Check out some of our favorite places to see birds in Europe!
Having initially learned birds in the United States, the magnitude of new birds to learn in Europe was exciting and somewhat overwhelming. After living in Germany for a year, I've gotten the hang of identifying most of the local species, and I have a penchant for seeking out the next incredible birdwatching destination to learn even more birds!
Europe's bird life is as varied as the cultures found here, and the continent as a whole offers breathtaking landscapes with a different bird at every turn.
It is my hope that in your future trips you will consider visiting and contributing to these incredible places and their local economies as well as respect the nature you find there.
Let's jet off to Europe in search of birds and landscapes of which you could only dream!
The Falsterbo Bird Observatory is located at the Falsterbo Lighthouse, where hundreds to thousands of birds can be seen in a day during migration season. Photo by Christa Rolls
About an hour from the Copenhagen Airport, you’ll find
yourself in the rural and serene environment of Falsterbo, Sweden. Hugged
by the Baltic Sea and the Oresund Sound, this peninsula funnels birds straight past during migration season, providing some incredible birdwatching opportunities.
In fall, especially October (weather permitting), you
will see thousands of different birds fly and stop over the lighthouse and
nearby marshes on their journey south. Buzzards abound, and passerines such as
the Blue Tit and Bearded Reedling move in flocks, creating ever the spectacle.
The Observatory will host guided walks during various times of the year, and if
you book far enough ahead of time, you can even get accommodation in their
shared biologist bunkhouses for a very reasonable price.
>>Read more about visiting and bird watching in Falsterbo, and find out why it's the best place to visit during fall bird migration!
Great Flamingos are seen throughout the year in the Camargue, especially during spring and summer, when they flock together during breeding season. Photo by Nathan Rolls
Home to thousands of flamingos and other wading birds, the
Camargue is an incredible wonder in the birding world. The region is made up of
agricultural fields and marshy waterways ideal for these wading birds to thrive
and continue getting good eats.
The Ornithological Park Pont de Gau guarantees a great
show of birds, and you end up getting fairly close to the birds while walking
along their designated pathways. Flamingos flock back to the area in force in springtime in preparation for breeding, and heron and egret rookeries begin to fill with the sounds of territorial mates. You may even see displaced spectacles, such as the Sacred Ibis!
>>Check out our video of the Camargue to experience what we saw on our trip! For more information on visiting the Camargue, read our "Best of" Camargue post!
Beautiful scrub land and marshy waterways yield many different kinds of birds, even during the height of summer. Photo by Nathan Rolls
Doñana National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and for good
reason, as it boasts one of the largest heron rookeries in the Mediterranean
and hundreds of thousands of waterfowl each year.
The visitor’s center just south
of El Rocio has trails looping through the forest, leading out to blinds to
watch the birds that roost and fly in throughout the day. Even driving along
the road at dusk can yield an awesome spectacle – flitting just above the
mesquite, hundreds of Bee-eaters will emerge to feast on bugs and other
critters in the evening light. The main part of the Park, where flamingos and
other wading birds converge in great numbers, is only accessible by approved
tours, so be sure to book yours ahead of time!
Before setting your dates, be
sure to also check the dates of the El Rocio Pilgrimage, which takes place the
second day of Pentecost every year. During this culturally important time,
around one million people converge on this small village in a pilgrimage to honor
the 13th century statue of the Virgin Del Rocio.
Atlantic Puffins breed on Skomer Island and have successful broods due to the ample numbers of sea eels to feed to young. Photo by Nathan Rolls
Few places are as wholly wild-feeling and magical as Skomer
Island. From the boat dock at Lockley Lodge Visitor Center, you jet off on your
thirty minute ride to this bird island oasis – along the way, more and more
birds come into view, diving into the water and soaring above your head.
peak bird-viewing, arrive in the late spring or early summer – May and June are
especially beautiful with the blooming of wildflowers! Thousands of Storm
Petrels, Guillemots, and Kittiwakes nest on the island, as well as the
much-loved Atlantic Puffin! Try not to trip over the dubbed “clowns” of the
bird world as they walk and fly into their burrows to feed young, and be sure
to keep hands, feet, tripods, backpacks, you name it, on the trail at all
If you book well ahead of time, you may have the incredible opportunity
to stay in the Island’s lodge after the rest of the visitors have left for the
>>Read more about visiting and bird watching on Skomer Island.
