Extremadura: A birding paradise in the southwest of Spain

Great Bustards in Spain

By Diana Villanueva-Romero, Associate Professor (Profesora Contratada Doctora), University of Extremadura

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The place where I live, Cáceres, is well known as a tourist site to those wanting to travel off the beaten path. In 2015, it was featured in the British online edition of National Geographic which mostly paid attention to its rich history — its Old Town was inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986 — renowned cuisine, contemporary art museum, as well as its love of music.[1] Only at the end of this article is there a reference to the National Park of Monfragüe, one of the nature enclaves most coveted by birdwatchers all over the world.

Amateur ornithologist Juan José Viola introduces two of his sons to birdwatching by Los Arenales Pond (Cáceres, Spain) (Photograph from Juan José Viola’s Personal Collection)

Not in vain more than 26% of the territory of the region where it stands, known as Extremadura, was declared Special Protection Area (SPA) in 1979: 71 SPAs in total. Many birdwatchers come to Extremadura every year to discover the beauty of its varied landscapes and enjoy day after day of birdwatching. Some may decide to make their visit coincide with many of the birding events organized every year in different parts of Extremadura: from the Extremadura Birdwatching Fair (FIO)[2] located in the above mentioned national park, already in its fifteenth edition, to the Birds Festival of Cáceres[3] or the Festival of the Cranes in Navalvillar de Pela (Badajoz).[4]

Great bustards spread their wings over the Plains of Cáceres (Cáceres, Spain) (Photograph from Juan José Viola’s Personal Collection)

In all these events it is always possible to find groups of youngsters cramming over every stand in order to get a glimpse of what is being done and asking to be part of it. Some exhibitors may offer a coloring workshop where kids learn to color drawings of some of the most representative avian species that have made Extremadura their home—the red kite, the crane, the great bustard, the monk and the griffon vulture, the azure-winged magpie, the little owl, and the ubiquitous white stork—while others may entail creating a story or a costume representing any of these birds. The beauty of all this is that, at the end of the day, these young birders would go home literally flying on the wings of the imagination kindled by the vibrating experiences of the day and knowing more about the birds they have learnt to appreciate.

[1] https://www.nationalgeographic.co.uk/2015/02/spanish-cities

[2] https://fioextremadura.es/en/

[3] https://festivaldelasavescaceres.juntaex.es

[4] https://www.turismoextremadura.com/en/explora/Festival-de-las-Grullas-de-Extremadura/

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