“DO YOU want to see a parrot?” With these words ornithologist Ján Dobšovič, standing below Sandberg hill between Devín and Devínska Nová Ves on the afternoon on June 23, lured passing cyclists to stop and have a look through a pair of binoculars. Those who did saw an exotic red, green and blue bird, which apparently flew from somebody’s cage, sitting on a branch. It was often accompanied by bee-eaters (Merops apiaster), the main attraction of the bird watching event.
“The bee-eater is one of our most colourful birds,” Dobšovič from the watching.sk travel agency told The Slovak Spectator, adding that up to 16 colours can be found in its feathering and it thus resembles a parrot to many laypeople, who sometimes call it a Slovak parrot.
The bee-eater, which is the size of a blackbird, actually has nothing in common with parrots. It belongs to the group of rollers, of which four species live in Slovakia. In addition to the bee-eater, there is the European Roller, the Common Kingfisher and Eurasian Hoopoe, all of which are very colourful and distinctive, said Dobšovič.
The bee-eater is migratory and arrives in Slovakia in late April and early May. They prefer to make nests out of soft materials, such as sand or loess, in which they dig nesting burrows with their strong beaks. In Slovakia they are found mainly along the Danube and the lowlands of eastern-Slovakia. As the bee-eater lives in colonies in areas with suitable conditions, you can often find a few dozen of them. One site with suitable conditions for the bee-eaters in Slovakia is Devínska Kobyla near Bratislava, where every year more than 50 individuals gather.
“The watching of bee-eaters event was a kind of a promotion of our organisation and our activities,” Dobšovič told The Slovak Spectator, highlighting the richness of Bratislava and its surrounding fauna and flora thanks to a variable environment. “We wanted to address passing cyclists, as this patch is very popular during weekends, and show them this charismatic bird.”
The viewing spot on June 22 and 23 was on the cycling route along the Morava River between Devín and Devínska Nová Ves near the Sandberg bus station and easily accessible for people without bicycles.
Watching.sk is a travel agency that organises bird, plant and wild life watching in Slovakia and neighbouring countries.