Flora and fauna of Crete are diverse; the island is home to lots of endemic species of birds. What is more, Crete is an island that hosts lots of birds migrating from Europe to Africa. The territory of the island is an entirely protected area. Crete has lots of nature reserves in the mountains and at lower elevations.
Crete offers numerous destinations for birdwatching across all the regions of Crete—the Chania, Rethymnon, Heraklion, and Lasithi. Birdwatching in Crete will bring you to the most beautiful and isolated areas where you haven't been before. On a birdwatching trip, you will have the chance to discover the nature of Crete at its best and see golden eagles, peregrine falcons, lanner falcons, tawny and little owls, alpine and red-billed choughs, and other bird species.
In Chania, the best birdwatching destinations are scattered across the Lefka Ori mountains. Both, Agia Irini Gorge and Samaria Gorge promise magnificent views. For coastal birding, travelers head to Tigani and Rodopou peninsulas and the island of Gramvousa. There you can spot Eleanora’s falcons, eagles, vultures, and buzzards. The areas of Lake Kournas and Georgioupolis Beach are considered to be the richest destinations with unique birds such as squacco herons, mallards, and little egrets.
In the region of Rethymno (or Rethimno), some of the highest mount ranges of Crete provide a habitat of numerous raptors and alpine species such as bearded vultures and golden eagles. You may combine birdwatching with climbing up the highest peak of Crete—Mt Ida—in the Psiloritis Range. The Potami Dam Reservoir, southeast of Rethymno, is a relatively new freshwater lake completed in 2008. The lake is already proving rather popular with a variety of grey and squacco herons and other waterfowl. Kourtaliotiko Gorge and Kotsifou Gorge promise magnificent views. Birding in these gorges gives a chance to spot blue rock thrush, chukar, rock dove, griffon vultures, crag martins, and lots of other bird species. On a lucky day, you might spot a rare inhabitant of Crete—Lammergeiers or bearded vultures—with less than a handful of pairs across Crete.
Heraklion region boasts several birding spots with migrating and breeding species. Aposelemis River that feeds Aposelemi Dam, Gouves Lagoons, and the adjacent gorge are the areas for finding black-eared wheatear, buzzard, griffon vulture, greater flamingo, black-winged stilt, little egret, and purple heron. There are also lots of other places like Lake Votamos and Rouvas Gorge to be checked out.
The easternmost region of Lasithi, with the capital in Agios Nikolaos, is full of both Cretan and migratory bird species. Bramiana Reservoir and Zakros Gorge are some of the prime spots in this part of the island. Bramiana Reservoir is the place for spotting black-winged stilt, Eleanora's falcon, glossy ibis, garganey, red-footed falcon, and green sandpipers.
Best time for birdwatching in Crete
The best time of the year to watch birds in Crete, particularly the migratory species, is during spring (mid-March to mid-May) and autumn (September to October).