The Alentejo is huge; comprising fully one third of mainland Portugal, it is extremely sparsely populated and stretches from the River Tagus in the north down to the high, tangled hills bordering the Algarve in the south, and from the west coast all the way to Spain. The population is friendly and driving is easy, though as the distances are so large it pays to have a guide. For the wealth of top class birding it holds it is still surprisingly under-birded. Predominantly flat, gently undulating plains, covered in old Cork Oak forests and wheat fields there are however some surprisingly mountainous areas and the bird life, and nature in general, has a diversity that mirrors these changing habitats.
Though sometimes cold during the winter, during the summer the interior can become really quite warm with the temperatures reaching regularly into the 100’s; with rainfall rare for six months of the year, water is scarce everywhere and small dams abound in the constant attempt to keep livestock alive through the gruelling summers. If you want to go birding here between June and September it’s best to be an early riser, if only to beat the heat haze! However the Autumn and Winter are good birding periods and there are few places in the Western Palearctic to rival the Alentejo for the Spring Migration.
From October through to February there are many species that over-winter here from northern latitudes and massive flocks of Lapwings, Wood Pigeons and Golden Plovers abound in the interior while on the salt pans and rice paddies near the coast there is a wealth of waders and waterbirds in general.
That jewel in the Alentejo’s crown, the Spring Migration, takes place during March, April and May and it’s at this time of the year that the place really shines. With such a small human population, and little pesticide or herbicide use, insects and wild flowers abound, and there are huge splashes of colour across the landscape, reds, blues, yellows and purples all set within a dazzling green; it’s this, just as much as the warm, sunny weather, total peace and quiet and wealth of species which makes the birding experience here during these months a particularly memorable one.
Flagship species of the Alentejo include Great Bustard, Little Bustard, Stone Curlew, Montagu’s Harrier, Bonelli’s Eagle, Scops Owl, Purple Swamp Hen, Black-winged Kite, and Azure-winged Magpie amongst many others.
Castro Verde plains
In the heart of the Alentejo province, this area of vast rolling plains is famous for its steppe birds.
Birds of the Algarve and Southern Alentejo
(An Annotated Checklist) | By Gonçalo Elias | Gonçalo Elias | 2016 | Paperback | 98 pages, 1 b/w map |
ISBN: 9781517497811Buy this book from NHBS.com
Finding Birds in South Portugal - Booklet
by Dave Gosney | Easybirder | 2013 | Paperback |
ISBN: 9781907316401Buy this book from NHBS.com
Finding Birds in South Portugal - DVD
by Dave Gosney | Easybirder | 2013 | Easybirder | DVD | Runtime: 78 min |
ISBN: 9781907316418Buy this book from NHBS.com
IBA The Sado Estuary
The Sado Estuary is a Ramsar site of international importance. You can watch around 70,000 birds of more than 250 different species, all year round. The estuary incorporates a number of different habitats, ranging from inter-tidal mudflats, salt marshes, salt pans and rice fields. Reed beds, river beaches and sand-dunes, to small dams and vast areas covered in cork oak and pine trees.
Guides & Tour Operators
Birding in Portugal
Birding-in-portugal.com blends guided birdwatching throughout southern Portugal with a centralised location in a sparsely populated region of unique beauty. It's aim is to let you see the birds and countryside you wish to see and as much of them and it as possible, directing or taking you to places normally unfrequented by tourists. With its wealth of experience and flexibility of outlook it aims to satisfy any visitor to this wonderful region, whether they wish to have a guide or simply to birdwatch on their own…
Birdwatch in Alentejo
All year round birdwatching guiding….
Birdwatching Alentejo Portugal
Beside the Birdwatching holiday we also offer several birdwatching tours and trips to different parts of the Alentejo region in Portugal. Of course we can also plan tours according to your wishes…
Living in Central Algarve, right next to the beautifull Ria Formosa Natural Park, we can guide you through all Southern Portugal.Tours can be tailored to your individual needs – various itineraries and target species are possible – head out in search of your “lifer” and see the highlights of the season – nearly 100 different bird species can be seen on a day-tour.
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.
