The Naturalist on Chios, Greece.

Mike Taylor , Liverpool Museum.


Birds on Chios

Chios offers a similar birdwatching experience to that enjoyed by the large numbers of birdwatchers who visit Lesvos in April and May each year. Some 95% of the bird species seen on Lesvos at this time of year can also be seen on Chios, in many cases the birds can be found more readily on Chios and when located often offer better viewing prospects

There are three species resident on Lesvos which do not occur on Chios, namely , Rock and Kreupers Nuthatches and Middle Spotted Woodpecker. On the other hand I have found two migrant species on Chios which have not been recorded on Lesvos. The first European Upchers Warbler was found near Marmaro in the spring of 1997 when I was with a group of birdwatching friends of mine who were staying with me. In 2001 whilst carrying out some invertebrate biodiversity survey work on Marmaro Marsh I found a dark phase Western Reef Heron feeding along one of the many drainage ditches. In late winter I have also found the handsome and elusive Pine Bunting in the marsh. Research by Iannis Choremi and others in the early 1970's proved the presence, during September and October each year, of up to at least ten to fifteen Red-fronted Serin on Chios. This species, previously unrecorded from Europe, was known previously from Turkey. Apart from single records subsequently from Chalkis and Lesvos, Chios remains the only known European location for this species. The resident Jay on the island is of the Black-headed eastern group ' atricapillus', this Taxon, Garrulus glandarius anatoliae being confined to the islands of Lesvos, Chios, Rhodes and Kos. A total of 66 species of birds are believed to breed on Chios.

The large rivers which feed into the Gulf of Kalloni and the Salt Pans provide the only significant habitat on Lesvos not represented on Chios. However nearly all the species of birds seen in these habitats also occur on Chios though not as consistantly and in the numbers seen in Lesvos.

During the peak period of the spring migration the changeable weather to be expected at that time of year can often lead to spectacular 'falls ' of migrating birds. Tens of thousands of birds seek shelter on Chios during brief periods of bad weather. I can still vividly recall my garden and adjacent properties in Vrondados giving shelter to scores of Whinchats and Pied and Collared Flycatchers with one olive tree in the garden 'decorated' with three pairs of Golden Orioles. During these passages of migrants occasional uncommon visitors also pass through my garden , including one Ruppells Warbler feeding on a shrub some six feet beyond my stretched out legs as I was drinking a glass of beer one lunchtime !!! This visitor making a welcome variation to the continuous visits by Olivaceous Warblers which breed each year in and around the garden.

Many of the rarer species of breeding birds which are eagerly sought by visiting birdwatchers on Lesvos are also to be found on Chios. Breeding Buntings include Black-headed and Cretzchmars Buntings both common on Chios. Breeding pairs of the rare Cinereous Bunting are found each year in the upland areas of north-central Chios amongst scattered pine trees. A visit to one of the easily accessible regular breeding sites will usually give the keen birdwatcher good views of these elusive birds. I well remember spending half an hour or so watching from my car parked on a mountain road the parents of three recently fledged juveniles feeding their offspring with large green crickets, the family party being only some twenty yards away. These same upland areas , including those wooded areas in the southern parts of Chios hold many breeding Woodchat and Masked Shrikes. Rufous Bush Chats breed in the more open hilly areas in south-central Chios , the wonderful aerobatic 'butterfly' display flights of the ardent male suiter to his mate in which he loops and stalls to display his spread tail feathers is unforgetable , and remains for me one of the most memorable and spectacular displays of 'airmanship' in nature.

Birds of prey are always of great interest to birdwatchers and Chios has many resident and visiting species to be seen. Three species of owls occur on Chios, the Little Owl and Barn Owl being residents. Three years ago a pair of Barn Owls nested in one of the ruined stone buildings in the Kampos area not far from the airport. The calls of the summer visiting and breeding Scops Owls are one of the most widespread and characteristic sounds of Chios summer nights.

Short-toed Eagles and Long-legged Buzzards are widespread on Chios throughout the year. Some traditional nest sites on inland cliff ledges having accumulated large quantities of nest material over the years. Display flying near the nest sites and aerial food passes being observed occasionally. Two years ago a male Booted Eagle spent the summer near Volissos in an area containing numbers of very large old oak trees, this habitat being typical Booted Eagle breeding territory, hopefully one day they may return to breed here as they once did in the splendid Kampia Gorge. One September my daughter and I whilst walking the north coast road from Leptopoda to Kampia Beach were lucky enough to see a migrating family party of two adult and three juvenile Booted Eagles flying in a westerly direction towards Agiasmata, as they flew slowly past us at the same height as the road, we had wonderfully close views of all the individual birds.

