Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus ©Andreas Trepte Website
Birding Madrid

The wildlife in Madrid, undoubtedly to the surprise of many, can be considered as arguably the best of any capital city in Europe! The province (8022 km2) as a whole includes extensive (mainly Scot’s pine and Pyrenean oak) forest cover flanking the Sierra de Guadarrama mountains (peaking at 2430m) to the northwest, large areas of holm oak dehesa habitat to the north and west, extensive rolling agricultural areas from the northeast round to the southwest, several notable rivers with numerous gravel pits, a few other lakes and reservoirs, and a substrate varying from acidic granite to calcareous chalk and even gypsum. As a result, it is not difficult to imagine why the diversity of habitats, and consequently species, is so high.

Birds are obviously a major part of this diversity, and despite being inland (at the geographical centre of Spain), are very varied. In fact, a remarkable 44.8% of the surface area of the autonomous community is categorised as qualifying under IBA standards, ranking as the second highest proportion (after Extremadura) in Spain! Three of these IBAs follow the Sistema Central mountain chain which runs along the whole northwest border, one covers the El Pardo park area northwest of the capital, two others mainly agricultural areas in the east, and the last follows the courses of the Henares, Jarama and Tajo (Tagus) rivers in part, approximately from Madrid capital southwards.The list of endangered and threatened species is notable, and in particular includes Black Stork, Spanish Imperial Eagle (c.30 pairs), Eurasian Black Vulture (more than 50 pairs), Lesser Kestrel, Great Bustard (more than 700 pairs) and Little Bustard. The first three of these are mostly found in the north & west, with the remaining three mostly in agricultural areas of the east, all along with a host of other species.

Notable wetland species, mainly concentrated in the Parque Regional del Sureste (roughly Titulcia to Rivas-Vaciamadrid), include breeding Purple Heron, Cattle & Little Egrets, Black-crowned Night Heron, Little Bittern, Red-crested Pochard, Purple Swamp-hen (here at its northern limit in inland Spain), Great Reed Warbler, Eurasian Penduline Tit and Red Avadavat (introduced), while good numbers of duck, Coot and Lesser Black-backed & Black-headed Gulls (with occasional rarities) winter, especially in the south of the community. The river valley cliffs in the south are also noted for several species, including resident Peregrine, Eurasian Eagle Owl, Black Wheatear and Red-billed Chough amongst others, along with probably the highest concentration of White Storks, those these can all be found in other parts of the province too (though are sometimes rare).

The agricultural areas and associated habitats are notable for the remarkable concentration of Great Bustards, especially in the area north of the airport between Talamanca de Jarama, Ajalvir and Torrejón del Rey, but Little Bustards, Montagu’s Harrier, Lesser Kestrel, Red-legged Partridge, Stone-curlew, Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Great Spotted Cuckoo, European Bee-eater, European Roller, Calandra, Greater Short-toed and Crested Larks, Tawny Pipit, Spectacled Warbler, Spanish Sparrow and Corn & Cirl Buntings are also to be found, albeit in very small number for one or two species.Scrubby and wooded habitats, found almost throughout the province, from lowland riverside to mid-altitude mountain foothills, including rocky outcrops and river valleys, support a very wide range of species. This is perhaps best exemplified by the El Pardo area, to the northwest of Madrid and either side of the village of the same name and to the northwest (though most is fortunately strictly inaccessible). These include Black & Red Kites, Spanish Imperial, Short-toed & Booted Eagles, Long-eared and Eurasian Scops Owls, Eurasian & Red-necked Nightjars, Eurasian Green Woodpecker (ssp. sharpie), Thekla & Wood Larks, Woodchat & Southern Grey Shrikes, Melodious, Dartford, Subalpine, Sardinian & Western Orphean Warblers, Firecrest, Crested Tit, Short-toed Treecreeper, Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Bunting, European Serin, Hawfinch, Eurasian Golden Oriole and Iberian Azure-winged Magpie.

Finally, in simplistic terms, the remaining notable suite of species are those of mid- and upper-level montain areas, some of which are found here at the extreme southern edge of their respective distributions. These include European Honey-buzzard, Eurasian Griffon & Eurasian Black Vultures, Golden Eagle, Water Pipit, White-throated Dipper, Alpine Accentor, Bluethroat, Black Redstart, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, Bonelli’s Warbler, Iberian race Pied Flycatcher, Ortolan Bunting and Citril Finch. A number of these are readily found in the Puerto de Navacerrada area, though also in other mountain passes and high altitude areas including the Lagunas de Peñalara area above the Puerto de los Cotos.All these don’t even include such characteristic and sought-after species as Spotless Starling, Eurasian Hoopoe, Eurasian Crag Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Common Nightingale, Common Stonechat, Black-eared Wheatear, Zitting Cisticola, Eurasian Tree & Rock Sparrows and Common Raven, all of which are also present and just yet more species to attract the visiting birdwatcher!

  • John Muddeman


Useful Reading

  • Where to Watch Birds in Northern & Eastern Spain

    | 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

Abbreviations Key

  • Madrid Parks

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Madrid enjoys one of the most extensive areas of parks, gardens and green zones of all European cities. It possesses a total of 33 million square metres of parkland, distributed throughout more than 40 parks within the urban limits, the most important of which are mentioned below.
Trip Reports
  • 2013 [08 August] - Ed O'Hara

    …I spent a week in Madrid with my wife and booked two morning trips with guide Luis Sitges of Birding Trekking & Nature, taking in the Madrid region. The city and its surrounding region hold a fantastic variety of habitat and birds to match, even in August!
  • 2013 [11 November] - Ed O'Hara

    I took a short city break with my family to Madrid and booked Luis Sitges once more as my guide in this region of Spain…
  • 2016 [09 September] - David Mason

    I went on a family holiday in late August 2016 to Madrid, a city I am now very fond of, due to the excellent birding both in and around the city, and surrounding countryside. My wife and daughter have the hotel pool and shopping in the Grand Via as their primary pursuits, which leaves me free to go birding in the city parks, of which there are several. It is often easier to see the birds here than out in the country as they are so used to people and the city environment.
Other Links
  • Birding in Madrid

    Tours, sites and BLOG etc. explained in the title
  • Netherlands Birding Tours

    Madrid is a perfect destination to combine city sightseeing and birding. Madrid is very good for birds of prey, especially for Spanish Imperial Eagle (only 150 pairs worldwide, 24 in Madrid), Golden Eagle, Black vulture (over 1.000 pairs worldwide) and Griffon vultures. Other relevant birds like Black stork (12 pairs), Great Bustard (around 800 birds), Little Bustard, Black-bellied Sandgrouse (over 12 pairs), Stone Curlew, Azure Magpie, Black Wheatear, Purple Swamphen, Red Kite, Black-shouldered Kite (few pairs) can be seen
  • Presa del Rey

    Last updated 2010
  • Jose Ignacio Garcia-Abasolo - Larus

    This blog has been created as a sincere tribute to every gull in the world, for those ardent enthusiastic gull-watchers who enjoy the strength, beauty and freedom of this amazing group of birds. Gabriel Mart
  • Madrid Gull Team

    Some Gull enthusiasts from Spain
  • P Perales - Ecosistemas del Sureste

    Last updated 2015
  • Parque Regional del Sureste Madrile

Photographers & Artists
  • Fotos de aves by Loro

    Interesante blog en el que se publican fotograf
  • Photographer - Jorge Rubio


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