Belgium may not be the first place birdwatchers would think of visiting, but the coastal area along the North Sea and the highlands are worth the trip.
The largest concentration of waterbirds along the North Sea shore can be seen in mid-autumn and mid-spring, so generally, the wintering stretches between October and April. Around 30,000 Pink-footed Geese and 30,000 Greater White-fronted Geese spend the winter in the north of Belgium. Pink-footed Geese breed mainly in Greenland, Iceland, and Svalbard, but winters there are too cold and the geese fly to warmer, southern areas. Even though the temperature in Belgium would never be considered "hot", it is warm enough for birds from the north to survive the winter.
The easiest way to spot these flocks is to visit the polders of Damme and Uitkerke (a part of the coastal city of Blankenberge). You will also have the opportunity to see Red-breasted and Lesser White-fronted Geese there. Aside from geese, the coastal area provides shelter to Hen Harriers, Short-eared Owls, and regular Merlin.
The polders are not the only spot to watch these migratory birds. The other places to keep in mind are the harbours of Zeebrugge and Nieuwpoort by the North Sea, and the Zwin Nature Park, on the Belgian-Dutch border. The latter attracts thousands of birds that stop to have rest and find food in the estuaries and along the coastline of the park. You would see the Little Egret, Redshank, Curlew, Cormorant, Stork, Spoonbill, and plenty of other species there.
Not all the migratory birds make pit stops by the coast. Common Cranes might be observed in Hautes Fagnes, an upland area in the province of Liege, between the Ardennes and the Eifel highlands.
When is the best time to go birdwatching in Belgium?
Observing migratory birds is best practiced from October to April. Thousands of birds arrive in the coastal areas of the North Sea shore and elsewhere across the territory. Many of these birds are geese, and the Polders of Damme and Uitkerke, and the harbors of Zeebrugge and Nieuwpoort along the coast are perfect for spotting them. Show more
Where can I find the largest concentration of waterbirds in Belgium?
The North Sea shore draws the most extensive variety of waterbirds in Belgium, and specifically, the Polders of Damme and Uitkerke beside the coastal city of Blankenberge. Many migratory birds pass through, such as Greater White-fronted Geese, Pink-footed Geese, and others. Additionally, the coast's harbors are also great spots for migration-watching. Show more
What other birds aside from geese can I spot in the polders of Damme and Uitkerke?
In addition to waterbirds, several raptor birds such as Short-eared Owls and regular Merlin are also among the migratory birds passing through the Polders of Damme and Uitkerke and breed in northern Europe. Observers at the location will also see Red-breasted and Lesser White-fronted Geese, which make it one of the best spots for birdwatching in the region. Show more
Where else in Belgium can I watch migratory birds aside from the coast?
As well as the shoreline, tourists interested in bird-watching can go to the Zwin Nature Park on the border of Belgium and the Netherlands. The location is a crucial rest stop for Little Egret, Cormorant, Stoke, Spoonbill, Curlew, and various other migrating avian species. Additionally, Hautes Fagnes in the Liege province is highly recommended for its unique bird species, including the Common Cranes, Black Grouse, and Hazel Grouse. Show more
What other bird species can I see in Hautes Fagnes, an upland area in the province of Liege?
In addition to Common Cranes, woodland birds, such as the Grey-headed Woodpecker, White-backed Woodpecker, European Nightjar, can be found in Hautes Fagnes. This place is home to Capercaillie, one of the most endangered grouses in the world, Hazel Grouse, and Black Grouse, which are typically seen in undisturbed forests. It is best to visit Hautes Fagnes during the breeding season in spring and early summer to increase the likelihood of seeing the birds. Show more