Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus ©Andrej Chudý
Birding Navarre

Navarra is a relatively small autonomous community in the north of Spain, stretching southwards from the western edge of the Pyrenees. Relatively small it may be, but insignificant it most certainly is not: Navarra has an awful lot of biodiversity to offer the travelling naturalist, with a representation of virtually all the biotopes present in the Iberian Peninsula (except coastal ones), and surprising and often abrupt contrasts. The northeast corner of Navarra is the only part of the province-community with peaks reaching over the 2,000m mark, and this fact is reflected by its being the western limit to the ranges of several high Pyrenean species such as Wallcreeper, Ring Ouzel, Ptarmigan and Snowfinch. Follow the Roncal Valley up to and beyond the French border to try for some of these and other species like Alpine Chough, Citril Finch, Lammergeier, Black Woodpecker, Rock Thrush, and Alpine Accentor, appreciating at the same time how a valley of inspiring bucolic beauty takes on a more rugged natural demeanour once past the Rincon de Belagua.

These same youthful Pyrenees lose height as they pass westwards through Navarra towards the Atlantic Ocean, which is precisely why a large number and variety of migratory birds can be seen from its mountain passes, especially those of Etxalar, Ibañeta (Lindúx), and Urkiaga, in the autumn months: thousands of Cranes, Honey Buzzards and Red Kites, along with regular Ospreys, Hen Harriers, Short-toed and Booted Eagles, Black Kites, Black Storks and others. Woodpecker drill is another interesting feature, bearing in mind the good number of Black Woodpeckers present in Navarra’s areas of mature deciduous and mixed forest, and above all the fact that this community also holds by far the greatest part of the Spanish population of White-backed Woodpeckers (the endemic Pyrenean race lilfordi), estimated at between 60 and 70 pairs. The forest of Irati stands out as the main destination for avid woodpecker watchers visiting the region, although the species could be seen at Quinto Real or even, with a lot of luck, in the Roncal Valley.

As we pass south through some spectacular limestone gorges (Foces), wooded hillsides and rushing rivers we should expect to encounter many of the species common to other similar areas in the autonomies of Aragón and Catalunya: Lammergeier, Griffon Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, Dipper, Blue Rock Thrush, Alpine Swift, Red-backed Shrike, Rock Sparrow, Rock Bunting, Golden Eagle, Peregrine Falcon. In this respect the foces of Lumbier, Arbayún and Burgui certainly deserve the passing birder’s attention, equally so in the winter months when the possibility of coming across the dazzling Wallcreeper can never be discarded. Before long everything seems to change as the vast expanses of the Ebro Valley open up before the traveller. The Bardenas Reales Natural Park in the southeast of the province, shared in part with Aragón, protects the most striking archetype of an Ebro Valley steppe landscape that you are likely to find anywhere. Although many of its most characteristic species have suffered important declines, the park’s almost 56,000 ha still hold varying numbers of steppeland species such as Little Bustard, Pin-tailed and Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Lesser Short-toed and Dupont’s Larks, as well as Black Wheatears, Egyptian Vultures, Spectacled Warblers and Red-necked Nightjars.

Navarra’s wetlands are few, but the Lagunas of las Cañas, Pitillas and Dos Reinos are worthy of mention for their interesting breeding colonies of Purple and Night Heron, and smaller numbers of Red-crested Pochard, Black-necked Grebe, Little Bittern, the more irregular Great Bittern, Little Crake and Penduline Tit. Further birding interest is to be discovered in the Sotos of the River Ebro near Tudela, gallery woodland along meanders and river islands supporting an intersting array of birds such as Kingfisher, Fan-tailed Warbler, Cirl Bunting, Booted Eagle, Wryneck, Great Reed Warbler, Pendulline Tit and Golden Oriole. So don’t forget, there’s much more to Navarra than the festival of San Fermín!

Top Sites
  • Spanish Pyrenees

    Satellite View
    This mountainous barrier, that separates France from Spain, is made up of high mountains, extensive pine forests, streams, and green mountain meadows, and is especially recommended for its abundance of birds of prey. One can see Golden, Short-toed, Booted and Bonelli's Eagles; Montagu's Harrier; Red & Black kites, Peregrine and Hobby; and the magnificent Lammergeier, which here has one of its two last strongholds in the entire continent. Other interesting avian species are: Ptarmigan, Capercaille, Dotterel, Tengmalm's Owl, Black Woodpecker, Crag Martin, Water Pipit and Dipper. Apart from bird species, it is remarkable for the presence of Pyrenean Chamois and Red Deer. This area is probably one of the last refuges in Europe of the Boreal Linx and the Brown Bear.
Useful Reading

  • Where the Birds are in Northeast Spain

    | By Steve West | Steve West | 2004 | Paperback | 269 pages, Colour photos, colour illustrations, maps | ISBN: 9788460915997 Buy this book from
  • 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
Museums & Universities
  • University of Navarra - Zoology Museum

    Faculty of zoology and a museum of natural history
  • Sociedad de Ciencias Naturales GOROSTI


Abbreviations Key

  • Laguna de Pitillas

    WebsiteSatellite View
    La laguna de Pitillas tiene una extensión de unas 300 hectáreas localizadas mayoritariamente en el término municipal de Pitillas. Una pequeña extensión corresponde al municipio de Santacara…
Trip Reports
  • 2012 [02 February] - Chris Hall

    It’s 20th February at the Boletas Birdwatching Centre near Huesca, and the crisp dry early morning air is stirred by the whistles of Spotless Starlings and the bill clapping of White Storks, nesting on the church tower. After breakfast, Josele announces that he has received a call to say that we have an appointment with a Wallcreeper at 10.30am!
Other Links
  • Aves Of Heaven

    Pagina de ornitologia de aves de Navarra
  • Birding Arbizu

    Birding this area of Northern Spain
  • Birding in Spain

    Birds and Birding Tours in northeast Spain: Plan your Birding trip to Catalonia, Aragon and Navarra..
  • Laguna de Pitillas

    La laguna de Pitillas es un humedal de origen endorreico ("sin desagüe") situada entre las localidades navarras de Pitillas y Santacara, tiene una superficie de 216 Ha localizados en su mayoría en terrenos del término municipal de Pitillas.

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