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Hungary’s Great Bird Sanctuary

A corner of Lake Tisza; Montagu's Harrier and Squacco Heron

Hungary’s Great Bird Sanctuary

István Arato

Lake Tisza is one of the best spots in the country for birdwatching and enjoying the location’s flora, where it is possible to see Yellow Floating Heart and Water Chestnut.  White Water Lily covers a significant part of the area.

The lake is a portion of the Hortobágy National Park, located north of Debrecen, the biggest artificial lake in Hungary.  The dam was built on the Tisza River in the early 70s, and filling the resulting lake was completed almost twenty years later.  The lake is 127 square kilometers and is 27 km in length.  

Within the Hortobágy National Park’s protected part, there is a separation between southern and northern areas, and the second portion, called Poroszló, contains the 3400 hectares of the bird reserve.  The essential purpose of the site is to safeguard the nesting birds.  There are around 400 bird species in Hungary, and 147 of those nest at Lake Tisza.  Many local and migratory birds flock there because of the incredible ecosystem that has formed there and the thick grasslands and wetlands that offer an excellent food source.

The birds that have been spotted include the Red-footed Falcon, White-tailed Eagle, Montagu’s Harrier, and Long-legged Buzzard, and so many more, including Heron colonies of Purple Heron, Little Egret, and Squacco Heron.  Bird-watching is possible along the banks.  One can also walk a nature trail and canoe at the lake.  Of course, the sound of the birds is magnificent and very relaxing.

This nature reserve can be visited by guided tours only and, of course, many agencies can book packages to visit the park and explore everything that the site offers.  One of the most exciting ways to explore this paradise is canoeing within its zigzagging channels, its reedy and wide blue water areas and flood basin forests.  Another cool visitor’s option is the 2 kilometer-long boardwalk in the middle of the lake.

Parts of the sanctuary are closed to the public for six months of the year to protect the birds’ reproduction.  Hortobágy is the largest bird migration group point in Central Europe. Approximately 80,000 to 100,000 birds live there during the spring migration, with over 250,000 passing through.

István Arato, son of Hungarian immigrant parents, was born in São Paolo, Brazil where he was a journalist.  He came to the US in 1996 and attends the Hungarian School sponsored by Magyar Studies of America in Fairfield, CT.  He is a member of the Magyar News Editorial Board.


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