, and griffon vulture. More common but equally captivating species include the serin, black redstart, firecrest, and Eurasian tree and Italian sparrows.

In the deep limestone gorges, you may encounter the wallcreeper, peregrine falcon, or rock bunting, while the rushing streams are patrolled by dippers and gray wagtails. Pastures and cultivated areas host the ortolan bunting, crested lark, tawny pipit, rock sparrow, and red-backed shrike.

Abruzzo is one of the best spots in Europe to observe such elusive carnivores as the brown bear and the wolf. Stealthy hikers across the vast high-altitude grassland may be rewarded with a sighting of the endemic Apennine chamois, with a regional population of several hundred individuals.

Abruzzo’s protected wilderness areas include Sirente-Velino Regional Park and Abruzzo, Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga, and Maiella National Parks, making it one of Europe’s most important conservation hotspots.

Combined with delicious traditional cuisine and local wines, any natural history visit to Abruzzo will be a thoroughly memorable experience, far from the tourist crowds.

Abruzzo can be easily reached from Rome and Naples.