The Slovenian landscape is characterised by large forest expanses, interspersed with open agricultural areas. Fortunately a large portion of the countryside is still a traditional mosaic, managed using extensive farming techniques. Intensive farmland with species-poor habitats is certainly present, but more so in parts of lowland northeastern and central Slovenia and hay meadows and fields bordered with hedges and woods, old orchards, vineyards and extensive pastures are still to be found over most of Slovenia. These habitats host a very high biodiversity, conserved over the centuries through traditional agriculture. Areas of national importance for farmland birds include Goričko, Kozjansko, the Banjščice plateau, the Karst and Slovenske gorice.
The bird communities in agricultural areas are suffering very steep declines and their conservation status is quite worrying. One of the most iconic species, and dependent upon an agricultural landscape is the Roller Coracias garrulus, now sadly extinct as a breeding bird in Slovenia, although a few pairs still occasionally nest in the northeast, on the border with Austria. Lesser Grey Shrike Lanius minor is another species of conservation importance. Slovenia’s only breeding pairs live in farmland areas of the Vipava valley and on Šentjernejsko polje. Although declining, several birds such as Hoopoe Upupa epops, Wryneck Jynx torquilla, Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio, Skylark Alauda arvensis, Woodlark Lullula arborea, Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra, Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus, Quail Coturnix coturnix and Scops Owl Otus scops still remain common across Slovenia.
Lesser Grey Shrike Lanius minor
Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio
Hoopoe Upupa epops (Photo: Jure Novak)
Scops Owl Otus scops (Photo: Aleš Jagodnik)
Another bird linked to agricultural areas and human settlements is the White Stork Ciconia ciconia, breeding mostly in the northeast of the country, where it is very common. In other regions is present in lower numbers and totally absent in the west of the country. In farmland areas and in human settlements other species such as Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros, Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus, Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata, House Martin Delichon urbicum and Swallow Hirundo rustica are also commonly found.
Exploiting the open farmland areas for hunting and human buildings for breeding are owls. Little Owl Athene noctua is quite scarce in Slovenia, with notable populations only in the extreme west and lowland east of the country. Similarly, the Barn Owl Tyto alba is also rare and mostly found in lowland areas. Far commoner in the agricultural areas of Ljubljansko barje and eastern Slovenia is the Long-eared Owl Asio otus, forming traditional roosts in villages in winter. Two typical winter visitors of open areas such as farmland and meadows are Great Grey Shrike Lanius excubitor and Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus, while good numbers of Red-footed Falcons Falco vespertinus assemble on open agricultural areas, while passing through Slovenia each spring.