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Great-spotted Cuckoo Clamator glandarius ©Steve Blain Website

Birding The Algarve

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.

Top Sites

Sagres and Cape St Vincent

Satellite View

This is the most south-western end of Europe and can be exciting in autumn, when hundreds of breeding raptors move through the area.


Useful Reading

An Atlas of the Wintering Birds in the Western Algarve

M Bolton 82 pages, maps, line drawings. A Rocha Bird Observatory 1987

ISBN: 435

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Books, CDs etc

See the Fatbirder Portugal page for fieldguies etc. to Portugal or the Iberian penninsular as a whole…

Breeding Birds of the Algarve

GA Vowles and RS Vowles 364 pages, b/w illus, maps. Centro de Estudos Ornitol?gicos no Algarve 1994

ISBN: 0952376202

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Finding Birds in South Portugal - Booklet

by Dave Gosney | Jun 2013 | Easybirder | Paperback Guide | £7.50p

ISBN: 9781907316401

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Finding Birds in South Portugal - DVD

by Dave Gosney | Jun 2013 | Easybirder | Runtime: 78 min | £19.14p

ISBN: 9781907316418

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Summer Birding On The Central Algarve

Written & Published by Jon Hardacre - 124 pages, colour photos, maps.
See Fatbirder Review

ISBN: 0955230209

Buy this book from NHBS.com


Abbreviations Key: See the appropriate Continent Page (or Country Page of those used on country sub-divisions)

Ria Formosa National Park


Satellite View

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…

Guides & Tour Operators

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

A Rocha

Tour Operator

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…

Algarve Birders

Tour Operator

From our base in Tavira in the Eastern Algarve we offer guiding services to birdwatchers and bird photographers visiting Southern Portugal…

Algarve Selvagem

Tour Operator

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…


Tour Operator

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.

Natura Algarve

Tour Operator

Ria Formosa is recognized for its biodiversity and ecological significance, considered an IBA. It has a unique environmental conditions that allow for breeding of numerous species of birds…

Simon Wates

Tour Operator

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…

Trip Reports

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…


Trip Report Repository

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] - John Durdin


Honeyguides tour - pdf

2007 [03 March] - Glen & Debbie Moore


…As we had arrived in the dark I had no idea what our local area was like so my pre-breakfast outing was a walk to get a feel of the place. Almost the first bird seen was Hoopoe, and Serins were singing all around. Within five minutes I had my first lifer in Azure-winged Magpie, which turned out to be common in the area. Already I was starting to like this place!..

2007 [04 April] - Honeyguide



2007 [06 June] - John Knight


I arrived at Faro after a totally sleepless night at Luton, so all I did was get into my rented car and drive to Monte Gordo; even though I wasn't birding Azure-Winged Magpie was an inescapable feature of the scene. After a refreshing couple of hours sleep I went for a walk in the dune pines by the resort…

2007 [08 August] - Stephen Burch


This is an illustrated trip report on the birding and dragonfly highlights from a two week family holiday to Praia da Luz, Algarve in August 2007. With limited time available for birding etc, my focus was on connecting with my target lifers and getting some photos, not rushing around numerous different sites building a long list. Nevertheless, my final list was c. 70 species, which I didn't think was too bad for an August visit…

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

Report PDF

…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


Annotated list…

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

PDF Report

...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

Report PDF

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...

Places to Stay

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Alcantarilha Gare Villa


A private villa attached to a 400 year old restored farmhouse in 8 acres of landscaped and wildlife gardens. Lovely views. Very large pool with under water lighting…

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…

Casa Rosa


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…

Quinta Dos Pinheiros


Quinta dos Pinheiros offers a peaceful family holiday on one of the few remaining unspoilt stretches of Algarve coastline in the Ria Formosa Nature Reserve. There are two family villas for rent located in 25 acres of - now unworked - farmland. Neither villa is within sight of the other…

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!

Tivoli Guest House


We are lucky enough to be located next to the biggest and most well know nature reserve on the Algarve - the Parque Nacional do Ria Formosa. The park covers an area of 18,400 hectares of dunes, saltpans, little isles, sand banks and swamps between Cacela Velha and Anção and is bordered by the beautiful beaches of the islands of Faro, Barreta (Deserta), Farol/Culatra, Armona and Tavira which form a natural barrier to the ocean. ..