Gannets, and many other sea birds, nest on the rocky cliffs found on Mykines in the Faroes. Note the misty background, a common occurrence throughout the Islands! Photo by Nathan Rolls
Imagine: a place windswept, with an intense, rugged
coastline, and grass-roofed homes dotting villages on a remote set of islands. This,
in an insufficient way, describes the Faroe Islands. Its people have a
relationship with nature and the weather here, and rightfully so, as the
weather is a constant consideration at 62° North latitude in the middle
of the Atlantic… making it the perfect stopover site for hundreds of bird
species and an ideal breeding location for many thousands of seabirds.
island of Mykines hosts thousands of Puffins, Kittiwakes, and Gannets, among
others, during breeding season in the summer months. Special regulations to
ensure as little effect to the colonies as possible advise visitors obtain a
local guide to tour through the breeding areas – more information on providers
can be found through the Visit Faroe Islands webpage.
As if Mykines doesn’t
have enough bird-loving goodness, take the ferry to Nólsoy for an unforgettable,
nighttime bird tour to experience one of the largest European Storm Petrel
colonies in the world.
>>Our video from our trip to the Faroe Islands might inspire you to book your trip sooner rather than later!
If your birdwatching aim is to spot raptors and other birds
of prey, Monfrague National Park is the place for you.
The landscape is comprised of distinct
Mediterranean scrub bushes, and the rocky outcroppings that form this Biosphere
Reserve’s mountains and valleys have been shaped overtime by the Caceres River.
This habitat is ideal for the numerous vultures, buzzards, and eagles that
reside here. Most especially, the Black Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, and Griffon
Vulture can all be found throughout the Park. The population of Black Storks is
also thriving, as the river creates optimal wading habitat while the
outcroppings create ideal nesting perches.
As you drive through the Park, you
will find rest stops and overlooks where you can sit with your binoculars or
scope in search of these magnificent creatures in flight. To get a more
extensive view of the Park, be sure to book a tour through their visitor’s
Dunes covered in purple heather can be seen throughout the island of Texel, setting the perfect backdrop for your bird watching advanture! Photo by Karen from WanderlustingK
In springtime, the sand dunes surrounding the island of
Texel (pronounced “Tessel”) are covered in vibrant, purple Heather plants,
setting the stage for all manner of birds to migrate back to this island oasis
for breeding season.
Once the ferry drops you off at the docks, consider
walking or biking around the area to really get a feel for its natural beauty. Trails looping through Dunes of Texel National Park pass by bird observatories and blinds to give
you a better, uninterrupted view of the incredible bird life. You’ll spot terns,
eiders, all manner of shorebirds, and one of the largest Spoonbill colonies in
Bird watching tours are regularly organized in the area, so consider
stopping by the Bird Information Center for timing and other birding
To really soak in all Texel has to offer, stay in the island
village overnight, or at least grab a coffee or locally-brewed Texel beer
before taking the ferry back to the mainland.
The views and vistas throughout the Scottish Highlands are stunning, and this view from Cairngorm Mountain is no exception. Photo by Christa Rolls
At over 4,500 square kilometers, Cairngorms National Park is a large, naturally diverse Park in the northeast of Scotland and hosts many species of birds, including Capercaillie, Red Grouse, Ptarmigan, and Snow Bunting. The many types of habitats to explore include forests, farmland, mountains, lochs, and moors, each of which has unique bird life to appreciate.
Using the town of Aviemore as a base, explore Glenmore Forest Park and Abernethy forest's incredible bird diversity and viewing opportunities along loch-sides and babbling brooks.
