The famous Rock of Gibraltar is a limestone promontory, some 5 km long and 1 km wide. The summit ridge, rising to 426m, offers superb if vertiginous views over the westernmost Mediterranean, the Costa del Sol and, especially, the Strait of Gibraltar itself. The Moroccan shore is only 20 km away and views often extend to the Rif Mountains beyond.
The strategic position of Gibraltar is the root of its ornithological fame. Migration of soaring birds, i.e. storks and raptors, occurs year-round in some form and numbers can be spectacular in the peak seasons of March-May and August-October, almost invariably during periods of westerly winds. The principal species are Honey Buzzards and Black Kites, which both produce daily counts of thousands at peak times. Significant but lesser concentrations occur of Egyptian and Griffon Vultures, Short-toed Eagles, Marsh, Hen and Montagu’s Harriers, Sparrowhawks, Common Buzzards, Booted Eagles and Ospreys, among others, as well as White and Black Storks.
Migration of seabirds is also an all-year phenomenon and features important numbers of Cory's and Balearic Shearwaters; Northern Gannets; Great Skuas; Mediterranean, Little, Black-headed, Lesser Black-backed and Audouin’s Gulls, and Sandwich Terns. Many other seabirds occur regularly, including Lesser Crested Terns (October/mid-November).
The local list, of some 312 species, grows slowly but steadily. It may be consulted on the GONHS website. The list includes a particularly comprehensive contingent of passerines, most of them migrants grounded on the Rock by inclement weather, often during the frequent bouts of strong easterly winds which produce the famous levanter cloud over the summit. A diversity of vagrant species enlivens the birding scene; recent examples have included Common Eider, Rüppell’s Vulture, Pallid Harrier, Long-legged Buzzard, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Lanner, Allen’s Gallinule, Seebohm’s Wheatear, Mountain Chiffchaff and Red-breasted Flycatcher.
Resident and breeding species are few but Gibraltar has one of only two colonies of Shags in the westernmost Mediterranean and is the only mainland site in Europe for Barbary Partridges. Other local breeders include Peregrines, Lesser Kestrels; Common, Pallid and Alpine Swifts, Blue Rock Thrushes and, since their re-colonisation in 2004, a pair of Eagle Owls. The thousands of Yellow-legged Gulls are an unmissable feature; they even nest on rooftops and in the pine trees of the Botanic Garden.
Key places to visit….
Key places to visit in Gibraltar are the bird observatory and ringing station at Jews' Gate (run by the Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society - see their web-site); the Summit Ridge, Botanic Garden, North Front Cemetery and Europa Point. Gibraltar is within day-trip distance of the Eastern bank of the Guadalquivir river (Brazo del Este, Bonanza salt pans, Algaida pine woods); the Serrania de Ronda, the Guadalhorce estuary at Malaga, the cork forests of the Cadiz sierras (Parque Natural de los Alcornocales) and the Costa de la Luz.
Updated July 2011
Number of Species
Number of bird species: 315
National Bird: Barbary Partridge Alectoris barbara
Fatbirder's very own checklists are now available through WebBirder
Where to Watch Birds in Southern and Western Spain
- Andalucia, Extremadura and Gibraltar by Ernest Garcia & Andrew Paterson - Series: WHERE TO WATCH BIRDS IN BRITAIN AND EUROPE: HELM SERIES 400 pages, 30 illus, 105 maps. Christopher Helm 3rd edition 2008
ISBN: 9780713683158Buy this book from NHBS.com
Gibraltar Bird Report
Published by GONHS. The 2012 report is currently available.
Guia de Aves del Estrecho de Gibraltas - Field Guide to the Birds of the Strait of Gibraltar: Parque Natural "Los Alcornocales" y Comarca de "La Janda" - "Los Alcornocales" Natural Park and "La Janda"
David Barros and David Rios - 328 pages, col photos, col illus, figs, tabs, maps. 2007 Orni Tour s.l
ISBN: 8460745457Buy this book from NHBS.com
The GONHS website offers regularly-updated news of local records: http://www.gonhs.org
Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society (GONHS) is the BirdLife Partner
Guides & Tour Operators
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.
