Bird watching in Malaga
It is not a coincidence that you are planning bird watching in Malaga or the Costa del Sol. In fact, you may already know that the province of Malaga is among the eight provinces that make up Andalucia the one that holds the richest variety of landscapes, and therefore, a strategic area for visiting naturalists. Within Malaga you can find wetlands, marshes, shores, scrublands, mediterranean forests, badlands and terrific limestone mountains.
Not to mention Malaga's strategic location to witness the massive bird migration from/to Africa.
All these facts make up a perfect home to a bunch of different species of birds and a paradise for those bird watching in Malaga. A variety of raptors and mountain birds, large numbers of Flamingos and Cranes, Spanish specialities are some of the reasons to chose the province of Málaga for your birding holidays in Spain. Those who love plants will have the joy to find a rich Orchid community and also visit the last endemic pinsapo forests -Spanish Fir-.
At just 1 and 1.5 h drive from the international Malaga airport you will be delighted by the charming towns of Ronda and Antequera. These two hold the most outstanding cultural heritage within Malaga. The Pueblos Blancos -Spanish for White Villages- are also worth a visit.
With an average temperature of 66 ºF /19 ºC in the nearby Costa del Sol, the weather is generally pleasant and sunny. Moreover, the local gastronomy is very delicious and varied. The roads are generally good and although hiring a birding guide is highly recommended, those planning to go birding on a budget can access most of the birding hotspots (read below).
Don't hesitate, grab your binoculars (and sun screen) and visit Malaga!
Birding hotspots in Malaga and the Costa del Sol
Here's our selection of the best birding sites in Malaga. Click on each birding hotspot on the map to find the key birds there in addition to some practical information:
Top sites for bird watching in Malaga
The Torcal de Antequera
The Torcal is the most impressive karst formation in Europe. A not to be missed birding hotspot for Blue rock Thrush, Black-eared Wheatear, Rock Bunting and Rock Sparrow. It's been Álvaro's local patch a few years ago and he'll share with you the wonders of this rocky labyrinth! More info for birding at El Torcal.
Fuente de Piedra lagoon
Fuente de Piedra is the biggest salty lagoon in Andalucia and the 2nd biggest flamingo colony in Europe. Great birds to see in spring are White-headed duck, Lesser Flamingo, Black-winged Stilt and Red Crested Pochard. The surrounding farmlands make an important Common Crane winter colony, whereas Little Bustard and Calandra Lark can be seen regularly. But please be aware bird sights rely very much on actual water levels, so ask before you come! More info about birding at the laguna Fuente de Piedra.
Ronda, Grazalema and Sierra de las Nieves
These birding hotspots are very close to each other and are the perfect home to some 100 birds and a paradise for raptors. Bonelli's , Short-toed and Booted eagle can be seen in the serrania de Ronda. These mountains are also a great choice during the migratory periods. The scenery is just the very best of Andalucia! If you want to visit this area, why not joining us on a BIG DAY ? Renown sites are:
Mountains and gorges near Ronda
A nice variety of valleys, landscapes and birds to find here. The village of Ronda is surrounded by several mountain chains and picturesque valleys, where farmland mixes up with endemic mediterranean forests. The area near Montejaque is one of our regular sites for bird photography year round, providing great bird sights specially in spring. It is also a great place to see Iberian Ibex.
Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park
South of Ronda this mountainous area preserves a still very wild appearance, with unparalleled colours in Spring and Autumn. Birding the Sierra de las Nieves also provides very nice hikes, although birding can be based on a car too. Those who can manage to get to the highest altitudes could find Alpine Accentor in winter. Besides, all three Wheatears and both Rock Thruses will breed in the area.
Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park
Impressive mountains and a considerable amount of rainfall make Grazalema a remarkable site for those who want to enjoy nature as much as birds. Walking along the many mountain trails will produce many birds year round, although the best time to go birding is from March till May. Egytian Vulture, Short-toed Snake eagle and Black Wheatear are among the top birds on the list.
Valleys of the Genal and Guadiaro rivers
A very nice choice if you come birding in spring and autumn. These valleys act as a migratory track connecting the Strait of Gibraltar with inner Spain. Therefore at the right time of this lately strange migration period, every bird can be possible here. Alpine Swift and Crag Martin breed in the area. Dipper and Otter are also very localised in the Guadiaro.
Guadalhorce river mouth
The estuary of the Guadalhorce river is the closest birding hotspot to the city of Malaga and a paradise for waders and waterfowl. And what a spot! The White-headed Duck is a common sight, Kentish Plover and Booted Eagle are seen regularly while Slender-billed and Audouin's Gull will delight you if you go on the right time. The Guadalhorce Nature Reserve is one of these sites where any bird can unexpectedly show up during migration. This place is very accesible and walking friendly but please bring insect repellant in spring and summer! Definately one of the top sites to go bird watching in Malaga.
El Chorro gorge
The surroundings of the renown caminito del rey path are home to Bonelli's Eagle, Peregrine Falcons and a colony of Griffon Vultures. The impressive mountain views there will just take your breath away! It is also home to hundreds of Common Crossbills and a great place to photograph Crested Tit.
The Axarquía is the eastern part of the Malaga province. Local birding sites are the Vélez river mouth, the Charca de Suárez (in Granada), the mountains near Zafarraya and the pine forests north of Nerja and Frigiliana. The best idea would be being based near Nerja, then we can design a very nice 2 or 3-day birding itinerary that will cover estuaries, coast, wetlands, scrub, high mountains and, of course, mediterranean forest. Among the many possible birds are: Iberian Magpie, Crested Coot, Audouin's Gull, Short-toed and Booted Eagle.
Top 30 birds in Malaga
Around 250 species of birds live in or pass by Southern Andalucia. You may wonder why Birding in South Spain is so popular among foreign birders, well, it's also because lots of the wild birds of Andalucia can't be seen anywhere in the UK or the Nordic Countries. It's become generalized, during our birding day trips, normally we come across more than one life bird. Our favourite birds of Malaga province are:
|Alpine Swift||Chough||Rock Sparrow|
|Audouin's gull||Crane||Rufous-tailed scrub robin|
|Azure-winged Magpie||Egyptian Vulture||Sardinian Warbler|
|Black Kite||Flamingo||Short-toed Eagle|
|Black Wheatear||Griffon Vulture||Shoveler|
|Black-eared Wheatear||Iberian Chiffchaff||Slender-billed gull|
|Blue rock Thrush||Kentish Plover||Spanish Sparrow|
|Bonelli's Eagle||Little Bustard||Subalpine Warbler|
|Booted Eagle||Red-necked Nightjar||Thekla Lark|
|Calandra Lark||Rock Bunting||White-headed duck|
We've recently found a high success rate while watching the Lesser Flamingo, a lifer for most people in the western palearctic.
If you've come this far, we have a present for you: our printable full checklist of the birds of Andalucia
Birding tours around Malaga
Wild Andalucia is leading both nature and bird watching day trips around Malaga and also throughout Andalucia.
Or why not joining the Costa del Sol birding tour? It's the best way to enjoy you valuable birding holidays in Malaga. Start packing and stop wishing! Let us make it real for you!
On our Birding Tour section you can find detailed trip reports, we hope you enjoy them all!