Although not as exotic as Spain or Greece, France has a lot to offer to the travelling birder, its central position in Western Europe means that there is a wide variety of habitats including the Guarrigues and Maquis of the Mediterranean coast, a choice of montane habitats, mature oak forests of central and eastern France. As Birding is still a connoisseur hobby in France, there are plenty of opportunities to find your own birds. But this also means that nature reserve are rare and not very user friendly (don't expect the sort of facilities you get at Minsmere).
If visiting France between September and March you will encounter the famous Chasseurs (Hunters). They are very numerous (1.5 million) and vociferous and in some area (Sud Ouest, Nord) can be extremely aggressive to what they call Les Ecologistes (anybody with an interest in Nature/Ecology/Conservation). But its still worth the trouble and the Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux (LPO) is doing a very good job of beginning to counter the influence of this noisy (& large) minority.
Main areas of interest for the (British) birder in France: No need to go the best birding places to see some nice birds. Species like Black Redstart, Serin, Cirl Bunting are common in most of France… A few nice hedges and the chances are that Great Grey and Red Back shrikes will be present, a Poplar plantation should have a several pairs of Golden Orioles. France has the most forestation in Europe so you are never more that 50km from a decent sized Forest which, depending of the area, will hold Middle spotted, Grey-headed or Black Woodpecker… Birds of prey are common; on a drive across France over 10 species can be seen in a day from the motorway!
North Eastern France
Mature oak forests in Ardennes, Loraine and Alsace: 6 species of Woodpecker, Collared Flycatcher etc.
Mountains - Le Massif Central
With highest mountains of only 2000m, very few high altitude species breed, but Citril Finch and Alpine Accentor are regular winter visitors, Snowfinch and Wallcreeper are also present. Several good visible migration spots for the autumn Montagne de la Serre and Prat de Bouc in fact any pass with a North South orientation can be good for visible migration. Larger forests will have Black Woodpecker and Crested Tits, Crossbills are quite widespread and Tengmalm`s Owl is present in most pine forests over 1000m.
Mountains - Les Cévennes Technically part of the Massif Central these mountain are excellent for the travelling birder. Les Causses are large limestone plateaux excellent for open habitat species (3 species of Shrikes, Ortolan Bunting, Tawny Pipit, Orphean, Dartford, Subalpine and Sardinian Warblers, Hen and Montague`s Harrier, Rock Thrush). Dividing deep gorges provide habitat for a wide range of cliff birds (Chough, Golden Eagle, Alpine Swift, Eagle Owl, Crag Martin etc.). Successful reintroduction of Griffon and Black Vulture has taken place in the Gorges de la Jontes (these species can also be seen in the Gorges du Tarn and the Cirque de Navacelle). Large forests on the Massif de l`Aigoual have most of the common woodland birds as well as Black Woodpecker. Dipper is a common breeder and river bank trees attract an impressive diversity of passerines during winter and migration time such as Citril Finch and Hawfinch.
Mountains - Les Alpes
It is hard to give good areas for the Alps as most of the mountains are really good. Snowfinch, Alpine Accentor, Water Pipits and Alpine Chough are all very easy to see, especially in winter when they can be seen from any ski resort… Hazelhen is wide spread but scarce in beech forest. Tengmalm`s Owl is regular in coniferous forest whereas Nutcraker are confined to where their main food source the Pin Cembro (Pinus cembro) is common. Rock Partridge prefer south facing rocky slopes and Ptarmigan are common above the tree line. Birds of prey are numerous and diversified including Golden Eagle, Honey Buzzard, Peregrine and Hen Harrier, and Bearded Vultures are being reintroduced. Best areas in the Alps are: The 3 National parks; Vanoise, Ecrin & Mercantour. Another good spot is Le Queyras (Nutcracker and Black Grouse).
Mountains - Les Pyrénées
Although most of the high altitude speciality are present (Gavarnie and the Col du Tourmalet being the best places to see Snowfinches, Alpine Accentor etc.) the Pyrénées are renowned for the quantity and quality of the birds of prey present in the western part of the range; Griffon, Egyptian and Bearded Vulture; Booted, Golden and Short-toed Eagle, Black and Red Kite all breed. For Bearded Vulture the Gavarnie area is the best bet, La Falaise aux Vautours in the Ossau valley has the biggest French colony of Griffon Vulture as well as Peregrine, Egyptian Vulture, Crag Martin and Red-billed Chough. Organbideska is the most spectacular visible migration spot in France starting with Black Kites in August and finishing with Cranes in November. Nearby Iraty Forest is a good spot for the elusive White-backed Woodpecker. Other good migration spots include: Eyne (eastern part of the range can have amazing Short-toed Eagle days, up to 200 per day!) and most pass on the western part of the mountains (for more information on migration counts in the Pyrénées contact OCL).
