Watching along the Algarve coast is focused on the Ria Formosa Reserve and the salt pans of Castro Marim, bordering the Guadiana River, which marks the border with Spain. While the West is now over overrun with tourists much of the Eastern Algarve remains off the beaten track.
Salt Marsh Natural Reserve at Castro Marim
Covering an area of 2,089 hectares, the reserve's biggest attraction is undoubtedly the large number of birds - especially aquatic birds - that can be seen there.
There are 153 species to spot, including storks, avocets, sand pipers, mallards and the ever popular flamingos. Because the reserve is a permanent home
to some species, a seasonal refuge for others and a migratory stopping off point for yet others, it offers ornithologists a constantly changing year round panoply of sights and sounds. A visitors’ centre at Cerro da Rocha provides documentation and guides to itineraries.
The Ria Formosa
Now a UN recognised nature reserve stretching from west of Faro to the Ilha de Tavira in the east, is important for numerous water-birds, especially beach-nesting Charadrius alexandrinus and Sterna albifrons and for wintering waders and duck. Over 20,000 water-birds winter regularly. The reed-beds of the site and salt pans at Tavira are important for several nesting water-bird species, as well as for large numbers of migrating Passerines during both autumn and spring migration.
On land, holidaying birders regularly sight Short-toed Treecreepers, the Azure-winged Magpie, Serin, Golden Oriole, Waxbills, Hoopoe, Sardinian Warblers and Nightjars.
Ilha de Tavira , an easily accessible tidal lagoon system, is home to Redstart, Melodious Warblers and more common migrants in the mixed vegetation in the dunes, which flood at high tide.
Barrill Beach, between Santa Luzia and Luz de Tavira is reached by a miniature railway for the idle or a 10 minute walk for the vigorous. There are many creeks – and the Canal de Tavira – where waders and terns are plentiful.
The Tavira saltpans can be accessed from the road between St. Luzia and Tavira, or viewed from the road from Tavira to Quatro Aguas, the town’s beach. It is relatively easy to find parking spaces. Species to be found there include Audouin’s Gull, Greater Flamingo and breeding Avocet. Excellent close views of waders and Spoonbillls are possible.
Sagres and Cape St Vincent
This is the most south-western end of Europe and can be exciting in autumn, when hundreds of breeding raptors move through the area.
A Birdwatching Guide to the Algarve
by Kevin Carlson & Christine Carlson | Arlequin Press | 1995 | Paperback | 52 pages, Colour photos, line drawings, maps |
ISBN: 1900159007Buy this book from NHBS.com
An Atlas of the Wintering Birds in the Western Algarve
By M Bolton | A Rocha Bird Observatory | 1987 | Paperback | 82 pages, maps, line drawings |
ISBN: #435Buy this book from NHBS.com
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
Birdwatching in Southern Portugal
by Steve Evans | Isabelline Films | 2011 | DVD | Runtime 68 minutes |
ISBN: #206781Buy this book from NHBS.com
Breeding Birds of the Algarve
by GA Vowles & RS Vowles | Centro de Estudos Ornitológicos no Algarve | 1994 | Paperback | 364 pages, b/w illustrations, maps |
ISBN: 0952376202Buy this book from NHBS.com
Finding Birds in South Portugal - Booklet
by Dave Gosney | Easybirder| Jun 2013 | Paperback |
ISBN: 9781907316401Buy this book from NHBS.com
Finding Birds in South Portugal - DVD
by Dave Gosney | Easybirder | 2013 | Runtime: 78 min |
ISBN: 9781907316418Buy this book from NHBS.com
Summer Birding On The Central Algarve
by Jon Hardacre | Jon Hardacr | 2006 | Paperback | 124 pages, colour photos, maps |
ISBN: 0955230209Buy this book from NHBS.com
Nature Reserves and Parks in the Algarve
To most people the Algarve with its magnificent sandy beaches, hot and sunny summers and mild winters is a well known holiday destination. But there is another side to the Algarve which increasing numbers of people value and travel great distances to enjoy - its wonderful wildlife habitats. Away from the coastal hotspots is a seldom-seen Algarve - one of peaceful river valleys, woodlands bursting with birdsong and flower-filled meadows all teeming with plants, birds, animals, reptiles, moths, butterflies and other fascinating creatures. This website is a tribute to the wildlife of the Algarve and, we hope, a way of helping more visitors to see and enjoy the side of the Algarve which we have come to know and love above all others.
NP Ria Formosa
The dunes, the sand banks, the canals and the marshes run along the undefined line of the horizon, guaranteeing the Formosa Estuary in the Algarve its role as one of the most important points in the network of wetlands that links Europe and sub-Saharan Africa…
NR Castro Marim & Vila Real de Santo António Marsh
Castro Marim and Vila Real de Santo António Marsh Natural Reserve is one of the 30 areas which are officially under protection in Portugal.
