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The Strait of Gibraltar | Ecotonobirding | Tarifa

The Strait of Gibraltar

Spring migration 

Enjoy the arrival of birds to the coast of the Strait of Gibraltar, when they cross, they lose high, so when they reach the coast they use to fly low, so the entrance is impressive.

From February to May, it is the best moment for the observation. First Black Kites, Short-toed Eagles, Egyptian Vultures  and Booted Eagles and later the Black Storks, Honey Buzzards and Griffon Vultures. An spectacle in a spring environment and a landscape covered by flowers.

Autumn migration 

The high numbers of soaring birds migrating to Africa concentrates here in the Strait of Gibraltar. From July to October, you can see big flocks of White Storks, Black Kites, then Montagu’s Harriers will start coming, then Egyptian Vultures, Honey Buzzards, Short toed Eagles and Booted Eagles, Black Storks and Griffon Vultures.

Small migrants are always around and Bee-eaters, Alpine Swifts, Swallows, finches, sparrows, etc. can be observed in flocks in their way to Africa.

Seabird migration

The connection between the Mediterranean sea and the Atlantic is made by the Strait of Gibraltar and Tarifa island is the best viewpoint to observe the passage of this birds during their migrations.

High numbers of Cory’s Shearwaters and the whole population of the endangered Balearic Shearwater cross the strait of Gibraltar with peaks in October-November. Also many Gannets, Skuas, but also Puffins and Razorbills use to enter in the Mediterranean sea to spend the winter.  Several species of Gulls and Terns are also abundant from this viewpoint.

Vulture migration

High numbers of Griffon vultures fill the skies at the end of the Summer. Many of  the juveniles  them will cross the Strait to spend their 2-3 first years of life in Africa, to avoid the short days of winter and the few chances to find food. Then, they will come back to find a breeding spot.

You can observe big flocks and maybe you are lucky to see a carcasses and the vultures having lunch, a bit nasty but impressive spectacle. Between the Griffon Vultures, it is possible to find any of the Rüppells Vultures coming from Africa, that are visiting our continent in the last years.




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The rare Bald Ibis

The Bald Ibis (Geronticus eremita) is classified as critically endangered, the highest threat category according to IUCN criteria, with the only remaining wild colonies known in Morocco  and a few pairs in the Middle East. The bird was common in Europe but it disappeared 400 years ago. The dramatic decline of the species was caused mainly by the use of pesticides, loss of habitat, persecution human disturbances and intensive agriculture.

The experts on the species decided in 1999 to run an exploratory project (Proyecto Eremita), by releasing 30 birds in La Janda district of Cadiz province. Nowadays the species is breeding in several cliffs of the area and it is possible to observe it in the wild.

“La Janda” wetland

La Janda was the biggest lake and one of the most important wetlands in Spain until it was dried in the mid-twentieth century for agricultural purposes. Still the area is a very important stopover for many of the migrants in their way to Africa.

Big flocks of White Storks, Black kites, and other raptors are abundant during autumn and spring migration.

In Winter, it is a really good spot for raptors, a perfect open area for hunting that attracts many juvenile raptors like Spanish Imperial Eagle, Bonelli’s eagle, Golden eagle, Buzzards, Black-winged Kites, etc…It is also possible to find Lesser and Greater spotted Eagles, Pallid Harrier and at sunset, you can may see a Short-eared Owl flying low across the road.

About 3000 Cranes spend here the winter, good numbers of Glossy Ibis, Spoonbills and Cattle Egrets invade the skies at the end of the day.