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Birding around Huelva in Spain

Posted on Friday, June 8th, 2007 at 10:04 pm CET

Last week we came back from a vacation in Andalucia in Spain. The area is perfect for birding. Highlights for us were the Purple Gallinule, Red-knobbed Coot and Azure-winged Magpie. Another great sight were the hundreds of Stork nests on almost every electricity pole along the highway between Sevilla and Huelva. Here is a list of some great places to go birdwatching.

Birding locations

  1. Paraje Natural de las Marismas del Odiel is a huge wetland area under the smoke of Huelva’s industrial area. The area is renowned for its rich flora and fauna and is an important stopover for migratory birds. We read that a third of Europe’s spoonbill population lives here, although we actually didn’t see many. The visitor center here is truly superb, with excellent displays and handouts with English translations. The area around the visitor center has some short trails and two very nice bird hides. Through the park runs a 25 kilometer road all the way from the visitor center in the north to a lighthouse at the far south-end of a long pier. Along the way are stops with boardwalks to beaches. We saw many gulls and Little Terns here, as well as Flamingoes, Spoonbill, Collared Prantincole and many different plovers and other waders. Near the parking lot of a fancy restaurant at the entrance is a small lake with lots of ducks and coots. Here we had some great views of a Red-knobbed Coot family with babies.

    Red-knobbed Coot
    Red-knobbed Coot

  2. Coto Doñana National Park is one of Europe’s most important wetland reserves and a major site for migrating birds. There are several nice visitor centers. The first day we visited the park was at El Acebuche Visitor Center. The officials here will tell you that you cannot visit the park by yourself and that you need to book a guided tour by boat or jeep with one of the private companies. What was surprising was that they didn’t at all mention the wonderful trails around the visitor centers themselves; many kilometers of boardwalks and lots of nice bird hides. The main building at this visitor center holds a very nice exhibit with lots of videos in different sizes and interactive screens. Nearby are several trails with bird hides. The hides are strategically located along water, but unfortunately the backbreaking viewing holes are made for little people. There were many tame Azure-winged Magpies around the restaurant area.

    Azure-winged Magpie
    Azure-winged Magpie

  3. El Rocío is located near marshlands that can be easily viewed from the promenade near the church. It’s a great place to sit under a tree and watch the nearby Storks, Spoonbill, Herons, Flamingoes and other waders. We would have come back to this place if it wasn’t for one of Spain’s biggest festivals when hundreds of thousands of Rocieros, or pilgrims, from all over Spain come to the small town of El Rocío in wagons and on horseback to visit the Ermita de Nuestra Senora. People start pouring into the town in the week leading up to Whit Monday, which was exactly the week we were there.

  4. Ria Formosa (Faro, Portugal) is a lagoon located in Algarve and designated a Natural Park. It is an important wetland area for birds. We visited the Environmental Education Center of Marim at the main east side of the park near Olhão. The place was very poorly signed from the road. You pay a small fee at the entrance to access the 60 ha area that is part of the Natural Park of Ria Formosa. There are nature trails, a bird hide, salt marshes and even a Portuguese Water Dog kennel. Our guide book mentioned a ‘world-class visitor center’, but the visitor center here was extremely poorly maintained as if funding had been pulled 10 years ago. It was the saddest visitor center we’d ever seen, with faded displays, paint peeling off walls, broken lights and stained ceilings. Ignoring the visitor center though, the place is really nice to spend a half day walking along its twisting paths.