NR Parque Natural do Vale do Guadiana
The countryside is a mixture of wooded hills clad with pine or introduced eucalyptus, grasslands studded with holm oak trees under which the famous black pigs forage for acorns in the autumn, and the largest area of rolling steppes in Portugal.
NR Ria de Alvor
The site covers 1454 hectares, and there are numerous walks of varying lengths which explore its diverse habitats, not just along the beach (or the extensive boardwalk there), but also along the cliffs at Quinta da Rocha and inland along the Alvor river towards the village of Mexilhoeira Grande.
Guides & Tour Operators
The week trip programme is designed to give you the maximum time birding and take you to some of the richest bird spots in southwest Portugal. However, we can tailor the tour to suit the interests of the group and day trips are also available. Species to watch: You can expect to see about 120 species. For the majority of visits, these will include: Lesser Kestrel, Great Bustard, Little Bustard, Black-winged Kite, Roller and Montagu’s Harrier…
From our base in Tavira in the Eastern Algarve we offer guiding services to birdwatchers and bird photographers visiting Southern Portugal…
Algarve Selvagem is made up of a team of professionals related to various activities in nature. They are connoisseurs of the regions morphology, from the coastline to in interior and its various habitats. Your guides with extensive experience gained over more than 30 years both her in Portugal and abroad. They have always been linked to outdoor activities such as diving, hiking, kayaking and bird observation. They would like to share their knowledge showing you various possibilities that this region offers in eco and nature tourism…
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.
Simon Wates is resident in Portugal on the nature-rich Sagres peninsula right at the tip of southwestern Europe. He can bring you in close contact with all the birdlife of this region – as well as its unique flora and other wildlife. Using personally acquired and detailed local knowledge his guided tours focus on revealing the more difficult species apart from the well known. Also available are day trips and short holidays to other areas in southern Portugal & Spain where your guide is equally at home…
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.
2008 [03 March] - Alec Cheney
My wife and I had a pleasant time in warm sunshine mainly centred on the saltpans which are part of the ria Formosa natural park. We saw about 80 species of birds which included large flocks of migrating waders and some leaf warblers. We did not hire a car so were limited in habitats visited i.e. we did not visit any pine forests so had no chance to such birds as Azure-winged Magpie ,Crested-tits etc…
2009 [04 April] - Honeyguide - Menorca
2010 [05 May] - Mike Fox
…This was our seventh birding trip as a trio and this year we choose to go to Portugal for our ’ Jolly Boy’s ’ Spring Birding week. We were based at the Cabanas Park Hotel in Cabanas de Tavira. Mike arranged the flights from Gatwick via Easyjet which were pretty much on time, and the hotel which we would all highly recommend…
2010 [05 May] - Tony Jones
…This was our first ever visit to Portugal as we had always associated it with packed, sun-tanned beaches, boozy night clubs and high-rise hotels - whereas Penny & me are more into quiet country lanes & high rise hills…
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…
2012 [05 May] - Nigel Genn
…The holiday was centred around the small resort of Alvor, staying at the Pestana Alvor Praia. The hotel is situated at the Eastern end of Alvor bay, in well laid-out gardens, which held Sardinian Warbler, Serin, Azure-winged Magpie and Blackcap. Looking from the balcony, Yellow-legged Gulls were plentiful, a pair of kestrels lived close by and, Whimbrels and Cattle Egrets passed daily. The sea was generally quiet but distant Gannets were usually present, flying West….
2012 [08 August] - David & Amanda Mason
…After a typical British spring and early summer we needed to get away from the rain and get some sun on our backs, so, after a break of 8 years, we decided to return to Portugal and the Algarve. This was to be a family holiday so, for once, birding took second place. We did however manage several trips to revisit old favourite haunts and to try a couple of new sites…
2013 [04 April] - Paul Davis
…I noticed a lot of Swallows and House Martins visiting a puddle for mud and drinking water, so I parked up and waited. After 10 minutes or so, they felt confident enough to return. I stayed here for 2 hours, until lunch and the toilet beckoned me away. I saw 30+ House Martins, 20+ Swallows, 3 Red-rumped Swallows, 4 Linnets, 3 Serin, 6 Collared Doves, 1 Turtle Dove and 4 Common Waxbills. All these birds used the puddle, alas later the puddle dried-up and all the birds had gone….