The Mediterranean Coast - La Camargue
is brilliant & not to be missed. Breeding birds include Collared Pratincole, 8 species of Heron, Gull-billed Tern, Slender-billed Gull (Oh yes, and Flamingos) etc. Huge numbers of wildfowl overwinter as well as Spotted Eagle. Migration time is the best with Sandpipers and Plovers in the saltpans (South of Salin de Giraud, Phare de la Gachole); freshwater waders (including good numbers of Marsh Sandpiper); Marsh Terns and Herons in the north (Basse Méjane, Mas d`Agon, Salin de Badon and La Capellière) and good passerine falls in bushes by the sea (Phare de la Gachole and Beauduc). Good information can be obtained at La Capellière which has a decent set of hides as well as quite good exhibit on the local Ecology.
The Mediterranean Coast - La Crau: the only French desert with Stone Curlew, Little Bustard, Roller and small population of Pin-tailled Sandgrouse, Calandra Lark and Lesser Kestrel. In recent years a few (up to 10) Richard`s Pipits have been found overwintering.
The Mediterranean Coast - Les Alpilles: Limestone hills with a chance to see Egyptian vulture Bonelli`s Eagle and Eagle Owl.
The Mediterranean Coast - Le Narbonnai: Very good area for visible migration (La station ornithologique de Gruissan) in both spring and Autumn… Pissevache (near Narbonne Plage); Les Salin de Lapalme and La Franquie (near Leucate) are all very good for water birds as well as providing good passerine falls. Cave has a small population of Spotless Starlings and the hills north of this little village have the only French population of Thekla Lark. The whole area has a good population of Great-spotted Cuckoo. For information about this area contact the LPO-Aude.
Western France - Brittany - Ille-et-Vilaine - Forêts de Rennes & St-Aubin-du-Cormier
6 Woodpeckers species (Grey-headed, Green, Black,Great, Middle and Lesser Spotted, all common); 6 Titsspecies, lots of Warblers among whom Bonelli`s andMelodious, 2 Creepers (all widespread); Nightjar,Golden Oriole…
Western France - Ouessant
is a typical vagrant trap, known as the French Scilly isles (recent megas have included Nighthawk, Slender-billed Curlew etc.) a small island with a bird observatory. No cars are allowed on the island so cycle around. L`ile de Sein is near and has also attracted a decent number of vagrants… The whole of Western Brittany is underwatched and is probably as good as Cornwall . La Baie d'Audierne regularly attracts nearctic waders.
Western France - Guerande et le Golfe du Morbillan Wetlands in southern Brittany offers some brilliant birding sites. Guerande offers good saltpans with a large breeding population of Bluethroats on the dikes. PenBron and Le Croisic are good seawatching spots. L'estuaire de la Vilaine is a good spot for Skuas and Sabine's Gulls and the only important place for over wintering Scaup in France. Le Golfe du Morbillan is a huge estuary with loads of Waders and also has a feral population of Sacred Ibises, The Reserve of Sénée Falguerec has several hundred pairs of Avocets and Black-winged Stilts.
Western France - Further South The whole coast of Vendée and Charente has very good estuaries, passerines migration in the Autumn is clearly under watched. Main hotspots, Ile de Ré, Baie de L'Aiguillon etc…
Number of Species
Number of bird species: 547
Number of endemics: 1
Corsican Nuthatch Sitta whiteheadi
Fatbirder's very own checklists are now available through WebBirder
A Birdwatching Guide To France South Of The Loire
by Jacquie Crozier Arlequin Press
ISBN: 1900159368Buy this book from NHBS.com
All Birds of France / Tous les Oiseaux de France dans Votre Poche
Cassette 2 - Passerines Jean C Roche Series: ALL BIRDS OF FRANCE / TOUS LES OISEAUX DE FRANCE DANS VOTRE POCHE 2 Running time - 73 minutes. Sittelle editions des voix de la nature
ISBN: 128129Buy this book from NHBS.com
Birdwatching Guide to France North of the Loire
by Jacquie Crozier, Arlequin Press 2003
ISBN: 1900159767Buy this book from NHBS.com
Finding Birds in Northern France
D Gosney Series: FINDING BIRDS SERIES 28 pages, maps. Gostours 1994
ISBN: 1898110115Buy this book from NHBS.com
Finding Birds in Southern France
D Gosney Series: FINDING BIRDS SERIES 30 pages, maps. Gostours 1994 See: http://www.easybirder.co.uk/Classic_series.html
L'Inventaire des oiseaux de France
Avifaune de France m?tropolitaine by Philippe J. Dubois, Pierre Le Marichal, Georges Olioso & Pierre Yesou. Nathan eds, Paris, 2000, 384 pp
Les Oiseaux de Nos R?gions
J Gooders, Editions Nathan 2001
ISBN: 2092608401Buy this book from NHBS.com
Nouvel Atlas des Oiseaux Nicheurs de France 1985-1989
(New Atlas of the Breeding Birds of France) 1985-1989 Edited by Dosith?e Yeatman-Berthelot and Guy Jarry 776 pages, b/w illus, distrib maps. Societ? d'Etudes Ornithologiques de France 1995
ISBN: 2950544029Buy this book from NHBS.com
Oiseaux de France et d'Europe
by Rob Hume, Marc Duquet & Guilhem Lesaffre
Where to Watch Birds in France
Philippe Dubois, Helm 2006
ISBN: 0713669802Buy this book from NHBS.com
France Travel Guide
Usefl general travel info
OCL Organdexka Col Libre
Organbidexka Col Libre 11, rue Bourgneuf 64100 BAYONNE France Email : email@example.com
Want a Guide?
