Vast, wild and nowhere nearly so well known as Extremadura or Andalucia, Castilla-La Mancha has everything a birder could want in southern Spain and the excitement of exploring a territory so seldom visited. This region is known as ‘Africa in Spain’, and has an aura of romantic adventure very hard to find in other parts of Europe. Impressive mediterranean areas, the best wetlands of inland Spain, ancient forests and endless steppes are the reasons of such natural riches. Moreover, the isolation of many large areas of the region help to preserve its wildlife.
Over 350 birds have been identified by the few birders that have visited this ancient region of Spain (the homeland of the most famous medieval knight, Don Quixote de La Mancha). What is more among the species that can be found here include many of the most sought-after in Europe including: Black Stork, Spoonbill, Squacco Heron, Marbled Duck, White-Headed Duck, Black Vulture, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Black-Shouldered Kite, Lesser Kestrel, Purple Swamphen, Collared Pratincole, Common Crane, Great & Little Bustard, Pin-Tailed & Black-Belied Sandgrouse, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Iberian Woodpecker, White-Rumped Swift, Roller, Black Wheatear, Azure-Winged Magpie oandHawfinch, to mention but a few. This region is the main stronghold for the endangered Imperial Eagle (150 breeding pairs, 38% of the total in Spain), the White-Headed Duck, Stone Curlew (33% of Spain), Little Bustard and Pin-Tailed Sandgrouse (22% of the total in Spain only in the Ciudad Real province), or Black Vulture, with the densest colony in Spain settled in Cabañeros National Park with 200 breeding pairs in just 12.000 Hectares.
If there is a place where birders can enjoy some of the last great events of Europe like watching dozens of White-Headed Ducks together in Daimiel, thousands of Little Bustards and Pin-Tailed Sandgrouses clouding up the skies of Calatrava, or watching several Imperial Eagles soar at the same time over La Mancha dehesas. This place is Castilla-La Mancha: the region where everyone can feel like being the ultimate explorer of the old and wild Spain.
Based in Guadalajara province, its impressive landscape of cliffs and gorges is the perfect habitat for Griffon & Egyptian Vulture, Golden Eagle or the grand night hunter, the Eagle-Owl.
Cabañeros National Park
The second National Park of the region (Castilla-La Mancha is the only region in Spain with 2 National Parks) houses the best representation of Mediterranean Forest in the whole country. An outstanding habitat for large ungulates, the park also host impressive populations of avian predators like Golden & Imperial Eagles, Short-Toed & Booted, Red & Black Kite (very common in winter/summer), Montagu’s Harrier, Black-Shoulder Kite. It is especially important for Black Vulture (the second biggest colony in the world, with about 200 pairs) in the area called ‘la raña’ - the flatlands - that due to its similarity to the African open spaces is known as the Spanish Serengeti. The park and its surroundings is very little explored can be a highly rewarding experience for birder s who may fmake unexpected inds such as a White-Rumped Swift over the Sierras or a flock of Red-Footed Falcons hawking for big insects in the grasslands of the park.
Near Toledo town lies a reservoir surrounded by sandy cliffs and cultivated area where Purple Swamp Hen, Bonelli’s Eagle, Eagle Owl, Golden Oriol, Bee-eaters, Black-eared Wheatear and waders and ducks on migration can be seen. Ospreys and Eurasian Spoonbills are usual visitors.
Cultivated areas near Guadalajara and Henares River
Open fields where Great and Little Bustards are all year around, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Lesser Kestrels, Bee-eaters and Montagu’s Harrier are also present during the breeding season. Whinchat, Tawny Pipit, Short-toed Eagle on migration. The surroundings of Azuqueca de Henares are suitable for the steppe species. In the nearby cliffs of the Henares river Red-billed Chough, Peregrine Falcon and Eagle Owl can be seen while in the vegetation of the river Golden Oriol, Short-toed Treecreeper, Sardinian Warbler, Nightingale and Green Woodpecker (ssp. Sharpei) are common.
La Mancha Húmeda (Wetlands Biosphere Reserve)
A string of natural and artificial lagoons of varying salt composition in the driest and flattest part of the region at the limits of the provinces of Toledo, Ciudad Real, Albacete & Cuenca. It is host to a very rich aquatic birdlife with healthy populations of White-Headed Duck, Red-Crested Pochard, Purple Swamphen, Bearded Tit, Gull-Billed Tern (breeding here), and exceptional passage and overwinter of other waterfowl (Garganey, Pintail, Tufted Duck) and waders (Eurasian Curlew, Temminck’s Stint, etc.). It is surrounded by excellent steppies with Great & Little Bustard and both Sandgrouses, many birdwatchers also visit to spot rarities like Lesser Flamingo or the Ross’s Gull.
