Birdwatching along the Tagliamento river

4 min read
Credits: Giosuè Cuccurullo
Credits: Giosuè Cuccurullo

Imagine for a moment having wings and having to soar through the sky twice a year, first from south to north and then back, from north to south, crossing the territory of Friuli Venezia Giulia in flight.

Picture arriving over the Alps and seeing an extremely long white corridor, like a map drawn on a piece of paper, showing you the path for the next hundred kilometers of your journey. This traced route through mountains, hills, and plains is the River Tagliamento. And it’s the course that its waters have drawn on the land with their tireless flow, which numerous bird species follow during the seasonal movements they must make during migrations.

Credits: Giosuè Cuccurullo

It is not uncommon, therefore, in spring and autumn, to observe flocks of Common Cranes (Grus grus) in their classic “V” formation flying over the bed of the Tagliamento. Similarly, Cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo), Wild Geese (Anser anser), Mute Swans (Cygnus olor), White Storks (Ciconia ciconia), and numerous other species of waterfowl like Teal (Anas crecca), Garganey (Spatula querquedula), and Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) migrate in groups, sometimes very numerous, following the river as their trajectory.

Similarly, numerous species of raptors like the Short-toed Snake Eagle (Circaetus gallicus), Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), Red Kite (Milvus milvus), and Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus) fly in small groups or solitary over the bed of the Tagliamento, letting themselves be guided in their long migratory journey.

But the Tagliamento is not just a natural compass for birdlife; its bed and the vegetation that develops on its sides are areas for rest, feeding, and protection during the obligatory stops that birds must make in their movements.

PIro Piro - Credits: Matteo Toller

In the spring and autumn months, waders such as the Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago), Common Redshank (Tringa totanus), Dunlin (Calidris alpina), and Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus) take advantage of the Tagliamento’s bed and the water pools at the edge of the main course to stop and replenish their energy.

And also during this period, the riparian forests and shrubby environments along the river teem with passerines on migratory stopover, including the European pied flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca).

The River Tagliamento, with its varied and numerous natural environments, also has the perfect characteristics for the nesting of a large number of bird species.

Merlo acquaiolo - Credits: Paolo Zonta

The cold and fast waters of the mountainous stretch of the river are the ideal nesting place for the White-throated Dipper (Cinclus cinclus). The beds and banks of the mountain valleys are favored by the Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos), and descending a little further downstream, the Goosander (Mergus merganser) finds optimal conditions for reproduction in environments where the waters are slower, with lush and mature riparian vegetation, and rich in cavities used as nests.

The shrubby environments along the bank are hospitable to the melodious warbler (Hippolais polyglotta), the Common Whitethroat (Sylvia communis), and the Hoopoe (Upupa epops). In the lush riparian forests, the Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius), Eurasian Nuthatch (Sitta europaea), short-toed treecreper (Certhia brachydactyla), and Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus) find the ideal place to nest.

Smergo maggiore - Credits: Renato Castellani

In grassy vegetation mixed with sparse shrubs and bushes, the Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) manages to reproduce. In river sections characterized by well-developed banks, the Bee-eater (Merops apiaster), Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), and Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) find a home.

The arid and dry riverbed and the areas of primitive fallow that develop along the course of the Tagliamento, despite appearing at first glance as poor and sterile places, are actually environments of fundamental importance for the nesting of peculiar species such as the Stone Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus), Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius), European Nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus), Woodlark (Lullula arborea), and Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe).

Occhione - Credits: Renato Castellani

One must not forget the decidedly prominent role of the Tagliamento River during the coldest months of the year when it is used as a wintering site by species such as the Great Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor), Woodcock (Scolopax rusticola), Water Pipit (Anthus spinoletta), and Skylark (Alauda arvensis).

The riparian forests during winter are populated by Song Thrushes (Turdus philomelos), Chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs), and Fieldfares (Turdus pilaris).

Monospecific or mixed groups, sometimes very numerous, of finches and buntings, such as Chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs), Eurasian Tree Sparrows (Passer montanus), Bramblings (Fringilla montifringilla), Siskins (Carduelis spinus), Reed Buntings (Emberiza schoeniclus), and Lapland Buntings (Calcarius lapponicus) frequent the fallow areas, stubble fields, cultivated areas, and thickets along the banks of the riverbed. Intermingled with these species, irregularly appearing, are species of northern origin such as the Ortolan Bunting (Emberiza erythrogenys) and Lapland Longspur (Calcarius lapponicus).

At this link, you will find the story of the BIRDWATCHING BIOBLITZ that the TRINGA FVG birdwatching group conducted in 2020 along the Tagliamento River.

This blog managed by the birdwatching group TRINGA FVG will provide with facts, curiosities and information on the Friuli Venezia Giulia birdlife.