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…
2013 [09 September] - Nigel Webber - East Algarve
2013 [11 November] - Rob Macklin
We continued our journey out to sea … two sooty shearwaters glided past the boat and at least four great shearwaters were present with some of these sitting on the sea, allowing us really good views. Several dainty storm petrels were flicking delicately over the waves, amazing for a bird no bigger than a house martin, up to 40 Mediterranean gulls joined the feeding frenzy while the area was constantly patrolled by at least 10 great skuas looking for an easy meal…
2014 [09 September] - Neal Warnock
...Azure-winged Magpie, 30+ Shoveler, Greater Flamingo, Yellow Wagtail, Black-winged Stilt, Black-tailed Godwit, 7 Curlew Sandpiper, Spoonbill , 3 Little Stint, 2 Green Sandpiper, 1 Knot, Kingfisher, Pied Flycatcher, 1 Melodious Warbler, 9 Whimbrel, White Stork, 1 adult Mediterranean Gull, Kentish Plover, 1 Ruff, 1 juv Little Ringed Plover, 4 Glossy Ibis, Red- rumped Swallow, 3 juv Black Tern and 2 Whinchat...
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 [04 April] - Ken Noble
My wife, daughter and I spent a week in Portugal, based in Albufeira for a week from 21st April. Although I am a keen birder the rest of the family likes to do other things so we weren’t focusing on birds only...
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 Monty’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] - Iain Brown
2017 [09 September] - Nuno Barros
We then took some time to appreciate the dragonflies preset, including Lesser Emperor, Red - veined Darter, Broad Scarlet, Long Skimmer and some lovely Ib erian Bluetails next to a Lang's Short-tailed Blue, our only butterfly of the day. Some Iberian Magpies were flying around in the pine woods as we slowly walked back to the vehicles. It had been a promising first full day.
2017 [12 December] - Neil McMahon
...It wasn’t long before we found a group of 13 Great Bustards walking slowly in a field, and we enjoyed excellent ‘scope’ views before they finally disappeared over the ridge. More Common Buzzards, Red Kites, larks, Corn Buntings and Common Kestrels followed. The first minibus came across a Rock Sparrow and the occupants of the second minibus found Woodlark....
Places to Stay
Casa Flor de Sal - Ria Formosa
Casa Flor de Sal lies in the Ria Formosa Nature Reserve and enjoys sea views and a seclusion. The 250 year old house has been renovated with true regional and historic features and atmosphere. Enjoy the sun, pool, and peace. Otherwise, the wonderful, long, sandy beaches and the birdlife of the Ria Formosa Nature Reserve are close at hand. The nature reserve is very rich in bird life and other wildlife, being the crossing point for migratory birds traveling between Africa and Europe…
Casa Pinheiro - Ria Formosa
Villa Casa Pinheiro (4 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, sleeps 8) appeals to people looking for a luxurious and relaxing holiday in the Algarve and who enjoy peace, beauty and sunshine. Casa Pinheiro is surrounded by nature, beaches, walking, fishing and golf courses all close to historic Tavira. Our property has 5 acres of land running down to a tidal lagoon where local fishermen moor their colourful boats. On the other side of the lagoon is a 5 mile long sandy beach…
Casa Redonda - Quinta da Saudade
The Quinta da Saudade is a small British-run estate of privately-owned villas occupying approximately twenty-four acres about five miles west of Albufeira. Nestling in the peaceful country setting of an old hillside farm estate and set amid orange, almond and olive trees, the Quinta is about forty-five minutes drive from the Airport at Faro. There are attractive country walks in the vicinity and there is a wetlands nature reserve nearby with a wealth of bird and plant life not commonly found in the UK. Purple Heron, Little Bittern, Alpine Swift, Bee Eater, Red Necked Night Jar, Azure Winged Magpie and more…
Welcome to Casa Rosa a bird watching paradise in Portugal. In the peaceful rural Eastern Algarve, Portugal. Just 20 minutes from Faro Airport on the outskirts of the unspoiled historic old village of Moncarapacho, is the ideal base for a bird watching break…
Quintamar - Ria Formosa
Amidst the natural reserve of Ria Formosa, which stretches along the coast of the Eastern Algarve, Quintamar is situated in an olive and almond orchard less than 30 kilometres away from Faro International Airport. It is an ideal place for families, groups and people who would like to unwind in unspoilt nature and relax at white and beaches away from the madding crowd. A refreshing alternative for swimming is Quintamar’s 300 square meter biotope…
Quintassential Holiday Cottages
Welcome to Quintassential where Rosa and Mike offer four delightful cottages in their old Quinta. Quintassential occupies an acre of hilltop 15 minutes from Faro International Airport and the coast. The property is south facing and is set in beautiful Algarvian countryside overlooking the town of Loulé with panoramic seaviews and spectacular gardens!