A bird festival in Spain with a 17-year history has been taking place in February every year since 2006. Known as the Feria International de Turismo Ornitológico (FIO) it is also one of the most important bird fairs in Europe, attracting visitors and exhibitors from many different countries. Appearing there are well-known and respected Spanish ornithologists, scientists, bird guides, photographers and artists. The free-to-enter event is a meeting point for nature tourism providers, manufacturers and distributors of photographic equipment and optics, conservation organisations and filmmakers.
Introducing FIO 2022
In 2022 the 17th FIO bird fair will be held over three days, between 18 and 20 February, in the town of Villarreal de San Carlos within Monfragüe National Park in the province of Cáceres and the region of Extremadura.
A visit to FIO is to experience Spain at its most authentic. Extremadura is a region of spectacular scenery, with more than 60 protected natural areas, including Monfragüe National Park. The area’s dramatic landscapes cover remote mountains, dense forests and expansive grasslands.
Interested in visiting Extremadura for a birdwatching and wildlife tour? Have a look at the local expert tour operators featured on Blue Sky Wildlife.
Monfragüe is made up of a rugged mountain range that runs for 30km parallel to the Tagus River, between the port of Miravete and the western end of the Sierra de las Corchuelas. It contains some of the best preserved areas of Mediterranean forest and scrub in the southwest Iberian peninsula. This unique place is not only a National Park but also a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and a Starlight astrotourism destination.
An Abundance of Birds
The region of Extremadura has been growing in popularity year-on-year as a destination for wildlife watching. In particular, it offers the keen birdwatcher species such as Iberian Magpie and Black Wheatear, and a large population of breeding birds of prey – little wonder that it has achieved success with its Spanish bird festival.
Griffon and Black Vultures and Spanish Imperial Eagles, for example, can be seen in abundance around the crags surrounding the castle at Monfragüe. A visit mid-morning will catch the birds leaving their roost as warm thermals form and flying by almost at eye level from the castle ramparts.
Photo Credit : Junta de Extremadura
The National Park is also known for its Black Storks, Golden and Bonelli’s Eagles, Eagle Owls, Egyptian Vultures and Blue Rock Thrushes. Wild Cats, Genets, Wild Boar and Mongooses can also be found in this protected area if you take one of the guided trips on offer at this bird festival in Spain.
In addition, Extremadura has greater numbers of wintering Common Cranes than anywhere else on the continent – over 130,000. The plains of this region of Spain are home to Great and Little Bustards, Pin-tailed and Black-bellied Sandgrouse. And this vast, open countryside is blanketed in wildflower meadows in the spring, thanks to the region’s traditional farming practices. With the flowers come a bountiful array of butterflies and insects to attract a wide range of small birds.
Birding and Culture Combined
Nearby Monfragüe National Park is the town of Plasencia with its medieval walls, 13th-century Romanesque cathedral, newer Gothic and Renaissance cathedral and atmospheric old quarter. It was strategically placed along the Ruta de la Plata, an ancient trading and pilgrimage road that stretched from the north to the south in the western half of Spain. In the 15th century it was the home of many of the region’s noble families, who built opulent homes and religious buildings.
Further south of the National Park is the old town of Cáceres, which also reveals its rich history in its medieval and Renaissance architecture. This heritage combines with other features in the area such as an Arab citadel and a Roman amphitheatre to demonstrate what a part the province has played in the history of Spain over many centuries.
Photo Credit : Junta de Extremadura
From a culinary standpoint, a visit to this bird festival in Spain can also introduce you to some delicious local produce while you are enjoying a stroll round the exhibitors’ stands, or between lectures and workshops. Extremadura is known for its Iberian hams, goat cheeses and spicy chorizo pork sausage, and the red, white or rosé wine produced in the vineyards of Badajoz. Also on show will be other examples of the products of Extremadura.
What to Expect at the FIO Spanish Bird Festival
The FIO bird fair combines recreational and informative events connected to nature, such as talks, guided walks, workshops, exhibitions and children’s events, with activities for professionals involved in nature tourism and bird watching, such as business meetings, conferences and presentations. These activities and events, for which there is no charge, include:
- Presentations and lectures from experts in ornithology, conservation, nature in art and photography, and wildlife tourism.
- A special selection of talks from wildlife photographers discussing their art, techniques, experiences and travel involved in both still and film photography.
- Workshops on practical subjects such as drawing nature and identifying birdsong. Also, demonstrations of different aspects of nature photography led my some of the top names in the field.
- Exhibitions of photography and painting in the Art and Nature and Stage marquees. Plus a selection of images from the European Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.
- Workshops, storytelling and shows for families with various activities for children from as young as three up to the ages of 14 and 15.
- Guided birding walks from two to three hours’ duration, from leisurely paced and accessible to children and people with reduced mobility to medium paced and suitable for the over-12s and adults.
- Birding trips in a 4×4 vehicle in the National Park.
- Minibus trips to Monfragüe viewpoints.
- Electric bike trips through the Puerto de la Serrana mountain pass.
Photo Credit : Junta de Extremadura
How to Get to the Extremadura Bird Festival in Spain
- From Madrid via the A-5 and EX-A1 motorways to Villarreal de San Carlos (c 2 hours 30 min)
- From Salamanca via the A-66 and EX-A1 motorways (c 1 hour 40 min)
- From Avila via the N-110 road (c 2 hours 15 min)
- From Barcelona and Madrid by domestic flight to Badajoz Airport and then by taxi, car or bus to Villarreal de San Carlos (c 2 hours)
- From Madrid to Plasencia (c 2 hours 45 min) and then on to Monfragüe Apeadero station
- From Madrid to Plasencia (c 3 hours 30 min) and then on to Villarreal de San Carlos (2 hours)
There are free buses to and from Plasencia and Monfragüe Apeadero station to Villarreal de San Carlos.
Interested in a Guided Wildlife Trip in Extremadura?
Specialist local tour operators on Blue Sky Wildlife can tailor-make a memorable experience of birding and wildlife watching in this part of Spain. Book through Blue Sky Wildlife or enquire directly for the best prices and expert advice.