Birdwatching in Gibraltar
Gibraltar sits at a crossroad for bird migration. The Rock of Gibraltar lies at the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula and within sight of North Africa, on the narrow Strait of Gibraltar, which is at the mouth of the Mediterranean. The area is famous for its migrating birds. Best known are the huge numbers of soaring birds that congregate here twice yearly, on their migrations between Europe and Africa. These are joined by songbirds and near-passerines that although less conspicuous, undoubtedly outnumber the soaring birds by many orders of magnitude. Less well-known are the seabird migrations between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, but many thousands of birds use this route too.
Gibraltar is thus a prime site for birdwatching. The diversity of species that migrate past the Rock is reflected by its bird list: 310 species have been recorded in Gibraltar’s 6.7 km2. Good raptor migration can be very spectacular, with thousands of Black Kites and Honey Buzzards in particular. Short-toed and Booted Eagles can be numerous too and a day will typically produce more than ten species of raptors, storks and falcons. Passerine migrants are common and falls are sometimes spectacular, with an excellent array of warblers, chats and flycatchers. Seabird migration can be impressive too, with many Audouin’s Gulls, shearwaters and terns especially, which are joined by smaller numbers of other species, such as Skuas.
Breeding birds also offer some specialities for birders. Thousands of pairs of Common and Pallid Swifts breed in Gibraltar and a few pairs of Alpine Swift inhabit the Rock’s cliffs, which they share with five to seven pairs of Peregrines, Common Kestrels, a small colony of Lesser Kestrels and Blue Rock Thrush. Sea caves at the southeastern end of the Rock hold a small colony of the Mediterranean subspecies of the European Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis desmarestii). Gibraltar’s most emblematic breeding bird is the Barbary Partridge, which is found nowhere else in mainland Europe. The species is not easy to see, but patient observers may well encounter them in the Gibraltar Nature Reserve.