One Fatbirder surfer found a guide through our contacts - an American visitor wanted an English speaking guide in the south of France. With the help of our contributor he tracked down Frederic Bouvet in Saint Remy. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org and he also can include the historic sights, good food, wine and vineyards, etc. His English is excellent as he studied in UK and has worked in England.
Guides & Tour Operators
Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area…
French Pyrenees Holidays
The birdlife here in the Pyrenees is very specialised. The area excels in the number and variety of raptors- Bearded Vulture (five pairs nesting locally); Golden Eagle (found on the mountainside opposite Les Sorbiers); Booted Eagle, Bonelli`s Eagle, Short-Toed Eagle, Egyptian Vulture, and the ever-present Griffon. Even a couple of Black Vultures. The bird most enthusiasts will want to see is the elusive Wallcreeper which during the summer is seldom found below 2000m. We can organise a day with a guide to accompany you to our most reliable site high above Gavarnie (regular sightings each season since 1987).
Northern France Wildlife Tours
Northern France Wildlife Tours Ltd, based in Averton, Mayenne, was born when Roy and Shirley Croucher realised that breeding Black Woodpeckers, Little Bustards and White Storks were well worth stopping for. When they found country lanes lined with orchids and cowslips, over which danced Swallowtail and Clouded Yellow Butterflies and Hummingbird Hawk Moths, they were convinced!
CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.
2014 [01 January] - Phil Bentley - Southern France
….I had a nominal list of some 10 target species I was particularly keen to see: of these Great Spotted Eagle, Bonelli's Eagle, Eagle Owl, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Wallcreeper, Moustached Warbler and Alpine Accentor were the pick of the crop. In the end I saw about 3/4 of my target species which, on balance, was a reasonable return on effort. Frustratingly my two most sought-after species – Bonelli's Eagle and Moustached Warbler – continue to elude me. I've lost count of the number of days and hours I've spent looking for both species…
2014 [04 April] - Bob & Dora Swann
…The pools contained a few hundred Greater Flamingo, pairs of Shelduck, Mute Swan, Mallard, a few Shoveler and on one deeper one 12 Great-crested Grebes. There were lots of gulls, especially displaying Slender-billed Gulls, plus Black-headed Gulls, a Mediterranean Gull and a roost of Yellow-legged Gulls, which also contained two Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Sandwich Terns flew between the lagoons and the bay, whilst Common Terns displayed over an island. Waders were mainly Avocets and Black-winged Stilts, plus on the muddier pools c70 Little Stint, with some Dunlin, 20 + Kentish Plover, 5 Ringed Plover, 5 Grey Plover, 10 Common Redshank, a few Curlew, a flock of 19 roosting Oystercatcher and a Common Sandpiper….
2015 [05 May] - David Walsh - THE CAMARGUE, CEVENNES & CAUSSES
...Gull-billed Terns were feeding and calling, pristine Mediterranean Gulls resting and a Great Reed Warbler singing. Scanning in the distance, we noted a large number of falcons and couldn’t quite believe our eyes. They were virtually all Red-footed Falcons!
French equivalent of the RSPB
Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux, La Corderie Royale - BP 263 -17305 Rochefort cedex, Tel: 05 46 82 12 34 - Fax: 05 46 82 12 50
For an introduction to the activities of the LPO this UK site will supply a useful way in as the other sites tend to be in French. You could also use the nine European language translator in the miscellany section of the Fatbirder links.
Ornithologie des Hauts de France
Ce site est consacré à l`ornithologie et réunit des passionnés de l`observation d`oiseaux présents dans le nord de la France et en Belgique. La technique utilisée pour prendre les photos s`appelle la digiscopie. Elle consiste à utiliser un appareil numérique couplé à une longue vue terrestre.
