Istanbul birding

Yellow-legged Gull

Yellow-legged Gull

Last weekend I were in Istanbul. It is truly a magnificent city with enough tourist attractions and a history to keep you entertained for a life time.

But if you are in Istanbul and you have time for some birding there are two things that I would recommend. The first thing is to take a Bosporus cruise. It takes 1½ hours and takes you north to the second bridge and back to your place of departure.

Yelkovan Shearwater

Yelkovan Shearwater

This might be the best cruise in the world when it comes to see large numbers of Yelkovan Shearwaters at a close range. Almost every time the boat crosses the strait you bump into one or several flocks of these cool seabirds.

Yelkovan Shearwater

Yelkovan Shearwater

Other birds that can be seen on the tour include Mediterranean and Yellow-legged Gull, Shag, Great Cormorant, Alpine Swift and many more.



The second option is to go to Belgrad Forest on the European side. It is an old forest with many good birds. Dilek Geçit from the ornithological society and a friend were kind enough to take me to the forest. For the moment I have a woodpecker-obsession, so Grey-headed was my target. But it was weekend and the forest was flooded with people.

Middle Spotted Woodpecker

Middle Spotted Woodpecker

But soon the first of 6 Middle Spotted Woodpeckers were seen and a few Great Spotted were also present. During our search we found a Black Stork and at last a Grey-headed Woodpecker made an albeit brief appearance. So it turned out to we a very pleasant visit in the forest. Thank you Dilek!

Silas Olofson


One thought on “Istanbul birding

  1. Hi Silas,

    Nice site!

    We are birding in Ethiopia in January and have 5 extra days in the trip in early January. Our flight stops in Istanbul and we are considering birding there. Would it be worth a trip this time of year? What would the weather be like? We would have lots of logistics to work out. A guide for a few days would be best, if possible, but we have no connections there.

    We are wildlife biologists for the U.S. Govet. ( also lead local bird tours in Oregon) working with the greater sage-grouse for protection under the Endangered Species Act. The single largest effort to protect a bird over 74 million acres. Fish and Wildlife Service just decided not to list it due to lobbying from oil and gas and livestock industry. But the bird has a better chance to recover with better land management restoration activities . Now the lawsuits start. Exciting times.

    Any advice you have would be welcome.


    Rick Vetter

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