The role of the crane in Hungarian culture is a charismatic one, especially with respect to the conservation of nature. This cultural role differentiates these birds from other domestic bird species. Such is their impact, that the Crane has become synonymous with Hortobágy, and is even on the coat of arms of the national park.
Cranes have a long historical role in Hungarian folk law. According to one historical myth, when the Turkish army wanted to defeat Hungarian soldiers, they accidentally awoke 1,000 cranes. They believed that the noise made by the birds’ alerted the Hungarian army giving them time to prepare, helping them to defeat and capture Turkish soldiers.
In recent decades, cranes have migrated to Hortobágy, which is the largest continuous natural grassland in Europe. Today, the Hortobágy’s steppes, fishponds, and other wetlands are known as the most populous terrestrial resting place for cranes in Europe.
With the fall of autumn, common-grey cranes arrive from Finnish and Western Russian territories in Hortobágy and stay for a short while. Once they get some rest at Hortobágy and at the Tisza River and they continue on their journey towards North Africa, Tunisia, and Sudan.
Their spectacular gathering at lakes and ponds can be witnessed at sunset and sunrise.
To pay tribute to the cranes as they fly over Hortobágy you can participate in different weekend tours organized by Hortobágy National Park and see tens of thousands of cranes take flight.
Cranes Watching by Train at Sunset or Sunrise
The first part of the program begins with a screening of the movie “Crane -Bird in the Sky” followed by a brief introduction to the cranes. After this, you can gather at Halászbárka Halastavi Reception Centre. Here, you will be taken by train to Lake Kondá to see the overnight visitation of the cranes, their arrival and departure.
You can join a sunrise bird watching tour to see tens of thousands of cranes heading from the Lake Kondás to their feeding place after sunrise.
You can participate in an excursion to observe feeding cranes.
Meeting at the Visitors’ Centre, you will be taken by vehicle from the National Park to the Hortobágy National Park, where you can watch the crane feeding on cornfields with an expert tour leader.
Cranes Watching Tour
The first part of the program begins with a screening of the movie “Crane Bird in the Sky” followed by a brief introduction to the cranes. After that, you should follow the tour leader in your own car to the bird-watching location.
You can also crane watch independently at the following locations:
- On the paved road between Balmazújváros and Tiszacsege, by stopping at a high altitude near the 3 km mark, you can see the crane flying towards Kondás Lake at sunset or sunrise.
- At the Lake Kondás: You have to turn at main road No. 33 near the 67th km sign towards Hortobágy Fishpond until the Halászbárka Fishpond Reception Center. Afterwards, you should walk approx. 5-km to get to the lake where you can see cranes at sunset.
Crane migration is one of the most breathtaking natural spectacles of the natural world with 10,000+ cranes taking flight at dusk in Hortobágy. Visit Debrecen by air via Debrecen International Airport and use the city as a base for day excursions to Lake Tisza and the Hortobágy. Your own car or car rental is the best option, both to access the area but also to experience the tour, and is approximately an hour’s drive, much of it through the spectacular wilderness.
The first part of the program starts with the screening of the film “Crane Bird in the Sky” made in 2018 at the HNP Visitor Center (Hortobágy, Petőfi tér 9.), followed by short information about cranes. Afterward, following the guide, the visitors approach the field in their own car, which is located up to 20-30 km from the village of Hortobágy. Expect a 10-15 minute walk on a paved road to the destination, then a 5-10 minute walk to the best viewing points.
- RECOMMENDED TOOLS, WEAR: hand binoculars, camera, layered dress, comfortable shoes, mosquito repellent.
- We keep to the tours even in case of bad weather! In this case, it is recommended to choose a raincoat or umbrella that suits the field environment.
Daytime Observation of Feeding Cranes by Bicycle
The program includes watching a film about the life of cranes and a briefing. The observation site is located in a non-accessible area of the national park, so it can only be visited with a professional guide and is accessible by bicycle. Another special feature of the place is that here the birds gather in larger groups in the hours before being brought into a nearby nocturnal place, and their various forms of social behavior, such as teaching their chicks or the crane, are still well observed. Following the film screening, access to the field site will be by electric MTB bikes provided by the national park.
All tour slots fill quickly and are subject to change, so it’s best to contact them directly to book your place. Thereafter, you will be notified of changes to the tour by email. For groups of more than 15 people, additional tour slots can be created.
Tel .: +36 52 / 589-000 • +36 52 / 369-140 (except Mondays 9.00-16.45)
Price: 1500 HUF / adult, 1000 HUF / child (3-18 years), 4000 HUF / family (2 adults, 3 children)
The program can only be paid for in cash!