Union Francais de Centres de Sauvegarde de la Faune Sauvage
Association of Wild Animal Rescue Centres
French National Parcs
Very attractive site - in French only with good background information on the parks, access etc.
French Regional Parks
If this has an English version why hasn`t our neighbour offered translation of the above (but then why don`t we offer other language versions of our tourist sites?) France has huge areas of rural land with a stunning range of natural and cultural heritages. The rural areas are, however, faced with serious problems including a massive rural exodus, and pressures from urbanisation, tourism and large infrastructure projects, which in only several years could destroy landscapes that nature and man have painstakingly crafted over the centuries. Local governments have joined with the national government in an innovative, determined contractual process to halt and reverse the process. It now integrates heritage preservation considerations in local development plans. The concept of the Regional Nature Park was born in 1967 of this marriage of love and reason.
List of reserves across France…
Forums & Mailing Lists
To post to list: email@example.com
List contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
To subscribe to list: email@example.com
ObsFr est une liste francophone européenne regroupant les naturalistes amateurs de tous horizons. Les sujets traités sont exclusivement en rapport avec les domaines de l`observation et de la protection de la nature. ObsFr est donc ouverte aux passionnés d`oiseaux, de mammifères, de reptiles, de batraciens, d`insectes, de botanique…
A priority for protection by the LPO
L'annuaire des oiseaux
L'annuaire des oiseaux est une référence de sites ornithologiques du Web. Avifaune et ornithologie sur la toile, des sites qui vous font rêver et vous donnent des ailes.
Oiseaux de France et d'Europe. Refuges et jardins d'oiseaux…
Ornithology discovered through etymology, confusions to be avoided by beginners, and… humour (in French)
Grâce à sa situation géographique stratégique, à la diversité de ses espaces et aux conditions météorologiques variées qui caractérisent son territoire, la France est une étape incontournable pour des dizaines de millions d’oiseaux migrateurs…
Book Reviews, Where to watch birds, bird list etc. Much of it translated into English. Fatbirder recommended.
Envolée au pays des oiseaux. Portail ornithologique. Guide d`identification, annuaire des oiseaux. Des centaines de photos, dessins et chants d`oiseaux. Encyclopédie ornithologique, biologie…
Organbidexka - Migration Watch
Pyrénées, années 1970 - De mémorables massacres de palombes en tirs sporadiques d`espèces protégées perpétrés sans témoin, la vie est belle pour les chasseurs qui ont pris l`habitude de se considérer, de la mi-septembre à la mi-novembre comme les maîtres des lieux. En plaine, dans le grand Sud-Ouest la situation est à l`identique. En 1979, c`est la surprise. Une poignée de naturalistes-ornithologues passionnés de migration et révoltés par la chasse réussit à faire un joli pied de nez à la chasse française en louant pour trois ans, au Pays basque, un col de tir à la palombe (le Pigeon ramier) - Organbidexka. Le cheval est dans Troie…
Ornithomedia is a web site (mainly in French) concerning Birding in Southern Europe: it`s a complete site: news, best spots, bird identification, articles about rarities, Flash animations, etc. An on-line shop selling, for example, the Birding CDROM Sentiers Ornithologiques en France, en Espagne et au Portugal…
Quelle est Belle Co.
Des appeaux pour apprendre. Des appeaux pour la musique. Des appeaux pour le jeux. Bird Callers & Call Guides
A protection priority for the LPO…
Vivara est une entreprise en constante évolution; notre nouveau catalogue est enrichi d’un grand nombre de produits innovateurs pour votre jardin et balcon, évidemment de qualité supérieure, comme d’ habitude chez Vivara. Laissez-vous surprendre par ces produits originaux grâce auxquels vous apporterez en un tour de main la nature chez vous…
Photographers & Artists
Very fine bird pictures from this French photographer…
Photographer - Ingo Waschkies
French Bird Photography - This site is my personal collection of record shots from my birding trips, mainly in the Asian region. Being mainly a birdwatcher, not all shots are of high quality, but they help me keep my memories alive. I'll try to put the better shots in the 'Favorite Shots' gallery…
Photographer - Julien Daubignard
Pictures of birds, plans and other animals…
Photographer - Sylvain Hellio
Sylvain Hellio is a French birdwatcher and a profesionnal nature photographer. He also organises workshop tours to photograph birds in Europe including Bulgaria, Denmark, Italy, France etc…
Bienvenue sur mon blog, où je publie régulièrement mes plus belles photographies de paysages et d'animaux sauvages de France, mammifères, oiseaux, insectes et autres…