País Vasco

Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus ©Derek Keats
Birding the Basque Country

The Basque Country (officially Pais Vasco) 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

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 378

    (As at May 2019)
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 || By Ernest FJ Garcia & Michael Rebane | Bloomsbury Publishing | 2017 | Edition 3 | Paperback | 384 pages, 30 b/w illustrations, 125 b/w maps | ISBN: 9781472936752 Buy this book from
  • SEO/BirdLife Donostia

    Grupo perteneciente a la Sociedad Espa
  • Sociedad de Ornitolog

  • 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

    WebsiteSatellite 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

    WebsiteSatellite 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

    InformationSatellite 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

    WebsiteSatellite 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
  • Wilex

    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
Other Links
  • Bilbo Riando

    Nuestra observaciones por la Ria del Nervi
  • Birding Basque Country

    Goes live in 2010
  • ojoNatural

    Fotografia de naturaleza, en especial de aves
  • En Nidos Ajenos

    Last Updated 2014
  • Inguruko Hegaztiak

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

Fatbirder - linking birders worldwide... Wildlife Travellers see our sister site: WAND

Skip to content