Bird watching Bird watching, Eastern Algarve, Portugal

A paradise for birds and bird watchers alike...

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See our rental accommodation in the Eastern Algarve

The Eastern Algarve has much to offer anyone with a keen or even a passing interest in bird life. Throughout the year, there is the chance to see species of birds that are either rare or unseen in the UK, as well as many you will recognise from back home. 

At migration times - Autumn and Spring - the Eastern Algarve benefits from its close proximity to the land bridge to Africa on the southern tip of Spain and its coastal wetlands in particular are important stop-overs and feeding grounds on the migration routes south and North.

In Winter, there is the chance to see various over-wintering birds, including Bluethroats, Spoonbill, and most spectacularly Greater Flamingo.

In Summer, you have the chance of seeing European Bee-Eaters, Golden Oriels, European Rollers, Woodchat Shrikes and Red-Necked Nightjars.

And all year round you can see such exotic birds as White Storks, Black-Winged Stilts, Avocets, Hoopoes, Azure-Winged Magpies, Sardinian Warblers and Common Waxbills. It is also the only place in the Europe you stand the chance to see a Purple Galinule - a bird on the edge of extinction - and chosen as the symbol of the Ria Formosa Natural Park.

Rarities seen by eastoffaro guests in 2008 have included: Griffon Vulture, Black-Shouldered Kite, Glossy Ibis, Purple Galinule and Audouine's Gull.

So come and stay with us eastoffaro; you never know what you might see.

We list here just some of the more exotic species for visitors from the UK, most of which are easily seen in the Eastern Algarve.

Cattle Egret - Bubulcus ibis - Smaller and more hunched than the little egret. You'll see them in fields often in large numbers. Common. All year.

Little Egret - Egretta garzetta - A graceful hunter of the lagoon edges. Take time to watch them, quite beautiful reflected in a calm blue lagoon. Common. All year, more in winter.

Spoonbill - Platalea leucorodia - Another spectacular wading bird difficult to mistake for anything else due to the unique bill and side-to-side feeding technique. In the salt pans and marshes of the Ria Formosa and Castro Marim reserves. Winter only.

White Stork - Ciconia ciconia - Very hard to miss. Huge, graceful when standing and especially in flight, you'll see them nesting on any suitable tall structure, often right in the middle of towns. For example, the telecom aeriel and old chimneys in the centre of Tavira, the chimneys in Olhão, the Cathedral in Faro old town. All year.

Greater Flamingo - Phoenicopterus ruber - Needs no introduction. You've probably seen hundreds in parks, but seeing them in the wild is still very special. A flock feeding in the calm blue lagoon is a stunning sight, as is the flock in flight. Lagoons and salt pans of the Ria Formosa and Castro Marim reserves. Winter only, though some juveniles stay all year.

Red-legged Partridge - Alectoris rufa - Common in the hills where they are hunted in season. The hatching on the flanks is striking if you ever get a good look at one.  They'll probably see you before you see them as they break cover and clatter off elsewhere. All year.

Purple Swamp Hen or Purple Galinule - Porphyrio porphyrio - The symbol of the Ria Formosa Natural Park, and by far the rarest breeding bird in the Eastern Algarve. Can be seen, if you are lucky, at the park headquarters near Olhão, otherwise at Ludo, just the other side of Faro. All year.

Black-winged Stilt - Himantopus himantopus - Unmistakable and beautiful. Quite the longest, thinnest legs of any wader. Common in the salt pans and marshes of the Ria Formosa and Castro Marim reserves. All year.

Avocet - Recurvirostra avosetta - The famous symbol of the RSPB in the UK, the Avocet is easily seen in the Eastern Algarve, where it breeds in large numbers. Perhaps the most elegant wader of all. In the salt pans and marshes of the Ria Formosa and Castro Marim reserves. All year, more in summer.

