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There is a type of tourism that seems strange or boring to many, but which instead reserves special emotions: birdwatching. It literally means “observing birds”, and not only or not so much to photograph them but precisely to admire them in their natural habitat. A true “birdwatcher” doesn’t even bring a camera with him, he/she will just have binoculars because the pleasure is exclusively that of observing. The most passionate, however, will not miss the opportunity to take photos, shoot videos, and also enjoy the beauty of the surrounding landscape.

Birds on Mount Etna

The protected fauna of the Regional Park of Etna obviously also includes many birds. The most common birds to spot on the volcano are – in addition to the classic sparrows – the jay, the cuckoo, the tit or the very agile “wheattail” (Oenanthe oenanthe) which loves to move quickly between the lava rocks. In lake areas, such as Lake Gurrida, ducks and herons may be also observed. But the real attraction of the area is the birds of prey.

Most of Etna’s birds of prey are nocturnal: you may spot barn owls and common owls everywhere, especially in the woods at low altitudes. But there are also tawny owls and scops owls. During the day, in the blue skies that cover the smoking craters, elegant hawks and buzzards, sparrowhawks but also – recently – a pair of golden eagles do fly!

bwatching ETNA (2)Where to observe Etna birds

Two itineraries are particularly suitable for birdwatching on Etna: Sartorius Hills and Piano Provenzana. The Sartorius Hills are a cluster of medium-sized craters located on the north flank of the volcano. Surrounded by wooded paths – easily accessible – they are the favorite destination for tourists and families. You can also climb the lower craters. But those who come here for birdwatching will reach the highest peaks and sit waiting for hawks or eagles to pass by.

Piano Provenzana also offers excellent routes for those who want to go birdwatching, especially in search of birds of prey. In particular, the itinerary that reaches the so-called “Abyss of Monte Nero” is suitable for those looking for sightings of particular birdlife.
Not far from Piano Provenzana you can reach the Ragabo pine forest. Following the wooded path for about an hour you will reach some old lavas overlooking the Ionian coast and the Alcantara valley. Here too, it is possible to admire fascinating birds of prey circling above.

Birdwatching at the lake

A unique site where to admire different types of birds on Etna is certainly Lake Gurrida. Located on the western side, between the towns of Randazzo and Bronte, near a quarry, it exists thanks to the natural barrier of a river. In some rainy periods of the year, the lake overflows and floods the vineyards below, creating spectacular landscapes!

Here birdwatching is almost a “must do”! There are also walkways and huts suitable for this purpose. Herons, ducks, ospreys and many other species, especially migratory ones, stop here and are admired by enthusiasts. Naturally, there is no shortage of “fishing” birds, which perform grandiose evolutions and dives… but only those who have patience and time will be able to capture these moments.

How to go birdwatching on Etna?

Easy! Just book a guided visit, or a tour, to one of the locations we have described. A guide at your disposal will help a lot during the long day that a good “birdwatcher” must know how to organize. Those who know the area well will also know how and where to help you find the right stakeout! (photos by GRAZIA MUSUMECI)

Autore: Grazia Musumeci

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