Algarve Birdwatching Guide

Learn about birdwatching, the nature tourism activity that brings together participants from all over the world in the Algarve.

Reading time: 8min

Discover the calm Algarve and be amazed by nature tourism!

We don't know how many birds there are in the world, but we do know that in the Algarve flies around 250 species, ready to be observed. The Algarve is a privileged place for birdwatching, as thousands of rare birds pass through this region. If you are already familiar with Birdwatching, we believe that with a few words, you'll be surrendered! If you don't know this activity that enchants thousands of people around the world, we believe that your next visit to the Algarve will be the first activity to look for.

Be part of protecting the natural environments of the Algarve region.

What is the origin of birdwatching? Birdwatching originated in the 18th century in the United Kingdom through the naturalist Gilbert White, who observed the birds that flew over his village. At that time, the observation did not involve the ecology and protection of species, but the knowledge and registration of the rarest birds, as well as their eggs. Another naturalist well known to all of us also observed finches in the Galapagos archipelago. Of course, we are talking about Charles Darwin! The first Birds Guide publish was in the year 1934, thus beginning the spread of this activity throughout the world.

Do you know the importance of birdwatching? The benefit of bird watching extends both to the species themselves and to the observer. It is a natural therapy, which can even be practised in forests or cities and combats anxiety and depression. These two diseases are very much associated with contemporaneity there is a study case that those who live in wooded surroundings with birds have less tendency to develop diseases of this nature. It is an activity that promotes nature tourism and is very democratic. Everyone can do it, from the youngest to the oldest! Birdwatching provides moments of leisure, interaction, sharing and acquisition of knowledge about environmental education.

The birds also benefit from this activity, which is practised by 80 million people all over the world. Essentially, the birders, the name given to those who practice this activity, become aware of the importance of preserving the natural environments where thousands of birds’ species and other animals live. The birds' behaviour, concerning the decay of the environment over the years, is more easily monitored and documented on online platforms.

Do you know how to start birdwatching? The fundamental thing to start birdwatching is to appreciate natural life, and a taste for the outdoors leads to respect for species and their habitats.

  • Distance from birds: The distance implies the perception of the comfort zone of each bird species, so you should not interfere if they feel uncomfortable with your presence. You can understand the required distance between you and each species, after spending some time practising this activity. If you want to come close, as you move, the bird will stop to observe you, stay still and in silence until the bird returns to its activity. Come close again with light movements, and if necessary, remain still until the bird feels comfortable again. Birdwatching practice takes time and some patience, but it will be worth every minute.

  • Walk carefully: Make slow walks through the terrain and avoid making as much noise as possible. If you have to communicate with a colleague, do so in a low tone. Animals are easily startled, and that is not the aim of the activity.

  • Birdwatching equipment: Clothing and footwear should be practical and light, appropriate to the temperatures and place terrain where you choose to do the observation. Another detail to pay attention to is the clothes colour, opt for discreet colours such as earth tones. The must-have item on your equipment list is undoubtedly the binoculars. There are several brands on the market, but it is advisable to have magnification between 8x and 10x and an aperture/lens diameter between 30 and 50 mm. The telescope is not compulsory equipment for this practice, but it will make a difference if you want to observe details such as the plumage colour, and the distance will be guaranteed so as not to disturb the birds. The Field Guide is another essential element and must respect certain particularities, such as the quality of the drawings or photos, the text, the distribution maps and the resistance of the material. You should also carry a field notebook to record the observed bird details, the areas characteristics, weather conditions etc.

  • Bring home: Bring home only the good memories and rubbish that you can make during the hours of observation. Do not bring plants or animals that you see in the field.

