Best time to travel to Lisbon

Birdwatching in Lisbon

During the migration season, Lisbon and its vicinity turn into a wintering site and migration stop-off point for thousands of birds

Best time: October–April


Being located on the way to Africa and having a mild climate, the city plays an important role in bird migration. The first wave of migration can be observed in September-October when the birds are leaving Europe, the second—in March-April when they are coming back. Some birds leave Portugal to spend the winter in Africa, while others that arrive from the North stay for a few months in Lisbon surroundings.

There are two main areas in the vicinity of Lisbon where you may enjoy birdwatching—the Tagus and the Sado Estuary Nature Reserves. These areas are occupied by migratory waterbirds, wintering waders, ducks, and numerous other species. The Sado Estuary can boast an extremely high concentration of shorebirds in winter: it is common to see up to 100 species a day.

The Sado Estuary is known not only for its aquatic species but also for birds living in the hills and woodlands. Thus, you may see Purple Herons, Marsh Harriers, Black-winged Stilts, and Little Terns in the estuary. You also have a chance to spot the nests of White Storks.

Aside from birds, the area is famous for a unique population of Bottle-nosed Dolphins: for them, the River Sado is a natural habitat. To watch them closely you can take a boat trip.

Besides observing birds near the ocean, there is an option to go on a bird watching walk within the city: over 130 species of birds have been registered in Lisbon. You may check out such spots as Tapada da Ajuda, Garden of Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Parque das Nações, and Monsanto Forest—the biggest green area in the city. For passerines watching, you should visit Monteiro-Mor Park, for common starlings—Cais do Sodré. Meanwhile, Belém and Matinha are suitable for waterbird sightings.

Also, you may contact a representative of a local Birding Pal community. It unites people fascinated by birdwatching: they will happily show you the best spots and guide you through the city to introduce you the most interesting species. As Birdingpals are not professional guides you are not supposed to pay, they just want to get in touch with like-minded people.

Practical info

When is the peak migration season for birdwatching in Lisbon?

To see the highest concentration of birds in Lisbon and its surrounding areas, visit between October and April during the peak migration season. During this period, birds are either migrating to Africa or passing through Lisbon on their way to other locations. Early migrants can be seen between September and October while the return of birds is usually from March to April. Show more

Which areas are the best for observing birds in the vicinity of Lisbon?

The Tagus and Sado Estuary Nature Reserves are two great areas for watching birds near Lisbon. These areas attract various bird species like migratory water birds, wintering ducks and waders, among others. The Sado Estuary is renowned for its quantity of shorebirds in winter, while within the city, Tapada da Ajuda, Garden of Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, and Parque das Nações are places you might have good sightings. Show more

What bird types are common in the Tagus and Sado Estuary Nature Reserves?

The Tagus and Sado Estuary Nature Reserves are home to a diverse range of bird species. The Sado Estuary boasts aquatic species such as Marsh Harriers, Black-winged Stilts, Little Terns, and Purple Herons, while various shorebirds, ducks, and other waterbirds can be found at the Tagus. It is not unusual to see up to 100 species of birds a day during winter at the Sado Estuary, and you can also spot White Stork nests. Show more

Besides birds, are there any other animals to spot while birdwatching in Lisbon?

Apart from birdwatching, it is possible to spot other animals while observing nature around Lisbon. A dolphin in their natural habitat, the Bottle-nosed Dolphin can be found in the River Sado, where you can take a boat trip to watch them up close. Additionally, Lisbon's numerous parks and green areas harbor diverse flora and fauna such as reptiles, amphibians, and small mammals. Show more

How can I contact the local birding community while in Lisbon?

The Birding Pal community is a perfect platform for connecting with the local birding community in Lisbon. The group consists of bird enthusiasts who are keen on helping visitors explore Lisbon's birdwatching spots. The community members will guide visitors around the area, showing them the best birdwatching sites without accepting payment. While they are not professional guides, they are passionate like-minded people sharing the love for birdwatching and making exploring accessible for visitors. Show more

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Last updated: by Eleonora Provozin