Tarifa is a great place for birdwatching, being situated on the edge of Los Alcornocales National Park, and also on the migration route for more than 400 species of birds which fly in flocks towards the Straits of Gibraltar and across to Africa to spend the winter, and then return again in spring.
The best area to go is between Tarifa and Punta Paloma, 10km to the west of Tarifa. One spot you shouldn't miss along this stretch is the Laguna de los Lances, near the beach of the same name. This coastal area is characterized by dunes and beaches, offering an important habitat for rare seabirds.
Good times to come are March and April, when the flocks of birds return to Europe from Africa for the warmer months, and mid-August to October, when they migrate south for the winter. See storks in summer and early autumn; look out for their astonishing courtship dance.
Here are some of the huge variety of bird species you might spot around Tarifa:
Black stork, white stork, common crane, common kingfisher, common cuckoo, melodious warbler, moustached warbler, Sardinian warbler, European roller, grey heron, flamingo, crag martin, marbled teal, bee-eater, little owl, little ringed plover, glossy ibis, bald ibis, cattle egret, stonechat, hoopoe, white-rumped swift, little swift, Alpine swift, pallid swift, red-rumped swallow, cirl bunting, hawfinch, woodchat shrike, serin, spotless starling, Iberian chiffchaff, crested tit, firecrest, collared pratincole, red-legged partridge, southern grey shrike, short-toed treecreeper, and blue rock thrush.
Sea birds which are in the area: Audouin’s gull, avocet, lesser crested tern, sandwich tern, Arctic sandwich tern, whimbrel, dunlin, ringed and Kentish plover, sanderling, Cory’s and Balearic shearwater, gannet, skua, grey-legged gull, Atlantic puffin, common guillemot, and stone curlew.
Raptors rely on thermals to help them fly over land, as they are too big to power their own flight for long periods. As there are no thermals over the sea, they gain height and then cross here - the Straits offers the shortest distance (12km) to fly between the two continents. You could see the black kite, honey buzzard, short-toed eagle, booted eagle, griffon vulture, Egyptian vulture, Ruppell's vulture, kestrel, lesser kestrel, osprey, Montagu's harrier, little owl, little bustard, marsh harrier, sparrowhawk, common buzzard, and hobby.
Ornithological Observatory of Cazalla or Mirador del Estrecho is one of the best location to watch migrating birds. This is worth a visit for the views and wind blast alone by any curious traveller. It is deliberately not promoted as a tourist atraction and so lacks any sinage on the N-340 road. The 2015 access and exit road now makes it safe to enter and leave the N-340 at km 87 when heading west towards Tarifa. Local birdwatching group 'Colectivo Ornitológico Cigüeña Negra' have maintained a hut on this site since early 1990s. They initially oposed the local council installing permanent facilities here but reached agreement in 2005. GPS 36.0337291,-5.578016 There is a observatory area, car park, research centre, cafe exhibition facilities all run by the group so it keeps irregular hours.
Fundacion Migres carry out important research work and organise events and workshops. They have a base within the 'Centro Internacional de la Migración de las Aves (CIMA).' located just east of Tarifa at Punta Camoro. ( GPS: 36.016762, -5.87950 ) leaving N-340 at km 85 when driving east away from Tarifa. Follow the paved road to the end. There is a bird watching point open all the time. Exhibition centre, shop, vending machines open 10.00 to 15.00 hrs.
For more information on bird watching in Andalucia, click here.