Bird Watching in Spain

Birdwatching, wildlife watching and photography in Spain

Bird watching in Spain. Tarifa and the Strait of Gibraltar

Tarifa is a small town in Andalusia on the southern tip of Spain, facing Morocco and the Strait of Gibraltar. Every autumn millions of migratory birds gather to rest in this part of Spain on their way to Africa for the winter, and every spring birds come back heading to Northern Europe for the winter; this makes Tarifa a prime destination for birders anytime, especially those looking to see birds of prey.

Strait of Gibraltar in Google Maps


Birds of prey

All of the raptor species that come through Spain can be spotted in Tarifa.

The giant lammergeier, griffon vulture, and the Cinereous black vulture; the white-tailed eagle, short-toed eagle, and Bonelli’s eagle; the black-winged kite, red kite, and lesser kestrel; peregrine falcons, Eleanora’s falcon, and the Eurasian hobby; ospreys and barn owls –these are only some of the full list of birds of prey that birdwatchers can find gathered here. 

Lammergeier. Birding in Spain
Full size image at

Birders can watch heavier birds like the eagles and vultures ride the thermals on the prevailing winds high up into the air, spiraling in great numbers off the coast of Tarifa.


Both the black stork and the white stork pass through Gibraltar as part of their epic migration route. These storks can fly up to 500km (310 miles) in one day.

Thousands of storks gather on the area at all times during the year, in greatest numbers during summer and early autumn.

Birders can find them in fields, marshes, and roads all throughout Tarifa and the surrounding agricultural areas.

Some birdwatchers may see the storks’ elaborate courtship dances, or simply the breathtaking site of hundreds of birds taking flight together from a marsh.


Many migratory species

There are nearly 400 species of birds that pass over the Straits of Gibraltar and through Tarifa.

Like the storks, the common crane flocks, forages, and breeds near Tarifa. Unlike its name suggests, however, this crane is a threatened species, an important one to watch and protect.

There are skuas and multiple species of gulls, arctic terns and sandwich terns taking a rest from their migration paths, auks like the Atlantic puffin and the common murre coming ashore, and common kingfishers and the common cuckoo, to name a few.

There are 31 species of warblers to fill the soundscape, including the melodious warbler and the moustached warbler.

Birdwatchers can also see the only species of roller bird in Europe, the brilliant blue European roller, hunting for insects in the areas surrounding Tarifa and the coast.


Birding in Spain. Gibraltar and Tarifa
Strait of Gibraltar - September / October migration, by Stephen Daly


Travel in Tarifa

The town of Tarifa has many examples of splendid medieval architecture, including churches and castle fortresses.

There are also Roman archaeological sites and more modern ruins; abandoned military batteries overgrowing with green face the coast off the Strait of Gibraltar from as recently as the twentieth century.

Tarifa is well known by surfers, windsurfers, kytesurfers.. due to the strong winds of the strait.


Kyte surf at Tarifa. South of Spain


But Tarifa also offers travelers the chance to ride horses, go surfing, and learn to scuba dive along the beach.

Also whale and dolphin watching can be done on the 14 kilometer wide Strait.

The coast town is famous for fish restaurants, and there is no shortage of hotel or camping accommodation for birders looking to take in the migration.


List of birds in the Gibraltar area by The Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society