Wildlife Tours in Spain
Spain has a diverse array of native animals, including a wide variety of fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. The country is home to some renowned species, such as the Spanish ‘Big Five’: Bearded Vulture, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Iberian Lynx, Iberian Wolf and Eurasian Brown Bear.
Other distinctive mammals encountered in Spain include Common Genet, Wild Boar, Barbary Sheep and Spanish Ibex. While, on the coast, cetaceans, otters and seals may be seen. The country has the second largest number of mammals in Europe, with 115 different species recorded.
Spain is home to 635 bird species, including kites, vultures, eagles, storks, flamingos and bustards. The impressive abundance of birds that can be found in Spain is due both to its geographical location (it is a natural route between Europe and Africa) and its varied landscapes and climates. Several native Spanish species are recognised as endangered. One of these is the Iberian Lynx – the most endangered cat in the world – with fewer than 100 adults remaining in Spain as of 2014. Other endangered species include Spengler’s Freshwater Mussel, El Hierro Giant Lizard (Canary Islands) and Mediterranean Monk Seal. This varied collection of wildlife may be attributed to its diverse ecosystems and, as defined by the WWF, the ‘Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub’ biome covers most of the country.
The historic regions of Aragon and Navarre in Northern Spain are home to some of its most dramatic scenery. Covering an area of 18,424 square miles, Aragon’s terrain ranges diversely from permanent glaciers to verdant valleys, rich pasture lands and orchards, through to the arid steppe plains of the central lowlands. Aragon is home to many rivers – most notably the river Ebro, Spain’s largest river in volume, which runs west-east across the entire region through the province of Zaragoza. It is also home to the Aneto, the highest mountain in the Pyrenees. Despite its relatively small size, neighbouring Navarre also features stark contrasts in geography, from the Pyrenees mountain range that dominates the territory to the plains of the Ebro river valley in the south.
Amongst some of the most scenic mountains and plains in Europe, Northern Spain is home to some of Europe’s and the world’s most spectacular birds including Bearded Vulture, Wallcreeper, Griffon Vulture, White Stork and White-winged Snowfinch. There is also the chance of seeing Great and Little Bustards, plus thousands of Common Cranes on the plains during the winter. During the summer, it has one of the highest diversities of butterflies in Europe and a rich Pyrenean flora that includes many orchids. The Pyrenees supports one of the highest diversities of butterflies and moths in Europe, including Apollo, Clouded Apollo, a great diversity of blues and fritillaries, Spanish Moon and Giant Peacock Moths. During mid-July, it is possible to see 120 species of butterfly in a week. Mammals to be seen in the mountains include Pyrenean Chamois, Alpine Marmot (introduced) and there is the chance of Wild Cat. Lastly, the Ebro Delta near Barcelona is not too distant from the Eastern Pyrenees. Typical birds to be seen there include Greater Flamingo, Squacco Heron, as well as Audouin’s and Slender-billed Gulls.
Best sites: Laguna de Gallocanta, ‘Belchite Steppes’ including El Planeron Ornithological Reserve (near Zaragoza), Los Monegros (steppe between Huesca, Lleida and Zaragoza), Sierra de Guara, Pyrenees – Aragon (Jaca, especially the Hecho Valley) and Navarra (Isaba), Bardenas Reales National Park.
Timing: The peak time to visit Laguna de Gallocanta for cranes is usually late February when the greatest numbers are normally present – between 20,000 and 50,000, prior to their northbound migration over the Pyrenees to their breeding grounds in Northern Europe. This is also a good time to look for wintering Wallcreeper in the Sierra de Guara. The best time for butterflies and flowers in the Pyrenees is from mid-June to the end of July, which is also a good time for birds although mid-May to mid-June is usually the peak time for birds during the summer.
For more information, contact one of our featured experiences below or view all listings to assist you in booking your next wildlife tour in Spain.