2011 [04 April] - Julian Bell - Gibraltar Straits Visible Migration
An ROV pipeline inspection and intervention job took us close to the Balearics for a few days followed by a few weeks in the Gibraltar Straits. As usual the area produced plenty of birds and other sightings of interest - despite birding being limited to an hour or two around dawn most days. The most frustrating aspect of the trip was waiting for dawn after working the night shift (ended 06:00), at first I only had to wait an hour or so but after the clocks changed for summer time the wait was extended a further hour…
2011 [09 September] – Honeyguide - Tarifa & Gibraltar
…any number of booted and short-toed eagles, many black kites, Egyptian and mostly more distant griffon vultures, a scattering of honey buzzards, a small group of lesser kestrels…
2012 [09 September] – Frank Vargas – Tarifa & Gibraltar
"We headed back to the raptor observation point of Cazalla, from where dozens of booted eagles, short-toed eagles, white storks, black storks and griffon vultures came close. Also, a couple of Egyptian vultures flew over us. In that gorgeous sky, full of activity, pallid and white-rumped swifts and bee-eaters kept flying close around us."
2013 [02 February] - Chris Durdin - Tarifa & Gibraltar
The flamingos were a notably deep pink, and there was also a clear pinky tone to the plumage of many slender-billed gulls that seemed especially at home in the lagoons, feeding energetically in a leaning-forward method that gave a distinctive jizz. A single spoonbill and a distant osprey added to the mix…
2014 [03 March] – Chris Durdin – Tarifa & Gibraltar
We had a date this morning: to meet El Grupo Ornitológico del Estrecho (GOES – The Ornithological Group of the Strait). The rendez-vous was some wild olive scrub on the edge of Algeciras which, we heard, had been in and is now out of the Natural Park. A bird ringing session was underway, and one GOES group member was taking feather mites from captured passerines as part of a detailed study…
2015 [03 March] - Chris Durdin - Tarifa & Gibraltar
...a strange song was Iberian chiffchaff and there were brief bursts of short-toed treecreeper song, too.
Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society
Field Centre, Jews Gate, Upper Rock Nature Reserve, P0 Box 843. + 350 72639; email@example.com
The Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society (GONHS) was founded in 1976. Its aims are to foster the study and protection of wildlife and the natural environment in the area of the Straits of Gibraltar. The website gives details of membership, publications, Gibraltar wildlife, ringing, accommodation at the Bird Observatory and Field Centre etc…
Strait of Gibraltar Bird Observatory
Strait of Gibraltar bird Observatory, Jews’ Gate, Gibraltar. Run by GONHS. The observatory controls ringing and observation of birds in Gibraltar, the latter including daily counts of diurnal migrants. Visitors and helpers are always welcome. The Jews’ Gate observatory itself offers inexpensive hostel-type accommodation to resident ringers. It is located at a strategic point on the southwestern slopes of the Rock, giving commanding views over the Strait and Bay of Gibraltar. A second observatory at Europa Point is used for seabird observation…
Upper Rock Nature Reserve
Includes most of 'green Gibraltar' and serves as a refuge for flora and fauna, including the infamous Barbary Macaques (apes)…
Gibraltar Bird Alert
Gibraltar's first real-time bird sightings alert service. Tweet your sightings or ask questions using #GibraltarBirds hashtag...
Gibraltar - Tourist Board - Birdwatching
...As the Strait of Gibraltar is the narrowest crossing point for birds migrating to and from Europe and Africa, the Rock offers unrivalled bird watching opportunities. 315 species of birds have been recorded, many of which are migratory. Gibraltar, at the head of the Strait, is a prominent headland, which accumulates migrants during the passage periods...