In the spring large groups of Red-footed Falcons can be seen from time to time migrating northwards to their breeding grounds in the Balkans, the largest group I have seen numbered more than forty individuals. They had rested overnight in a sheltered upland valley near Armolia, I only found them because I had to get to the valley before dawn to recover some insects from a light trap I had set the previous evening. Just after first light the falcons were on the wing again.

Eleanoras Falcons are common summer visitors to Chios, they can be seen hawking for insects, mainly dragonflies, on their long slender wings over the orchards , fields and mountains of Chios. This species of falcon delays its breeding until later in the summer when the adults prey on young swallows and martins on which to feed their young. They breed as a colony on the small offshore island of Venetico just to the southeast of Chios. Honey Buzzards, Marsh Harriers and Hobbies are regularly seen in Chios as they pass over the island during migration periods.

An opportunity to take a boat trip round the southern tip of Chios should not be missed as this will offer the keen birdwatcher close views of birds otherwise difficult to see. Corys and Yelkouan Shearwaters will be encountered wheeling and skimming just above the waves. Approaching the southern tip of Chios some of the annually increasing numbers of Audouins Gulls will be seen flying and also resting on the eastern facing rocky slopes where courtship display was observed in 2001. Perhaps they will soon establish a breeding colony here. Peregrine Falcons can also be seen in this part of the coast as well as numbers of Pallid Swifts which nest in the sea caves and rocky clefts and fissures.

Chios has its share of colourful birds as well, Bee Eaters have bred in the Volissos area since 2001 and Kingfishers are frequently seen fishing at Kato Fana, Lithi and Elinta. This year the presence of a pair of birds in the area of clay pits and freshwater pools at the abandoned Thimiana Brickworks indicate the potential for breeding to occur. Hoopoe and the different races of the Yellow Wagtail are common during spring migration and will allow close approach by the careful birdwatcher.

Chios has its share of unremarkable but nevertheless interesting 'Little Brown Jobs', often of particular interest to the more advanced birdwatcher. The same upland valley near Armolia which was the scene of the migrating group of Red-footed Falcons and the displaying Rufous Bush Chat, is the best place to see Olive Tree Warblers as my birdwatching friends and I discovered in 1997 when half a dozen singing males were found there. This valley also has regular breeding Masked Shrikes and Chukar.

Larger birds can be see on migration including groups of Little Egrets, Purple Herons and Glossy Ibis. A variety of wading birds can be seen on shorelines, estuaries, banks of seasonal streams, marshland and drainage ditches, including Wood, Green and Common Sandpipers. Little Bitterns, Crakes and Water Rails are to be found in brackish pools at the backs of beaches, such as at Kato Fana, Elinta and Kampia Beach, and on permanent marsh areas such as at Marmaro. Occasionaly much larger birds are seen including a Black Stork which I observed for about half an hour feeding in fields one spring at Kalamoti in south Chios. The shoreline at Managros had a flock of over a hundred Gargany on the 24th March 2003 where they had paused to rest on the beach whilst on migration northwards. The drier areas behind the beach hosts a variety of other migrants from time to time including, Stone Curlews, Quail, Tawny Pipits, Montagues and Hen Harriers.

A walk in the beautiful Kampia Gorge, which runs for a distance of about two miles from Kampia Village to Kampia Beach, in mid May is a joy to the general naturalist as the Gorge is far away from any roads and the air is filled only with the sound of singing Nightingales, rippling water and the buzzing of bees. It is also the home of many rare and interesting plants and insects







© M.J.Taylor 2003. - email: mike.taylor(at) 

Home - Map of Chios - Introduction - Birds on Chios - Wildflowers on Chios - Insects on Chios - Butterflies and Moths - Bees, Wasps and Ants - Flies - Snakeflies, Antlions and Lacewings - Dragonflies - Beetles - Grasshoppers and Crickets - Scorpions and Spiders on Chios - Mammals on Chios - Frogs and Toads on Chios - Lizards and Snakes on Chios - Armadillos, Terrapins and Tortoises on Chios - Marine Fish on Chios - Photographs - Acknowledgements