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Coastal wetlands & sea

škocjanski zatok slovenia
škocjanski zatok slovenia

Slovenia has a quite short stretch of coast, facing the Gulf of Trieste in the Adriatic sea. Although the coast is only 46 km long, some very precious brackish and saline wetlands can still be found. These include Škocjanski zatok Nature Reserve, Sečovlje salinas Nature Park and the Strunjan Nature Park. The Sečovlje and Strunjan salinas have mostly salty and brackish water, while Škocjanski zatok has both a brackish lagoon as well as a freshwater wetland. The latter is a new and re-naturalised nature reserve, full of interesting birds and always worth a visit.


There are several species of breeding birds found in the brackish lagoons and salinas and nowhere else in Slovenia. These include Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus, Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus, Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta, Shelduck Tadorna tadorna, Little Tern Sternula albifrons and Common Redshank Tringa totanus. Moreover there are also important breeding colonies of Common Tern Sterna hirundo, whilst Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus is also abundant although it doesn't breed.

The freshwater parts of coastal wetlands and their reedbeds are favoured by breeding species like Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus, Purple Heron Ardea purpurea (first breeding record in 2017 at Škocjanski zatok), Water Rail Rallus aquaticus, Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava, Great Reed Warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus and Cetti’s Warbler Cettia cetti. In some areas, especially at the Sečovlje salinas, Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis can be observed. Although Pygmy Cormorant Phalacrocorax pygmeus does not breed (yet) at coastal wetlands, it is a common species all-year-round. Another non-breeder is the Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis that in Slovenia can only be observed in small numbers at Škocjanski zatok and Sečovlje salinas. These wetlands attract also a great variety of migrating and wintering birds and are thus interesting to visit year-round. Škocjanski zatok is an excellent site to observe birds such as Moustached Warbler Acrocephalus melanopogon, Bluethroat Luscinia svecica, Spotted Crake Porzana porzana and Little Crake Porzana parva on migration or Bittern Botaurus stellaris, Merlin Falco columbarius and Bearded Tit Panurus biarmicus in winter. The Sečovlje salinas are the only site in Slovenia where Flamingos Phoenicopterus roseus are observed on aregular basis.

black-wingedstilt himantopus himantopus slovenia

Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus (Photo: Jure Novak)

little tern sternula albifrons slovenia

Little Tern Sternula albifrons (Photo: Jure Novak)

little bittern ixobrychus minutus slovenia

Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus (Photo: Jure Novak)

kentish plover charadrius alexandrinus slovenia

Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus  (Photo: Jure Novak)

mediterranean gull larus melanocephalus slovenia

Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus (Photo: Jure Novak)

moustached warbler acrocephalus melanopogon slovenia

Moustached Warbler Acrocephalus melanopogon (Photo: Jure Novak)

Interesting reptiles and amphibians of coastal wetlands include Dice Snake Natrix tessellata, European Pond Terrapin Emys orbicularis, Italian Wall Lizard Podarcis sicula and European Green Toad Bufo viridis, while the tiny Mediterranean Killifish Aphanius fasciatus and the crustacean Artemia salina are both adapted to life in the highly saline waters of the salt-pans.

Among plants there is a group of very specialised species, known as halophytes, adapted to life in strongly saline environments. These include Common Glasswort Salicornia europaea, Arthrocnemum sp., Sea Lavender Limonium angustifolium, Sea Purslane Halimione portulacoides, Sea Rush Juncus maritimus, Bluish-leaved Wormwood Artemisia caerulescens, Centaurium tenuiflorum, Opposite-leaved Saltwort Salsola soda, Sea Aster Tripolium pannonicum, Puccinellia palustris, Golden Samphire Inula crithmoides, Rock Samphire Crithmum maritimum, Beaked Tasselweed Ruppia maritima and Sea Clubrush Bolboschoenus maritimus. Among the rarer plants are Erodium ciconium, Brookweed Samolus valerandi and Bellevalia romana.

green toad bufo viridis slovenia

European Green Toad Bufo viridis

limonium angustifolium slovenia

Sea Lavender Limonium angustifolium &

Sea Purslane Halimione portulacoides (Photo: Paolo Utmar)

salicornia europaea slovenia

Common Glasswort Salicornia europaea (Photo: Paul Tout)

tripolium pannonicum slovenia

Sea Aster Tripolium pannonicum

Although the Gulf of Trieste and the northern Adriatic sea are interesting from the biodiversity point of view, here we will only mention a few of the most characteristic animal species. Among birds the most coastal of all is the Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis, never seen away from the sea. Adriatic Shags belong to the endemic Mediterranean subspecies desmarestii and the Gulf of Trieste is an important feeding and roosting area. Other birds that can be usually observed by the sea include Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis, Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis, Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus and Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus. In spells of bad weather and southerly winds Yelkouan Shearwaters Puffinus yelkouan can be seen close to coast, sometimes in flocks of several hundred birds. On the other hand, rarer seabirds, recorded just occasionally include Scopoli’s Shearwater Calonectris diomedea, Gannet Morus bassanus and Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla. In winter the Gulf of Trieste and the Slovenian coast become important wintering grounds for birds like Black-throated Diver Gavia arctica, Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata, Red-necked Grebe Podiceps grisegena and Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritus.

Other interesting animals, present on a regular basis in the Slovenian sea are Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus (common) and Loggerhead Turle Caretta caretta, while Short-beaked Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis and various whales (Cetacea) are very rare and just occasional visitors.

shag phalacrocorax aristotelis slovenia

Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis (Photo: Paolo Utmar)

bottlenose dolphin tursiops truncatus slovenia

Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus (Photo: Paolo Utmar)

yelkouan shearwater puffinus yelkouan slovenia

Yelkouan Shearwater Puffinus yekouan (Photo: Paolo Utmar)

loggerhead turtle caretta caretta slovenia

Loggerhead Turtle Caretta caretta (Photo: Paolo Utmar)

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