Top 10 birds of Turkey

Northern Bald Ibis

by GuestPost-TristanReid on July 25, 2011

in Birding Western Palearctic

Guest blogger Tristan Reid is a birder and conservationist on a mission! This post introduces you to his passion for Turkey, his mission to help protect this country’s biodiversity; and his rather unusual campaign: Giving my right arm.

The best birdwatching in Turkey

Back in spring 2011 I was lucky enough to go on a birding trip to Southern & Central Turkey with three friends. We had an amazing time, seeing a mind blowing range of birds.  The incredible biodiversity of this country coupled with the breath taking scenery and fantastic people meant that I was well and truly besotted with Turkey! This country had a massive impact on my life!

The 10 best birds of Turkey

Turkey is an interesting country being the “hybrid zone” between east and west. While in many aspects a modern western country, the oriental flavours, sound and scent surface everywhere. It is Europe and Asia at the same time – both geographically.  And the birding is just amazing. Obviously, there is no problem of picking more than 10 special birds, but  limiting to just 10 these are my avian highlights:

Rüppell’s Warbler Sylvia rueppelli

Rüppell’s Warbler © Tristan Reid

Ever since I was a young lad (a long time ago as my daughters keep reminding me) and I flicked through my Peterson’s ‘Birds of Europe’ fieldguide, there was one warbler that really grabbed my attention! Rüppell’s Warbler, was the bird in question. I’m not sure if it was it’s striking good looks or its unusual name that grabbed my interest (more than likely a bit of both); but it was a bird that has remained firmly in my mind for many years! Suffice to say the excitement of seeing my first Rüppell’s Warbler singing from the top of a bush on a rocky slope in Turkey is something that will stay with me for a very long time!

Northern Bald Ibis  Geronticus eremita

Northern Bald Ibis © Tristan Reid

From a stunning beauty to what some would call pig ugly; The Northern Bald Ibis! This prehistoric looking bird is a species that I have some connection to (and not just it’s looks)! Many moons ago I was involved in a captive breeding program for this species; of course in those days I knew it as Waldrapp Ibis! Seeing this species in a wild state was something I had hoped to see for many years!

Spur-winged Plover Vanellus spinosus

Spur-winged Plover © Tristan Reid

We all know that waders are a fantastic group of birds; but vanellus plovers are on a whole different level! Here in the UK, Northern Lapwing is a bird we are still lucky enough to encounter on a regular basis. I’ve also been in the right place at the right time to see both Sociable Plover and White-tailed Plover! However the superbly striking and dramatically named Spur-winged Plover was a species I could only of dreamt of seeing! Of course the dream was realised many times over when I regularly encountered this awesome species during my trip to Turkey!

Pallid Scops Owl Otus brucei

Pallid Scops Owl © Pieter van Veelen

Owls are the epitome of enigma; so it is understandable why birds always strive to see birds from this avian grouping! For me the Pallid Scops owl was no exception; this was a bird that was high on my list of ‘must see’ for my trip to Turkey. It was certainly a bigger challenge than I had anticipated; managing to miss it on my first attempt put this into context! However a few nights later it was well worth the wait; amazing views were obtained of a very vocal adult!

Masked Shrike Lanius nubicus

Masked Shrike © John Thompson

If you don’t love shrikes; what do you love! The Masked Shrike is and absolute stunner; it was great to finally see an adult male!

Wallcreeper Tichodroma murariai

Wallcreeper © Francesco Veronesi

Now we bring out the big guns! There is something very captivating about the uniquely gorgeous Wallcreeper. Ask any serious birder what their top ten is; this beauty will be on their somewhere! When a female Wallcreeper fluttered over my head and began feeding on the rock face in front of me, I thought I was dreaming!


White-throated Robin Irania gutturalis

White-throated Robin © Tristan Reid

Whenever you talk to a birder who is about to visit Turkey, White-throated Robin is one of the first species they mention! I was no different, this iconic Turkish bird was held very high on my ‘wants’ list! This species is amazingly charismatic bird did not disappoint!

White-throated Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis

White-throated Kingfisher © Nathan Rupert

Kingfishers are always exciting to see, but White-breasted Kingfishers are amazing! Seeing one of these perched on overhead wires was absolutely superb! What a bird!

Black Francolin Francolinus francolinus

Black Francolin © Rudi Debruyne

When I first heard my first Black Francolin, I didn’t have a clue what it was! The saying ‘mad as a box of sparrows’ should definitely be changed to ‘mad as a francolin’! Aside from the raucous song, this species arguably has the most intricately patterned plumage of any species in the Western Palearctic!

Caspian Snowcock Tetraogallus caspius

Caspian Snowcock © Soner Bekir

You get up at 0330hrs, jump on the back of a tractor and then travel up a mountain to around 2,200 meters above sea level. As you walk along the track towards a viewing area in the dawn light  you are greeted by the evocative song on the Caspian Snowcock! Then you scan the rockface in front of you, passing the ibex until your eyes lock onto a massively striking Caspian Snowcock! Wow! That experience is without a shadow of a doubt my best birding experience of all time!

Giving my right arm

Okay, so you have the idea by now that Turkey is a very special place to me! What do the ten species of bird have in common? They are the top ten species voted for by readers of my website that will feature prominently in my rather unusual fundraising initiative! Images of these species will be part of a design (currently being drawn by an artist) that will be soon tattooed permantly on my right arm and shoulder! All of the species involved hold great significance to me; reminding me of the amazing experiences I had during my first trip to Turkey. Of course with such a permanent course of action, there has to be more than just good memories behind it!

Turkey’s biodiversity threatened

When I received information that the Turkish government had sold of all the waterways to private corporations to facilitate a massive swarm of Hydro Electric Power Plants and Dams across the whole of the country at huge cost to Turkey’s biodiversity and an estimated 2,000,000 villagers, I was completely stunned! I knew I had to do something big to help raise funds to support the work carried out by Birdlife Internationals partner in Turkey (Doğa Derneği) and to raise global awareness of the serious situation occurring. So this is why I am giving my right arm to help Turkey’s biodiversity! It does not necessarily stop with this; as if I raise over £10,000 for the cause I pledge to not only donate £1,000 of my own money; but I will also get a design containing a further ten species of bird tattooed onto my left arm and shoulder. Additionally if my fundraising total exceeds £40,000 I will cover my whole torso with tattoos of more Turkish birds!

The ten iconic species detailed in this post could well be wiped out (literally in some cases) if the Turkish governments plans go ahead. We cannot allow this to happen!

Please donate here:

Alternatively you can donate via text message! Text the code VWFE83 followed by the amount (£1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10) to 70070 (all letters in the text must be in higher case)

Regular updates will be posted to my blog; and you can also follow me on twitter at @givingmyrightarm

Top Photo: Bald Ibis by Digital Art



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