Kentish Plover - Charadrius alexandrinus - A tiny little wader, very threatened in many places. Very busy on the marsh, scuttling and stopping. Slimmer and whiter than the ringed plover. All year.

Caspian Tern - Sterna caspia - A dramatic, unmistakable bird. The biggest of the terns with an huge bright red bill. Solitary birds, seen diving in the lagoons of the Ria Formosa and Castro Marim reserves and off the beaches. Spring and autumn passage migrants.

Little TernSterna albifrons - Great entertainment to watch, hunting along the shores of the lagoons of the Ria Formosa and Castro Marim reserves and along the beaches.  If they are flying at you and distressed, you are near their nests on the beach - please move away and be very careful where you are walking. There was a turquoise one in Fuzeta in 2003 ! Common. Summer only.

Sandwich Tern - Sterna sandvicensis - Another big tern, dramatic in flight and diving for fish. Solitary birds often seen diving in the lagoons of the Ria Formosa and Castro Marim reserves. All year.

Great Spotted Cuckoo - Clamator glandarius - A large bird, found in same habitat as magpies, on which it foists its young to rear. Flies straight between trees in Olive/ Alfaroba groves. Possible all year, but mainly spring/summer visitor from February onwards.

Little Owl - Athene noctua - You'll certainly hear him, and probably see him if you keep your eyes open. They are about during the day as well as night. They like posts of any sort and electricity/telephone lines over open land. Unmistakable small, square-headed owl. Bobs and turns head when scared or curious. Very cute. Unfortunately, many get caught in headlights and run over. Common. All year.

Red-necked Nightjar - Caprimulgus ruficollis - You may well hear him in wooded areas, a monotonous call that starts at dusk. This is the most likely time to see them, swooping low over bushes, like a giant swift with white wing bars. You may also catch one in your headlines sitting on dirt roads at night. Summer only.

Hoopoe - Upupa epops - Another spectacular and unmistakable bird, common in the Eastern Algarve. Flying, it looks almost like a giant moth. Can be seen almost anywhere, but often on the ground on dirt tracks. All year, but more in summer.

Bee-eater - Merops apiaster - You'll hear them first, floating in the air above you, like a team of referees all blowing their whistles. But no drab, black uniform for these. Get a close look and you'll see the most spectacularly colourful birds. Can be anywhere, with House Martins and Swallows, often on electricity/telephone lines. Summer only - about April until August.

Bluethroat Luscinia svecica - They're about, but you need to be determined to get a good look. Flitting in and out and under bushes along the salt pans and marshes of the Ria Formosa and Castro Marim reserves. Outer tail feathers red in flight like Redstart. Brest unmistakable. Winter only.

Sardinian Warbler - Sylvia melanocephala - Like the Dartford warbler in shape, you'll see him hopping in  and out of any hedge rows and low bush, especially on the coast. Get a good look and you'll see that stunning red eye. Common. All year.

Woodchat Shrike - Lanius senator - A small shrike, commonly seen in the Eastern Algarve. On electricity/telephone lies over open land. Can also be seen flying up from large trees in the evening, catching insects. Summer visitor.

Azure-winged, or Iberian Magpie - Cyanopica cyanus - Now classed as distinct from the related bird found only in Japan, you'll see this one nowhere else in the world than this corner of Iberia. Very distinctly a Magpie in all behaviour and sharing the mixed press of Magpie's in the UK. In the hills and any wooded areas.  Common. All year.

Golden Oriol - Oriolus oriolus - Its song of liquid gold notes is often heard and is a real treasure, but the bird is shy and not easy to see. When you do see one, you won't forget it. In the hills or anywhere wooded, olive/carob groves. Summer only - about April until August.

Common Waxbill - Estrilda astrild - Small enough to miss if you don't look carefully. Flies in flocks, often with other small seed feeders, especially Goldfinches. An exquisite little bird once you get a good view. In orchards, rough ground. Population established from escaped cage birds. All year.




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