Lake Srebarna Nature Reserve

This 1,482 acres (600 ha) of the Danube River floodplain is breeding home for some 100 bird species, many of them rare or endangered.

Over 200 pairs of Dalmatian pelicans show off red-orange throat sacs to impress nesting partners in spring. Hovering overhead are small red-footed falcons.

Lordly eastern imperial eagles with pale gold nape-shawls pair off. Trees along lake edges support dozens of pygmy cormorant nests each, filling the air with croaks and grunts (though birds are silent away from the colony). It is a nest site for glossy ibis (50–500 pairs), great egrets, and white-tailed eagles.

A few ferruginous ducks nest in reeds, unnoticed until they erupt in flight with showy white bars running full wing-length. Noisy black-headed gulls gather in ear-splitting nest colonies, attracting quieter pairs of terns—black, common, whiskered, white-winged black, and Caspian— it’s thought because the gulls’ noisy ways divert attention away from terns’ breeding sites.

White-fronted and red-breasted geese, ruddy shelducks, and brightly decorated bluethroats are among some 78 wintering species (though numbers drop off in years of severe weather).

Plans to drain marshes along the Danube caused the Bulgarian Interior Department to disconnect Lake Srebarna from the river in 1949, but resulting damage from low water levels caused them to dig a canal to reconnect it and restore fish populations in 1978.

Pollution still is of concern, as are continuing low water levels and siltation with scrub invasion permitting access by predators such as wild boars, foxes, and jackals (which wiped out the Dalmatian pelican colony in 1994, but they have gradually returned).

Visitor facilities include a nature museum, field research station, and nature center from which guided tours are available 11 miles (18 km) west of Silistra, which also has hotel accommodations.


Also of note is Pirin (Vikhren) National Park and U.N. World Heritage Site in high mountains south of Sofia between Sandanski and Bansko—access on foot from secondary roads off route 279—with exceptional flora, including endemics, often in great abundance, plus many species of butterflies and mountain bird species such as wallcreepers, golden and booted eagles, alpine accentors, and alpine choughs in habitat ranging from woodlands to high meadows, lakes, and bogs.

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Pirin (Vikhren) National Park