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Where and when to watch raptor migrations across the Gibraltar Strait

in Tarifa Municipality in Cádiz Province, Andalucia, Spain
By Nick Nutter | 23 Jan 2020
Osprey Black Stork Griffon Vulture Honey Buzzard Red Kite Table of Migrations of Raptors at Tarifa

Millions of birds, including thousands of raptors, migrate to Africa for the winter and return to Northern Europe for the summer. Almost 400 species are represented of which over 20 are raptors. There is nothing quite as spectacular as watching some of the larger raptors congregate, spiralling upwards on thermals, and then launching off towards Africa, or, conversely, watch them stream back in the spring. Typically, they will start off high to start the journey, and descend gradually as they make the crossing.

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When to watch the raptor migration

Clear days, when there is a good view across the Strait, is preferred by the birds and humans. If there are bad winds, the only bird likely to attempt the crossing is the Honey Buzzard. Most migration takes place between mid-morning and early afternoon say 10am to 1pm.

Most of these birds choose to cross the Strait of Gibraltar at its narrowest point; in the area of Tarifa. The headlands and peaks of hills along the coast offer some great vantage points to watch this spectacle. Broad winged birds, like raptors, tend to drift with the wind so, if conditions are calm, Tarifa is the central point, if the wind is westerly the birds will tend to be towards Gibraltar or beyond, if the wind is easterly, they could be as far along the coast as Bolonia.

Where to watch the raptor migration during easterly winds

Sanctuario de la Luz Turn north off the N340 at KM 78.5. The sanctuary is about 4 kms inland.
La Pena Turn east off the N340 at KM 76.5 There is a semi official vulture feeding station about 1 km up the track and the whole valley offers opportunities for watching the migrations.

Where to watch the raptor migration during westerly winds

Jews Gate Gibraltar
Punta Carnero just south of Algeciras
Mirador El Estrecho on the N340 between Algeciras and Tarifa

Go to: Cádiz province
Go to: Cádiz city
Go to: Tarifa town

Villages in Tarifa municipality

Costa de la Luz | Tarifa, windy city, famous for kite and wind surfing

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Submitted by fred rotteveel on 23 Jan 2020
Great info, thanks. Can you please tell me the best months to watch the birds in spring and autum? kind regards Fred

Reply by Nick Nutter:
Hi Fred, Watching from October through to March is usually best because you will also see the species that migrate here from northern Europe.

Submitted by Greta Van Neste on 23 Jan 2020
Thanks For The information

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About the Author

Nick has lived and worked in Andalucia for over 20 years. He and his partner, Julie Evans, have travelled extensively and dug deep into the history and culture, producing authoritative articles on all aspects of the region. Nick has written four books about Andalucia and writes articles for other websites and blogs.

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