Andalusia is a birdwatcher's paradise and attracts ornithologists throughout the year. Thanks to its prime location midway on the migration route from northern Europe to southern Africa, the provinces of southern Spain have become a mecca for bird lovers. Hundreds of wintering species touch down in and around Andalusia during the springtime, while waterfowl, birds of prey and countless other species can be seen year round.The Straits of Gibraltar are a key point of passage for raptors, storks and other birds migrating between Africa and Europe. Northern migrations take place between mid-February and June, while those birds heading south will set off between late July and early November when there's a westerly wind. Soaring birds such as raptors and storks cross the Straits of Gibraltar as they rely on thermals and updrafts which only occur over narrower expanses of water. One of the most impressive sights over the Straits is when flocks of storks, sometimes numbering up to three thousand, cross en masse.
Doñana National Park in the south of the region is a prime spot for ornithologists as well as walkers and is one of Europe's most important wetland reserves. Officially protected since 1969, the vast delta is created by the Guadalquivir River and drains in the spring to leave sandbanks and islands – the perfect breeding ground for geese and flamingos. In total the park spans more than 500 square miles. Head for the hills to see raptors circling in the sky such as the black vulture. The Sierra Morena region north of Sevilla is where you find this black vulture, one of the country's rarest birds. There are thought to be just a few hundred pairs here. Yet this may well be the largest colony in Europe, with most to be found in the Paraje Natural Sierra Pelada and Rivera del Aserrador, south of Aroche in Huelva province.
Other large birds of prey which can be found in mountainous regions include the golden eagle (and several other eagles) and the Egyptian and griffon vultures. Smaller birds of prey, such as the kestrel, buzzard various harriers and red kite, can be spotted in lowland woods and forests.
To the west of the province a far more common sight is the large white stork in abundance, and the birds' huge nests on electricity pylons, trees and towers, can be seen during the spring and summer months.
Wild ducks and flamingos are among the vast number of waterfowl, particularly to be spotted in the wetlands area along the Atlantic coast. Flamingos can be seen in several other places as well like La Fuente de Piedra and Cabo de Gato.
Among the most colourful of Andalucía's many birds is the golden oriole, which can be seen in orchards and woodlands, particularly during the summer months. The male oriole has a dazzling bright yellow body. The orange, black and white hoopoe is a similarly striking bird, common in open woodlands and golf courses. Also worth seeing is the gold, brown and turquoise bee-eater, which nests in sandy banks in summer and, last but not least, various woodpeckers and owls which generally inhabit mountainous woodlands.
The region of the Costa Tropical de Granada is certainly one of the most interesting locations in Spain for ornithologists. From the Costa Tropical coastline, inland across hills, in the Lecrin valley and the Alpujarra, with a huge variety of changing terrain to the mountains of the Sierra Nevada a vast array of birds, both native and migratory, can be found.
The birds of the Alpujarra
The magnificent Golden and Bonelli´s Eagles are joined by large numbers of Booted and Short-toed Eagles as they return from their wintering grounds in Africa in the spring. Migrant Lesser Kestrels too breed locally. There are Egyptian Vultures drifting through early in the year, and towards the end of summer spectacular Griffon Vultures can be found soaring over the hillsides above the village.
The Southern Grey Shrikes and flamboyant Hoopoes can be seen all year, with migrant Woodchat Shrikes and beautiful Golden Orioles as well. Noisy flocks of Bee Eaters add a tropical splash of colour throughout the season. With Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Thrush, Black Wheatear and Black-eared Wheatear all seen regularly we've got some of the best birdwatching in Europe on our doorstep!