The Best Birdwatching Spots in Portugal

Birding © Pixabay
Birding © Pixabay
Photo of Nina Santos
31 August 2017

Keen birdwatchers should head to Portugal, where approximately 100 spots provide ample opportunities to immerse in nature and search for a wide variety of species. It’s also a great location for beginners, all you really need is some enthusiasm and a pair of binoculars (a book or two won’t hurt either). This is a budget-friendly activity that will get nature-lovers up close and personal with Portugal’s most beautiful natural environments. Here’s where to head, under your own steam or as part of an organised tour.

Peneda-Gerês National Park

There’s no doubting that Portugal’s only national park is one of the best areas to spy many bird species including the European Honey Buzzard, the Peregrine Falcon, the Common Skylark, and the Common Whitethroat. This beautiful landscape in northern Portugal, near the northwest border with Spain, is filled with different ecosystems such as mountains, marshland, and both oak and pine forests, and each attracts its own species of fauna and flora. Regardless of whether birding enthusiasts book a tour guide or visit on their own, there will be plenty to see. A few key spots to visit inside the grounds are Senhora da Peneda, Campo do Gerês and Lindoso.

The Peneda-Gerês National Park is picturesque and perfect for birding | © Gabriel González / Flickr

Montesinho Natural Park

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The Golden Eagle is one of the birds you'll see in Montesinho Natural Park | © Pixabay
Northern Portugal is full of rural villages and forested land, and the Tras-os-Montes region is yet another perfect spot for immersing in nature. In particular, the Montesinho Natural Park is a large protected area made up of mountains and valleys with rivers flowing through and offers excellent opportunities to see many bird species, about 150 in fact. Look for the Golden Eagle, Warblers, and the White Stork while hiking through the rugged terrain, and keep an eye out for mammals like river otters, wolves, deer and wild boar. One of the spots to stop at while there is the Biology Park of Vinhais.

International Tagus Natural Park

Located in central Portugal, on the border with the Extremadura region of Spain and along the longest river in the Iberian Peninsula, the International Tagus Natural Park is home to many species of eagles, vultures, and warblers, as well as a number of species native to Spain. Actually, over 150 bird species can be spotted along the valleys that lead down to the Tagus river, whether exploring on foot or canoeing (which is popular here). Also located just north of Alentejo, it’s surrounded by farmland and is also an excellent region to buy products like olive oil, honey, and meats.

Sado Estuary

About an hour south of Lisbon, the Sado Estuary sits between Setubal and the Troia Peninsula and is where some of the most beautiful beaches in Portugal can be found. It’s also an excellent spot for dolphin watching. Those looking for birds, however, should keep an eye out for flamingos, herons, ibis, and ospreys and many others besides. It’s possible to spot as many as 100 species in a day.

Try to catch a glimpse of flamingo in the Sado Estuary | © Pixabay

Serra de Estrela

Mainland Portugal’s highest mountain range is another popular spot for bird watching. For some of the best opportunities visit the Rio Zêzere or near the village of Manteigas. Since this is primarily a mountainous region, mountain birds are to be expected but small species will be seen in the lower regions too. Due to extreme shifts in weather patterns (especially for Portugal) birding is a seasonal activity in the Serra de Estrela, the winter months are best avoided.

Castro Verde

Located in the heart of Alentejo, Castro Verde is another fantastic spot for birding and enthusiasts may enjoy seeing the Great Bustard in particular, the largest flying bird in Europe. A few other species that can be found in Castro Verde include the nightingale, vultures, eagles, and swallows. The village Castro Verde is also a fantastic spot to visit for history-lovers as it’s where the country declared its first king, King Afonso, after the important Battle of Ourique.

The Great Bustard can be seen in Castro Verde | © Marie Hale / Flickr

Ria Formosa

The beautiful Ria Formosa wetland and lagoon system is perhaps the best place for birding in the Algarve. It is also another location where it’s possible to see flamingos in addition to Purple Heron, the beautifully toned European Bee-eater, Marsh Harriers and much more. Primarily located near Faro, it’s easy to book tours including some by boat.

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