Almost always when referring to Bird watching in Andalucía, it is usually a very clear picture of where to enjoy this hobby, directing our attention towards the provinces of Huelva, Cádiz and Sevilla. If we take time to think about it, these are provinces that include part of their territory in the National or Natural Park of Doñana. Although clearly it is also necessary to take into account some areas of Malaga and Jaén.
The rest of the provinces are a little marginal for the birdwatchers, either by not grouping enough species in a comfortable visit, or by being largely unknown in the world of bird watching.
The latter could be said to occur with the province of Córdoba. For most birdwatchers it is a place where there are some interesting birds, but it is not a very appealing destination. I will attempt to try and convince you to visit and put this stunning province on the ornithological map.
Cordoba can be divided from north to south, in nine parts according to its different habitats.
- Valle de los Pedroches
- Alto Guadiato
- Sierra Morena
- Vega del Guadalquivir
- Campiña Baja
- Campiña Alta
- Lagunas del Sur de Córdoba
- Sierras Subbéticas
The Province of Cordoba presents a remarkable landscape, housing a good representation of our most unique and threatened fauna. The variety of habitats available and, many of them in good condition, make possible the coexistence between these geographical boundaries of species such as the Iberian Lynx, the Iberian Wolf or the Spanish Imperial Eagle in the Sierras of Cardeña and Montoro, the Black Stork, the Golden Eagle or the Black Vulture in the Sierra of Honachuelos, the White-headed duck or the Marsh harrier in the humid areas of the south, the Peregrine Falcon and the Bonelli’s Eagle in the Sierras Subbéticas and the Great bustard, the Common Crane or the Black-Bellied Sandgrouse in the valleys of the Guadiato and the Pedroches.
These zones represent different habitats with an extraordinary ornithological richness, although, in many cases, it is not as impressive as Doñana, for not finding large concentrations of birds as we can see in the marshes, paddy fields and beaches of this area. Still, as an ornithological destination, it is an extremely interesting province.
The river Zújar and its tributaries, such as Guadalmez or Arroyo Patuda among others, bathe this area of northwestern Cordoba. We can enjoy three types of landscape in this area. One close to the previously named rivers and streams, with open areas and few trees where the observation is frequent aquatic birds such as Herons, Cormorant, Avocet, White Stork… and the suspicious Black Stork. In addition, there are Kingfisher, Oriole, Nightingale, Cetti’s Warbler, Wren and Spanish Sparrow in the river groves.
In plain areas, it is frequent to observe Cranes, Golden Plover, Black-Winged Kite, Hen Harrier, Stone Curlew, Lesser Kestrel, Little Bustard and Great Bustard among others.
And also noteworthy are the most abrupt areas in which there are the great raptors that attract attention such as the Eagle Owl, Bonelli’s Eagle, Golden Eagle or Spanish Imperial Eagle.
VALLE DE LOS PEDROCHES.
It is located in the north of the province of Córdoba. The rivers Zújar, Guadalmez and Yeguas respectively, mark their geographical limits with the provinces of Badajoz and Ciudad Real.
There are areas of Dehesa, very important from the ornithological point of view, since they maintain through their management high degrees of biodiversity. There are characteristics of these ecosystems species like the White Stork, Black Stork, Red kite, Black Kite, Little Owl, Jay, Black Vulture, Griffon vulture, Booted Eagle and Common Buzzard. There are also species such as Common Crane and Great Bustard whose existence is highly linked to this landscape. You can also see Bonelli’s Eagle, Golden Eagle or Spanish Imperial Eagle.
In this landscape, crossed by the river Guadiato and almost in equilibrium with the workings of man, where zones of cultivations and pastures are mixed, they allow the presence of steppe birds of great ornithological interest like Black-Bellied Sandgrouse, Great Bustard, Little Bustard, large number of Common Cranes and the outrageous Stone Curlews.
In the reservoirs such as San Pedro and Guadiatillo, you can watch Spoonbills, Red-Crested Pochard and even the elusive Water Rail. It is a real spectacle to contemplate the arrival of the great bands of Common Cranes and Greylag Goose when arriving at dusk to the roosts next to the reservoir of Sierra Boyera.
To the north of the Vega del Guadalquivir we find one of the most representative habitats of the province of Córdoba, Sierra Morena. Huge extensions characterized by the presence of oak and cork trees that upholster the soil accompanied by other plant species that form the Mediterranean scrub: Myrtle, Lentiscos and Labiérnagos this landscape constitutes a good refuge for the insectivore birds like the warblers or the thrushes.
