Five birding hotspots in southern Portugal

Portugal specialty: Great Bustard, March 30, 2008, by Andrej Chudý (Wikimedia Commons).
Portuguese Specialty: Great Bustard, March 30, 2008, by Andrej Chudý (Wikimedia Commons).The great bustard is a specialty of southern Portugal. This one was photographed on March 30, 2008 by Andrej Chudý (Wikimedia Commons).

If you’ve ever thought it might be fun to see a Spanish imperial eagle, one of the rarest birds of prey in the world, or if you want to witness the extravagant courtship of the great bustard, pictured above, or if you think you’d like to see flamingos while you explore a mudflat in search of rare shorebirds, then I have a place to visit: Portugal.

I recently went there bird watching with João Jara, owner and operator of Birds & Nature Tours Portugal, and really enjoyed it. My article about our trip appears in the January-February 2017 issue of Bird watching. Here is a summary of the excellent hotspots we visited:

Tagus Estuary

Salt marshes, thickets of sugar cane, tidal mudflats, salt marshes, groves of cork oaks and rice paddies less than half an hour’s drive from Lisbon, the capital of Portugal: Greater Flamingo, Glossy Ibis, Great Pond Heron and Purple Heron, Black-winged Kite, Lesser Bustard, Iberian Shrike and European Starling, as well as ducks, waders, gulls and terns .

Castro Green

Castro Verde consists of rolling plains and green oak groves in the Alentejo region: great bustard, lesser bustard, Spanish imperial eagle, Montagu’s harrier, lesser kestrel, black-bellied sandgrouse, European roller, calandra lark, red robin and black-eared wheatear. Other regular species include griffon and black (ash) vultures.

See also  Biggest Birds in the World

Guadiana Valley Natural Park

Cliffs, hills and gorges in the southeast corner of the Alentejo: Spanish Imperial Eagle, Golden and Bonelli’s Eagles, Griffon and Black Vultures, Black Stork, Eagle Owl, Crag Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Blue Thrush and Rock Sparrow, as well as White-rumped Swift. The town of Mértola, surrounded by the park, is home to a large colony of lesser kestrels.

Castro Marim

Castro Marim features dunes, salt marshes, tidal mudflats, salt marshes and fields in the Algarve, on a major migration route for migrants from Africa: waders, ducks, gulls and terns. The only place in Portugal to find the Jean-le-Blanc Lark and the best site for Audouin’s and Slender-billed Gulls.

Ria Formosa Nature Reserve

Beaches, dunes, salt marshes, lagoons, canals, tidal mudflats and salt marshes can be found in this Algarve reserve: migratory waders and passerines, as well as Red-crested Pochard, Sultana squirrel and Least Bittern.

For more information on guided birding tours in Portugal, visit, email [email protected]call (+351) 913 299 990, or write to this address:

Birds & Nature Tours Portugal
Avenida do Brasil, 112, 2nd Dto.
1700-074 Lisbon Portugal

The January-February 2017 issue of Bird watching containing my article on birdwatching in southern Portugal will go on sale at Barnes & Noble and other newsstands on January 10. —Chuck Hagner, Editor