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Hellenic Ornithological Society, photo: Th.Kominos
The Importance of Antikythira

Isabelline WheatearAreas such as Antikythira, Kythira, Mani peninsula and Crete play a very important role for thousands of migrants. Due to the long distances they have to cover in a short period of time, these areas are provide them food and rest, enabling them to replenish all the consumed energy, and keep on their migration unhindered.

So, every year during both migration periods (spring and fall) Antikythira are being used by a huge number of birds. Some of them just pass over, without stop, and others, after a long journey, spend a few hours to feed and rest.

In spring, birds are coming from Western Crete or directly from the coasts of North Africa. From early March to mid June millions of small birds have passed over the island. Along with them, many waders and waterfowl are using the coasts or seasonal flooded fields inland to rest, while birds of prey pass in fluctuating numbers through all the season. In fall migration, things are quite different as birds are coming from Europe (mainly central and eastern). This time, however, along with the adults that passed in spring, 1st year birds follow.

From the above data we can point out two features of Antikythira: this island is a very important migration site (more than 200 migrant species) especially for passerines and 5 breeding species are birds of prey, found in good numbers. All of these raptors have been seen feeding on birds, even the Kestrels.

Raptors in FlightTo sum up the reasons why Antikythira is so important a site for birds, we’d say that:

  • It is the only inhabited island with the largest colony of Eleonora’s Falcon (Falco eleonorae), globally

     
  • It is also of the very few cases, if not the only, where so many pairs of birds of prey from 5 different species nest in such a small area.

     
  • It is one of the very few Greek sites where one can observe 28 different species of birds of prey, plus 4-5 subspecies, during both migration periods. Some of them, like the Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) and the Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus) are seen in concentrations even of thousands of birds. Furthermore, some species occur in numbers much higher than in any other migration corridor in central Mediterranean (south Italy, Sicily, Malta, etc).

     
  • It’s the westernmost site in the world where the Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina) breeds, while the closest areas with sparse populations are the eastern Aegean and Thrace.

     
  • Species which, according to their wintering grounds, should not be so regular passage migrants have been recorded in large numbers. For example, the Red-breasted Flycatcher (Ficedula parva), wintering in India and recorded in the island every fall in large numbers.

     
  • Finally, it is one of the very few sites in Greece where on a daily basis one can see huge numbers (several thousands) of passerine and other species.

     

Antikythira is one of the most important sites for the study of bird (raptors and passerines) migration in Greece. At the same time, it’s one of the few areas where one can so easily earn to identify a great number of bird species.

 

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