The famous Rock of Gibraltar is a limestone promontory, some 5 km long and 1 km wide. The summit ridge, rising to 426m, offers superb if vertiginous views over the westernmost Mediterranean, the Costa del Sol and, especially, the Strait of Gibraltar itself. The Moroccan shore is only 20 km away and views often extend to the Rif Mountains beyond.
The strategic position of Gibraltar is the root of its ornithological fame. Migration of soaring birds, i.e. storks and raptors, occurs year-round in some form and numbers can be spectacular in the peak seasons of March-May and August-October, almost invariably during periods of westerly winds. The most abundant are Black Kites and Eurasian Honey-buzzards, which both produce daily counts of thousands at peak times. Significant but lesser concentrations occur of Egyptian and Griffon Vultures, Short-toed and Booted Eagles, Marsh and Montagu’s Harriers, Sparrowhawks and Ospreys, as well as White and Black Storks. Scarcer migrant raptors include Rüppell’s Vulture, Pallid Harrier, Long-legged Buzzard, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Eleonora’s Falcon and Lanner, all of which occur more or less annually.
Migration of seabirds is also an all-year phenomenon and features important numbers of Cory's, Scopoli’s and Balearic Shearwaters, Northern Gannets, Great Skuas; Mediterranean, Black-headed, and Audouin’s Gulls, and Sandwich Terns. Many other seabirds occur regularly, including Lesser Crested Terns (September/mid-November).
The Gibraltar list grows slowly but steadily. It may be consulted on the GONHS website. It includes a particularly comprehensive contingent of passerines, many of them migrants grounded on the Rock by inclement weather, often during the frequent bouts of strong easterly winds which produce the famous levanter cloud over the summit. A diversity of vagrant species enlivens the birding scene; recent examples have included Common Eider, Allen’s Gallinule, Moroccan White Wagtail, Seebohm’s Wheatear, Yellow-browed and Pallas’s Warblers, Mountain Chiffchaff and Red-breasted Flycatcher and Hooded Crow.
Resident and breeding species are few but Gibraltar has one of only two colonies of Shags in the westernmost Mediterranean and is the only mainland site in Europe for Barbary Partridges. Other local breeders include Peregrines; Common, Pallid and Alpine Swifts, Blue Rock Thrushes and, since their re-colonisation in 2004, a pair of Eagle Owls. The thousands of Yellow-legged Gulls are an unmissable feature; they even nest on rooftops and in the pine trees of the Botanic Garden.
Key places to visit….
Key places to visit in Gibraltar are the bird observatory and ringing station at Jews' Gate (run by the Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society); the Summit Ridge, Botanic Garden, North Front Cemetery and Europa Point. Gibraltar is within day-trip distance of the Eastern bank of the Guadalquivir river (Brazo del Este, Bonanza and Trebujena salt pans, Algaida pine woods); Tarifa and its beach, La Janda, the Serrania de Ronda, the Guadalhorce estuary at Malaga, the cork forests of the Cadiz sierras (Parque Natural de los Alcornocales) and the Costa de la Luz.
Number of Species
Number of bird species: 316
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Birds of the Strait of Gibraltar
By Clive Finlayson | T & AD Poyser Ltd | 2010 | hardback | 534 pages, b/w photos, b/w illustrations, b/w maps, tables |
ISBN: 9781408136959Buy this book from NHBS.com
Field Guide to the Birds of the Strait of Gibraltar (Guia de Aves del Estrecho de Gibraltas)
(Parque Natural Los Alcornocales y Comarca de La Janda) | By David Barros & David Rios | 2002 | Paperback | 328 pages, colour photos, colour illustrations, figs, tabs, maps | Text in English & Spanish |
ISBN: 9788460745457Buy this book from NHBS.com
(A Field Guide to Bird Migration, the Natural Parks of the Strait and los Alcornocales, and the Rock of Gibraltar) | By Fernando Barrios Partida | Palma del Valle | 2007 | Hardback | 430 pages, colour photos, maps |
ISBN: 9788493426347Buy this book from NHBS.com
The Birds of the Iberian Peninsula
By Eduardo de Juana & Ernest Garcia | Bloomsbury Publishing | 2015 | Hardback | 688 pages, 32 plates with 64 colour photos; 216 b/w illustrations, b/w distribution maps |
ISBN: 9781408124802Buy this book from NHBS.com
Where to Watch Birds in Southern & Western Spain
(Andalucia, Extremadura and Gibraltar) | by Ernest Garcia & Andrew Paterson | Christopher Helm | 2008 | Paperback | 3rd edition | 400 pages, 30 b/w illustrations, 99 b/w maps |
ISBN: 9780713683158Buy this book from NHBS.com
Gibraltar Bird Report
Published by GONHS. The 2018 Report is currently available, price £6.00 including postage within EU: UK cheques accepted. The Report is being published on-line only and free to access from 2019 onwards. See GONHS website, where Reports 1–14 are already available.
Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society
Field Centre, Jews Gate, Upper Rock Nature Reserve, P0 Box 843. + 350 72639; firstname.lastname@example.org
The Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society (GONHS) was founded in 1976. Its aims are to foster the study and protection of wildlife and the natural environment in the area of the Straits of Gibraltar. The website gives details of membership, publications, Gibraltar wildlife, ringing, accommodation at the Bird Observatory and Field Centre etc…
IBA Gibraltar Botanic Gardens
Six hectares of subtropical vegetation, with notable collections of aloes and other succulents. Wildlife includes resident and migrant birds and butterflies, the latter featuring a colony of Monarchs…
The Gibraltar Nature Reserve (formerly the Upper Rock Nature Reserve) is a protected nature reserve in the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar that covers over 40% of the country's land area. The Rock has been identified as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International because it is a migratory bottleneck, or choke point, for an estimated 250,000 raptors that cross the Strait annually, and because it supports breeding populations of Barbary partridges and lesser kestrels.
Forums & Mailing Lists
Gibraltar Bird Alert
Gibraltar's bird & nature sightings alert service. Tweet ur sightings. For private birding & nature photography tours visit our website. #GibraltarBirds
Guides & Tour Operators
Nature tour specialists in Gibraltar, Spain & Morocco - Birdwatching & nature photography holidays in Gibraltar, Spain & Morocco. Over 30 years Birdwatching & bird photography experience!
Birding The Strait
Join our birding guides in a phenomenal Nature Experience! We offer unique, affordable birding and photography guided experiences from Tarifa. We arrange trips in the Strait of Gibraltar, Andalucia and Morocco, a region with outstanding scenery and biodiversity.
CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.
2011 [04 April] - Julian Bell - Gibraltar Straits Visible Migration
An ROV pipeline inspection and intervention job took us close to the Balearics for a few days followed by a few weeks in the Gibraltar Straits. As usual the area produced plenty of birds and other sightings of interest - despite birding being limited to an hour or two around dawn most days. The most frustrating aspect of the trip was waiting for dawn after working the night shift (ended 06:00), at first I only had to wait an hour or so but after the clocks changed for summer time the wait was extended a further hour…
2011 [09 September] – Honeyguide - Tarifa & Gibraltar
…any number of booted and short-toed eagles, many black kites, Egyptian and mostly more distant griffon vultures, a scattering of honey buzzards, a small group of lesser kestrels…
2012 [09 September] – Frank Vargas – Tarifa & Gibraltar
"We headed back to the raptor observation point of Cazalla, from where dozens of booted eagles, short-toed eagles, white storks, black storks and griffon vultures came close. Also, a couple of Egyptian vultures flew over us. In that gorgeous sky, full of activity, pallid and white-rumped swifts and bee-eaters kept flying close around us."
2013 [02 February] - Chris Durdin - Tarifa & Gibraltar
The flamingos were a notably deep pink, and there was also a clear pinky tone to the plumage of many slender-billed gulls that seemed especially at home in the lagoons, feeding energetically in a leaning-forward method that gave a distinctive jizz. A single spoonbill and a distant osprey added to the mix…
2014 [03 March] – Chris Durdin – Tarifa & Gibraltar
We had a date this morning: to meet El Grupo Ornitológico del Estrecho (GOES – The Ornithological Group of the Strait). The rendez-vous was some wild olive scrub on the edge of Algeciras which, we heard, had been in and is now out of the Natural Park. A bird ringing session was underway, and one GOES group member was taking feather mites from captured passerines as part of a detailed study…
2015 [03 March] - Chris Durdin - Tarifa & Gibraltar
...a strange song was Iberian chiffchaff and there were brief bursts of short-toed treecreeper song, too.
