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Sardinia

Dartford Warbler Sylvia undata ©Andy Bright Website

Sardinia, as an island has a lot to offer birdwatchers. It is home to the largest tracts of pristine Mediterranean Holm oak forests (around Monte Arcosu WWF reserve) in the Mediterranean basin. It has significant wetlands around Oristano and Cagliari, where Flamingo breed in good numbers, and extensive areas of ‘macchia’ scrub [Mediterraniain Scrub], with breeding populations of several specialist Sylvia warbler species (Marmora’s, Dartford, Spectacled and Subalpine Warbler). Its low human population (1.6 million) and traditional farming methods means it has preserved some species that have declined seriously or become extinct in other parts of Europe (Griffon Vulture, Little Bustard). Its nearness to Africa means it supports species that are rare or non-existent in other parts of Europe (Barbary Partridge, Purple Gallinule, Glossy Ibis). Also, being an island it has healthy colonies of some Mediterranean specialists, such as Eleonora’s Falcon, Audouin’s Gull, Mediterranean and Cory’s Shearwater and Slender-billed Gull. The road system is good, and there are plenty of beautiful beaches as well as great food and wine to keep any non-birdwatching relatives happy. The locals are friendly, but are not used to birdwatchers, so don’t be surprised if you get a few inquisitive stares!

Notes on Some Species

Bonelli’s Eagle - As far as I can ascertain, is now sadly extinct in Sardinia. Despite numerous references on ‘tourist’ websites, the last confirmed breeding pair was near Arbatax in Southern Gennargentu. The warden at Monte Arcosu has confirmed they no longer breed there.

Little Bustard - This species is still fairly common on upland arable farms above 200m in the north. Try near the villages of Ploaghe or Tula. Such sites are also good for Calandra Lark and Stone Curlew.

There are many other birdwatching sites around the island. Wherever you are, with suitable habitat and patience you should see the right birds. Good luck!

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Gennargentu National Park

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This is the highest mountain range in Sardinia, just south of Nuoro. This area includes lots of Holm oak forest and rare upland macchia scrub. The ‘Corsican’ subspecies of Citril Finch is common here, as are Marmora’s Warbler, Hawfinch, Golden Eagle, Goshawk, Crag Martin, Alpine Swift Woodlark, Hoopoe, Scops Owl and Firecrest. Also Mouflon Sheep, Sardinian Red Deer and Sardinian Wild Cat all live here. Choosing places to stop and birdwatch can be tricky. I’d recommend the Parco Nazionale del Golfo di Orosei, for example at Funtana Bona or along the road from Dorgali to Urzulei. See also official website: http://www.parcogennargentu.it/index.htm

Isola di San Pietro

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You need to take a 30 minute ferry to get here, but it’s worth it. The LIPU (the Italian equivalent of the RSPB) reserve on the west coast has one of Europe’s best colonies of Eleonora’s Falcon, where you can get close-up views of this species any time between June and October. The surrounding ‘macchia’ scrub is excellent for Sylvia warblers such as Dartford Warbler, Spectacled Warbler and Marmora’s Warbler. Audouin’s Gull and Shag are common on the island. Mediterranean and Cory’s Shearwater can be seen offshore. There are some good stagni near the only town of Carloforte, with Avocet, Flamingo, Black-winged Stilt and Slender-billed Gull in good numbers, and plenty of migrants. Lower numbers of Eleonora’s can be seen along the mainland coast just north of the island if you don’t have time to catch the ferry.

Lago di Baratz (Lake Baratz)

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In the North West of the island, this is the only natural freshwater lake in Sardinia. It’s small but it always has a good variety of species. Breeding birds include Little Bittern, Little Grebe, Hoopoe, Woodlark, Cirl Bunting, Alpine Swift, Marsh Harrier, Peregrine Falcon, Dartford Warbler, Cetti’s Warbler, Reed Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Firecrest. Spring and autumn bring Garganey, Osprey, Pied Flycatcher, Whinchat, Great Reed Warbler, Black-winged Stilt. In winter there are plenty of duck species as well as Black-necked Grebe. The hills to the north west of the lake, towards Argentiera are good for Marmora’s Warbler, Bee-eater, Pallid Swift, Alpine Swift, Crag Martin, Blue Rock Thrush, Tawny Pipit and Barbary Partridge. There are plenty of well-signposted paths and a visitor centre, open in summer.

