Birding in Spain: Birding in Catalonia
Guided day tours, short breaks and holidays to the Ebro Delta.

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Photos by Jamie Durrant, Derek Charles, Steve Mandel and other tour members

Birding in the Ebro Delta :

The Ebro Delta, or Delta de L'Ebre, is one of the best bird watching sites in Europe - easily on a par with the Coto Doñana and the Camargue - and without doubt should be included on your trip if you're planning a birding vacation or holiday to North-east Spain.

Its 320 sq. km and range of habitats (including coastal lagoons, marine bays, rice fields, sandy shores, saltmarsh and reedbeds) have attracted over 350 bird species, the vast majority of them breeding, wintering or passing through on a regular basis and many officially designated as birds of conservational concern.

The Ebro Delta provides a spring board for the regions rarer birds, offering a vital platform to start breeding before branching out across Catalonia. Glossy Ibis, Collared Pratincole, Great White Egret, both Audouin's and Slender-billed Gulls and several waders are possible recent success stories with Black-necked Grebe, Lesser Crested Tern and Little Crake seemingly in the process of grasping a foothold on this uncertain land. Read more...

Ebro Delta Birding Tours:

! Lunch !

An excellent full home-made picnic based on local cuisine is available at €10 per person

Ebro Delta/Delta de L'Ebre

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Other considerations by request

Bird Tour Checklist:

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Birding in the Ebro Delta:
All Year Round

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All year round :

Shelduck (nt)
Gadwall (3)
Shovelor (3) (nt)
Red-crested Pochard (3) (vu)
Common Pochard (2)
Little Grebe
Great Crested Grebe
Black-necked Grebe (nt)
Balearic Shearwater (CR)
Northern Gannet (2)
Great Cormorant
Night Heron (3)
Squacco Heron (3) (nt)
Cattle Egret
Little Egret
Great White Egret
Grey Heron
Glossy Ibis (3) (vu)
Greater Flamingo (3) (nt)
Marsh Harrier
Common Kestrel (3)
Water Rail
Purple Swamphen (3)
Crested Coot (3) (cr)
Oystercatcher (nt)
Pied Avocet (2)
Little Ringed Plover
Kentish Plover (3) (vu)
Grey Plover
Dunlin (3)
Black-tailed Godwit (2) (NT)
Curlew (2) (en)

birding holidays spain ebro delta red crested pochard photo

There's so much on offer here that, if you still haven't decided to include a visit to the Ebro Delta as part of your birding vacation, then just take a look at the incredible list of bird species on the right.

In addition to its residents, the delta's huge food bank means that, given wintering birds, migrants and failed breeders, birds like Caspian Tern and many waders can still be seen year-round even if they don't breed!

And it's getting better. Recent times have seen summer migrants like Black-winged Stilt, Purple and Squacco Herons, Little Bittern and others sticking around for the whole year.


“I was delighted at how many great birds Stephen located in 3.5 days even though I'd missed the main migration period. We saw all the special birds of the Steppes and Ebro Delta. I didn't expect to see so many warblers and little brown jobs that are such a challenge for American birders. He knew all their calls and songs and had a knack for helping me see them well. I'm looking forward to a return visit.”
Elwood Hain, USA, June 2007

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Common Redshank (2) (vu)
Green Sandpiper
Common Sandpiper (3)
Ruddy Turnstone
Mediterranean Gull
Black-headed Gull
Slender-billed Gull (3) (vu)
Audouin's Gull (1) (NT)
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Yellow-legged Gull
Caspian Tern (3)
Sandwich Tern (2) (nt)
Wood Pigeon
Collared Dove
Hoopoe (3)
Lesser Short-toed Lark (3) (nt)
Crested Lark (3)
Skylark (3)
Cetti's Warbler
Fan-tailed Warbler
Moustached Warbler (vu)
Dartford Warbler (2)
Sardinian Warbler
Penduline Tit
Starling (3)
Spotless Starling (4)
House Sparrow (3)
Tree Sparrow (3)
Linnet (2)
Reed Bunting (en)
Corn Bunting (2)
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Birding in the Ebro Delta: Spring and Autumn Passage

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The period during which birds migrate through Catalonia is surprisingly long, especially in the Ebro Delta, so some care is needed before scheduling your birding holiday.

