Check out why Falsterbo is one of the best bird watching sites in Europe, Plus Map and Species List
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Falsterbo is a small town located on the southernmost tip of Sweden, just on the edge of the Øresund, or Sound, separating Denmark and Sweden. In summer, the town is a popular vacation destination for boaters, beach-goers, and especially golfers, as there are a handful of golf clubs right on the water’s edge.
Just on the edge of the spit of land jutting out into the Øresund is the Falsterbo Fagelstation, or bird observatory – one of the greatest destinations for autumn bird migration in Europe. The Fagelstation is located at the Falsterbo Lighthouse, providing a beacon for birds moving overhead.
As birds migrate south in search of warmer weather and overwintering sites, they funnel down the spit that makes up Falsterbo and halt at the large body of water in front of them. Birds can often take a bit of time before they make the big move across the extensive sound, meaning birds will end up congregating for a period of hours to days in this one location. In a day, it’s possible to see hundreds, or thousands, of the same species, leaving you with a total bird count in the thousands by the end of the day.
The Bird Observatory has been active for over 60 years, and during that time they’ve been leading ringing, or banding, stations for birds migrating through, counting birds during migration, and hosting plenty of community events to get everyone involved in bird education and conservation. Initially, the Observatory's ringing efforts were to get a sense for bird migration patterns through re-sightings and re-captures, as well as bird longevity and cause of death. Now, around 25,000 birds are ringed every year for the added purpose of establishing environmental indicators for any fluctuations in contaminants, food availability, and more.
As you walk around the Lighthouse and Observatory area, you’ll see mist nets set up around the trees and bushes. Be sure not to disturb them or any of the birds you might see in the nets. The biologists and technicians who are in charge of extracting the birds from the nets come around every 30 minutes and are lightning fast and efficient at safely removing the birds before bringing them to the Fagelstation to get ringed and examined before getting let go again.
Bird watching and photographing with a bunch of other birders at Galgplatsen. In this moment, we were watching hundreds of buzzards soar overhead.
Top places to see birds in Falsterbo
Falsterbo Lighthouse and surrounding area-
Falsterbo Lighthouse is home of the Falsterbo Fagelstation and is situated perfectly on the Sound to see birds as they migrate south. If you situate yourself right next to the lighthouse and look northeast, you're bound to see a continuous flow of a variety of birds. Walk the sandy trail south to the end of the spit to catch other birds flitting in the reeds or taking refuge in Nabben, around the small inlets. For parking, stick to the public Falsterbo parking area just near the entrance of the Falsterbo Golf Club. DO NOT park in the Golf Club parking area. You'll see people driving to the Lighthouse, but we recommend parking and walking the ten minutes to the Lighthouse. You're walking through an active Golf Club, so be respectful of those who are playing and look both ways before crossing an open green.
Falsterbo Visitor’s Center and Beach-
The Visitor's Center is also called the Naturum Falsterbo because it is a nature center as well as has information about the local area. The building has a cafe, gift shop, and art gallery, but the best parts are the roof-top deck, where you can go to watch birds fly over, and the quick walk to the beach, which proves to be a wonderful place to see shorebirds, sea birds, and birds flying overhead.
Skanörs Beacon and surrounding area-
Park down at the Skanörs north shore parking area, and take the sandy trails north along the bogs, waterways, marshes, fir trees, and other miniature habitats found on this spit leading up to the Beacon. Because of the trees and bushes found along the marshes and Sound, you'll spot other birds you might not see down at the Lighhouse. This is also simply another beautiful place to take a stroll.
As you drive into the town of Falsterbo, you'll hit a round-about, and it's likely that you'll see a handful of birdwatchers with their scopes out and chairs set up along the farm field off to the left. Park in the free lot near the Falsterbo Camground entrance, just next to the trees, and you'll see an entrance into the field through the gate. You can't roam from the edge of the field, as this is grazing land, but there is a trail off to the right that goes to another viewing platform. We recommend staying near the pine trees and watching the birds from there. This is one of the best places to see raptors in the area!
Boardwalk leading over waterways toward Skanörs Beacon, which can be seen on the horizon on the right. Photo by Christa Rolls
Best time to see Autumn migration in Falsterbo
Starting around the end of September, the numbers will really begin picking up at the Falsterbo Bird Observatory, and by the first weekend in October, you’ll be amazed at the numbers of birds you’ll see.
Birds will continue migrating and moving into the area overnight, but from dawn until dusk, you’ll see a never-ending number of birds flying overhead, moving south.
The numbers begin to dissipate by the end of October, though, this is largely dependent on weather conditions.
Look closely and you'll see a Bearded Reedling blending into the reeds just outside the Falsterbo Lighthouse. A flock of Reedlings were getting up the courage to brave the wind and head south across the Sound. Photo by Nathan Rolls
Best places to stay in Falsterbo
If you want an authentic experience, we suggest and highly recommend staying in the Bird Observatory Building, where the Observatory staff live during the field season.
