Birding in Doñana National Park
Doñana National Park and the surrounding buffer zone cover more than 1,300 sq km at the mouth of the River Guadalquivir. It is one of the largest wetlands in Europe with Mediterranean scrub, Cork Oak woodland and pine-covered dunes combining to make an extremely rich variety of habitats that attract millions of birds in winter and a wealth of breeding species. Amongst these, Red-knobbed Coot, Marbled Duck, White-headed Duck and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse are species that are rare or entirely absent from Portugal.
Clearly Doñana is not an area that can be comprehensively covered in a single day. However, with an early start from your Algarve base and a late return, it makes for an excellent day’s birding. There are four Visitor Centres, but our usual plan is to head for the José Antonio Valverde Visitor Centre situated in the heart of the marismas.
In this area we expect breeding Glossy Ibis, Black-crowned Night Herons, Little Bitterns, Squacco Herons, Purple Herons, Purple Swamp-hens, Great Reed Warblers, Red-crested Pochards and Black-necked Grebes with Whiskered and Gull-billed Terns and Collared Pratincoles nearby.
In autumn and winter raptors are numerous: Griffon Vulture, Black-winged and Red Kites, Spanish Imperial and Booted Eagles, Hen and Marsh Harriers might all be expected, while Black and Egyptian Vulture, Spotted and Bonelli’s Eagles can’t be entirely ruled out. Thousands of waders and wildfowl are present and Common Cranes feed on nearby fields. Passerines include Calandra, Crested and Lesser Short-toed Larks, Water Pipit and Bluethroat, Spotless Starling and Spanish Sparrow.
And there is always the chance of finding a real rarity – maybe an African Spoonbill or a Yellow-billed Stork!