La Mancha Steppes
Located throughout the hinterland of the provinces of Toledo, Ciudad Real, Albacete & Cuenca, these very well preserved fields are the last havens for steppe birds in all the South of Spain. Although there are countless areas in good state of conservation in the region that are known as La Mancha Steppes, there are two that stand out over all the rest. The Special Protected Area Steppes of Eastern Albacete and the adjoining Petrola-Corral Rubio lagoon complex, with breeding Flamingoes, White-Headed Duck and even records of Cream-coloured Courser. The Special Protected Area of the Calatrava Steppes is a place for Great & Little Bustard, Stone Curlew, Pin-Tailed & Black-Belied Sandgrouse, Calandra & Greater Short-Toed Lark all year long. This spot is also the only place in Western Europe where an amazing event can be enjoyed every winter, when up to two thousand Little Bustards & Pin-Tailed Sandgrouse can be watched feeding together and responding in identical way facing changes in their environment. In the Calatrava Steppes birdwatchers can also be surprised by the numbers of some of the most sought after birds of Europe, like Spanish Imperial Eagle, Black-Shouldered Kite and Great Spotted Cuckoo.
Las Tablas de Daimiel National Park
One of the best places in Spain for birdwatching despite the threat to the park from lack of water. This hot spot is a national protected area where many species of birds breed (in 2013 82 species bred here, 2 more than in Doñana National Park). Sought after species include: Glossy Ibis, Spoonbill, 8 species of Egrets, Marbled Duck, Ferruginous Duck, Red-Crested Pochard, White-Headed Duck, Red-Knob Coot, Collared Pratincole, Moustached & Savi’s Warblers, Bearded Tit. The endangered sub-species of Reed Bunting (whitherby) breed inside the boundaries of the park. A visit to the surrounding areas will give views of other nesting species like Great & Little Bustard, Stone Curlew, Pin-tailed & Black-belied Sandgrouse, European Roller and some well-preserved colonies of Lesser Kestrel. Non-breeding birds in the park include Gull-Billed Tern, Black Tern and the rare White-Winged Tern. The park is also very rich in nocturnal species including Scops, Little, Long-Eared and Eagle-Owl. A night excursion in the area following the Guadiana river should turn up Red-Neck Nightjar.
Sierra de Cuenca Range
Nice landscapes dominated by the cliffs and pine trees forest where Bonelli's Eagle is well present and Ring Ouzel overwinter in low numbers. Other interesting species are Griffon Vulture, Red-billed Chough, Crag Martin, Crossbill, Black Redstart and Subalpine Warbler. We suggest to visit the Hoces de Beteta, Uña lagoon, Tragacete and the spot known as Las Majadas near El Tobar reservoir.
The Volcanic Fields of Calatrava
The Volcanic Fields of Calatrava are the large triangle of ancient volcanoes and lagoons formed by hydromagmatic explosions – in fact the only volcanic lagoons found in Western Europe - host an incredible diversity of bird species, sought after species include: Red-billed Chough, Black Stork, Glossy Ibis, Spoonbill, Squacco Heron, Purple Heron, Ferruginous Duck, White-Headed Duck, Purple Swamphen, Great & Little Bustard, both Sandgrouse, and Golden & Spanish Imperial Eagle.
Valle de Alcudia Natural Park
Located in the south of the Ciudad Real province, just on the border with Andalucia & Extremadura, this amazing boundless space is the last home of the Wolf and the Iberian Lynx in Castilla-La Mancha. Comprising the castilian part of Sierra Morena, avian life includes amazing populations of the Big 5 Raptors (Black & Griffon Vultures, Golden, Imperial & Bonelli’s Eagles) plus other bonus birds such as Alpine & White-rumped Swifts, Egyptian Vulture, Short-Toed Eagle, Goshawk, Black Stork, Black Wheatear, Sylvia warblers, Rock & Cirl Buntings and Hawfinch. Depopulated and almost without road infrastructure, this beautiful part of the ancient Spain is considered to be the most isolated area of Western Europe.