Why the Algarve is an excellent place for birdwatching? The Algarve is on a privileged migratory corridor. You can observe various species here throughout the year. During autumn, many birdwatchers head to the Algarve, more specifically for the Birdwatching Festival in Sagres. At this time of year, migratory birds pass through Portugal on their way to Africa to find a warmer area rich in food. The path of these migratory birds skirts the coastline of Portugal, and in the Sagres area, they make lower flights, this being excellent news for those who practise birdwatching. The festival features over 200 activities for all ages, which include guided tours in the area.

The Algarve is also a place for the presence of species found in the Mediterranean area, offering a spectacle to visitors from northern and central Europe, who don't have the chance to observe them in their own country. Some of the species’ present are:

  • Azure-winged magpie - Cyanopica cooki: Because they move in flocks and their colours and shapes are peculiar, they are easily identifiable. They have a long tail, blue wings and blackhead. It has a slow flight, but its manoeuvres allow it to change direction very fluidly. This species is more present in inland areas, but they appear in two coastal regions of Portugal, the Algarve and the Sado estuary. They can be spotted all year round however, it is in winter that they move in large flocks.
    You will find the Azure-winged magpie 25 minutes from Belmar in the Alvor estuary or the interior of the Algarve Barrocal.

  • Bee-eater - Merops apiaster: Is an unmistakable bird with an exotic appearance due to the countless colours in its plumage. Commonly has a yellowish throat, a blue chest and belly, and a black eye area. The tail is long and composed of two feathers that are longer than the rest. You cannot see it all year round because it arrives in Portugal at the end of March or the beginning of April and remains in the country until September. You will find the Bee-eater 9 minutes from the Belmar in the Lagos marshes or the Alvor estuary about 25 minutes from the resort.

  • Flamingo – Phoenicopterus roseus: The flamingo is one of the best-known birds in the world and is present in our territory. It is the tallest bird in our fauna and can reach a wingspan of 1.5 metres. It has a pinkish tinge to its plumage and a thick beak. Before the 1980s, it was rare to see flamingos in Portugal, nowadays, flocks of this species can reach hundreds of individuals and can be observed in wetlands all year round.You will find the flamingo 25 minutes from the Belmar in the Alvor estuary or the Arade estuary. By chance, you can find the flamingo in the Lagos marshes or the Odiáxere saltpans.

  • Black-winged Stilt - Himantopus himantopus: The black-winged stilt is a bird that hardly goes unnoticed because it is heard loud and clear near the saltpans during nesting. The plumage has contrasting tones, with a white body and black wings, reminiscent of storks, but on a smaller scale. They can be found throughout the year in humid and coastal areas.
    You will find the black-winged stilt 9 minutes from Belmar in the Lagos marshes or Odiáxere saltpans 10 minutes away. In the Alvor estuary, 25 minutes away by car, you will also find this species with long pink legs.

When is the best time for birdwatching in the Algarve? As mentioned above, throughout the year there are various species of birds that can be observed in Portugal. In March or April, if certain conditions are met, such as an easterly wind coming from the Strait of Gibraltar, you can observe even more migratory species passing by, close to the Algarve coastline. As mentioned above, in Portugal, you can observe various birds’ species throughout the year. In March or April, if certain conditions are met, such as an easterly wind coming from the Strait of Gibraltar, you can observe even more migratory species passing by, close to the Algarve coastline. Already in autumn, the sky is crisscrossed by many birds in search of Africa's milder climate, thus taking the opposite route to that of March.

Portugal is considered to be one of the best destinations in Europe for birdwatching, as it has diverse habitats scattered throughout the country that are favourable to endemic species and migratory birds. Birdwatching is an activity of connection with and respect for nature, where the birds' movements and behaviour are recorded and shared around the world, helping to demystify the repercussions of climate change.

The Belmar Spa & Beach Resort is at a strategic point for those seeking nature tourism. The resort is among several birdwatching sites, just a few minutes away by car. It is only 30 minutes from Sagres, one of the Algarve's birding hotspots, 9 minutes from Lagos marshes and 25 minutes from Alvor estuary, another hotspot for birds and other animal species.

Make a Reservation