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Basque Country

Black Kite Milvus migrans ©Joël Bruezière Website

Basque Country has, to the north, a natural border with France formed by the foothills at the western edge of Pyrenees, that roll down to the coast of Gulf of Vizcaya.

Innand in the region, the mountain chains scarcely top 500 ft. The area can be divided into two different ecosystems: Atlantic and coastal influences in the north, and Mediterranean characteristics in the southern half. Because of this the region has an important number of resident bird species in the different biotopes: marine, coastal environment, inland wetlands, Atlantic forest, rocky mountain peaks and groves of evergreen oaks and scrub.

So, in Basque Country can be seen many of Europe's raptors such as: Eurasian Griffon, Egyptian Vulture, Golden Eagle, Red Kite, Black Kite, Booted Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Hen Harrier, Montagu’s Harrier, Western Marsh-Harrier, Peregrine Falcon , Barn Owls and most of the Iberic Strigiformes.

There are also interesting Woodpecker populations with Eurasian Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and Eurasian Wryneck and especially its high population of Middle Spotted Woodpecker in the Forest of Izki (Alava). Other birds include good numbers and variety of Larks, Thrushes, Bluethroats, Flycatchers, Pipits, Wagtails, and Shrikes, especially in the mountain range of Entzia and Badaia.

The region is within one of the main migration routes making Spring and Autumn the best seasons to visit. The coastal wetlands (Txingudi, not far from Donostia-San Sebastian and Urdaibai, next to Bilbao being the best) are bird magnets. It is also great at inland wetlands (top sites include Salburua, in Vitoria-Gasteiz, which make up part of the ‘green belt’ of the city and Laguardia in the middle of the wine production region of Rioja alavesa). In the north there are several natural parks such as Aiako Harria and Pagoeta worth a visit and in the centre of the region sites like Urkiola, Aralar, Gorbea and Aitzgorri have great birding. Top spots in the south include Sierra Salvada and Ordunte on the border with Cantabria, Rioja and Castilla. Montes de Izki on the border with Navarra is also very good.

Cape Machichaco (15 miles from Bilbao) and Cape Higuer (10 miles from Donostia-San Sebatian) are good points for birdwatching of pelagic migration.

Basques would like their region to be better known not only because their excellent wines and the large number of excellent gourmet restaurants, but also because its terrific birds, rolling green hills and beautiful landscapes.


Josema Verdugo & Ramón Elosegui

SEO/BirdLife Donostia

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 344

Useful Reading

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: 9781472936752

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Useful Information

Basque Country

Tourist authority site… now promoting birding in this little known but bird-rich region…


SEO/BirdLife Donostia


Grupo perteneciente a la Sociedad Española de Ornitología, asociación científica y conservacionista fundada en 1954 dedicada al estudio y la conservación de las aves y la naturaleza. Es por lo tanto la decana de las ONG de conservación de la naturaleza en el Estado, con más de 50 años de actividad ininterrumpida. Está declarada de Utilidad Pública y ha recibido, entre muchos otros, el Premio Nacional de Medio Ambiente (1994) y el Premio BBVA a la conservación de la biodiversidad (2004)…

Sociedad de Ornitología Ugatza


Asociación vasca de ornitología dedicada al estudio, conservación y divulgación de las aves y la naturaleza, con sede en la ciudad de donostia-san sebastián (gipuzkoa - Euskal Herria). Una Organización sin ánimo de lucro. [Basque Association of Ornithology dedicated to the study and conservation of the birds and nature, around the city of Donostia - San Sebastián. (A not-for-profit Organization)]…

Urdaibai Bird Center


Urdaibai Bird Center is a great living museum of the nature, open to the public for enjoying with the world of birds and their migrations. The equipment itself is a unique observatory of the marshland and is located on the heart of Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve…


Abbreviations Key

Macizo del Gorbea


Satellite View

La declaración del Parque Natural de Gorbeia fue el 21 de junio de 1994, fecha en la que se aprobó la Ley de Conservación de la Naturaleza del País Vasco…

Marismas de Santoña


Satellite View

…En las Marismas de Santoña desemboca el río Asón, uno de los 4 principales ríos salmoneros de Cantabria. En las piscifactorías se producen millares de alevines de salmón, con un coste económico muy importante (infraestructuras, personal, alimento, tratamientos sanitarios, transporte)…

Plaiaundi Ecological Park


Satellite View

The Plaiaundi Ecological Park is located in the area between Bidasoa River and the irrigation channel of Jaizubia, in a setting with views to the Txingudi Bay, in full contact with the urban area of Irun…

Sierra Salvada


Satellite View

Licenciado en Biología y Técnico Especialista Forestal. Agente forestal de caza y pesca en la Cuenca del río Nervión de la Diputación Foral de Bizkaia…

Guides & Tour Operators

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


Tour Operator

Wildlife Experience Tours - WILEX Tours organizes for you an incomparable weeklong tour in the North of Spain, one of the last wild places in Europe. An astonish scenery fulfill with delightful natural figures, and genuine heritage values will be the selected playground, to develop the trip. Bird and wildlife watching, cultural sitting, and leisure sports, such as mountain biking or horse riding are the main activities of the tour, whereas it will be complimented with the delicious local gastronomy and the rural ambient accommodation…

Trip Reports


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.


En Nidos Ajenos


Blog about birds and other animals of Biscay, Spain…

Inguruko Hegaztiak


Project to learn about the birds in our environment, using winter feeders, promoted by Urdaibai Bird Center… Basque Country, Spain

Other Links

Bilbo Riando


Nuestra observaciones por la Ria del Nervión a su paso por Bilbao…

Birding Basque Country


Goes live in 2010…



Fotografia de naturaleza, en especial de aves…