The area is also an ideal habitat for some of the most interesting birds of the province like Spanish Imperial Eagle, Black Vulture or the Black Stork, where they find refuge and tranquillity in these great extensions. Also, it is the area with the largest number of individuals of Golden Eagle and Bonelli’s Eagle within the province.
Throughout this territory, we can find large extensions of pine forest that also houses other small birds such as Common Crossbill, Nuthatch, Brambling and Hawfinch. It is a great area for the Birdwatcher, where huge bands of Iberian Magpie aka Azure-Winged Magpie can surprise us.
VEGA DEL GUADALQUIVIR.
From the ornithological point of view, the region of the Vega del Guadalquivir, could be considered as one of the most diverse in the province, as it is a transit zone between Sierra Morena and the countryside, without forgetting also the great influence exerted by the river Guadalquivir, which acts as an authentic migration route for many species. An example of this diversity, representing various enclaves, where species come to settle are some specimens of raptors such as the Golden Eagle, Bonelli’s Eagle and Eagle Owl, even the threatened Spanish Imperial Eagle, all typically mountainous. Thus, juvenile specimens of these, find food among the abundant hares, rabbits, rats, pigeons and partridges that inhabit the Vega. As for the migratory species, to cite the appearance each year of species like Egyptian Vulture, with the location of some roosts, Black Kite, Osprey, Hobby and Marsh Harrier, also Gull-billed Tern, etc.
Along the river, and curiously in the heart of Cordoba, you can find roosts with large concentrations of Cattle Egrets, Cormorants and Night Heron. Also birds like the Purple Swamphen, Kingfisher, Little Bitterns and even Bluethroat.
Extensive open areas south of the Guadalquivir, characterized by the existence of land with soft hills dedicated entirely to agricultural work, especially wheat. This makes it an ideal area to find steppe birds, such as Great Bustard, Little Bustard, Red-Legged Partridge, Stone Curlew, Montagu’s Harrier, Black-Winged Kite, Skylark, Calandra Lark, and Short-toed Lark.
The typical construction of these agricultural areas, known as “Cortijo”, is a magnificent place for the settlement of various species such as the Lesser Kestrel, Roller and Little Owl.
Further south, we find an area with huge extensions of olive trees and some areas dedicated to vine cultivation. This agricultural system implies a very homogeneous use of the soil that does not allow for the diversity of the landscape. Let’s look to where we can find birds, we will see long streets formed among the olive trees that give protection to Red-Legged Partridge and Stone Curlew. Between the hollows of the trunks, we can find the refuge for Little Owl and Hoopoe; its song is one of the most typical of the olive grove.
Along with its boundaries, congregate numerous flocks of finches looking for seeds in the pointed thistle with such species as Greenfinch, Serin, Linnet and Goldfinch. In areas of vines, it is still possible to observe Rufous Bush Robin.
In some areas, you can find some island forests with the last Holm Oaks in the area. These are often visited by Song Thrush, Warblers, Booted Eagle, Raven etc.
LAGUNAS DEL SUR DE CORDOBA.
It is a set of permanent, seasonal and reservoir lagoons, inserted in the upper Cordoba countryside. The best time for bird watching in these places is the winter season, as the water levels tend to be more generous with the abundance and variety of wintering species making them very attractive. However, in the beginning of the summer period, during the months of February and March, there is a moment of splendour in which the spring migration steps converge, coinciding in many cases with species, that after spending the winter in these gaps are prepared to leave for breeding areas in the north of Europe mainly and those that arrive to begin the courtship that will culminate with the reproductive process in these places.
You can watch in this area: Herons, Kingfisher, Black-necked Grebe, Red-crested Pochard, Pochard, Teal, Tufted Duck, White-Headed Duck, Wigeon.
The Subbeticas Mountains are home to the highest peaks in the province of Córdoba. In some of its rugged sierras, such as the Tiñosa, Bermejo, the Picacho great raptors have their territories, such as the Eagle Owl, Golden Eagle, Bonelli’s Eagle, Peregrine Falcon and Griffon Vulture.
In addition, they are good lands to observe birds linked to areas of rock and scree like the Black Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Thrush and Chough.
In level areas of height, like the Nava de Cabra, you can see many kinds of warblers: Subalpine, Sardinian, Blackcap, Western Orphean, Whitethroat… and in pre and postnuptial passage, Ortolan Bunting and Whinchat.
Article: Antonio Pestana
Photos: Antonio Pestana and Peter Jones
Note: The views expressed in articles are those of the authors, and are not necessarily those of the Society.