Garganey and Whiskered Tern arrive from February to head a procession of crakes, passerines and most of Europe's waders including Marsh Sandpiper. The fall of White-winged and Black Terns as April turns to May is spectacular and the last Osprey and Honey-buzzard have flown through by early June.

But then failed-to-breed waders turn up in summer- plumage from mid-July signaling the start of the whole parade again, which marches on until late October.

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Spain birding: Ebro Delta: Spring and Autumn itinerary

“The birding was wonderful. Incredibly Stephen was able to show me my most hoped-for birds and much more. Being a birder who had only birded in the US, he was patient and kind and his enthusiasm inspired me to register on Birdpal to help others. Thanks for everything and the next time I come to Barcelona I hope to have either converted my husband or left him at home so we can bird for more than one day.”
Darlene Moore, USA, October 2006

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Passage Only :

Ruddy Shelduck (V)
Garganey (3) (vu)
Velvet Scoter (3)
White Stork (2)
Black Kite (3) (nt)
Spotted Crake
Little Crake
Baillon's Crake (3)
Ringed Plover
Dotterel (en)
Red Knot (3)
Temminck's Stint
Pectoral Sandpiper
Curlew Sandpiper
Wilson's Phalarope (V)
Bar-tailed Godwit (3)
Marsh Sandpiper
Common Gull (2) (V)
Little Gull (3)
White-winged Tern
Turtle Dove (3) (vu)
Alpine Swift
Roller (2) (NT)
Wryneck (3)
Red-rumped Swallow
Tawny Pipit (3)
Yellow Wagtail sub-species
Common Redstart (2) (vu)
Northern Wheatear (3)
Black-eared Wheatear (2) (nt)
Olivaceous Warbler (3) (V)
Melodious Warbler (4)
Spectacled Warbler
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Birding in the Ebro Delta: Summer (and Passage)

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Given the inward encroachment of Spring and Autumn migration, it could be said that Summer birding on the Ebro Delta is actually squeezed into little over a month!

But what a month. Food-begging juveniles and some finely-placed hides, such as at Riet Vell, mean Collared Pratincole, Purple Heron and Common Cuckoo can all be seen out in the open and colonies of herons, gulls, terns and Avocets join late summer Kingfishers and waders to keep birding easy in the summer sun.

Not so simple though are Water Rail, Little Bittern and Savi's Warbler skulking, blending and reeling their way respectively amongst the reedstems.

"A wonderful week. Great birding, great lunches and a beautiful area. We liked staying in one place and not having to pack up every night."

Ed Mayer, Younga Hennessey, USA, March 2008

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Sub-alpine Warbler
Common Whitethroat
Western Bonelli's Warbler (2)
Willow Warbler
Pied Flycatcher
Golden Oriole
Southern Grey Shrike (2) (nt)

Summer (and passage) :

Little Bittern (3)
Purple Heron (3)
Montagu's Harrier (4) (vu)
Hobby (nt)
Collared Pratincole (3) (vu)
Gull-billed Tern (3) (vu)
Lesser Crested Tern
Common Tern (nt)
Little Tern (3) (nt)
Whiskered Tern (3) (vu)
Black Tern (3) (en)
Black-winged Stilt
Common Cuckoo
Common Swift
Short-toed Lark (3) (vu)
Sand Martin (3)
Barn Swallow (3)
House Martin (3)
Iberiae Yellow Wagtail
Savi's Warbler (nt)
Reed Warbler
Great Reed Warbler
Spotted Flycatcher (3)
Woodchat Shrike (2) (nt)

Winter (and Passage) :

Greylag Goose
Teal (vu)
Pintail (3) (vu)
Tufted Duck (3)
Common Scoter
Red-breasted Merganser
Red-throated Diver (3)
Great Bittern (3) (cr)
Eurasian Spoonbill (2) (vu)
Osprey (3) (cr)
Hen Harrier (3)
Common Buzzard
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Birding in the Ebro Delta: Winter (and Passage)

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Birding on the Ebro Delta in winter is my favourite. Partly because Kingfisher, Lapwing, Golden Plover and Greylag Goose come in their thousands to give me a romantic reminder of birding in the U.K.

