The Algarve is one of Portugal's most interesting regions for birdwatching. Its limited size (approximately five thousand square kilometers) enables visitors to get to know several sites within one or a few days - from the mountains inland to the coastal marshes - and observe a great number of different species. This variety is also enhanced by the richness of the landscape, which accommodates all of Portugal's main habitats such as extensive cork oak woods, grasslands, coastal lagoons, salt flats and marshland.
Several sites in the Algarve are designated Important Bird Area (IBA) by Birdlife International. This programme aims to identify and protect a network of critical sites for the conservation of the world's birds. The areas indicated in the map above have already gained a protected or conserving status within the European Birds and Habitats Directives (Natura 2000).
PT029 Castro Verde plains: This area is of great importance for breeding birds of steppic habitats, especcially the Great Bustard (Otis tarda).
PT030 Rio Guadiana: An important area for breeding raptors, especcially cliff nesting species, but with good numbers of some birds of steppic habitats and wetlands as well. Significant proportion of national population for the breeding Short-toed Snake Eagle (Circaetus gallicus, 1-5 pairs).
PT031 South-west coast of Portugal: Important nesting area for rupicolous birds like Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus). Passage zone for soaring birds and transsaharian migratory passarines. Last Iberian breeding area for Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), recently extinct. The only European site where White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) nests in cliffs and rocky islets. Areas of agricultural plateaus are important for steppic non-breeding species like Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax), Great Bustard (Otis tarda) and Eurasian Thick-knee (Burhinus oedicnemus).
PT033 Ria Formosa: The site is important for numerous waterbirds, especcially for beach-nesting Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) and Little Tern (Sterna albifrons) and for wintering waders and duck, holding 20,000 or more wintering waterbirds on a regular basis. The reedbeds of the site are important for several nesting waterbird species, as well as for large numbers of migrating passerines during both autumn and spring migration.
PT034 Castro Marim: Important numbers of breeding, wintering and migrating waterbirds use this site, as do some steppic species such as Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax), Eurasian Thick-knee (Burhinus oedicnemus), Collared Pratincole (Glareola pratincola) and Calandra Lark (Melanocorypha calandra). This is the only European site where Lesser Short-toed Lark (Calandrella rufescens) breeds. Until 1999 Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni) bred at this site.
PT050 Serra de Monchique: Important site for conservation of mediterranean diurnal and nocturnal raptors. Old site of breeding Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos, last pair registered in 1999) and Spanish Imperial Eagle (Aquila adalberti, last pair registered in 1980). It is the principal site of the second population of Bonelli's Eagle (Hieraaetus fasciatus) in Portugal, occupying forestal habitat and breeding at trees. Also important for breeding Short-toed Snake Eagle (Circaetus gallicus) located in the periphery of the areas that are occupied by Bonelli's Eagle (Hieraaetus fasciatus). Eurasian Eagle Owl (bubo bubo) breeding ate the site. It also has a high value for migratory passerines and some soaring species.
PT051 Serra do Caldeirão: The extensive well preserved cork-oak groves are essential for breeding stability of Bonelli's Eagle (Hieraaetus fasciatus). These habitats with low human intervention are also propitious for Short-toed Snake Eagle (Circaetus gallicus) that presents here a representative nucleus, completing those of the Monchique and Espinhaço de Cão mountains. Furthermore there is the presence of Eurasian Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo) that nests in hillsides with dense thickets or in rocky outcrops.
More IBA's in Algarve:
PT032 Leixão da Gaivota: Isolated site at the mouth of the Arade river near Portimão occupied by nesting colonies of Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) and Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis).
PT035 Lagoa dos Salgados: A coastal salt-water lagoon and nesting place for Ferruginous Duck (Aythya nyroca), Little Bittern (Lxobrychus minutus) and Purple Swamp Hen (Porphyrio porphyrio). During migration and in the winter Ruff (Phylomachus pugnax), Whimbrel (Numenius phaepus) and Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides) can be seen. White-headed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala) and Crested Coot (Fulica cristata) are regular visitors to the area.
PT047 Ponta de Piedade: The rocky coastal promontory close to Lagos makes a good spot for watching pelagic birds and for observing Jackdaw (Corvus monedula). It is one of the few places in Portugal to watch Rock Pigeon (Columba livia).
PT091 Vilamoura: An area of extensive reed beds and various artificial lagoons and channels. Little Bittern (Lxobrychus minutus), Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea), Purple Swamp Hen (Porphyrio porphyrio), and Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) can be seen. During migration and in winter numerous passerines such as Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus) and Penduline tit (Remiz pendulinus) are present, as well as ducks like Ferruginous Duck (Aythya nyroca) and Red-crested Pochard (Netta rufina).
(Source: Sociedade Portuguesa para o Estudo das Aves)