Birding in Spain: Birding in Catalonia
Guided day tours, short breaks and holidays to THE PYRENEES.

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Photos by Michael Frankling, Derek Charles, Stewart Abbott and other tour members

Birding in THE PYRENEES :

It's not just the bird watching that lends me to recommend a birding holiday or short trip to the Spanish Pyrenees but even without the views, the air and the mountain walking you still wouldn't be disappointed.

So whether you prefer to drive or trek through some of the most beautiful forests and meadows you're ever likely to see, you can be sure to encounter a range of speciality passerines and raptors and may be even come across such jewels as Lammergeier, Golden Eagle, Alpine Accentor, Snowfinch, Wallcreeper and Black Woodpecker.

From the fast flow of the valley-bottom river to the calm of the mountain meadows above the tree-line, via tracks through forest and scrub and from a single pine cone to the vast panoramic expanse of the Greixer Valley, you will find birds in the Pyrenees that have carved out a particular niche and can be seen with such ease nowhere else in Spain. Catalonia boasts the highest number of breeding species in Iberia and the unique birds of the Pyrenees are one very good reason why. Read more...

Pyrenees Birding Tours :

! Lunch !

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

Cadi-Moixero Park


Vall de Nuria

** Limited walking tour available if required.

Bird Tour Checklist:

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Birding in THE PYRENEES:
All Year Round

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All year round :

Red-legged Partridge (2)
Grey Heron
Red Kite (2) (NT)
Lammergeier (3)
Griffon Vulture (3)
Common Buzzard
Golden Eagle (3)
Common Kestrel (3)
Peregrine Falcon (3)
Yellow-legged Gull
Wood Pigeon
Collared Dove
Iberian Green Woodpecker (2)
Black Woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
Crested Lark (3)
Skylark (3)
Crag Martin
Grey Wagtail
White Wagtail
Black Redstart
Stonechat (3)
Ring Ouzel
Song Thrush
Mistle Thrush

birding tours pyrenees alpine chough photo

This is the domain of the Lammergeier and no birding trip or tour would be complete without feeling the weight of its 2.75m wingspan soaring overhead. So, whether scouring the valley cliffs, marshalling the high meadows or bone-breaking on its favourite rocky slopes, it's just as well that we have a close to 100% record.

In the meantime other spectacles include screaming Black Woodpecker, cone-crunching Crossbill within arms length and flocks of Alpine and Red-billed Chough floating car-side on the homeward descent. And you can even throw in a host of acrobatic passerines and equally adept raptors such as Goshawk and Golden Eagle.


"Stephen is a fantastic guide. I was particularly interested in the more difficult birds such as Lammergeier and Black Woodpecker. He knew exactly where to go and was extremely knowledgeable about habitats, behavior and vocalizations. In just three days of birding we saw over 150 species during the last week of July, not an optimal birding time."

Ron Lockwood, USA, July 2007

Dartford Warbler (2)
Sardinian Warbler
Long-tailed Tit
Marsh Tit (3)
Crested Tit (2)
Coal Tit
Blue Tit
Great Tit
Common Treecreeper
Short-toed Treecreeper
Southern Grey Shrike (2) (nt)
Red-billed Chough (3) (nt)
Alpine Chough
Carrion Crow
Starling (3)
Spotless Starling (4)
House Sparrow (3)
Tree Sparrow (3)
Rock Sparrow
Citril Finch (4)
Linnet (2)
Common Crossbill
Cirl Bunting
Rock Bunting (3)

Birding in THE PYRENEES: Summer (and Passage)

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On returning from a winter birding tour having seen all the Pyrenees had to offer, a client once remarked that it couldn't get any better. But the good news is that it does.

Summer influxes of Rock Thrush, Red-backed Shrike, Short-toed Eagle and the pink-flush of the Water Pipit are just the tip of the ice-cap. Wonderful songsters like Bonelli's and Garden Warbler arrive to join the resident chorus made up of Yellowhammer, Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreeper and a mixed bag of tits and crests.

And of course that Lammergeier is still around, together with the occasional Wallcreeper.

Spain birding: Pyrenees: Summer itinerary

“Thanks again for the excellent two days and the information you provided for the rest of my holiday. It was very useful to travel with a knowledgeable birder who understands the natural history of the birds and their distribution when visiting new areas and looking for specific species. Nicely paced with many opportunities to not just simply tick off the birds but to observe them as well.”

