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The Birds of Andalucía

The following is a brief summary of the bird species you can expect to find in Andalucía, obviously depending on the time of year and place:
There are some 13 resident raptor species in Andalucía, as well as several which migrate here annually from Africa. The best place to see them is in the more hilly parts of the province where they hover or circling high in the sky.
The Sierra Morena region north of Seville is where you find the black vulture, which is one of the country's rarest birds. There are thought to be just a few hundred pairs here. Yet this may well be the largest colony in Europe with most to be found in the Paraje Natural Sierra Pelada y Rivera del Aserrador, south of Aroche in Huelva province.
Equally rare is the magnificent Spanish imperial eagle. Again, most are located in one place. In this case within the Parque Nacional de Doñana.
Other large birds of prey which can be found in mountainous regions, include the golden eagle (and several other eagles) and the Egyptian and griffon vultures. Smaller birds of prey, such as the kestrel, buzzard various harriers and red kite, can be spotted in lowland woods and forests.
A far more common sight in Extramadura, the large white stork can be seen in the western region of Andalucía where they nest from spring to summer on electricity pylons, trees and towers.
Water birds are far more plentiful, with many species, particularly in the wetlands area along the Atlantic coast. These include wild ducks and flamingos; the latter can be seen in several other places including El Fuente de Piedre and Cabo de Gato.
Among the most colourful of Andalucía's many other birds is the golden oriole which can be seen in orchards and woodlands, particularly during the summer months. The male oriole has and dazzling bright yellow body. The orange, black and white hoopoe is a similarly striking bird, common in open woodlands and golf courses. Then there is the gold, brown and turquoise bee eater which nests in sandy banks in summer and, last but not least, various woodpeckers and owls which generally inhabit mountainous woodlands.

Coto Doñana national park

The Parque Nacional de Doñana is one of Europe's most important wetland reserves and a major site for migrating birds. It is an immense area; the parque itself and surrounding parque natural or Entorno de Doñana (a protected buffer zone) amount to over 1,300 sq km in the provinces of Huelva, Sevilla and Cádiz. It is internationally for recognised for its great ecological wealth. Doñana has become a key centre in the world of conservationism.
To visit the principal visitors' centre at El Acebuche, take the A483 south of Almonte and about 12km from El Rocío is the signposted turn at Km29 for Centro de Recepción El Acebuche (959 44 87 11), 1½km from the main road. Alternatively, you can drive 3km north of Matalascañas to the turn-off at Km29. The centre has an exhibition about the park, a café and a shop selling maps and books. From the centre is a signposted 5km trail through scrubland and pine trees. Next to the centre is the El Acebuche lagoon, with bird hides, where you can see purple gallinules, among other birds.

From El Acebuche there are four-hour trips into the park run by the Cooperativa Marsimas del Rocío (959 43 04 32), which must be booked in advance. The four-wheel drive vehicle can seat 21 people and guides speak some English. There are two trips a day (excluding Mondays), at 0830 and 1500 (1700 in summer). Full day trips can also be organised for groups, with lunch in Sanlúcar de Barrameda. A typical trip will take in all three ecosystems in the park - dunes, matorral and marshland - but the amount of exposure to each environment varies with the seasons. One thing is guaranteed - no two visits will be alike.

Fuente de Piedra

Surrounded by a vast, monotonous terrain, the Lagoon of Fuente de Piedra appears like a glorious oasis in the extensive Llanure de Antequera, considered to be one of the largest natural lagoons in Spain. North of Antequera - the lagoon is home to as many as 5,000 breeding pairs of Flamingos - the highest concentration in Europe - and also many Cranes.
As well as the greater flamingo, the lake is also home to many other species of birdlife the whole year round. There is freshwater running in a channel surrouding the lake, attracting other wetland birds that also breed here like avocets, Montagu's harriers, black-winged stilts, white-headed ducks, little bitterns, red-crested pochards and black-necked grebes.

Many aquatic birds, some in danger of extinction and including several protected species, fly here to spend the winter months in this mild climate. From November to February, visitors come to see the thousands of waterfowl congregated here; among them are cranes, grey herons, black-necked grebes, great crested grebes, teals, mallards, shovelers, red-crested pochards, white-headed ducks, marbled ducks, wigeons and flamingos.
During migration times, terns and waders, as well as birds of prey like short-toed eagles and black kites, can be seen, whilst in the fields around the lake are bee-eaters, crested larks, yellow wagtails, stone curlews, great grey shrikes and hoopoes.

The Guadiario Estuary

The Guadiario Estuary in Sotogrande. The resident Osprey often flies overhead into the high trees and, if you stand on the bridge, you might catch a glimpse of the shy otters. Gulls, including Audoin's, abound.Bluethroats and Penduline tits may be seen in winter and Flamingos and Spoonbills sometimes pass through. Cormorants, Kingfishers, Plovers, innumerable Grey Herons, Cattle and Little Egrets - and a lovely stroll along the beach. Palmones Estuary is perhaps not the most attractive site, set as it is opposite some heavy industry, but Palmones can be a staging point for many migrants including Waders, Passerines, Storks and Herons and is alive with Cattle and Little Egrets. Osprey may often be observed here.

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