2009 [02 February] - Honeyguide
2012 [05 May] - John Knight
…Up fairly early, and while waiting for my friends to come and pick me up I found a Spotless Starling nest site in the roof of a house across the road. We took a short drive to a pull-in by the Castro Marim road just out of Villa Real de Santo Antonio which is a good vantage point over the southern part of the Sapal do Castro Marim IBA. The weather was overcast and cool, this kept the hirundines and swifts well down, and at scope range we picked up three or four Pratincoles hawking with them. I saw the only Great-Spotted Cuckoo of the trip, a stark contrast to previous years when they have been a noisy and obvious part of the scene here. We drove on to the main reserve just beyond Castro Marim (what is that enormous permanently closed visitor centre for I wonder?), stopping for Red-Rumped Swallow, Hoopoes and yet more of the wonderful Azure Winged Magpies…
2013 [04 April] - Tony Small & Dave Hardaker
…A superb adult Caspian Tern appeared just above us followed later by an Osprey which flew low over head with a large fish. Further along this path, as we approached the Ludo Farm area, the big inland pool immediately beyond the obvious line of tall trees pool had breeding White Stork…
2015 [11 November] – Rob Macklin
The majority of the group enjoyed our pelagic trip out of Sagres harbour, going out 10 miles to the edge of the continental shelf. We were treated to great views of storm petrels and a Leach's petrel but the star bird was a rare Wilson's petrel. At the raptor viewpoint at Sagres we found an Egyptian vulture, goshawk, plus great views of booted and short-toed eagles. Another highlight here was a super view of a yellow-browed warbler.
2016 [10 October] - Dave Nevitt
We were soon at the saltpans where we were treated to astonishingly close views of waders. A small pool was being used as a feeding ground by some juvenile Dunlin that enabled us to scrutinise their plumage. Some Sanderlings were alongside them for a good comparison. Further along, we saw Kentish Plover and Grey Plover too. Avocets gave a clue as to the salinity of the water, as did large flocks of Greater Flamingoes in the distance.
2017 [04 April] - Nuno Barros
...We took our time to admire them perched in a nearby fence and flying around, four of them. We were hearing a Little Bustard again, and immediately found a displaying male, this one more cooperative then the one in the morning. And at the same time, two Great Bustards were feeding on the opposite field! These soon turned into a good half of dozen birds and provided the best views so far of these magnificent animals! Well we were ready to call it a day, and head back to the Mértola...
2017 [08 August] - Derek Brennan - Alentejo & Algarve
...While scanning the fields, I also found 2 Southern Grey Shrikes, several Lesser Kestrelsand a number of majestic Montyâ€™s Harriers, which are unbelievably common. Little Owls were also perched out in the open. At the junction to the main road there is a small enclosed piece of farmland. This held yet more Partridge and I had my first glimpse of an Azure Winged Magpie. Bee-eaters were calling from all directions, occasionally resting on the wires...
2017 [09 September] - Philip Thompson
...Highlights included the resident Little Bitterns, Glossy Ibis, Western Swamphen and the introduced Black-headed Weavers....
2018 [02 February] - Geoff Upton
Places to Stay
Monte Horizonte Holiday Cottage - Santiago do Cacém
Monte Horizonte Holiday is located in the wonderful Alentejo region of Portugal at only 15 minutes from the beach and just five minutes of the historic city Santiago do Cacém. It is run completely on solar and wind energy…
The cottage No Campo is located in an oasis of peace, between olive groves and cork oak trees. There is plenty of nature to enjoy for all kinds of nature lovers, there are wild boars and numerous birds, lizards, insects and butterflies. Below, you find a selection of the many birds that occur in the area…
Quinta do Barranco da Estrada
Just north of the Algarve, in some of the most remote and unspoilt countryside in Europe, lies Quinta do Barranco da Estrada, a small oasis on the shores of a vast freshwater and mosquito-free lake. It nestles in the wild hills of the lower Alentejo – a sparsely populated region of exceptional and unique beauty. It really is rural tourism at its best…
Bert Snijder - Birdwatching Portugal
Fotógrafo amador nascido em 1982. Vive em Portalegre de onde é natural. Faz a maioria dos seus trabalhos neste distrito, aproveitando a varidade de habitats que podemos encontrar no Parque Natural de São Mamede…
Frank McClintock - Birding in Portugal
Birdwatching Alentejo Portugal
Alentejo Birdwatching is an informative site regarding birds in the Alentejo region of Portugal…