Since 1951, Lake Balaton has been protected at the national level, since 1979, it has been a listed area by the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention), and, since 2004, it has been a prominent area of Natura 2000, the nature protection network of the European Community. The 150 square kilometres' protected area of national importance is known for its avifauna both to amateurs and experts, but due to the mosaicism and species richness of habitats, the importance of other groups of organisms, primarily linked to aquatic habitats, is also significant.
Living conditions in the water meet the needs of many invertebrates. Among other things, you can catch snails, leeches, insects, dragonfly larvae if you are lucky. One of our most precious insect species is the protected large white-faced darter (Leucorrhinia pectoralis).
Out of our protected fish species, the European mud minnow (Umbra krameri) and the European weather fish (Misgurnus fossilis) can be found here in large numbers, but the stock of the wild Danube carp is also far-famed. The area’s amphibious fauna is very rich, apart from the smooth newt (Triturus vulgaris) and the Danube crested newt (Triturus dobrogicus), almost all domestic frog species can be found here. In the waters, you can often see grass snakes (Natrix natrix), which are very good at swimming, dice snakes (Natrix tessellata), and European pond turtles (Emys orbicularis) sunbathing.
Some of the most renowned members of the avifauna are herons including the great egret (Egretta alba), which became famous for being the heraldic bird of nature conservation, the little egret (Egretta garzetta), the grey heron (Ardea cinerea), the bronze shaded purple heron (Ardea purpurea), the squacco heron (Ardeola ralloides) with its impressive appearance, and the black-crowned night heron (Nycticorax nycticorax).
From among the great number of breeding, migratory and overwintering birds of the Anatidae family, the ferruginous duck (Aythya nyroca), which is under enhanced protection, must be mentioned along with the colourful red-crested pochard (Netta rufina). The greylag goose (Anser anser) is known here as a breeding and overwintering bird species flying in enormous flocks. Out of the grebe family, you can meet the great crested grebe (Podiceps cristatus), which carries its nestlings on its back, and the much smaller-sized little grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) here. The master fisher of waters, the great or black cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) got its name after its black colour. Its smaller relative is the highly protected pygmy cormorant (Phalacrocorax pygmaeus), which became completely extinct in our country before but appeared again at the end of the last century.
The rails are represented by the Eurasian coot (Fulica atra) and the common moorhen (Gallinula chloropus), but some crake species (Porzana spp.) and the water rail (Rallus aquaticus) itself also inhabit the area - although the latter can primarily be perceived by its sound. Seagulls and different tern species are flitting above the waters. From among our birds of prey, it is worth mentioning the western marsh harrier (Circus aeruginousus), which breeds in the reeds, and the enormous white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla), which feeds on fish.
The most characteristic mammal of the area is the Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra), which is an excellent swimmer and has a significant population at Kis Balaton. The stoat (Mustela erminea), which also lives beside waters, changes its fur white in the winter, only the end of its tail remains black. European pine martens (Martes martes) lodge in the woods and golden jackals (Canis aureus) in the reeds. One of our small mammals, the tundra vole (Microtus oeconomus ssp. méhelyii), which is a relict from the ice age representing a prominent value, and whose largest domestic population can be found at Kis Balaton, lives in cold microclimate sedges. In addition to lush reed-grass and bulrush areas, huge reeds, sedges, swamps and fenwoods, marshes, meadows, willow and poplar groves, alder and oak trees can be found here.
The reed grass vegetation is made more diverse by white water-lilies (Nymphaea alba), yellow water-lilies (Nuphar lutea) and water smartweeds (Polygonum amphibium). The water chestnut (Trapa natans), which is a protected plant and known for its ornately shaped fruits, also lives together with the reed-grass. The area's botanical rarities include the world's smallest flowering plant, the rootless duckweed (Wolffia arrhiza), the extremely rare and protected Kievan nettle (Urtica kioviensis) occurring only in vast wetlands, the marsh fern (Thelypteris palustris), and there are many orchid species in the grasslands. Furthermore, the greater spearwort (Ranunculus lingua), the highly toxic cowbane (Cicuta virosa), and the marsh pea (Lathyrus palustris) are of great value.