A province with wings: an oasis for birdwatching

Cattle egret

Perhaps not everyone knows that, in addition to a well-known cultural, historical and culinary heritage, Italy is one of the most fascinating countries for Birdwatching – now known as Birding.

Countless naturalistic oases, fascinating nature reserves, a remarkable variety of ecosystems and protected areas are the kingdom of birds and migratory species that follow nature’s rhythm and enrich delicate habitats.

Much more than a simple pastime, this passion feeds many followers everywhere – even unexpected characters such as Paul McCartney or Prince Philip – who see birding as a method of rediscovering the wonders surrounding us.

We are not just talking about memorizing little-known wildlife species, lurking for hours waiting for some song or call, but about an exciting adventure in the natural and animal world.

Observing, analyzing and noting the habits, behavioral changes and attitudes of birds favours the study of ornithology and, consequently, of the natural world around us, as well as enriching the cognitive and orientation faculties of those who observe and listen. A good opportunity to embark on new challenges.

In the land of herons

Defined as a “province with wings”, numerous species of birds are found in the Novara area, with over 300 recorded in the province – a considerable part of the over 500 found on a national scale.

Among them, some are so rare and unexpected that they attract birders from various European countries – we mention the elusive big eye, the rare tottavilla, the majestic black woodpecker , or the very rare white kite (observed between Momo and Caltignaga in 2015, one of only 370 sightings in Italy from 1902 to today).

The Novara area is among the sites in Italy where the majestic and elegant white stork nests, a species already known in ancient Rome, which later disappeared and then reappeared in the mid-twentieth century.

Such richness is due to the presence of two important rivers, the Sesia and the Ticino, and to the variety of landscapes and climates, ranging from rice fields to hills covered with vineyards, as well as the mountains and the lakes.


The Novara territory hosts areas of great importance for avifauna, designated by UNESCO variously as IBA (Important Bird Area), as ZPS (Special Protection Area) and as a Biosphere Reserve.

Black Woodpecker

The attraction of the “checker-board sea”

The province of Novara abounds with scenographic and extremely productive rice fields and when they are flooded in the spring – the famous “checker-board sea” – they represent an important stopover for the migratory species of anatidae heading towards northern Europe, such as the dunlin (calidris alpina), the common winged plover or the Western marsh harrierand water birds such as geese and ducks.

They are also the ideal place for birds that nest in the rice fields themselves, including waders such as herons with specimens of purple heron, gray heron, egret, black-crowned night heron and cattle egret – and the limicolae or shore birds, who search for food by walking in shallow water, like the black-winged stilt.

Rice fields therefore play a role of primary importance in the conservation of birds in Europe, but do not limit yourself to fixing imaginative names in your mind: explore these expanses of water in which the imposing Monte Rosa is reflected and start fantasizing.

This amazing natural heritage with its array of magnificent foot and bicycle paths may come as a surprise, and perhaps bring to mind the touching words of the Novara writer Dante Graziosi:

“The paddy field is full of silence. But in the silence the plain speaks with its voice that comes from afar”.


The rice fields are really artificial marshes which constitute a valid alternative for nesting to a whole series of species of marsh birds. They also act as valuable resting areas for many migratory species.

Grey Heron and Egret

Sweet songs amongst the vineyards and nature reserves

The hilly environments dominated by traditionally cultivated vineyards, for example in the areas surrounding Ghemme, Romagnano, Sizzano and Fara, but also Castellazzo and Sillavengo, are the ideal habitat for the species typical of agroecosystems; for this reason, walking through the vineyards it is possible to hear the song of a colourful cirl bunting or a pleasant African stonechat, a woodlark, a hoopoe or a red-backed shrike.

And so it is that a simple excursion can give life to a pleasant experience in the natural world.

If, on the other hand, you want to explore the various reserves, the Lame del Sesia Nature Reserve is a fabulous protected area where you can see specimens of herons, kingfishers and mallards, as well as pintails, tufted ducks and common pochards.

In the well-known Casalbeltrame Marsh Nature Reserve, a birdwatching paradise, you will find both resident waterfowl and migratory species, such as moorhen, teal and various sacred ibises.

Other areas not to be missed are the Ticino Valley Nature Park, a favorite home of herons, the Monte Fenera Nature Park – here the nesting of the elusive black stork was sighted for the first time in Italy – the Special Nature Reserve of the Reeds of Dormelletto or the Lagoni di Mercurago Nature Park, where everything is born in the full respect of nature, its rhythms and its rules.

  • Nature Park Lame del Sesia
  • Lagoni di Mercurago Nature Park
  • Nature Park of the Ticino Valley
  • Monte Fenera Nature Park



Where to have fun while birding

Whether you are a bird watching enthusiast or simply a curious tourist, the province of Novara is a treasure trove of unexpected encounters.

You could witness the courtship of the red-crested pochard on the Ticino, or run after a butterfly at the castle of Proh, visit the spectacular Lake Orta, the breeding site of the red-crested pochardon the Ticino, or run after a butterfly at the castle of Proh, visit the spectacular Lake Orta, the breeding site of the pallid swift, common swift and the alpine swift, or even be lucky enough to sight agolden eagle on Mottarone and a wonderful short-toed snake eagle on Monte Falò.

Throughout the territory, the rich historical and artistic testimonies can offer ideal places for flora and fauna; among these it is worth visiting the Oratory of San Martino di Casalino, known for its 15th century frescoes, where the Butterfly Garden has been planted with trees, herbaceous plants and shrubs that attract different types of colourful moths. Even the dome of San Gaudenzio in Novara hosted the nest of a peregrine falcon in 2008!

Each area of the province of Novara is therefore an invitation to discover a naturalistic hobby, birdwatching, which goes well with other activities such as trekking, painting and obviously photography: a passion in constant movement where nature offers wonderfully charming and original views.

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