Laguna di Nora

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A hidden gem, also near Cagliari, the Laguna di Nora has Italy’s largest breeding colony of Audouin’s Gull. By prior arrangement you can go on a canoeing trip amongst the river delta islands where the gull nests during the summer. The Laguna also has a sea turtle recuperation centre, excellent sea snorkelling and an aquarium showing all the local marine species. The nearby archaeological site of the Roman town of Nora is also worth a visit.

Molentargius and Stagni di Quartu

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Located right next to Cagliari, this area of wetlands combines fresh and saltwater and has a high concentration of key species. Breeding birds include Purple Gallinule (or Purple Swamp Hen) in good numbers, Glossy Ibis, Greater Flamingo, Gull-billed Tern, Slender-billed Gull in good numbers, Squacco Heron, Night Heron, Cattle Egret, Purple Heron, Black-winged Stilt, Ferruginous Duck. In spring and autumn it is also excellent for migrants. If you have time you should also visit the Stagni di Capoterra to the west of Cagliari, more extensive but v. productive during spring and autumn. As a Ramsar protected wetland Molentargius is currently undergoing development. Access permits are (usually) needed.

Monte Arcosu

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This WWF reserve near Cagliari comprises only a small part of a massive forest of mainly Holm and cork oak. The low human population means that several pairs of Golden Eagles nest in the area, along with a good population of the indigenous Sardinian Red Deer and Pine Martin. Other species include Goshawk, Buzzard, Woodchat Shrike, Raven, Bee-eater, Scops Owl, Nightjar, Cirl Bunting, Dartford Warbler. The reserve itself has some excellent hiking trails, but is only staffed at weekends. You can also birdwatch from the non-tarmac road that leads from Capoterra to Santardi. Alas, Bonelli’s Eagle is no longer present here.

Oristano

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Oristano is home to the most extensive wetlands in Sardinia. Numerous stagni, rivers and canals surround the town. I’d recommend visiting the S’ena Arrubia Stagno, the smaller pools to the east of the Stagno di Cabras (access is via a dirt track running from the village of Cabras), and the Stagno di Mistras. In spring, the Stagno di Sale Porcus is also good. Breeding species include Collared Pratincole, Night Heron, Flamingo, Spoonbill, Cattle Egret, Black-winged Stilt, Montagu’s Harrier, Purple Heron, Avocet, Common Tern, Little Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Common Tern and Purple Gallinule. For Purple Gallinule, check any freshwater irrigation canals rich in vegetation all around the towns of Oristano and Cabras. There are plenty of migrants in spring and autumn. The area is also productive in winter, with Great White Egret, plenty of wintering raptors (Hen Harrier, Merlin, Marsh Harrier), waders (Little Stint, Black-Tailed Godwit, Spotted Redshank, Golden Plover) and ducks (Ferruginous Duck, Wigeon, Pintail, Teal, etc.).

Stintino

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There are several stagni just south of the village. A nearby marsh and plenty of macchia scrub on the west coast and arable land all around provide a good variety of birdwatching here. Accessibility is usually easy, with plenty of roads, tracks and paths. The best stagni are just next to the famous ‘Spiaggia delle Saline’ beach, where Flamingo, Slender-billed Gull and Spoonbill can be seen for most of the year. Breeding species include Black-winged Stilt, Little Tern, Common Tern, Kentish Plover, Quail, Woodlark, Short-toed Lark, Calandra Lark, Tawny Pipit, Stone Curlew, Zitting Cisticola, Barbary Partridge, Shag, Blue Rock Thrush, Alpine and Pallid Swift, Dartford and Spectacled Warbler, Nightjar, Hoopoe, Woodchat Shrike, Nightingale, Turtle Dove, Bee-eater and Cirl Bunting. Migrants and wintering species include Curlew Sandpiper, Little Ringed and Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Common and Green Sandpiper, Greenshank, Black Redstart, Hen Harrier, Peregrine and Merlin. Occasional Audouin’s Gull can be seen (from the small colony at Asinara). The nearby island of Asinara, now a nature reserve, can be visited on ferries from Porto Torres during the summer months for Audouin’s Gulls and Rock Sparrow. However, visitors aren’t free to wander the island. You will be taken on a bus tour, or (for more money) a Landrover tour of the island. This severely limits birdwatching opportunities.

The Griffon colony at Bosa

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This is the only healthy colony of Griffon Vultures on the island. They are resident and nest on cliffs just to the north of the town. Take the coastal road to Alghero from Bosa, and look to the right just after the road turns west, but before you get to the coast. The first rocky crag harbours the main colony. A smaller colony can be found another 6-8km along the coastal road, and a few pairs still nest at Capo Caccia, just north of Alghero. The Bosa area has lots of open Holm oak forest and Macchia scrub, good for Red Kite, Sylvia warblers, Barbary Partridge, Golden Eagle, Red-backed Shrike, Crag Martin and Lesser Kestrel.

