If you are fortunate, you may spend your vacations discovering new birds, but if not, you must fit birdwatching into any free time available in your travel schedule.
In late April, my husband and I went to Greece for eight days, primarily staying in downtown Athens (Psyri) and Santorini. This blog post contains photos and recordings of notable birds we found during our trip.
View the eBird Trip Report from this visit to Greece. It shows a map and list summarizing all of the locations where I reported seeing birds along with any audio or photos captured.
In this post
Athens is a bustling city with a lot of human and vehicle activity. When exploring the city, stay alert to spot the wildlife that calls it home.
In the heart of Athens, the Acropolis rises above the skyline. The beautifully lit Parthenon can be seen from the streets below.
We visited the Acropolis around noon and walked around admiring the beautiful architecture and ruins.
I spotted a large black, white, and blue bird flying around Parthenon. These Eurasian Magpies busied themselves looking for food and watching the endless stream of tourists.
Other common birds in the city
Swifts in the sky
The first birds that caught my attention were Swifts zipping through the urban Greek skies. Common Swifts and Pallid Swifts could be seen intermingled with each other in the air.
These soot-colored swifts have a forked tail and were found in large numbers all over Athens.
Pallid Swifts seemed less numerous than the Common, and I usually saw them in the same groups. The easiest way to confirm their identity was with binoculars and by listening to their calls with Merlin.
Yellow-legged Gulls (the only kind we saw)
I saw a lot of gulls flying around the city but rarely saw them on the ground around people. The Yellow-legged Gulls seemed a lot less aggressive for food than the US species I’m used to. These faint recordings of the Yellow-legged Gulls are the only time I heard them vocalize. This was recorded on Nea Kameni, a volcanic island off the coast of Santorini.
These faint recordings of the Yellow-legged Gulls are the only time I heard them vocalize. This was recorded on Nea Kameni, a volcanic island off the coast of Santorini.
Like other big cities, there are colonies of parakeets that have flourished in great numbers. Monk Parakeets and Rose-ringed Parakeets can be heard screaming from trees as they fly over in small flocks.
Calls of the Monk Parakeet
Equally competing calls of the Rose-ringed Parakeet
Crows with hoods
The Hooded Crow is a common corvid with beautiful black and gray plumage seen throughout the city and suburbs.
The calls of the Hooded Crow may sound familiar to those who’ve heard American Crows.
This bird is pretty nondescript and might fly under your radar. I saw this small black bird on the grass in a few shopping squares. It sang a few times when I was near, so check out its song.
The song of the Eurasian Blackbird within the city.
Listen to the song I captured of the European Goldfinch. This bird sang for me from a tree in the city of Marathon, the namesake city of the famous 21-mile race. We didn’t catch a glimpse of this bird and only heard its song this one time during our whole trip. The photo embedded below is courtesy of Macaulay Library
This bird started singing in a tree in the middle of the busy street not long after the sun went down. There was a lot of background noise, but it was my only opportunity to record it. Take what you can get!
Schinias National Park
My single bird-related destination on this trip was to visit Schinias National Park.
I couldn’t find a lot of useful information about this park before visiting so we just made the 45-minute drive there and hoped for the best. We saw only a small portion of the park due to time constraints.
Upon arriving (via Google Maps) we didn’t see any official signs or indications we were in the right spot. Nonetheless, we found a few trails off the main road and spent an hour walking around.
The park didn’t offer much shade but had lots of tall grasses, water, and trees off the main path. Birds could be heard singing but were hiding at the time of my visit. So, the next few birds I’ll share were heard only.
A singing bird caught my ear immediately after starting my checklist. The Merlin app indicated I was hearing a Cetti’s Warbler. The beautiful song of this bird was prolific during my visit.
The Cetti’s Warbler song was loud and stood out among the other birds I heard.
The chattering call of the Sedge Warbler was heard along with the Cetti’s. Like the other warblers at Schinias, they mainly hid in the vegetation.
Listen to the chatter of the Sedge Warbler.
This bird with a complicated name made an auditory appearance during my visit to Schinias National Park but wasn’t visible. I suspect if I arrived earlier in the morning, it would be easier to catch a glimpse.
Not the best recording, but you can make out the song of the Zitting Cisticola.
Dolce Resort (Eastern Attica)
We spent less than a day at this resort not far from the Athens airport. Though we arrived at night and left in the morning, we were still able to capture a few new bird observations for our trip.
I spent a few minutes outside at the water’s edge of the resort before heading to bed. During this time, I heard the calls of an unfamiliar bird.
The small hoots of the Eurasian Scops-owl permeated the sounds of the shore. It was a call and response between two birds hidden in the darkness.
The small hoots from these owls were persistent.
Lifers from a balcony
I listened for birds from my balcony minutes before heading to the airport. These efforts brought one final new bird of the trip, the Great Tit.
I’ve known of the Great Tit for years, but this trip only brought its faraway song. Next time, I’ll see it with my eyes.
Santorini was breathtaking…but stairs were everywhere…💀
Keep your eyes on the skies in Santorini, because most of the birds you’ll see will be soaring in the ocean breeze.
My husband helped spot these quick falcons as they zipped by in the sky from time to time.
We saw two species of falcon on the island, the Red-footed Falcon, and the Eurasian Kestrel.
The Red-footed is a sleek, gray falcon with red feet and a patch of orange-red near around its legs.
Eurasian Kestrels can occasionally be spotted flying or hovering in the sky around Thera Town.
A quick flyover 🐝
On two occasions during our Santorini visit, my partner heard the calls of the European Bee-eaters. Small flocks of these birds quickly fly past Santorini and I was lucky to capture a legible photo.
From this trip, I’ve learned that when traveling to bustling cities, there are still opportunities to discover new birds. Athens and Santorini may be better known for their architecture and scenic views, but these destinations also harbor a diverse array of birds. From swifts and gulls to parakeets and crows, there’s always something to look out for in the sky. Schinias National Park may not be as well-known as other tourist spots in Greece, but it’s a great place for birdwatchers to observe wetland and woodland birds.