Birdwatching in the Algarve: All You Need to Know

Are you ready to experience one of the best bird-watching areas in Europe? Join the Lands team to learn more about the incredible birdlife found in The Algarve.

This beautiful area stretches along the southern coast of Portugal, so it’s a reasonably large area, with a rich array of different roosting opportunities and bird habitats.

With today’s guide, we’ll be sharing some of the most important bird-watching locations in the Algarve and the incredible species of birds you can look forward to meeting.

If you’re inspired to visit our little corner of the Algarve (Ria Formosa) and want to explore by water, take a look at our Ria Formosa Boat Trips Near Faro and our Faro Activities and Trips.


Why is the Algarve Great for Birdwatching?

Put simply, the Algarve is one of the greatest spots in Europe for bird watching because it contains two of the most important wetlands in the entire country: Ria Formosa and the Castro Marim Wetlands.

The Algarve also contains the main corridor of migration for Portugal’s raptor population, so it provides bird watchers with the greatest opportunities to see some of Europe’s largest and most impressive birds of prey.

Greater Flamingo in Ria Formosa


Ria Formosa – The Birdwatching Capital of the Algarve

While the entire Algarve is incredible for birdwatching, the Ria Formosa Nature Park is arguably the best birding spot of all — this is the reason we set Lands up here!

As one of the most important wetlands in Portugal, this lagoon offers a rich variety of habitats for various birdlife.

When you visit, either by foot or boat, you’ll be able to see dunes and sandbanks, saltmarshes, saltpans, watercourses, reedbeds, woodland, farmland, and both fresh- and brackish-water lagoons. All of which make great habitats for wildlife.

Ria Formosa lagoon in the Algarve

This diverse range of habitats supports over 300 species of birds throughout the year, some living here permanently, some visiting for part of the year. 

These habitats, combined with Ria Formosa’s placement in the Algarve, makes this area one of the most important places in Western Europe for birds migrating from Africa and colder parts of Europe.

Explore the Algarve with us on our Birdwatching Boat Tour of Ria Formosa or a Walking Birdwatching Tour Ria Formosa. Both experiences are designed by expert biologists to ensure guests see the best birdlife the area has to offer, while having zero impact on the environment. 

For even more in-depth information, visit our Ultimate Bird-watching Guide to Faro & Ria Formosa.

The Castro Marim Wetlands

The Castro Marim Wetlands is found close to the Spanish border to the far east of the Algarve and is the first nature reserve established in Portugal.

The saltpans, mudflats, and brackish water provide the perfect habitats for a rich variety of birds, making the Castro Marim Wetlands one of the most popular birding spots in Europe.

Blackwing Stilts, Spoonbills, Greater Flamingo, and various duck species are all usual suspects in the Castro Marim Wetlands, but you can also look forward to seeing storks, various species of terns in the winter.

Other species like Common Shelduck, Red-crested Pochard, Osprey, Little Bustard, Red-legged Partridge, Spotted Redshank, Ruff, Little Tern, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Lesser Short-toed Lark and Southern Grey Shrike await! 

This whole area is rich with birdlife, providing a small but special nature reserve to explore with your camera and binoculars. While Ria Formosa is considerably larger, we still highly recommend visiting the Castro Marim Wetlands.

If you’ve come to the Algarve for a healthy dose of the great outdoors and to see our birdlife, both nature reserves deserve to be on your itinerary!

The Best Birds to See in the Algarve

It’s probably wise to say first of all that the idea of the ‘best’ birds is clearly subjective as not all birdwatchers are impressed by the same species!

That said, something all of us are usually equally impressed and excited by is rare birds that are seldom seen.

Red-crested Pochard in Ria Formosa
Red-crested Pochard in Ria Formosa

Below, we’ll put a brief list of some of the bird species that tend to impress visitors who join us on our tours:

  • Little Bittern
  • Glossy Ibis 
  • Greater Flamingo
  • Purple Swamphen
  • Red-crested Pochard
  • Common Shelduck
  • Black-shouldered Kite
  • Booted Eagle
  • Black Kite
  • Osprey
  • Bar-tailed Godwit
  • Curlew
  • Common Greenshank
  • Caspian Tern
  • Little Tern
  • Audouin’s Gull
  • Mediterranean Gull
  • European Bee-eater
Black-necked Grebe in Ria Formosa

There are many more species of birds in the Algarve — over 300 in Ria Formosa alone — but long lists are boring so we encourage you to stop merely dreaming of your birdwatching trip to Ria Formosa and to start planning it!

We hope this guide has inspired you and taught you a little about the area. We love our little slice of paradise and we’re excited to show you around.

If you have any questions about anything we’ve said in this guide, please feel free to get in touch. Otherwise, start planning your big birdwatching trip to the Algarve!

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