rózsás gödény great white pelican hortobágy
Photo by András Koczka

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It’s been a tough year for trips and vacations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nonetheless, people are finding ways to adapt to the new normal.

Birdwatching is one of the cool new hobbies many have adopted, and it’s no wonder the birdwatching industry has seen increased sales in this period.

Many birders have had to cancel summer plans for their birding trip.

Fortunately, normal activities are slowly resuming. Since there are still a few months left to make the most of the year, what better way than to plan a trip to one of the popular birding destinations in Europe – Hungary.

In this article, I’ll guide you through making adequate preparation to maximise your birding trip to Hungary.

Bird Species in Hungary

Landlocked Hungary is an ideal area for hundreds of species of birds. Its biodiverse woodlands, the great puszta plain, summer lakes, and swaying grassland makes it a favourite for birds. Plus a lack of intensive agricultural practices in the country makes Hungary a free-for-all for birds.

As of 2020, there have been about 433 species of

birds recorded in Hungary. This makes Hungary an excellent spot for birders to find a variety of birds.

Some birds found in Hungary include:

  • Great Bustard
  • Red-footed Falcon
  • Short-toed Snake Eagle
  • Barred Warbler
  • Pygmy Cormorant
  • Ural Owl
  • Mistle thrush
  • Eurasian blackcap
  • Saker Falcon
  • Imperial Eagle

Birding Hotspots in Hungary/Where to go birdwatching in Hungary

There are great birding opportunities in almost every part of Hungary. However, certain areas are popular amongst birders. These are:

  • Hortobágy National Park: This is the number one birding hot spot in Hungary. More than 300 species of birds recorded in Hungary have been seen here. The grasslands and wetlands of the Hortobagy offer excellent habitats for great bustard, saker, red-footed falcon, etc.

Hortobagy is also a UNESCO world heritage site.

  • Bükk National Park: This is the biggest national park in Hungary encased with different varieties of trees. It is the domain of woodland birds including woodpeckers, nightingales, hawfinches, red-back shrikes, honey buzzards, and short-toed eagles.
  • Tisza Lake & Heves Plain: You will need a day or two to cover this vast plain located in Eastern Hungary. Over 300 bird species have been spotted here. The rivers and floodplains are home to a variety of water birds such as great reed warblers, coppery garganey ducks, white-tailed sea eagles, etc.

Some other popular hot spots include Kiskunsag, Zemplen Mountains and Lake Ferto and Hansag.


Tips for Planning your Birding trip to Hungary

1.    Choose your location

You’ve already decided to go to Hungary. There are many hotspots well spread all over the country be it parks, lakes, or mountains. Do proper research and decide on the places you want to visit.

You can purchase a map of birding regions, this could simplify your task.

2.    Determine your Budget

A birding trip can be as extravagant or as cost-effective as you want it. Decide on what you can afford while planning your trip. Luckily, Hungary is one of the most inexpensive places to visit in Europe. So you don’t have to break the bank to fund your trip.

3.    Sort out Logistics and Accommodation

It is best to book for your trip 1 to 3 months in advance for cheaper prices and so you don’t get stranded. Book your plane tickets, transportation, and accommodation, well in advance.

Choose a place to stay that is close to your preferred birding hotspot but also has a lot to offer when you’re not bird watching.

4.    Get a Guide or Ride Solo

Birding trips to Hungary are quite popular. You will want to decide if you would prefer birding trips with other people, explore on your own, or a bit of both.

Companies that offer guided trips are widely available. Some guide tour companies would handle your accommodation and every other logistics as part of their package.

Due to the pandemic, it would be preferable to go for the trip alone or with a significant other.

5.    Get your Gear in Order

You want to ensure you have the right equipment so you do not miss some once-in-a-lifetime viewing opportunities. Many of the birding hotspots in Hungary are lakes and mountainous so you might be doing a lot of long-range viewing.

The most important gear is your binoculars. Since you would be moving a lot, it offers stability when viewing through the lens and has a perfect magnification for bird watching.

You should also bring a scope, hiking backpack, and insect repellent for long hikes.

6.    Get a Checklist

There are hundreds of species of birds in Hungary. It can be fun keeping track of the birds you see. Ready a checklist to record your encounters. There are birding checklists specific to Hungary. You can also create your checklist of birds you want to see.

If you’re a competitive person, try giving yourself points for each sighting based on the likelihood that you would see a bird of that type. Then give yourself a treat based on the points acquired.

7.    Pack Appropriately For Your Trip

You would be outside for most of your trip, be sure to bring the right clothing, accessories, and gears. Birding is done in Hungary all through the year. Pay attention to the weather at the time of your trip so you can pack right.

Lightweight vests, jackets, shirts, shorts, or pants are a necessity. Ensure your shoes are comfortable to walk and stand on for a long time through different terrains. Waterproof shoes are a plus.

Easy-to-eat snacks and treats are also important to replenish energy. You can also take some to share with friendly birds such as dried fruits and nuts.

Final Thoughts

People have been finding ways to keep busy and escape the pandemic with new hobbies such as birding. A birding trip would certainly help elevate the birding experience.

As we continue to adjust to the new normal, a birding trip to Hungary might just be the escape you need to blow off steam.  Explore the beautiful outdoors and spot some of the rare and exotic birds the country has to offer while you’re at it.

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