Bird Watching in Tarifa

Tarifa Beach Houses work with a local company from Facinas, offering some of the best birdwatching in Europe. Expert guides aim to satisfy clients ornithological expectations in this strategic spot for watching the thousands of birds that carry out their Migratory trips between Europe and Africa.
Price from 70€ per half day
Includes – specialised local guide, travel insurance, optical material (binoculars and telescope), cartographic material, guide book of birds, flora and fauna, list of birds and snack.



Birdwatching in Tarifa
The Strait of Gibraltar is famous for its stork and raptor migration, and Tarifa is ideally situated to enjoy this twice-annual phenomenon. Although the actual path of the birds across the Strait may vary depending upon wind direction, more often than not their paths lead them right over Tarifa and its surrounding area.

Spring Migration
The northward migration actually begins in December, with young adult Spanish White Storks returning from their teenage years in Africa, ready to claim any nest site that has become available. The adults heading back to northern Europe follow in January, and to a lesser extent in the months that follow.
But it is not until the latter part of February that the first groups of Short-toed Eagles appear; their numbers swell in early March when counts of a thousand or more in a day are regularly noted. Black Kites arrive at the same time; late February and early March is when their numbers are greatest (several thousand on a good day), but this species can be seen as late as May in small numbers.
Just as the Short-toed Eagles are tapering off, the Booted Eagles arrive to take their place, with a peak of a thousand or so on a good day in the middle of March. Early March also finds the first Black Storks arriving in groups of two or three to as many as fifty. These are always a thrilling sight as they pass quite low, as is the case with most of the raptors. Egyptian Vultures arrive in early March as well, in groups of up to a half dozen, often rowing their way northward.
Late March and April bring the greatest variety of raptors, with Osprey, Marsh, Hen and Montague’s Harrier, Sparrowhawk and Lesser Kestrel. The show ends with a bang in late April and early May with thousands of Honey Buzzards, which, before the thermals get really strong, are often noted flapping low. This is also a time for Hobby, but they are fast and scarce.

Fall Migration
It is only the middle of summer when all the juvenile White Storks of Spain get together and head for Africa to learn the skills required to survive. All the storks born in the Spring will leave by the end of July and not return for a couple of years. In August the adults start to arrive en masse from northern Europe and it is not unusual to see a flock of a thousand White Storks over Tarifa, undecided whether it’s a good idea to make the crossing that day or not. The last half of August sees large numbers of Honey Buzzards, but with the hot weather and the need to gain great altitude to make the crossing, they are often just specks in the sky.
It is not until September that the raptors become more user-friendly, again passing lower throughout the month and into early October. The afternoon gathering of upwards of a hundred Booted Eagles soaring low on a late September afternoon gives an unprecedented chance to learn to identify both color phases.

The Geography
The raptors crossing the Strait in the Spring can be blown by the east (Levante) winds far to the west so as to arrive at Tarifa or as far up the Atlantic coast as Bolonia, the site of an interesting Roman ruin. Conversely, a strong westerly (Poniente) wind can blow the birds as far east as Gibraltar or beyond. It is never possible to see all the birds without moving around to a different spot each day. That said, any bird arriving between Tarifa in the west and Gibraltar in the east is likely to be funnelled in the direction of nearby Monte de la Torre see El Molino de San Luis, which with its extensive cork oak forest is a welcoming beacon that signals food and rest, important to these birds especially in late afternoon. It is also directly under their northeasterly flight path towards the rest of Europe.

Local Birds
Of course in addition to the migrants, there are plenty of interesting year-round or summer resident birds, including Bee-eater, Cirl Bunting, Tawny, Little and Scops Owls, Booted Eagle (a few even winter), Short-toed Eagle, nesting White Storks, Griffon Vultures (over 500 at the nearby rubbish tip recently!), several pairs of Buzzard, an occasional Bonelli’s Eagle, Lesser Kestrel (in the nearby cathedral), Hoopoe, Sardinian Warbler, Black Redstart (winter only), Black-eared Wheatear, Hawfinch, Woodchat Shrike, Golden Oriole, and Red-necked Nightjar. Many other southern Spain specialities can be found nearby at La Janda or other sites.

Hotspots in Tarifa
The following spots are recognised as very good for Bird watching depending on wind conditions.
Sierra del Algarrobo (km 100 Algeciras): moderate Poniente or calm.
Faro de Punta Carnero (Algeciras): Strong Poniente.
Puerto del Bujeo (km 95): moderate Poniente.
Puerto del Cabrito (km 92): light Poniente or moderate Levante.
Cazalla o Estación Eólica (km 87): very good with Levante.
Depósitos de Agua de Tarifa (km 85): very good with Levante.
Isla de las Palomas (Tarifa) y Guadalmesí (litoral de Tarifa) are other interesting points to observe the birds migrate across the Straits of Gibraltar.

LINKS to Local Birdwatching Organisations and Useful Information