site.btaSrebarna Nature Reserve: El Dorado of Waterfowl
Called “El Dorado of Waterfowl” by Austro-Hungarian naturalist Felix Kanitz as early as back in the 1870s, Srebarna Lake continues to attract feathery visitors and those interested in seeing them. Now part of a nature reserve extending over 600 ha, the freshwater lake is the breeding ground and wintering site of over 100 species of birds, and a shelter for a diversity of plant and animal species.
The Srebarna Nature Reserve is located some 2 km south of the Danube, next to the northeastern village of Srebarna, Silistra Municipality. The Reserve includes Srebarna Lake, the former agricultural lands north of the lake, a belt of forest plantations along the Danube, and the islands of Komlouka, Devna, and Vetrine. Found within the Reserve are a variety of wetland habitats, including flooded willow woodlands, seasonal marshes, and temporary open water with submerged vegetation. The Pelikanite protected area on either side of Srebarna Lake serves as a buffer zone aimed at limiting the human impact.
Because of the rich bird life it supports, Srebarna Lake was the first wetland in Bulgaria to receive legal protection status and also the first to achieve international recognition. The lake was designated a reserve under Bulgarian law in 1948. It is listed as a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention and as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve; it is also on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
In addition to being on the Via Pontica bird migratory flyway, Srebarna Lake attracts birds with its unique floating reed bed islands that play an important role for breeding. Large breeding populations of the globally threatened pygmy cormorant can be found here, as well as of the near threatened ferruginous duck.The biggest attraction every spring is the Dalmatian pelican, whose breeding colony here is the largest of the three in Bulgaria. Srebarna is also a wintering site for some 30,000 birds, including the globally threatened red-breasted goose and the white-fronted goose, the greylag goose, and the fieldfare.
In addition to birds, the Reserve is home to otters, steppe polecats, and European wildcat, among other mammals. Over 20 species of reptiles, amphibians, and fish have been observed here, including protected fauna species under the Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats like the Danube bleak and the belica. Plants on the Red Data Book of the Republic of Bulgaria and on the List of Rare, Threatened and Endemic Plants in Europe grow in the Reserve.
Visitors to the Reserve can observe its winged inhabitants from the Natural History Museum in Srebarna using binoculars or the screens displaying the live feed (sound included) from strategically placed cameras. Alternatively, one can follow the two tourist routes around the Reserve to watch the birds from the observation platforms available. The hilly terrain offers an ideal means for observing the waterfowl.
During the winter months, the Natural History Museum is open from 8 am to 4 pm Monday to Friday. February is when the breeding season in the Dalmatian pelican’s colony usually begins, with the hatchlings expected in April-May. During that period, the Museum is open daily from 8 am to 6 pm.