The Community of Madrid has interesting excursions to nature in search of some of its most appreciated birds, such as the imperial eagle and the bluethroat. We visit the best points to look at the sky and continue discovering the natural wealth of the region.
Get lost in nature, listen to the song of the birds with your eyes closed and isolate yourself from the world for a few moments. There are many magical corners where you can experience this sensation in the Madrid region , a region truly rich in different species of birds, perfect for discovering ornithological tourism and continuing to learn about these animals.
The biodiversity of the area, its landscape contrasts and its wide range of natural spaces create the ideal conditions for lovers of ornithology. With almost 40% of its protected area, the Community of Madrid has about 240 species of birds (of the almost 400 in Spain), with species such as the imperial eagle or the black vulture.
In response, the Ministry of the Environment, Local Administration, Spatial Planning and Sustainability has launched Madrid Birdwatching: an initiative that enhances the ornithological wealth of the region through the approach and awareness of the population about the birdlife and the territory where it lives.
More and more fans of bird watching, a practice better known as birdwatching , which consists of the sighting and recognition of species in their natural environment while enjoying their songs. Practicing this hobby is so simple that many families join this summer to go into nature and learn through the environment, but what does it take to do it?
The birdwatching is done in open spaces, so the first thing we must bear in mind is that not all birds will find themselves close enough to avistarlas at first sight, so it is always advisable to bring binoculars. The activity can last for hours, so comfortable and closed shoes, sun protection (especially in summer), water, food and repellent for insects are essential. And, to record all the sightings and know in which areas we can find the greatest number of species, you cannot miss a field guide or map of the area, pencil and paper.
Once the whole team is assembled, we will be able to enter the habitats of the birds, always with an attitude of respect for the environment and the animals. The best thing is to reduce any type of noise, since this could scare away the birds, and not touch or alter the nests that may be on the way.
The Red de Vías Livestock has brought together the most attractive areas for birdwatching lovers in the Community of Madrid in 28 Ornithological Routes. These roads run through the different ecosystems of the region, passing through mountains, steppes, pine forests, deciduous forests, wetlands … environments that are distributed around the Special Protection Areas for Birds ( ZEPAs ), with the scientific supervision of SEO-BIRDLIFE .
With the download of the Ornivías app, the experience increases, with route recommendations and the identification of birds through images. Thus, we find the cereal steppes of the Jarama and Henares rivers, encompassing the area that runs from the Sierra Norte to the Tagus River, with populations of great bustard, little bustard, pinilla kestrel, and ashen and pale harriers.
For its part, the ZEPA Cortados y Cantiles of the Manzanares and Jarama rivers , integrated into the Southeast Regional Park, stands out for its endemic Mediterranean areas of great ecological value. Here you can see populations of peregrine falcon, black kite (unique in its kind for breeding in cuttings), lesser kestrel, bustard and eagle owl.
With such a wide offer, the Community of Madrid has published a set of guides for those who wish to practice ornithological tourism with all the facilities , which can be accessed through this link ( https://madridbirdwatching.es/ ).
Despite the fact that the Iberian imperial eagle is one of the most endangered birds of prey on the planet, in the Madrid Community you can find pairs of this species nesting a few kilometers from the capital, with special incidence in the Mediterranean forest.
The Sierra Oeste, the Monte de El Pardo and the Soto de Viñuelas are three places where the habitat of this forest is present. Specifically, the Soto de Viñuelas is an itinerary of great scenic value in which, in addition to the Iberian imperial eagle, you can see birds such as the hoopoe, the black and griffon vulture, chickadees and the common zarcero, among many others.
Located within the Regional Park of the Cuenca Alta del Manzanares (Alcobendas, San Sebastián de los Reyes; Metropolitan Area) , the Soto is divided in two by the seasonal Calverón stream, extending 9.5 km in length, making it an excellent place where to practice birdwatching and feel the Mediterranean forest.
Sierra de Guadarrama
Elevations of more than 2,000 meters, rocky peaks, slopes covered by extensive forests of Scots pine and Pyrenean oak hide the bluethroat nightingale. This bird, hidden among the bushes and mountain pastures, makes itself known in spring, when the males engage in a song competition and exhibitions that make the Sierra de Guadarrama and Sierra Norte soundtracks.