Follow the mountain road from town toward Cairngorm Mountain to visit Britain's only free-roaming herd of reindeer at the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre. Once at the mountain ski base even further up the road, hike up the easternmost trail in search of Ptarmigans (stunning in their winter plumage!) and hares.
>>Read our 9-day tour of Scotland's Highlands, including the best places to see wildlife along the way!
Situated on a major migration route, the Akrotiri Marsh and Peninsula
is an incredible spot to visit during spring and fall for spotting songbirds
and raptors in great numbers, and the proximity of the Limassol Salt Lake to
the coastline draws in shorebirds, wading birds, and seabirds of all varieties.
Cyprus has a handful of endemic species, those that breed nowhere else in the
world, including the Cyprus Wheatear and Cyprus Warbler! Breeding time in the
summer, however, can be incredibly hot this far south, so plan to go out early
in the morning or later in the evening for birdwatching. BirdLife Cyprus offers
bird watching field trips throughout much of the year, aside from those
scorching summer months – their wealth of information about the island and its
bird life is an invaluable resource during your visit!
For experiencing different species and habitats, head inland to the Paphos Forest Nature Preserve.
Dalmatian Pelicans aren't incredibly common, so seeing these large, prehistoric-looking birds in flocks is an exciting sight! Photo by Nathan Rolls
Situated on the mighty Danube River at the border between
Bulgaria and Romania sits a marshy sanctuary for birds during all times of
year. The Srebarna Biosphere Reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its
abundant bird life and important bird habitat – the area serves as a refuge for
migrating birds, overwintering birds, and large breeding colonies. About 10% of
the Mediterranean population of Dalmatian Pelicans breeds here, and seeing
about 120 pairs of these magnificent creatures in one place is a sight to
The extensive trail system throughout the Reserve allows you to explore
the unique habitat offered here.
If time permits, a few hours’ drive away is
the Central Balkan National Park, the furthest east extension of the mountain
range that hosts over 120 breeding birds and serves as an Important Bird Area
because of the threatened and endemic species found in the region. These are
definitely sites you don’t want to miss!
Bearded Reedlings blend in well with their namesake habitat, reed marshes. These beautiful birds are just one of the many seen at Cley Marshes. Photo by Nathan Rolls
The United Kingdom has a wide array of species to watch and
enjoy at all times of the year, and the marshes of England are no exception. Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Cley Marshes has recorded over 300 birds throughout
the year, with wading birds such as avocets in the springtime and various
seabirds and waterfowl such as Brent Geese in the wintertime. Harriers and
Bearded Reedlings love the salt marshes and mudflats that comprise a large portion of
the region’s habitat and can be seen throughout the year.
Enjoy a coffee break
at the visitor’s center café while overlooking the marshes and sea.
visiting in the winter, nearby Blakeney National Nature Reserve has incredible
opportunities to spot grey seals with their pups!
Lake Kerkini sits at a beautiful spot in Northern Greece, just near the Kerkini and Marvovouni Mountains. Photo by Huguet Pierre
Greece may be well-known for their ancient ruins and clear, turquoise water, but for bird lovers, Lake Kerkini has been called one of the most beautiful lakes in the country, boasting more than 300 species sighted on and around the Lake. Springtime is the best time of year to visit, as birds are moving through as well as emerging into their breeding plumage... and it's not yet too hot or peak tourist season!
Rarities such as the Dalmatian Pelican and Pygmy Cormorant make their homes here, along with many other wading and waterbirds. Look into renting a canoe or booking a boat ride around the Lake to experience its beauty on the water, or walk or bike the surrounding trails.
Make this stunning location, at the base of the Kerkini and Marvovouni Mountains (which offer even more birding opportunities) your day trip excursion from nearby Thessaloniki.
Christa and Nathan
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Note from the Expedition Wildlife Team: Wildlife and habitat safety is of the upmost importance to us. When visiting these places and any natural place, please be respectful of the distance from which you get to animals and practice Leave No Trace ethics. If the behavior of the animal changes because of your presence, you are too close! Be sure to read our Birding Ethics blog before heading out on your next trip.