Since Burgas is part of the world-known bird migratory route Via Pontica, birding is naturally one of the most exciting free things to do in Burgas. Whether you want to connect to others or distance yourself from them, observing birds will always enrich you with positive emotions. In this post, find practical tips on birding in Burgas, useful digital tools, and download a free, award-winning guide to birdwatching activities in Bulgaria.

Flying pelicans
Watching flying pelicans is among the best free things to do in Burgas. © BSPB

The importance of symbolic birds

Urban birding is now becoming popular in many places. It is due to its ability to ensure safe distance and entertainment at the same time.

Usually, birding is associated with long trips and particular spots that are difficult to reach. Urban birding, in contrast, allows you to explore the wonderful bird world around you while walking in the park or observing from the window.

‘Urban areas represent probably the most important ecosystems in the world, – says Vladimir Mladenov, an ecologist of the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB). – These are artificially created and the most recent setups emerged about 2000 years ago.

In contrast, natural ecosystems – the sea, the desert, and mountains – have been in existence for millions of years. The urban ecosystem is too dynamic and stressful for birds. Some species are unwilling to adapt to new conditions and disappear, while others modify their behaviors’.

How can we facilitate the coexistence with birds? Why are some species not where they’re supposed to be? Where is actually ‘their’ territory, and where’s ours? Some people actually never raise these questions and frequently get irritated with some troublesome feathered or fur neighbors.

They think that birds should only beautify their reality. And it’s amazing how those perceptions shape traditions and urban myths. Let’s take two emblematic Bulgarian birds: the Stork and the Caspian gull.

Synonymous with revival, fertility, and family happiness, storks are the most anticipated bird in Bulgaria. Many myths in Bulgaria culture, all with positive connotations, highlight and strengthen the importance of storks. According to many beliefs, storks nesting on the roof is a good sign of luck and prosperity.

Every spring, storks have a special welcome with Martenitsa – a pair of dolls or a bracelet made of twinned white and red threads.

On the 1st of March, Bulgarians exchange and wear Martenitsa on the hand. When they see the first stork, they tie Martenitsas to blossoming trees. This tradition is a mix of pagan beliefs and cultural customs, its origin is not clear and has different versions.

Millions of Martenitsas decorate blossoming trees
Millions of Martenitsas decorate blossoming trees. © Tatyana Garkavaya

The tradition reflects the link between storks’ comeback and agricultural practices.

The returning from migration storks have a welcoming reception and extensive media coverage. The birds gather in flocks of up to 20,000 species, and their appearance in the sky is an impressive show. April is the best time of migration, and the best period storks can be seen in the Burgas region, the second-largest bird-migratory route in Europe.

The birds’ diet includes rodents, reptiles, and insects, which they hunt in fields or rivers. An adult stork can consume about 25 mice and four frogs a day. Thanks to their diet, storks control rodent and insect populations, which is very important for crops.

Some storks are particularly special and famous across the country. One pair of storks named Drago and Draga for several decades has been nestling on the bell tower in Bansko.

In ancient times, people attributed to storks such human traits as wisdom and sensibility.

Caspian gull: Bold statement of Burgas

Seagulls are the most common and the least-liked birds in Burgas
Seagulls are the most common and the least-liked birds in Burgas. © BSPB

The Caspian gull is another emblematic bird in Bulgarian culture. It’s the main symbol of Burgas, and people call the birds glaruses. Known for their noisy behavior and the habit of seizing up whatever comes to their beaks, the growing gull population is a constant source of irritation for many people. Some call them a scourge.

People from other Bulgarian regions intending to offend somebody from the Burgas region name him ‘Hungry Burgas glarus‘, ridiculing bad manners and a lack of education.

Very few people know about the outstanding contribution of seagulls to cleaning Bulgarian landfills. It’s a very expensive activity, especially for resorts whose population rises twofold during the high season.

An adult seagull consumes about 300 grams of food daily, about 20% of its weight. They are
omnivorous and willing to regurgitate things they cannot digest.

In Bulgaria, you can spot about ten different kinds of seagulls. Many of them can be seen as far from the sea as on Sofia’s landfills, about 400 km from Burgas.

‘We never should forget – before seagulls invaded our environment, we had taken theirs, – points out Vladimir Mladenov, BSPD ecologist. – The only natural habitat left for seagulls in Bulgaria is the Islands of Saint Ivan, Peter, and Toma; it’s less than in any European country.

Useful tools for birding

Binoculars are the main tool for birdwatching
Binoculars are the main tool for birdwatching. ©

The main facilitators of birding are social media communities and digital tools like iNaturalistBlack Sea Watch, and SmartBirds. They are akin to field diaries for observing wildlife. Birdwatchers may use data to see which birds they can encounter in certain areas.

I have already shed some light on many digital resources in my posts about a bird-watching volunteer vacation on Pomorie Lake and participation in dolphin monitoring in the Black Sea.

Looking for free things to do in Burgas? Download a free guide to birding activities in Bulgaria

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