But not only the bluethroat is found in these mountain areas of the Community of Madrid. We can find the red rocker, the alpine pipit or the mountain greenfinch in the highest areas covered by pastures or rocky areas; while if we move to the forests on the slopes, it is very likely that we will spot the scops owl, the oriole, the crossbill, the blue tit or the papialbo mosquito. In addition to these species, raptors prefer high mountain areas, such as the black vulture and the griffon vulture, the golden eagle, the booted eagle, or the red kite, among others.
In the Sierra de Guadarrama another path is erected where you can see the golden eagle, the griffon vulture, the tawny owl and the great tit, combining culture and nature. ‘The Purgatorio waterfall’ is a linear route that begins at the historic Puente del Perdón, with views of the National Artistic Monument of the Royal Monastery of Nuestra Señora Santa María de El Paular and continues along the Vereda del Camino de Madrid. After entering a wild pine forest we find the waterfall, located within the Alto Lozoya SPA. With 7,869 hectares, the area boasts the largest nesting population of black vultures in the entire Community.
Why not go bridwatching while visiting a site? The route from Collado Mediano to the Posada Romana runs through different livestock routes and through the history of the Community from Roman times to the 18th century. And, along the way, you can see: hoopoe, booted eagles, scops owls, griffon vultures, redstarts, warblers, red kites, common blackbirds, European robins, common or common finches, woodpeckers and wrynecks.
The Madrid steppe is an ideal place to spot different species of community birds, which fly over the ground and leave their shadow as an ephemeral trace of their journey through the skies . The countryside of the Jarama and Henares rivers, the Middle Course of the Guadarrama river and Madrid’s Alcarria are home to the best populations of birds and steparias in Western Europe.
The bustards find their places to live in these places and they give place to one of the great ornithological shows, with the observation of the nuptial parade of dozens of males that are exhibited in the “wheel” . Those who delve into this environment will find other species adapted to such a peculiar habitat, such as the Montagu’s harrier, the lesser kestrel, the little bustard, the Iberian gangue and the Ortega gangue, the calandria, the common and the montesina cogujada, or the terrera common.
Also noteworthy is the Valdetorres de Jarama and Talamanca de Jarama route , through the southeast of the region, with an 8.5km itinerary crossed by wide plains of cereals and linked by cattle trails and agricultural roads. And already in Madrid’s Alcarria, Los Páramos de Pozuelo del Rey, are a perfect setting to see birds of prey such as the Montagu’s harrier, thanks to the scarcity of vegetation.
On the shores of the region
Water in the Community of Madrid is another of the great attractions for some unique species in the area. The artificial lagoons that have arisen as a result of the abandonment of gravel pits have been occupied by numerous aquatic animals and are refuges for biodiversity.
The purple swamphen shows off its metallic blue plumage among the vegetation of these enclaves, while the fly bird surrounds rivers and lagoons, along with the bittern, purple swamphen, marsh harrier, great crested grebe, black-necked grebe and horn warbler. Anatidae such as the European spoon or the scarcer red duck, among many others, can be seen in the wetlands of the region, with the brown porrón being a sporadic visitor to these environments.
Following the path marked by the water , around the Santillana reservoir (parallel to the M-601) the sighting in winter and during the migratory passages is guaranteed . It is likely that we will find specimens of mallard, common spoon and frieze mallard. There is also the presence of other species such as the common teal, the tailed duck, the great crested grebe or the common grebe.
But if we talk about spaces marked by the flow of rivers, the route through the wetlands of Aranjuez cannot be missed , which crosses the crops of the Tajo valley and where the buzzard, the common coot and the imperial heron are sighted, among many other species.
In the city
The parks are one of the greatest attractions of the Madrid region, with some historical ones, such as San Lorenzo de El Escorial. In addition to being a recreation and refreshment area in summer, they are one of the favorite enclaves for wild birds, which take advantage of their vegetation to settle in these areas, making the city their home.
In those parks with lagoons inside, we can find various ducks, the great cormorant and other aquatic birds. In the largest parks, more than 40 different species are counted on a morning walk.
Either without leaving the city, or entering the highest mountains of the Community of Madrid, practicing bridwatching is an activity that is as satisfying as it is accessible for anyone who wants to learn in nature.