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Five birding hotspots in southern Portugal

Portugal specialty: Great Bustard, March 30, 2008, by Andrej Chudý (Wikimedia Commons).
Great Bustard is a southern Portugal specialty. 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’d like to witness the extravagant courtship display of the Great Bustard, pictured above, or if you think you’d get a kick out of seeing flamingos while you scope a mudflat for rare shorebirds, then I have a place for you to visit — Portugal.

I went birding there recently 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 BirdWatching. Here’s a summary of the excellent hotspots we visited:

Tagus Estuary

Salt marshes, cane thickets, tidal mudflats, saltpans, cork-oak groves, and rice fields less than a half hour’s drive from Lisbon, Portugal’s capital: Greater Flamingo, Glossy Ibis, Squacco and Purple Herons, Black-winged Kite, Little Bustard, Iberian Grey Shrike, and Spotless Starling, as well as ducks, waders, gulls, and terns.

Castro Verde

Castro Verde consists of rolling plains and Holm oak groves in the Alentejo region: Great Bustard, Little Bustard, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Montagu’s Harrier, Lesser Kestrel, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, European Roller, Calandra Lark, Rufous Bush Robin, and Black-eared Wheatear. Other regular species include Griffon and Black (Cinereous) Vultures.

Guadiana Valley Nature Park

Bluffs, hills, and gorges in the southeastern 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 Rock Thrush, and Rock Bunting, as well as White-rumped Swift. The city of Mértola, surrounded by the park, hosts an important colony of Lesser Kestrels.


Castro Marim

Castro Marim features dunes, salt marshes, tidal mudflats, saltpans, and fields in the Algarve, on a major flyway for migrants from Africa: Waders, ducks, gulls, and terns. The only place in Portugal to find Lesser Short-toed 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 saltpans are at this reserve in the Algarve: Migrant waders and passerines, as well as Red-crested Pochard, Purple Swamphen, and Little Bittern.

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


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

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

Originally Published

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