    White-headed Duck
    White-headed Duck

  5. Reserva Natural do Sapal de Castro Marim e Vila Real St Antonio (Catro Marim, Portugal) is a nature reserve in the most south-eastern tip of Portugal against the Rio Guadiana that forms the border with Spain. The reserve of 2,000 hectares has some very nice nature trails through wetlands and salt marshes. We spent a very short time here on our way back to Spain and the visitor center was already closed.
  6. Italica is an archaeological site 9 km northwest of Seville and was an important Roman settlement. We came here to see the very nice amphitheater, but were surprised by the many birds here as well. A small lagoon near the amphitheatre has a bird hide. We were really impressed by all the many bird hides available in the places we visited in Andalucia, even here.
  7. One morning we did a 3-houir boat tour with Buque Real Fernando that left from Sanlúcar de Barrameda. We left very early from our home west of Seville to make the 10 o’clock boat, and it was a bit disappointing. Besides the 20 odd tourists like us, who had our own guide, there was also a class with some 30 screaming kids and their teachers. The boat made two stops. At the first stop we looked at some houses and a bird hide. What was pretty stupid was that the group of adults got to see the houses first while the kids scared all the birds away at the bird hide. By the time we made it to the hide there was not a single bird left. Our second stop on the east-side of the river was exactly the same. Our guide made us wait on the boat for some minutes while all the kids ran to the hide and scared all the birds away. Very strange.

  8. Collared Prantincole

List of birds we saw

  1. Avocet
  2. Azure-winged Magpie
  3. Barn Swallow
  4. Bee-eater
  5. Black-crowned Night Heron
  6. Black Kite
  7. Blackbird
  8. Black-winged Stilt
  9. Blue Tit
  10. Caspian Tern
  11. Cattle Egret
  12. Chaffinch
  13. Collared Dove
  14. Collared Prantincole
  15. Common Coot
  16. Common Pochard
  17. Common Redshank
  18. Common Ringed Plover
  19. Cormorant
  20. Corn Bunting
  21. Crested Lark
  22. Crested Tit
  23. Dunlin
  24. Eurasian Skylark
  25. European Nightjar
  26. Gadwall
  27. Goldfinch
  28. Great Crested Grebe
  29. Great Grey Shrike
  30. Great Tit
  31. Greater Flamingo
  32. Grey Heron
  33. Grey Lag Goose
  34. Grey Plover
  35. Hoopoe
  36. House Martin
  37. House Sparrow
  38. Imperial Eagle (?)
  39. Jackdaw
  40. Jay
  41. Kentish Plover
  42. Kestrel
  43. Lapwing
  44. Little Egret
  45. Little Grebe
  46. Little Ringed Plover
  47. Little Tern
  48. Magpie
  49. Mallard
  50. Moorhen
  51. Nightingale
  52. Oystercatcher
  53. Purple Heron
  54. Purple Gallinule
  55. Raven
  56. Red Kite
  57. Red-knobbed Coot
  58. Red-rumped Swallow
  59. Redshank
  60. Sanderling
  61. Sardinian Warbler
  62. Short-toed Treecreeper
  63. Shoveler
  64. Slender-billed Gull
  65. Spanish Sparrow
  66. Spoonbill
  67. Spotless Starling
  68. Stonechat
  69. Swift
  70. Turnstone
  71. Whimbrel
  72. Whiskered Tern
  73. White Stork
  74. White-headed Duck
  75. Wood Pigeon
  76. Woodchat Shrike
  77. Yellow Wagtail


Jun 20, 2007
9:43 pm
#1 Philippe Welti wrote:

You are right with the Ria Formosa visitor center. Well, this is portugal. Still there are lots of birds to see. Its all depending on your visitor center standards…If ever you come back to the Algarve come see us at

Jun 20, 2007
9:43 pm
#2 Philippe Welti wrote:

Very informal and nice website by the way.

Sep 10, 2007
12:45 pm
#3 Jose A Sanchez wrote:

to whom it may concern:
In the above report about “birding around huelva” there is a mention to a boat trip from Sanlucar to see the Doñana Park. The company mentioned as the organizer is Discovering Doñana. This is just to say that we are not the company which organizes such a trip but another one called Buque Real Fernando. Since the comments about the boat tour are not very good we would ask you to correct it.

Many thanks

Sep 10, 2007
9:16 pm
#4 Arthur wrote:

Thank you Jose, I have corrected the error and changed the reference to “Buque Real Fernando”.

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