Balearic Islands


The Balearic Islands are an archipelago in the western Mediterranean Sea, near the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula. The four largest islands are Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza, and Formentera. The archipelago forms an autonomous community and a province of Spain, of which the capital city is Palma. The co-official languages in the Balearic Islands are Spanish and Catalan (i.e. Mallorquí, Menorquí and Eivissenc, as Catalan is known by its speakers in this territory).

The Balearic Islands comprise Majorca and Minorca, which are the Balearic Islands proper, and other smaller islands. The main islands of the autonomous community are Majorca (Mallorca in Catalan), Minorca (Menorca), Ibiza (Eivissa), and Formentera, all of which are popular tourist destinations. Among the minor islands is Cabrera, which is the location of the Parc Nacional de l’Arxipèlag de Cabrera. The islands can be further grouped, with Majorca, Minorca, and Cabrera as the Gymnesian Islands, and Ibiza and Formentera as the Pine Islands.

The climate of islands is a Mediterranean Climate. With cold and mild, rainy winters and warm, sunny summers.

Majorcaa is most definitely the ornithological jewel in the Balearic crown and is the most frequently birded island. It has two mountainous regions each about 70 km in length. These occupy the northwestern (Serra de Tramuntana or Tramuntana range) and eastern thirds of the island. The highest peak on Majorca is Puig Major (1,445 m) in the Serra de Tramuntana.

Puig Major ©Olaf Tausch Wikimedia Commons

As this is a military zone, the neighbouring peak at Puig de Massanella is considered the highest accessible peak (1,364 m). The northeast coast comprises two sweeping bays: the Badia de Pollença and the larger Badia d’Alcúdia. Inland of here lie some of the best birding areas of the island with slat pans and the extensive reedbeds of S’Albufera d’Alcúdia Nature Reserve as well as the fame Boca Valley with its Egyptian Vultures and other scarce birds.

Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus ©Stepen Hammer Birding Ecotours

The northern coast is generally rugged and has many cliffs. The central zone extending from Palma is generally flat fertile plain known as Es Pla. The climate is Mediterranean, with markedly higher precipitation in the Serra de Tramuntana. Summers are hot in the plains and winters mild to cool, getting colder in the Tramuntana range; in this part of the island brief episodes of snow during the winter are not unusual.

The island is surrounded by two uninhabited small islands: Cabrera (southeast of Palma) and Dragonera (west of Palma).

Wildflowers abound in spring and there are smaller mammals and reptiles to be seen but it is really the birds that wildlife viewers go to see. Well placed for migration spring is best with much going through, but anytime of year is good. The Albufera is not only a great reserve in itself, but testament to the islands conservation aims as all schoolchildren on the island visit the reserve at least once a year.

Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala ©Birding Ecotours

Nesting storks, roosting night herons, re-introduced purple gallinule and white-headed duck, passing pratincoles and Eleanora’s Falcon are just some of the highlights but even the common birds, which abound are great for northern European visitors. Nightingales seem everywhere in spring with blackcaps, Sardinian Warblers and Great Reed Warblers competing for your attention. Common pond turtles inhabit the dykes and little bittern may be seen waving on a reedstem while water rail search the stream margins.

Away from the reserve one can encounter several rarer warblers, collared flycatchers, orioles, firecrest, blue rock thrush, and rufous-tailed rockthrush as well as European black vulture, bee-eaters and the black-headed race of yellow wagtail. Its hardly a surprise that this holiday island is the first overseas birding experience of many northern Europeans.

Western Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava ©Birding Ecotours

Two top birding localities:

Parc Natural De S’Albufera De Mallorca (Map)

The Albufera is a real model for reserves in Europe, not least because every Majorcan schoolchild has to visit at least once a year… a great policy we should all adopt. Basically the reserve is a large wetland with very extensive reedbeds, scrapes, canals and scrub and hosts many breeding birds such as the purple gallinule and is a magnet for passage migrants – almost anything can turn up! It is possible at the right time of the year to see literally dozens of Eleanora’s falcons in the air over the marshes whilst surrounded by birdsong and delighted by everything from purple heron to great reed warblers. There is a supporting cast of hoopoes, roosting night herons and much more. What is more it is within walking distance (for the fit) of many hotels and allows vehicular access to blue badge holders. Visit! Fatbirder

Salinas de Migjorn – South Mallorca  (Map)

Salinas de Migjorn is popular with local birdwatchers with a great number of prey species, attracts raptors, including marsh harriers, kestrels, and ospreys.

Text Source: Fatbirder

Map Source: Googlemaps™

Photo Source: ©Birding Ecotours

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