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Guides & Tour Operators

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Birding and Holidays in Sardinia

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Sardinia is home to a wide variety of resident bird species but, as the second largest Mediterranean island, is also a well-established staging post for a host of migrant species en route to and from Europe, Africa and Asia. Combine birding opportunities…

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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.

2006 [03 March] - Bob Swann & Andrew Ramsay [Corsica & Sardinia]

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Arrived Oblia in north east Sardinia at 1720. Collected the car at the airport and then had a quick look in some scrub land close by. Goldfinches, Sardinian Warblers, Hooded Crows and Jackdaws, were all we saw before the light went. Headed north up to Santa Teresa Gallura and booked into the hotel for the night…

2006 [12 December] - Mark Hows

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…We arrived without problem; and settled into the hotel before walking round the old city walls, so of which are coastal. Hooded crows and collared doves were common. Grey wagtail and cormorants were on the shore, and one was watched fishing underwater. A lesser whitethroat was found in a bush but there was little else apart from yellow legged gulls, seen during our tour of the town and bars…

2008 [05 May] - Hans Schick - Oristano, Sassari, and Olbia-Témpio Provinces

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Birdwatching in Sardinia (Italy) – especially in the provinces Oristano, Sassari, and Olbia-Témpio…

2011 [07 July] - Sue Bryan

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…On arrival at Bonifacio in Corsica Paul drove to the mountains and headed for Vezzani. We stopped to admire four Corsican Citril Finches in the village as well as Serins, Cirl Buntings, Blackcaps, Blue Tits, Great Tits and Spotted Flycatchers. The sparrows were abundant and the male Italian Sparrows looked superb in their summer plumage. A Grey Wagtail flitted about on the road as we searched around and took photos…

2012 [08 August] - Anders Hangård - Sardinia & Corsica

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…This was primarily a family-trip with my wife and two children (8 and 11 years) to get some sun and warmth away from the disasterous summer we have had in Norway this year. I still managed to sneak in some birding to secure all the endemic species and subspecies…

2013 [06 June] - Uffe Gjøl Sørensen

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…The ferry-trip between the islands offers great opportunities for watching seabirds – including a fair chance for Mediterranean Storm Petrel…

2015 [06 June] - Gerald Broddelez - Sardinia's Dragonflies

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...At our second lake we added one of Europe’s most beautiful dragonflies, the Violet Dropwing. It has dark ruby eyes, red veined wings with a deep orange wing base, the thorax is purple, the abdomen red suffused with a lilac bloom, and they are small and dainty! Also Red-eyed Damselfly, Lesser Emperor and Dark Spreadwing were present in good numbers.

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Villa Baratz

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Sardinia is home to a wide variety of resident bird species and, as a large Mediterranean island, is a renowned stopping-off location for a host of migrant species. Populations vary around the island, and according to time of year, but Lago Baratz, the only natural lake in Sardinia, is less than 10 minutes from Villa Baratz and plays host to an amazing variety of birds and water-fowl.

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Lago di Baratz

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Il Lago Baratz è stato oggetto di numerose ricerche biologiche (soprattutto idrobiologiche) e faunistiche. Queste ultime, se si eccettuano la classe dei pesci e qualche sporadica segnalazione sugli uccelli acquatici, hanno trascurato i vertebrati…

Laguna di Nora

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Lungo il sentiero natura sulla Penisola di Fradis Minoris, che si stacca dalla bella spiaggia di Agumu, si troveranno informazioni sull'ambiente lagunare, gli esemplari della macchia mediterranea termofila e sulla vegetazione alofila, tipica delle zone umide salmastre…

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Birdwatching at Lago di Baratz (Lake Baratz)

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The Lago di Baratz is Sardinia's only natural freshwater lake, and as such has been well-preserved as a nature reserve. As well as the birds, you can see freshwater terrapin, Hermann's tortoise and a few Sardinian hare are about as well. There are lots of footpaths, generally well-maintained, around the lake and leading down to the beach, as well as two hides (although they are positioned rather far back from the lake), a visitor centre and numerous picnic areas…

Birdwatching in Sardinia

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As a keen amateur birdwatcher currently living in the town of Sassari, I decided to create this website to provide information about possible places to go birdwatching in Sardinia. When I first arrived here, I was surprised to find how little information there is about birdwatching, or indeed about places you can go walking in the country. I've provided information about my 4 favourite sites above, although there are lots of other sites, possibly several I don't know about yet…