Mallorca birdwatching season kicks off in the spring time when the migration starts. This is our guide to birding on the Balearic Island for beginners and amateur bird watchers.
For twitchers or birders – those serious birdwatching types who seem to have binoculars permanently dangling from their neck and a well-thumbed field guide stashed in a pocket – Spain‘s Catalan island of Mallorca is one of the most popular spots for birdwatching (or birding as twitchers and birders call it) in Europe.
Mallorca, located in the Balearic Islands group, is in a prime position for migrating birds to land and rest on their travels each spring and autumn, Mallorca has a staggering diversity of habitats – marshes, reed beds, fresh water lagoons, salt pans, scrubland, fields, orchards, woods, rocky sea cliffs, and wild mountains.
We are by no means what you’d call twitchers or even amateur birdwatchers, although we have been known to do the occasional birdwatching tour in places where there are beautiful birds in abundance, such as Costa Rica and Kakadu.
However, when we were last on the island researching and photographing a guidebook we did get into a bit of birdwatching as we road-tripped around Mallorca. One of the things we loved was that Mallorca’s birdwatching is just so accessible.
While the most rewarding places for twitchers for birdwatching on Mallorca will always be the most remote, sparsely inhabited parts of the island, for everyday travellers like you and I, one of the most satisfying spots is the easiest to get to and that’s S’Albufera de Mallorca at Can Picafort, pictured above.
S’Albufera is a protected nature park that comprises some 1,708 hectares of marshes and dunes and it’s just 25 minutes drive from the centre of Port d’Alcudia. On the main public bus route, there are fantastic paths right through the nature park, which you can walk or cycle.
Once upon a time the park was a lagoon separated from the sea by sand dunes. It’s now the biggest and most significant wetlands area on the Balearic Islands and it’s Mallorca’s most important birdwatching site.
There are more than 200 species of birds within this vast area of marshes, reed beds and waterways, so if you only do birdwatching once, make it S’Albufera.
Mallorca Birdwatching – Our Beginner’s Guide to Birding on the Balearic Island
Mallorca Birdwatching – When to Go
Mallorca has abundant birdlife all year round, as long as you know where to look and what to look for. The island is packed with birds, including resident birds, birds visiting to breed, and 200-odd species of migratory birds.
Among Mallorca’s best-known resident species that you’ll see all year round are the black vulture, Audouin’s gull, Marmora’s warbler, and blue rock thrush.
But if we had to choose one season it would be spring, especially from April to May, which is by far the best time to visit. This is when the greatest number of birds are in evidence, but best of all, those migratory birds are on the move, which is a dramatic sight.
Mallorca Birdwatching – Where to Go and What Birds to Look For
S’Albufera de Mallorca Nature Park
Look out for bitterns, which thrive in S’Albufera; marsh harriers, which like to sail over reed beds which conceal herons and egrets; wild fowl, that like to doze in the creeks; and elegant black-winged stilts, which probe around the muddy lagoons.
This is where you’ll see migratory birds in the spring time, including redstarts with their flashy red tails, pied flycatchers, and firecrests with their stripy heads and yellow jackets.
Here you can watch black storks patrol the shoreline where ospreys plunge down to catch their lunch, while the rocky cliffs are home to blue rock thrushes, small crag martins, and, near the crags around Formentor lighthouse, some of Mallorca’s rarest birds, including Eleonora’s falcons, booted eagles and red kites, along with one of Europe’s most endangered species, the mighty black vulture.
Sa Dragonera and the National Park island of Cabrera
Serious twitchers claim to have spotted some 64 different seabird species here during the spring migration.
Mallorca Birdwatching – Endangered Bird Species
While the natural habitats and wildlife of Mallorca have been under threat as a result of mass tourism and coastal development, the efforts of the environmental group Grup Balear d’Ornitología (GOB) and local authorities, which have protected almost one third of the island in some way, seem to be paying off.
We’re told that various species, including the black vulture and purple swamp hen, that were reintroduced to Mallorca from mainland Spain are doing well. The marble duck, bred in S’Albufera in 1997 for the first time in Mallorca in 30 years, is thriving. However, sadly, the Balearic shearwater is on the critically endangered list.
Mallorca Birdwatching – Our Tips for Beginners
These are some of the tips that we’ve picked up from birdwatching guides over the years.
After about noon in winter, and as early as 10am or 11am in summer, Mallorca appears strangely bird-less. But take a stroll in the countryside before breakfast and you will hear Sardinian warblers chirruping in the hedges, the chattering of woodchat shrikes, and the zip-zip call of tiny fan-tailed warblers. You may even glimpse a hoopoe, among the most striking birds on the island, with its striped wings and Native American chief’s headdress, flapping around the traditional stone walls like a giant butterfly.
Keep Your Eyes Peeled
Strolling around the gardens or beach at seaside resorts, or beachcombing along a deserted stretch of sand at dawn or dusk, you’ll spot sea gulls swooping overhead and waders strutting in the sand and shallows. During boat rides, look out for graceful shearwaters, their wings virtually skimming the water in flight.
Even when you’re basking on one of Mallorca’s brilliant beaches, it’s worth removing your headphones for a bit to listen out for the occasional chirruping in the sky. There’s no need to even move. Just open one eye and you’ll probably see a flock of swifts overhead, a dapper black-and-white Sardinian warbler delivering a rattling song from the tangled vegetation, or a swirl of bee-eaters, which appear black in silhouette but burst into all the colours of the rainbow if you’re lucky enough to track them with binoculars.
Do a Little Research
A good source of information online is Mallorca Birdwatching’s Facebook page where they post pics of birds they’ve spotted. You’ll find a link there to their website where they have loads of info on the types of birds you’ll see and the bird sites. You’ll find lots of information on S’Albufera on Mallorca Web, including a downloadable handbook, bird list, a map, visiting hours, and rules for visiting
Buy a Field Guide
When it comes to field guides, Dave Gosney’s Finding Birds in Mallorca is well regarded and was recommended to us by local experts.
Where to Stay on Mallorca
See our recommendations for where to stay on Mallorca – all tried and tested – from hillside hideaways to beach escapes. Of our favourites, Son Brull just out of Pollença, Son Sant Jordi in Pollença and Hotel Ca’n Pere in Alcúdia are all ideally placed for a spot of bird watching.
The more intrepid travellers who are getting around on their own wheels – the best way to explore Mallorca – should consider checking into one of these Mallorcan monasteries and mountaintop retreats.