Barbary Partridge Alectoris barbara ©Aaron Baglietto Website
Birding Gibraltar

The famous Rock of Gibraltar is a limestone promontory, some 5 km long and 1 km wide. The summit ridge, rising to 426m, offers superb if vertiginous views over the westernmost Mediterranean, the Costa del Sol and, especially, the Strait of Gibraltar itself. The Moroccan shore is only 20 km away and views often extend to the Rif Mountains beyond.

The strategic position of Gibraltar is the root of its ornithological fame. Migration of soaring birds, i.e. storks and raptors, occurs year-round in some form and numbers can be spectacular in the peak seasons of March-May and August-October, almost invariably during periods of westerly winds. The most abundant are Black Kites and Eurasian Honey-buzzards, which both produce daily counts of thousands at peak times. Significant but lesser concentrations occur of Egyptian and Griffon Vultures, Short-toed and Booted Eagles, Marsh and Montagu’s Harriers, Sparrowhawks and Ospreys, as well as White and Black Storks. Scarcer migrant raptors include Rüppell’s Vulture, Pallid Harrier, Long-legged Buzzard, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Eleonora’s Falcon and Lanner, all of which occur more or less annually.

Migration of seabirds is also an all-year phenomenon and features important numbers of Cory’s, Scopoli’s and Balearic Shearwaters, Northern Gannets, Great Skuas; Mediterranean, Black-headed, and Audouin’s Gulls, and Sandwich Terns. Many other seabirds occur regularly, including Lesser Crested Terns (September/mid-November).

The Gibraltar list grows slowly but steadily. It may be consulted on the GONHS website. It includes a particularly comprehensive contingent of passerines, many of them migrants grounded on the Rock by inclement weather, often during the frequent bouts of strong easterly winds which produce the famous levanter cloud over the summit. A diversity of vagrant species enlivens the birding scene; recent examples have included Common Eider, Allen’s Gallinule, Moroccan White Wagtail, Seebohm’s Wheatear, Yellow-browed and Pallas’s Warblers, Mountain Chiffchaff and Red-breasted Flycatcher and Hooded Crow.

Resident and breeding species are few but Gibraltar has one of only two colonies of Shags in the westernmost Mediterranean and is the only mainland site in Europe for Barbary Partridges. Other local breeders include Peregrines; Common, Pallid and Alpine Swifts, Blue Rock Thrushes and, since their re-colonisation in 2004, a pair of Eagle Owls. The thousands of Yellow-legged Gulls are an unmissable feature; they even nest on rooftops and in the pine trees of the Botanic Garden.

Top Sites
  • Key places to visit….

    Key places to visit in Gibraltar are the bird observatory and ringing station at Jews' Gate (run by the Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society); the Summit Ridge, Botanic Garden, North Front Cemetery and Europa Point. Gibraltar is within day-trip distance of the Eastern bank of the Guadalquivir river (Brazo del Este, Bonanza and Trebujena salt pans, Algaida pine woods); Tarifa and its beach, La Janda, the Serrania de Ronda, the Guadalhorce estuary at Malaga, the cork forests of the Cadiz sierras (Parque Natural de los Alcornocales) and the Costa de la Luz.
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 316

    National Bird: Barbary Partridge Alectoris barbara
  • iGoTerra Checklist

    iGoTerra Checklist
    Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web
Useful Reading

  • Birds of the Strait of Gibraltar

    | By Clive Finlayson | T & AD Poyser Ltd | 2010 | hardback | 534 pages, b/w photos, b/w illustrations, b/w maps, tables | ISBN: 9781408136959 Buy this book from
  • Field Guide to the Birds of the Strait of Gibraltar (Guia de Aves del Estrecho de Gibraltas)

    | (Parque Natural Los Alcornocales y Comarca de La Janda) | By David Barros & David Rios | 2002 | Paperback | 328 pages, colour photos, colour illustrations, figs, tabs, maps | Text in English & Spanish | ISBN: 9788460745457 Buy this book from
  • Nomads

    | (A Field Guide to Bird Migration, the Natural Parks of the Strait and los Alcornocales, and the Rock of Gibraltar) | By Fernando Barrios Partida | Palma del Valle | 2007 | Hardback | 430 pages, colour photos, maps | ISBN: 9788493426347 Buy this book from
  • The Birds of the Iberian Peninsula

    | By Eduardo de Juana & Ernest Garcia | Bloomsbury Publishing | 2015 | Hardback | 688 pages, 32 plates with 64 colour photos; 216 b/w illustrations, b/w distribution maps | ISBN: 9781408124802 Buy this book from
  • Where to Watch Birds in Southern & Western Spain

    | (Andalucia, Extremadura and Gibraltar) | by Ernest Garcia & Andrew Paterson | Christopher Helm | 2008 | Paperback | 3rd edition | 400 pages, 30 b/w illustrations, 99 b/w maps | ISBN: 9780713683158 Buy this book from
Useful Information
  • Gibraltar Bird Report

    Published by GONHS. The 2018 Report is currently available, price £6.00 including postage within EU: UK cheques accepted. The Report is being published on-line only and free to access from 2019 onwards. See GONHS website, where Reports 1–14 are already available.
  • Strait of Gibraltar Bird Observatory

