Birdwatching in Andalucia
Migrations north generally take place between mid-February and June and birds heading south will set off between late July and early November to make full use of the westerly wind.
The Straits of Gibraltar see many raptors, storks and other birds migrating between Africa and Europe. The limestone cliffs of Gibraltar provide one of the finest vantage points for watching these migrations. The only Barbary Partridges in mainland Europe wander freely on the Upper Rock and, down by the sea, you might be lucky enough to see one of the few remaining Shags.
Soaring birds, such as Raptors and Storks, cross the Straits of Gibraltar, relying on thermals and updrafts which only occur over narrower expanses of water. It is sometimes possible to see migrating flocks of up to three thousand birds.
There are some 13 resident Raptor species in Andalucía, as well as several which migrate annually from Africa. The best place to observe them is in the hilly parts of the province where they hover or circle high in the sky.
One of the country’s rarest birds is the Black Vulture and the Sierra Morena region north of Sevilla is where you are most likely to find them. It is thought that just a few hundred pairs remain, with most to be found in the Paraje Natural Sierra Pelada y Rivera del Aserrador, south of Aroche in Huelva province.
Another rarity is the magnificent Spanish Imperial Eagle. Most are located in one place, within the Parque Nacional de Doñana.
Other large birds of prey which can be found in mountainous regions include the Golden Eagle, the Egyptian Vulture and Griffon Vulture. Smaller birds of prey, such as the Kestrel, Buzzard, various Harriers and Red Kite, can be found in lowland woods and forests.
The large White Stork can be seen in the western region of Andalucía, nesting from spring to summer on electricity pylons, trees and towers.
Water birds are plentiful, particularly in the wetlands area along the Atlantic coast. These include Wild Ducks and Flamingos. The latter can be seen in several other places including El Fuente de Piedre and Cabo de Gato.
The colourful Golden Oriole is to be found in orchards and woodlands, the male having a bright yellow body. The gold, brown and turquoise Bee Eater nests in sandy banks in summer and the orange, black and white Hoopoe is fairly common in open woodlands and golf courses. Various Woodpeckers and Owls can generally be seen in mountainous woodlands.
The Coto Donana National Park comprises delta waters, flooding in winter and then dropping in the spring to leave rich deposits of silt, raised sandbanks and small islands. These conditions are perfect in winter for geese and ducks and in spring they attract hundreds of flocks of breeding birds.
Laguna de Fuente de Piedra, north of Antequera, is home to as many as 5,000 breeding pairs of Flamingos and numerous Cranes.
The Guadiario Estuary in Sotogrande has resident Osprey and, if you are lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the otters. Gulls abound. Bluethroats and Penduline Tits are winter visitors and Flamingos and Spoonbills often pass through. Kingfishers, Plovers and Cormorants can also be seen.
Laguna de Medina, near Cordoba, is where you might find the rare White-Headed Duck and the Purple Gallinule.