Where to Watch Birds in Northern & Eastern Spain
By Ernest FJ Garcia & Michael Rebane | Bloomsbury Publishing | 2017 | Paperback | 384 pages, 30 b/w illustrations, 125 b/w maps |
ISBN: 9781472936752Buy this book from NHBS.com
Guides & Tour Operators
…La Mancha may lack the fame of other parts of Spain when it comes to natural history, but with the right local knowledge there are places and wildlife to discover in one of the least known areas of the country…
Julian Sykes Wildlife Holidays
La Mancha is considered its poor partner but two days along the 'Ruta de Don Quixote' will change that, with its amazing wetlands and a memorable half day on Los Cabañeros - the Serengeti of Spain.
Guided Birding & Natural History Tours in Central & Southern Spain. A great variety of habitats in a very short distance: Mediterranean Forest, the best Wetlands inland Spain, the unique Volcanic Lagoons found in Western Europe and the best Steppes in all the Iberian Peninsula. All of them teeming with an impressive and rich wildlife. Tours in the land of the Iberian Lynx, the Spanish Imperial Eagle, the White-Headed Duck and the Pin-Tailed Sandgrouse…
Oretani Wildlife offers tailor made birding and wildlife tours and all inclusive packages in Castilla la Mancha and central Spain. Experience the Sierra, Steppe and Wetlands of this exciting region with some of the best birding and wildlife available…
Quijoting La Mancha
We offer you tour routes in La Mancha. Live with us a wonderful experience in the land of Don Quixote. Discover La Mancha, its nature and its culture and its wines and its cheeses. Our guided tours include transport in our all-terrain vehicle, as well as optics and field guides for birdwatching. So you don't have to worry about anything, just enjoy the trip...
We've now been working for seven seasons on what started out as a small project called "Spainbirds". Since then our website has been constantly moving on with the times, taking on new challenges and responding to the increasing demands of an ever more numerous travelers. Fruit of all these endeavours is this new version, more useful and participative, which we now offer you on the net…
Toledo Natura SL. is a company founded in Toledo city. We formed a team of aware professionals having the conviction that our natural heritage, and specially the group of birds, is a resource that can and should be enjoyed in a sustainable way. This sustainability has a main role to play in rural development and in green economy and green employment generating strategies…
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.
2013 [11 November] - Pau Lucio & Chris Durdin
…scores of birds on wires that at first aren’t easy to identify against the light, but they are rock sparrows, eventually numbering at least 200, by far the most I’ve ever seen…
2014 [10 October] - Pau Lucio & Chris Durdin - La Mancha
The shallow wetland, viewed through a gap in the tamarisks, was alive with birds. White storks soared in thermals over us and several flamingos, both brown juveniles and pinky adults, were in the water. Around these were hundreds of wading birds. Black-winged stilts were joined by a large avocet flock. Curlews mixed with black-tailed godwits. There were ruffs, calling greenshanks, green sandpipers and herons. Flying over us was a fabulously close pale-phase booted eagle...
2016 [09 September] - David mason
...An early start, we left Madrid at 07:30 and headed south for 100km, arriving at our first destination, just as the sun was rising to give some bright morning light. We encountered three Great Bustard at a considerable distance from the road but using the telescope, we got some excellent views.
2017 [05 May] – Chris Durdin & Pau Lucio
The occelated lizard on the rock was still soaking up the sunshine when two Egyptian vultures flew low overhead. At the same time a cuckoo was calling and the intense blue of beautiful flax Linum narbonense studded the surroundings – altogether a lovely mix.
Places to Stay
Abucia Maria Casa Rural
Abuela María Casa Rural is placed in the Cabañeros National Park, in Santa Quiteria, a village that depends on the town of Alcoba de los Montes, at Ciudad Real's province…
Accommodation for Nature Lovers
Rural cottages across Spain…
The ramblings of an Irishman in La Mancha…
Objetivo al Vuelo
Isidro Ortiz an ornithologist from Toldedo – birding picture Blog…
Un Paseo Manchego
Este es un BLOG INDIGNADO, porque otro mundo más justo y más humano, es posible. Ecología, ornitología, fauna, flora, denuncias, costumbres, escapadas, viajes, aves, orquídeas, lepidópteros,…
Photographers & Artists
Photographer - Enrique Ruiz - Pinceladas de la Naturaleza
Es un proyecto personal que nace para mostrar la biodiversidad que nos envuelve (its a personal project created to show the biodiversity that surrounds us)…