    Observatory WebsiteSatellite View
    Strait of Gibraltar bird Observatory, Jews’ Gate, Gibraltar. Run by GONHS. The observatory controls ringing and observation of birds in Gibraltar, the latter including daily counts of diurnal migrants. Visitors and helpers are always welcome. The Jews’ Gate observatory itself offers inexpensive hostel-type accommodation to resident ringers. It is located at a strategic point on the southwestern slopes of the Rock, giving commanding views over the Strait and Bay of Gibraltar. A second observatory at Europa Point is used for seabird observation…
  • Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society

    Field Centre, Jews Gate, Upper Rock Nature Reserve, P0 Box 843. + 350 72639; info@gonhs.orgThe Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society (GONHS) was founded in 1976. Its aims are to foster the study and protection of wildlife and the natural environment in the area of the Straits of Gibraltar. The website gives details of membership, publications, Gibraltar wildlife, ringing, accommodation at the Bird Observatory and Field Centre etc…

Abbreviations Key

  • IBA Gibraltar Botanic Gardens

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Six hectares of subtropical vegetation, with notable collections of aloes and other succulents. Wildlife includes resident and migrant birds and butterflies, the latter featuring a colony of Monarchs…
  • NR Gibraltar

    WebsiteSatellite View
    The Gibraltar Nature Reserve (formerly the Upper Rock Nature Reserve) is a protected nature reserve in the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar that covers over 40% of the country's land area. The Rock has been identified as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International because it is a migratory bottleneck, or choke point, for an estimated 250,000 raptors that cross the Strait annually, and because it supports breeding populations of Barbary partridges and lesser kestrels.
Sightings, News & Forums
  • Gibraltar Bird Alert

    Sightings & News
    Gibraltar's bird & nature sightings alert service. Tweet ur sightings. For private birding & nature photography tours visit our website. #GibraltarBirds
Guides & Tour Operators
  • Aviantours

    Nature tour specialists in Gibraltar, Spain & Morocco - Birdwatching & nature photography holidays in Gibraltar, Spain & Morocco. Over 30 years Birdwatching & bird photography experience!
  • Birding The Strait

    Tour Operator
    Join our birding guides in a phenomenal Nature Experience! We offer unique, affordable birding and photography guided experiences from Tarifa. We arrange trips in the Strait of Gibraltar, Andalucia and Morocco, a region with outstanding scenery and biodiversity.
Trip Reports
  • 2014 [03 March] – Chris Durdin – Tarifa & Gibraltar

    PDF Report
    We had a date this morning: to meet El Grupo Ornitológico del Estrecho (GOES – The Ornithological Group of the Strait). The rendez-vous was some wild olive scrub on the edge of Algeciras which, we heard, had been in and is now out of the Natural Park. A bird ringing session was underway, and one GOES group member was taking feather mites from captured passerines as part of a detailed study…
  • 2014 [09 September] - Yeray Seminario

    PDF Report
    The narrowest point of the Strait of Gibraltar is a mere 14 km across to the African continent. The clear views of the Jbel Musa, on the other side of The Strait, were one of the first things we would see in the morning during this tour. The combination of constant changing winds and powerful thermals makes this area a unique strategic crossing point for raptors, allowing stunning views of these and other avian migrants.
  • 2015 [03 March] - Chris Durdin - Tarifa & Gibraltar

    PDF Report
    ...a strange song was Iberian chiffchaff and there were brief bursts of short-toed treecreeper song, too.
  • 2017 [09 September] - Per Stensland

    Raptor watch Strait of Gibraltar September 2017 - We had a 5 days holiday from september 21st to sept 26th. Weather was unusually hot, with temperatures close to 30 C, a bit inland. We stayed some nights in La Alcaidesa, some 40 mins drive from Tarifa. The last nights we, as usual, stayed at Dos Mares Hotel, just outside Tarifa.
  • 2018 [09 September] - Pau Lucio

    As we are getting close to Tarifa, we see the Rock of Gibraltar on our side and the Djebel Musa on the African side. Our first stop is in route, in Palmones river mouth where a Lesser Crested Tern was spotted few days before.
  • 2018 [11 November] - Derek Gruar

    PDF Report
    This report details a 4-week period I spent as ringer in charge of the Straits of Gibraltar Bird Observatory during the late autumn migration period as a sabbatical from my employers the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).
  • 2021 [09 September] - Simon Tonkin

    PDF Report
    Our action-packed days together here in The Straits showed us magical avian migration, with swirling masses of Eagles and Storks making the 14km crossing to Africa, and the richness of the two meeting seas with Longfinned Pilot Whales, Common and Striped Dolphins, Yellow-finned Tuna and Mediterranean Flying Fish. The juxtaposition of human culture and history was demonstrated in the landscape and food but also the combined natural history of the wondrous Straits of Gibraltar.
Other Links
  • Gibraltar - Tourist Board - Birdwatching

    As the Strait of Gibraltar is the narrowest crossing point for birds migrating to and from Europe and Africa, the Rock offers unrivalled bird watching opportunities. 315 species of birds have been recorded, many of which are migratory. Gibraltar, at the head of the Strait, is a prominent headland, which accumulates migrants during the passage periods. The vegetation on the Rock, unique in southern Iberia, provides a temporary home for many species of migratory birds that stop to rest and feed before continuing migration for their crossing over the desert and sea. In spring they return to replenish before continuing their journeys to Western Europe, journeys that may take them as far as Greenland or Russia.
  • Birding The Strait

    Blog from this guiding company

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