Birdwatching in the Algarve
There is a rising number of visitors looking to discover the birds of the Algarve. Consequently, birdwatching has become a small niche of tourism in the Algarve. This province in the south of Portugal is increasingly attractive to birders, because it has the richest avifauna of the country. A total number of 395 bird species have been recorded in the Algarve, including various seabirds, shorebirds, ducks, passarines, birds of prey and many others. All year round, you can find at least 250 different species of birds in the Algarve. Overall, birdwatching is a great outdoor experience that let’s you discover the Algarve in a unique way. In this article you can read more about birdwatching in the Algarve, including where to do so and if you need a guide.
If you wonder how it is to do birdwatching in the Algarve, then watch the short video below to get a quick impression.
Where to go birdwatching in the Algarve
In the Algarve, there are large wetland areas and natural parks. Many bird species make these areas their home or use them in their migration routes. With so many bird species visible throughout the year, you may find that deciding where to go birding may be a bit overwhelming. Below you can find the best places for birdwatching in the Algarve.
The natural park of Ria Formosa is a true paradise for birders. Some of the best places for birdwatching here can only be accessed by boat. Examples of birds you can see here are the spoonbill, kentish plover, woodchat shrike, black-necked grebe, little egret and the grey heron.
Lagoa dos Salgados
Between Armação de Pêra and Praia da Galé, you can find a beautiful lagoon called Lagoa dos Salgados. This is one of the most popular places for birdwatching in the Algarve. You can see many waterbirds here. Examples of bird you can spot here are the black tern, purple swamp hen, flamingo, glossy ibis, cattle egret, black-winged stilt and the little bittern. However, the lagoon has become very popular with tourists as well.
Sapal nature reserve
The Sapal nature reserve near Castro Marim and Vila Real de Santo António you can find wetlands and an area of saltpans, where you can find a variety of waterbirds. Examples of birds you can see here are the caspian tern, spectacled warbler, greater flamingo, audouin’s gull, yellow wagtail and the lesser short-toed lark.
Cape of St. Vincent
The Cape of St. Vincent near Sagres is in all aspects an amazing place. You can also see many migration birds here. Examples of birds you can see here are the black stork, booted eagle, griffon vulture, alpine swift, blue rock thrush, yellow-legged gull, Egyptian vulture, honey buzzard and the ortolan bunting. In October, there is actually a dedicated birdwatching event called the Sagres Birdwatching Festival.
Alvor nature reserve
In the Alvor nature reserve you can see a variety of waterbirds, seabirds and farmland birds. The nature reserve has a beautiful boardwalk and is located just behind Praia de Alvor. Examples of birds you can find here are the stone curlew, bluethroat, little tern, azure-winged magpie, woodchat shrike and the kentish plover.
Ponta da Piedade
Near Ponta da Piedade in Lagos you can see plenty of seabirds, mainly on the cliffs and the big rocks in the sea. Examples of birds you can see here are the rock dove, corn buntling, cormorant, linnet, jackdaw, black redstart, yellow-legged gull and the spotless starling.
The mountain range of Monchique is an interesting place for birders, since you can see some species that you cannot see near the coast. A good spot here is near Caldas de Monchique. Examples of birds you can spot near Monchique are the woodlark, Iberian chiffchaff, firecrest, rock bunting and the red-rumped swallow.
Serra do Caldeirão
Serra do Caldeirão is a mountain range in the northern Algarve. Here you can see a number of interesting birds, such as the wryneck, blue rock thrush, orphean warbler, sparrowhawk, green woodpecker and the bonelli’s eagle.
You can see birds all over the Algarve, in natural parks as well as in towns. For example, in the old town of Faro, you can see many storks, making their nests on the top of churches and other buildings.
If you wish to go birdwatching, there are several birdwatching tours in the Algarve. Some tours take you to several of the above sites on a single day, so you can see as many bird species as possible. There are birdwatching tours of a couple of hours, but also half day and full day tours. All birdwatching tours have a guide, who is often a knowledgeable birder.
We recommend the following birdwatching tour companies, who are all highly professional:
- Algarve Birdman. Tours are given by Simon and Thijs. Simon is from the UK and has more than 30 years of birdwatching experience. Thijs is Dutch and is a keen bird photographer. He is also head ornithologist at the Algarve’s wildlife rescue centre.
- Algarve Birders. Georg gives the tours. He is a German man who lives in the Algarve and has more than 30 years of birdwatching experience.
- Birdwatching Algarve. Tours are given by Peter and June, both of whom have many years experience birding in the Algarve and elsewhere.
- If you go on a tour, make sure to check whether the company is licensed and has the necessary permission to operate in protected areas.
- If you find an injured bird, call one of the following authorities:
- SOS Ambiente: +351 808 200 520
- RIAS (Ria Formosa Estuary Bird Rehabilitation Centre): +351 927 659 313
- If you spot a fire in nature, call 112.
- Bring binoculars, since you will then be able to see the birds up close.
- Make sure to bring plenty of water, since it can get quite hot in the Algarve.
- Put on casual clothes and comfortable walking shoes. A hat and sunglasses are recommended as well.
- Don’t forget sunscreen, since the sun can be very strong.
- Last but not least: don’t forget your camera.
Or you can also book a birdwatching tour online:
Birdwatching with a guide or alone?
If you are an experienced birder with knowledge of the Algarve, you probably won’t need a guide. However, if you don’t know a lot about birdwatching and don’t know exactly where to go, a birdwatching tour with a guide can be a great help. For example, a guide can tell you which bird you just saw and if it is common in the area. The guide also has local experience and knows which exact spots to go to. The abovementioned list of birdwatching hotspots is quite general. Within these places, a guide knows exactly where to find specific birds. In conclusion, if you are not a professional birder with knowledge of the Algarve, we recommend that you join a birdwatching tour.