Brian and Lucy Coleman, UK, Sept 2006

Passage Only :

Black Stork
Osprey (3)
European Bee-eater (3)
Common Redstart (2)
Willow Warbler
Pied Flycatcher

Summer (and passage) :

Black Kite (3) (nt)
Egyptian Vulture (3) (EN)
Short-toed Eagle (3)
Common Cuckoo
Common Swift
Alpine Swift
Hoopoe (3)
Wryneck (3)
Woodlark (2)
Barn Swallow (3)
House Martin (3)
Tawny Pipit (3)
Tree Pipit
Water Pipit
Northern Wheatear (3)
Rock Thrush (3)
Melodious Warbler (4)
Spectacled Warbler
Sub-alpine Warbler
Common Whitethroat
Spectacled Warbler
Sub-alpine Warbler
Garden Warbler
Western Bonelli's Warbler (2)

Birding in THE PYRENEES: Winter (and Passage)

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The reason for taking a birding tour to the Pyrenees in winter - and there isn't always snow - is simple. Alpine Accentor and Snowfinch descend to heights where they can be observed picking morsels from the road-side snow-melt alongside Linnets and other common birds.

But grazing flocks of visiting Fieldfare and Redwing also have their appeal and, together with other passerines, they provide targets for hunting Merlin and Peregrine.

And although most vacate the Pyrenees altogether, even a few Wallcreeper remain low down to add a possible bonus to the list of 'all year round' species above.

"We arrived to bright sunlight and crisp mountain air and, after forty-five minutes and a half dozen Griffon Vultures, we were rewarded with the awe-inspiring sight of an adult Lammergeier. Mission accompished! We would like to thank you for a really great trip [their second in a year] and we both hope to bird with you again in the future."

Lorna and Mark Dawson, UK, Sept 07 and Feb 08

Spotted Flycatcher (3)
Woodchat Shrike (2) (nt)
Red-backed Shrike (3)

Winter (and Passage) :

Great Cormorant
Meadow Pipit
Alpine Accentor
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Birding in THE PYRENEES: Spring and Autumn Passage

Key :

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

At first a birdwatching tour to the Catalan Pyrenees during migration may not hold the same attraction as its coastal rivals with only a few species such as Redstart, Pied Flycatcher, Whinchat, Osprey and Honey-buzzard passing through, with the latter also staying to breed.

But migration in the Pyrenees is vertical, and spring and autumn are all about the comings and goings of birds that, although present all year round, drop to the low lands in great numbers for winter. And so, during these times, many species such as Ring Ouzel, Citril Finch and Wallcreeper become more visible, arriving and departing alongside the usual summer breeders.

Spain birding: Pyrenees: Spring and Autumn itinerary

"Thank you so much for our holiday. We all enjoyed ourselves enormously and the range of birds we saw exceeded my best hopes. We certainly picked the right person to lead us." 

David, Jenny and Peter Linstead, UK, March 2007

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The Nature of the Pyrenees... a personal overview

Some birds seemingly try to make up for a lack of such ability by at least dressing for the occasion and the startling pink of the proud Water Pipit certainly succeeds. The Ring Ouzel though seems less happy as it flitters about from bush to bush in an apparent huff, perhaps because the Dipper has arrived wearing the same coat.

Of course some prefer not to show off at all and the Alpine Accentor, Rock Thrush and Rock Bunting merely industriously go about their business like a busy backstage crew.

But perhaps this is the ultimate in sleight of hand as it was whilst watching just such a bird - the stunningly beautiful and under-appreciated Citril Finch - that the master magician finally played its card on me and, suddenly appearing out of nowhere, an armada of Griffon Vultures sailed majestically into my line of sight not twenty metres in the valley below me. And at its head, my very first Lammergeier.

I quite understand why everyone wants to visit the Pyrenees when they come bird watching to Spain, as there certainly is an air of magic about the place.

It's not just because of the calm or the clean, crispness of the air, but somehow everything looks different. The lines and colours of even a humble Linnet seem to jump out and smack you so hard in the face that you'd swear you'd discovered a new species.

But that's not all. Like a magician the Pyrenees seem to know exactly what the audience want and deliberately take its time to cast its spell.

Of course its no mystery that everyone's here for the Wallcreeper, Black Woodpecker and Lammergeier but no one complains as their attention is distracted by the treetop acrobatic display put on by Firecrest, Crossbill and Crested Tit.

Six interesting facts about the lammergeier

1. named after an undeserved reputation as a 'lamb-vulture'. In Catalan, Trencalós, and Spanish, Quebrantahuesos, the name means bone-breaker after habit of eating bone.

2. has a fully-feathered head, unlike other distantly-related vultures.

3. 84 pairs in the Pyrenees (2003), an

expansion of 300% since 1980.

4. often form polyandrous trios of a male and two females.

5. the orange breast is caused by iron oxides gained from sand-bathing and wall-rubbing.

6. the first born nestling may eat its younger sibling.

Pyrenees Links :

Lleidatur/Pyrenees/Cadí-Moixeró birding in spain pyrenees blog logo link
Pyrenees Tourism/Birding
Bird Life International Pyrenees fact sheet
Pyrenees Directory

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