Birding the Po Delta

One of Europe’s most important ecological sites, the 230 square miles of the Po Delta make up one of the most complex wetland environments on the entire continent. Here among the marshes, lagoons, flooded forests, pine woods, and coastal dunes, it is possible to observe and photograph some 370 species of nesting, migrating, and wintering birds can be seen and photographed. For many of those species, some of them globally rare, the Po Delta is an important stronghold at the national or continental level.

In this flat, wet landscape, wintering waterbirds predominate, but the Po Delta is ideally placed as a stop-over point on many species’ migratory routes, too, including raptors and passerines. Depending on the season, key birds found here include pygmy cormorant, marsh sandpiper, Caspian tern, slender-billed gull, Mediterranean gull, Montagu’s harrier, ferruginous duck, water rail, and honey buzzard.

The marshes and lagoons, known locally as “valli,” offer shelter for the Mediterranean and slender-billed gulls, oystercatcher, black-winged stilt, and little, sandwich, gull-billed, and lesser crested terns. Thousands of flamingos and hundreds of pied avocets often roost in the shallows, along with smaller groups of common and spotted redshanks, common greenshanks, dunlin, and little stint. Kentish plovers nest in the delta’s salt basins in large numbers.

A particularly important feature is the number of heronries here. The most famous and most thoroughly studied colonies are in Valle Campotto, Punte Alberete, Valle Bertuzzi, and Valle Mandriole. Hundreds of squacco herons, night herons, little egrets, and gray herons are regularly tallied here.

The large reedbeds of the delta are ideal habitat for many small birds such as kingfishers, bearded tits, reed buntings, and Cetti’s, sedge, reed, and great reed warblers. The Po Delta is also home to a small population of Spanish sparrows, which can even be seen right in the ancient fishing port of Comacchio.

The Po Delta can be easily reached from Bologna, Venice and Ferrara