The staff suggest this accommodation for bird watchers because it's fun to compare notes with fellow birders about what everyone saw at the end of the day. Others will also be able to give you the low-down on the best places to spot specific birds or one-off birds they spot during the day. Bird watchers also tend to go to bed earlier and rise earlier; keep in mind that since this is also the staff’s quarters, they will be sleeping early and heading out early, so be respectful if you usually stay up later.
The quarters are separated into five small rooms, each with one bunk bed. There is a shared living space, kitchen, toilets, and showers, and there are laundry facilities on the premises that you can use for a small fee.
We found this to be the perfect place to stay during our trip, and we met some really wonderful people who we got to bird with over the weekend. And the price can’t be beat at only around $20 per bed per night, not including linens, which is around $5 total per bed. All arrangements must be made well ahead of time – note that during migration season the bunks will fill up quickly! Also note that the reason check in isn’t until around 5 pm is that this is when the staff start getting back in from being out in the field from their evening bird counts.
There are also other wonderful locations in town for you to stay, so don’t fret if there is no more availability or if you want something a little more private for your accommodation.
The Bed & Breakfast Höllviken is a highly recommended local B&B, with cozy accommodation and a wonderful continental breakfast. Another great option is the Hotel Skanörs Gästgifvaregård, which is only about ten minutes from the beach and is right next to the paths that lead to the Beacon. If you're looking for a top tier dining experience, the Hotel has wonderful food for lunch and dinner!
Getting to Falsterbo
We wanted to explore the rest of the peninsula, so we were really happy renting a car and seeing the area that way. We recommend renting a car from Copenhagen or Malmo for this reason, but it’s not necessary.
There are buses that run nearly every hour from Malmo and Trelleborg, just east of Falsterbo, specifically the line 300 and line 100 buses toward Falsterbo. If you’re coming from Copenhagen or a different Swedish city, you can take the train or bus to Malmo or Trelleborg and transfer to a bus from there.
Getting from site to site is challenging without a car in Falsterbo, however, so keep this in mind during your planning process.
Common Crossbills (or Red Crossbills) forage on cones near Skanörs Beacon. Photo by Christa Rolls.
Best places to eat in Falsterbo
October timeframe is a pretty quiet time in Falsterbo, since it’s primarily a summer destination for non-birders. However, there’s still plenty open for you to get food.
The small Falsterbopizzan has solid pizza, which is perfect after a day of hiking around and birding. The prices are incredibly reasonable, but we suggest getting a whole pizza to yourself.
The Stationen I Skanor has a delicious selection of food and drinks (try their burger!!)
One of our favorites, the Kust Café, is cozy and has amazing, locally made food. Large salads, hot soup, loaded baked potatoes, tall toasted sandwiches… everything that calls to my heart when the weather gets cool.
For something a little more upscale but incredibly delicious, check out Skanörs Gästgifvaregård, which serves wonderful meat and fish dishes that you can eat on the terrace when the weather is nice.
If you’re staying at the Fagelstation, you’ll have access to the fridge and kitchen, so feel free to pick up your breakfasts and lunches at the ICA grocery store in the middle of town. They have a great selection of fresh produce, local meats and cheeses, as well as local beers.
Other things to do around Falsterbo
Visit the Viking museum. We talked to the locals, and they suggested that this was really more of a touristy thing to do, but if you’re interested in the history of the region and how it was shaped by Vikings many centuries ago, it’s worth the visit.
Ales Stenar monument sits right at the edge of the sea, almost as if it's calling to port. Photo by Christa Rolls
We also took part of one day to drive the coast road, which was beautiful, in search of other shore and seabirds, and headed to Ales Stenar for a visit. This 1,400 year old monument is made up of monolithic stones in the shape of a ship, pointing out to sea. There’s an incredible display before walking up the hill where it’s located, which indicates that the stones are perfectly placed to read the seasons, etc. It really was a beautiful historic site to see. The town in which it’s located is small, but there’s a yummy fish shop in town as well as a café.
For bird watching, another great place to stop over if you have an extra day is the Lange Jan Lighthouse, located on an island off the coast of Sweden about four hours from Falsterbo. There’s a road that connects the mainland and the island - this is another location where birds funnel through during their migration south, and the Ottenby Fagelstation is located at this particular Lighthouse!
Bird Species Found in Falsterbo
We've made a downloadable bird species checklist for your convenience for when you visit Falsterbo! Download it here.
We hope you enjoy your trip to Falsterbo!
Happy birding and travels!
Christa and Nathan
P.S., You might be interested to see some of the gear we depended on in Falsterbo - take a look: