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Birdwatching & Wildlife in Andalucia


Images of Andalucian flora and fauna

Wild Andalucia

Atlantic Andalucia boasts some of the most beautiful and important wildlife areas in the whole of Europe. Undoubtedly the jewel in the crown is the Parque Nacional de Doñana, one of Europe's most important wetland reserves and a major site for migrating birds. It is an immense area, covering over 1,300 sq km in the provinces of Huelva, Sevilla and Cádiz. It is internationally recognised for its great ecological wealth. Doñana has become a key centre in the world of conservationism.

From the ‘Marismas del Guadiana', the protected salt marshes of the Guadiana estuary, to the Sierra de Grazalema natural park in the Fronteras, Andalucia Andalucia is an ecotourists' paradise, with a wealth of protected and often rare flora and fauna to observe in a carefully husbanded environment.

Fauna ...

Andalucía is a twitcher's paradise throughout the year. Probably the best time for ornithologists is during the spring and early summer, when you have a mixture of wintering species, those arriving for the summer and resident species breeding. The varied habitats in the region, from the coastal wetlands to the Sierras, ensures an exciting mix of waterfowl and a number of raptor species, often unique to Spain.

Andalucia is typically described .... as the meeting point between Europe and Africa

There are actually 13 resident raptor (birds of prey) species in Andalucia, as well as a number which migrate annually from Africa. The best places for viewing them are usually the Sierras, where they can hover or fly high using thermals. In the Sierra Morena region, close to Arcos de la Frontera, you will find the Black Vulture; although there are only a few hundred pairs breeding in this area this is thought to be the largest colony for this rare species in Europe. Equally rare is the Spanish Imperial Eagle, most of which are located within the Parque Nacional de Doñana. Other raptor species found in the Sierras include egyptian and griffon vultures golden (and other) eagles, and a variety of owls. In lowland woods and areas smaller birds of prey, including kestrel, harriers and red kite, are relatively common.

Waterfowl are more plentiful, and can be found in abundance in the wetland areas of the Costa de la Luz. These include flamingos, herons, storks and numerous species of wild ducks. In and around the woodlands, orchards and golf courses (which form a superb habitat for many animals) you will find golden oriole, the hoopoe, the bee eater, various woodpeckers and more species of owl.

But it's not just ornithologists who will find Andalucia such a pleasure. For example, Doñana is one of the few remaining habitats for the Iberian Lynx, the most endangered cat species in the world; part of the captive breeding programme, possibly the Lynxes only hope of avoiding extinction, is carried out close to here. There are a total of 118 species of mammal living in Spain, although not all of these now survive in Andalucia; most of these are native although a handful, such as american mink, coypu, fallow deer and the egyptian mongoose, have been introduced over the centuries. Many of these species are, like the Lynx, endangered but are beginning to show signs of recovery thanks to careful management by Spanish naturalists; among the species coming back from the brink are the European Wolf (some of which survive in the Sierras), the brown bear (mainly found in Catalonia and the Pyrenees) and the otter. Spain is also home to 27 species of bat.

...And Flora

Andalucia is typically described, both historically and ecologically as a meeting point between Europe and Africa . The saltier and warmer Mediterranean clashes at Punta de Tarifa, the southernmost point of Europe, with the cold rough waters of the Atlantic producing one of the most biodiverse marine areas in the world.

There are an estimated 8000 (nobody really knows exactly how many) plant species in Spain, 2000 of which are endemic to the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa. Potentially, 95% of Spain would be covered in some form of forest, roughly 25% of this remains today; more than half of this is pine forest. A large portion of the remainder is the holm oak, or 'encina', which is almost the defining element of the Spanish coastal landscape.

The encina forests typically grew on poor, arid soils. While much of the the virgin forest was destroyed through a mixture of felling, charcoal-burning and grazing the holm oak forests, as they were not especially suited for agriculture, were simply thinned out to create the sparse pasture and parkland known as 'dehesa'; in combination with the cork tree these help to form something almost unique, a man-made, managed ecosystem with a bio-diverse richness. The dehesa are grazed by the iberico pigs, the acorns giving the distinctive taste to the pork, jamon and sausages produced from these pigs.


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