But the best thing is the quiet. Not from birds - there are over 300,000 of them according to the Ebro Delta winter census bringing in Merlin, Hen Harrier and Booted Eagle - but from people, leaving us in peace just to marvel.

Winter also has its own specialities of course and Great Bittern, Bluethroat and Richards Pipit, even without the flotillas of Red-breasted Merganser, Black-necked Grebe and good numbers of divers, are well-worth the trip.

Spain birding: Ebro Delta: Winter itinerary

“Thank you again for the incredible birding trip to the Ebro Delta, a great day from start to finish. We really appreciated your superb bird spotting abilities and you make a wonderful picnic. That day was the highlight of my trip to Barcelona. I can’t get over how many new birds we saw."

Jan, Jeff and Clare O’Brien, Canada, April 2006

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Booted Eagle (3)
Peregrine Falcon (3)
Stone-curlew (3) (nt)
Ringed Plover
Golden Plover
Lapwing (2)
Little Stint
Ruff (2)
Common Snipe (3) (en)
Spotted Redshank (3)
Wood Sandpiper (3)
Common Kingfisher (3) (nt)
Crag Martin
Richard's Pipit
Meadow Pipit
Water Pipit
Grey Wagtail
White Wagtail
Black Redstart
Stonechat (2)
Song Thrush

Key :

SPEC 1 (1)
SPEC 2 (2)
SPEC 3 (3)
IUCN Critical (CR)
IUCN endangered (EN)
IUCN vulnerable (VU)
IUCN near-threatened (NT)
SPAIN critical (cr)
SPAIN vulnerable (vu)
SPAIN near-threatened (nt)
Vagrant/Occasional (V)

The Nature of the Ebro Delta... a personal overview

Swarms of migrant White-winged Tern, Black Tern, Marsh Sandpiper and Osprey all join the delta's very own Collared Pratincole, Black-winged Stilt, Slender-billed Gull and the largest population of the world's rarest gull, the Audouin's Gull.

Some, such as Whiskered, Caspian, Gull-billed and even the odd Lesser Crested Tern seem to dart and swerve their way directly into your notebook.

But others, such as Glossy Ibis, Spotted Crake, Little Crake and Purple Gallinule resist, skulking deep within the reeds themselves and a careful scan of the many clearings is needed to see them sneaking out, ever watchful of hunting Marsh Harriers.

These days, thankfully, experience affords me the luxury of touring my favourite birding spots with a little more calm and allowing the birds, to a certian extent at least, to come to me.

The Ebro Delta is like a moving tapestry of colour, spectacle and fantasy. There's so much variety and abundance of species that when I first visited I could barely sit still, and dashed about all over the place for fear of missing something.

Birds were everywhere. Cetti's, Savi's, Fan-tailed and Great Reed Warblers were competing for space on the tops of reedstems with Little Bittern of all things.

Meanwhile, on the lagoons behind them, Black necked Grebe, Red crested Pochard and a host of ducks were apparently doing exactly the opposite and lazily rafting away the day, wisely allowing the magnificent Greater Flamingoes to lavish all the attention.

Although the diversity of herons for me will always symbolise the delta - all nine european species occur here - its the sea and shorebirds of which I have become most fond.

Six threats to the Ebro Delta...

1. Estimated 50% loss to rising sea level over next 50 years as 47% of land is less than 50cm above sea level.

2. Erosion of delta due to sediment loss caused by damning River Ebro upstream.

3. Human trampling during summer.

4. Eutrophication of lagoons caused by pesticides and fertilisers.

5. Possible re-hash of National Hydrological Plan to transfer water to thirsty Spain.

6. Increased urbanisation, tourist development and fish farming.

Ebro Delta Links :

Official Riet Vell Reserve site
Ebro Delta Geography Field work
Coastal Guide Ebro Delta site

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