2016 [09 September] - Ben Macdonald
he Gibraltar raptor migration has in recent decades thrown up one of the more puzzling specialties of Europe’s birds of prey: the regular presence of the generally-African Rüppell's Vulture in September. Whilst some believe these birds may be dispersing from Africa, another theory is that these birds are, in fact, non-breeding birds that may already have spent the summer in Spain’s large Griffon vulture colonies. The evidence for this is scant, but equally, a northwards migration all the way from the nearest breeding grounds, in central Africa (southern Mauretania, Niger, Mali) is not particularly likely either, especially as the species is now critically-endangered and withdrawing its range.
2017 [09 September] - Per Stensland
Raptor watch Strait of Gibraltar September 2017 - We had a 5 days holiday from september 21st to sept 26th. Weather was unusually hot, with temperatures close to 30 C, a bit inland. We stayed some nights in La Alcaidesa, some 40 mins drive from Tarifa. The last nights we, as usual, stayed at Dos Mares Hotel, just outside Tarifa.
2018 [05 May] - Rob Williams - Spain & Gibraltar
We started the day with a sea-watch from the Tarifa harbour wall. The sea was flat and calm due to very little wind, and at first glance it seemed devoid of birds. With some patience and scanning, we soon all enjoyed scope views of a few Balearic Shearwaters and a couple of decent but distant flocks of Scopoli’s Shearwaters. Further scanning gave us a few Northern Gannets and an adult Pomarine Jaeger. We then headed to Los Lances beach which held a few gulls, including 2 Slenderbilled Gulls. We also enjoyed watching displaying Kentish Plovers.
2018 [09 September] - Pau Lucio
As we are getting close to Tarifa, we see the Rock of Gibraltar on our side and the Djebel Musa on the African side. Our first stop is in route, in Palmones river mouth where a Lesser Crested Tern was spotted few days before.
2018 [09 September] - Simon Tonkin - Gibraltar & Tarifa: Whales, Dolphins & Autumn Migration
Avian migration was in full swing for this tour based at the tranquil eco-lodge of Huerta Grande near Tarifa. It yielded spectacular close-up views of hundreds upon hundreds of raptors and other soaring birds, including Booted, Short-toed Eagles, Montagu’s Harriers, European Honey Buzzards, Black Kites, Griffon and Egyptian Vultures and Black Storks as they migrated across the Straits of Gibraltar. Hirundines, swifts, European Beeeaters and other migrant passerines also poured through in their hundreds. On a boat trip into the Straits themselves, the group had breath-taking close-up encounters with Long-finned Pilot Whales, as well as Cory’s, Balearic and Great Shearwaters. Other highlights of farmland, wetland, inter-tidal habitat and cork oak forest included Red-necked Nightjar, Firecrest, Short-toed Treecreeper, Crested Tit, Kentish Plover, Black-eared Wheatear and Northern Bald Ibis. A day trip to Gibraltar also brought the group face-to-face with Barbary Macaques and Two-tailed Pasha.
Strait of Gibraltar Bird Observatory
Strait of Gibraltar bird Observatory, Jews’ Gate, Gibraltar. Run by GONHS. The observatory controls ringing and observation of birds in Gibraltar, the latter including daily counts of diurnal migrants. Visitors and helpers are always welcome. The Jews’ Gate observatory itself offers inexpensive hostel-type accommodation to resident ringers. It is located at a strategic point on the southwestern slopes of the Rock, giving commanding views over the Strait and Bay of Gibraltar. A second observatory at Europa Point is used for seabird observation…
Birding The Strait
Blog from this guiding company
Gibraltar - Tourist Board - Birdwatching
As the Strait of Gibraltar is the narrowest crossing point for birds migrating to and from Europe and Africa, the Rock offers unrivalled bird watching opportunities. 315 species of birds have been recorded, many of which are migratory. Gibraltar, at the head of the Strait, is a prominent headland, which accumulates migrants during the passage periods. The vegetation on the Rock, unique in southern Iberia, provides a temporary home for many species of migratory birds that stop to rest and feed before continuing migration for their crossing over the desert and sea. In spring they return to replenish before continuing their journeys to Western Europe, journeys that may take them as far as Greenland or Russia.