Think of Greece and many of us conjure up images in our minds of blue skies & seas, a sun kissed land of ancient history and modern holiday making. But there is another, perhaps largely undiscovered and appreciated side to the Country, its wildlife.
Greece is blessed with a marvellous and diverse landscape of forest, mountains, gorges, lakes, rivers and coastal lagoons. A surprising amount of Greece is mountainous with over one-third of the Country lying over 500m above sea level. For a relatively small Country of around 132,000 square kilometres surface area Greece is endowed with an incredible richness of natural treasures. Here are some of the highlights:
There are 425 bird species recorded in Greece, 243 of those species breed in the Country. That is a huge number for such a small place, making Greece very important for European bird life and a great place to visit for bird watching. Several species that breed in Greece are globally threatened, including Dalmatian pelican, Lesser kestrel, Pygmy cormorant, Black vulture and Cinereous bunting. Greece also holds the largest breeding population of Dalmatian pelican outside of the Former Soviet Union and two thirds of the world’s population of Eleanora’s Falcon breed in Greece.
Greece is home to around 6,000 different plant species and over 700 of those are endemic, meaning they occur nowhere else in the world. That equates to about 15% endemism – the highest in the whole of Europe! This diversity of plant life means that when you go for a walk in the countryside of Greece there is almost always something new to see! The mountainous topography of Greece has provided isolation for plants to evolve separately and sanctuary for all kinds of wildlife, helping to preserve this bounty of biodiversity from the pressures of human intervention.
Greece is adorned by 235 species of butterfly, more than half of the total number of species in the whole of Europe. These living jewels are a colourful feature of any excursion in Greece and the sheer numbers of them can be quite extraordinary, usually a feature of the more mountainous regions.
Reptiles & amphibians
Greece has around 70 different species of reptiles and amphibians. That is more than either France or Spain, which are both about four times the size! These include some endemic species, such as the Milos Viper (west Cyclades islands), The Peloponnese Wall Lizard (only in southern Greece) and the Levant Skink (Rhodes).
THREE TOP wildlife destinations
Dadia Forest– 36 species of raptor recorded and 20 breeding species makes this the raptor hot spot of Europe!
Peloponnese – the mountains of the north Peloponnese region are extremely rich in butterflies, 100 species in a week in June is a feasible number to see. The area is largely unspoilt and very beautiful too!
Lesvos – Well known as one of the best birdwatching places in the whole of Europe. The island is particularly good in spring, when as well as breeding Mediterranean species there are also many migrants passing through to breed in eastern Europe and Asia Minor.
Text provided by Matt Berry