Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Country Profile: Hungary

Hungary (Magyarorszag) is a Republic which joined the European Union in May 2004. The capital is Budapest and the currency the Forint (HUF). Hungary is land-locked and bordered by seven countries: Slovakia to the north, Ukraine to the north-east, Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the south-east and Austria to the west. It covers some 93,030 km² and is split roughly in two by the River Danube which flows from north to south through Budapest and the centre of the country. Hungary is usually divided into six main geographical regions (Little Plain, Alp Foothills, Transdanubian Uplands, Transdanubian Hills, Northern Hills and Great Plain) but these can also be placed into three larger zones: Transdanubia, the Northern Hills and the Great Plain. Transdanubia is all of Hungary west of the Danube and is a region with very varied landscapes. In the north-east corner is Hungary's section of the large, shallow Lake Ferto (Ferto-to) which continues into Austria as the Neusiedler See. The wider landscape here is flat and dotted with grasslands, lakes and marshes and called the Little Plain (Kis-Alfold) as it resembles the Great Plain (Alfold) in the east. At the very heart of Transdanubia is Balaton, Hungary's largest lake, and just to the north-west of here the smaller Lake Velence. Forested hills lie above Balaton (Bakony) and north of Velence (Vertes) and along the border with Austria (Alp Foothills). In the north-east are limestone ranges such as the Gerecse and Pilis. South of Balaton there are rolling hills (Transdanubian Hills) and many fish-ponds set within wooded landscapes. In the west of Transdanubia there are flat areas of arable land, orchards and fish-pond systems set in open landscapes. Vineyards are found throughout Transdanubia in both hilly and lowland areas. The Northern Hills run from just north of Budapest eastwards towards the north-east corner of the country. All of the ranges (Börzsöny, Cserhat, Aggtelek, Matra, Bükk, Cserehat and Zemplén) are covered in forests, mainly broadleaved with some conifer plantations. They are fairly low and far from rugged, certainly when compared to the mountains found in neighburing countries.
With over 1000 birds Hungary has a key European population of Great Bustard. In addition Hungary has significant breeding populations of four other threatened species: Eastern Imperial Eagle, White-tailed Eagle, Corncrake and Aquatic Warbler. Eastern Imperial Eagle is in its European stronghold with around 75 pairs and increasing, as is Saker with around 150 pairs. There is also Europe's largest breeding population of Great White Egret. Hungary is also of great importance as a migration stop over for Lesser White-fronted Goose and for up to 100,000 Common Cranes in the autumn. The country still holds good numbers of breeding lowland species such as Red-footed Falcon (though numbers recently fell), Roller and Lesser Grey Shrike. Healthy populations of Common Bittern, herons, Spoonbill and large numbers of Locustella and Acrocephalus Warblers, also make Hungary an important country for wetland birds. The Hortobagy puszta is important for grassland birds in general and also a major migration stop-over for Dotterel with trips of 100 birds not unusual.

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