Why go birding in Spain?

In a European context Spain is very popular with birders and most who are serious about seeing European birds will make at least one trip to Spain. Many of the species that can be easily observed there are difficult to see elsewhere in Europe (Marbled Teal, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse etc.). The habitats are varied, the birds attractive as well as numerous and the country is easily accessible by road and air.

Left: an Osprey, a migratory species wintering in Africa. R  ight: a Spanish Imperial Eagle- an Iberian endemic and a highly desirable species for visiting birders

Left: an Osprey, a migratory species wintering in Africa. Right: a Spanish Imperial Eagle- an Iberian endemic and a highly desirable species for visiting birders

While the country is large, visiting birders have no uncertainty in where to visit. Spain is split into several birding destinations or “hotspots”. Every site has its own lineup of desirable bird and wildlife spectacles. They are all served well with good airport and road links. The Spanish tourist boards and birding travel companies advertise these hotspots as THE places to go birding in Spain. It is birding tourism done very well - if you ask a birder that has never been to Spain before where they'd like to go, they'll probably start listing locations like: Extremadura, the Pyrenees, Straits of Gibraltar and Coto Doñana...  

Map showing the key birding hotspots in Spain

Map showing the key birding hotspots in Spain

As well as the birds Spain has some good opportunities for mammal watching, with several desirable and iconic species. None more so than the Iberian Lynx, which used to be widespread across the Iberian Peninsula, but is now restricted to just a few sites, these have in turn become very popular destinations for people wishing to try and observe the lynx. Many of the best mammal watching locations are also some of the best birding sites, so birders often combine the two.

There is a key lesson to be learned from how Spain presents itself to an international audience. Rather then trying to make all of Spain sound interesting for birding, they have chosen to focus on a select few regions or destinations. There are of course other great birding sites in Spain, but perhaps less accessible or with fewer of the target species than the more popular sites, that are consistently good, even for many days in a row. One should not try to promote everything possible, but rather focus on the places with a quality level of international interest.

Birders enjoying a Little Swift colony in Andalucía

Birders enjoying a Little Swift colony in Andalucía

We aim to create a library of different destination countries as a resource for individuals and tourism businesses. If you would like to add your country/destination to this library, please email photos and a text describing your country's unique selling points to an international audience to: espen@biotope.no (in a similar format to these pages).

Photo credits: Zoe Courchene (header photo), Matt Lavelle, Harry Lavelle (Osprey and Spanish Imperial Eagle), Juan Martín Bermudez (birding groups), Sophie Barrell (typical scenery).