Extremadura remains, perhaps, one of the richest regions for wildlife in all of Europe with a healthy environment, traditions, gastronomy and cultural & historic heritage. Mixing features of Andalucía and the two Castillas regions in Spain with the Alentejo region in Portugal, is a land waiting to be discovered with huge and extremely important bird populations and an incredible variety of species. Extremadura and its wild and unspoilt nature covers 41,000 Sq Kms of the Iberian Peninsula’s surface, of which more that 30,000Sq kms have been catalogued as IBAs (Important Bird Areas). More than 75% of the territory!
Cork Oak Quercus ©Chris Durdin Honeyguide
Extremadura has almost all the ecosystems represented in the Iberian Peninsula, except for coastline and seashores. High mountain ranges with altitudes above 8,000 feet, highlands, rice fields, wide steppe areas, isolated relict Mediterranean jungles and the most extensive Cork forests in the world. From North to South, or East to West, you will discover one of the richest places in Europe for birding. Thousands of Common Cranes and raptors know it, coming back every year to over-winter or breed.
Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus ©Frank Dröge
There are some special mammals notably wolf and lynx but you would be exceedingly lucky to see either as they are in small numbers and keep well out of the way of people. There are a number of mustelids such as Beech Marten otters and wild cats as well as a wild goat Capra pyrenaica. But it is the birds which attract most wildlife watchers with Great Bustard, Imperial Eagle, Black Stork, and Spanish Imperial Eagle some of the most sought-after, along with sand grouse and many of Iberia’s terrific birds like Sardinian Warblers, Hoopoes and others.
Hoopoe Upupa epops ©Frank Dröge
There are a number of national parks and areas of great interest to nature lovers. For example Monfragüe Natural Park (Map), what Donana is to Andalusia, Monfragüe is to Extremadura: A sanctuary for birds. An area where one can still enjoy the best Iberian Mediterranean woodlands spotted with rock cliffs and deep gullies. The best site for searching some of the most endangered species: the biggest breeding colony of Cinereous Vulture in the world, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Black Stork, Bonelli’s Eagle, and many others. This is a mountainous area with peaks reaching 300m to 700m. It includes two distinct landscapes, precipitous ridges and an extensive area of plains. The two areas are quite distinct, and offer quite different types of birds. It is remarkable for the presence of birds of prey and is considered the best area in the world to see Black Vulture (225 pairs – these birds may be seen at almost any point in the park); Black-winged Kite, Black Kite (abundant); Egyptian Vulture (10 pairs); Griffon Vulture (400 pairs); Short-toed Eagle, Golden Eagle (4 pairs); and Imperial Eagle (12 pairs). One can also see White Stork (with a high population density) and Black Stork (at 10 pairs it is the best area in Spain).
Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus ©Frank Dröge
Then there is the Jerez de los Caballeros (Dehesa Woodlands) (Map) in southern Extremadura, where villages climb up the hills, and impressive castles nestle on the peaks. Birdwatchers sitting here can explore the horizon with their binoculars, all you can see around are Dehesas.
Goats in Dehesa ©Chris Durdin Honeyguide
The Dehesa woodland is an open Oak tree forest where traditional human activities are still going on. Miles and miles of Dehesas supporting extremely rich bird communities: Black Storks have their largest populations, a high density of forest raptors, Hawks and Kites all abound. Abandoned & collapsed houses are shelter for European Rollers, Hoopoes, Thrushes and Wheatears. And if you close your eyes and just listen, you will discover the flying calls of European Bee-eaters and the non-stop song of Red-necked Nightjars.
European Bee-Eater Merops apiaster ©Frank Dröge
With La Serena Steppes the region has some breath-taking landscapes consisting of huge grassy plains and wide open steppes. These lands, apparently dead during the hot Iberian summer, sustain the most important breeding populations of Little and Great Bustards in Europe, the unforgettable silhouette of Montagu`s Harriers, Lesser Kestrels and hundreds of Collared Pranticoles, Black-as well as bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse.
Major Source: Fatbirder
Map Source: Googlemaps™