Waterfowl

Ardea cinerea

Table of contents

Due to the large number of reservoirs, large lakes and other wetlands, Extremadura is one of the richest communities of birds associated with aquatic ecosystems. Below I present the most representative waterfowl of Extremadura (including waders).

Anatidae. Waterfowl of Extremadura

Common pochard Aythya ferina
Waterfowl of Extremadura
Common pochard

Diving duck with a certain resemblance to the red-crested pochard. Males differ in that they have light backs and black beaks. It feeds on invertebrates and likes clean waters with abundant vegetation. In Extremadura it breeds in Llanos de CĂĄceres, Vegas Altas of Guadiana and La Albuera, although during the winter we can see it in other areas of the community.

Gadwall Mareca strepera
Mareca strepera
Gadwall

The size of a Mallard, it is one of the most discreetly coloured ducks. It lives in open, calm and shallow water bodies where it feeds on aquatic vegetables. In the breeding season it requires the presence of emerged vegetation and islets for nesting. Present all year round in Extremadura, in winter its population increases with European specimens. As it has certain requirements in terms of habitat, its population suffers fluctuations and is currently not very abundant. It does not tolerate excessively the human presence.

Garganey Spatula querquedula
Spatula querquedula
Garganeys

Small duck whose male is very characteristic for having a white stripe on its head. The female is brownish brown, with a gray bill. In Spain it hardly breeds, but it is locally abundant during migratory passages. Its population is really very scarce in Extremadura and we can observe it occasionally in both provinces, mainly in postnuptial migration. It occupies shallow wetlands with abundant vegetation.

Great crested grebe Podiceps cristatus
Waterfowl of Extremadura
Great crested grebe

Neither the Great Crested Grebe nor the Little Grebe are in the family of the Anatidae, but I have decided to include them here because of similarities. It’s one of the waterfowl whose populations have grown the most in recent years. A diver, it feeds mainly on fish, although it may occasionally consume invertebrates or small amphibians. Its courtship is especially striking, when its plumage acquires very striking colours with a kind of crest and characteristic plumes. It is not particularly demanding in terms of water quality or marsh vegetation and is distributed throughout the region.

Egyptian goose Alopochen aegyptiaca
Alopochen aegyptiaca
Egyptian goose, Manuel Martin

Slightly smaller than a common goose, this allochthonous goose from Africa has settled in Extremadura’s reservoirs in recent years, and its populations are growing exponentially. It is notable for its colourfulness and for its shrill shriek when threatened. There are currently stable populations in the Sierra Brava, Orellana, ZĂșjar, La Serena and GarcĂ­a Sola reservoirs.

Eurasian teal Anas crecca
Waterfowl of Extremadura
Eurasian teal

It is the smallest of the Extremaduran ducks and its plumage is really beautiful, especially in the males. Common in reservoirs, lagoons and irrigation ponds, it feeds on vegetation and aquatic invertebrates. Very abundant in winter, it migrates to northern Europe to breed. It can be found throughout the region and is not particularly threatened. However, it is not very tolerant of human presence, which added to the loss of habitat, means that its populations are not very numerous.

Eurasian wigeon Anas penelope
Waterfowl of Extremadura
Eurasian wigeon

A wintering duck in the region, with beautiful plumage. It has a marked sexual dimorphism, like the majority of the ducks, the male being characterised by its chocolate head and grey body. It frequents reservoirs and lagoons, in which it feeds on leaves, roots, bulbs or rhizomes. Its population is relatively stable, although it is not abundant in the region. The reservoirs of Valuengo, Arroyo Conejos, Orellana, the Canchales and the lagoons of the Albuera are good points to observe it.

Greylag goose Anser anser 
Anser anser
Greylag goose

It is the largest waterfowl of Extremadura and of the Iberian Peninsula. It visits us in winter and the fertile upper plains of the Guadiana shelter his major concentrations. Together with the reservoir of Valdecañas are the best spots to observe it, with several thousand specimens visiting them annually. It likes to feed both in shallow wetlands and in cereal, rice and corn fields.

Little grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
Tachybaptus ruficollis
Little grebe, Ángel Cañones

It is one of the smallest waterfowl of Extremadura, and has the ability to stay submerged for several minutes in the water. It feeds mainly on aquatic invertebrates, but also on small amphibians and fry in its dives. The little grebe breeds in lagoons or ponds with abundant floating vegetation, but in winter it is also very common in reservoirs. It has a great capacity to colonize new habitats and is currently present throughout the region.

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Waterfowl of Extremadura
Mallard, Manuel Martin

It is the most common waterfowl of Extremadura and also of Spain. Worldwide, it is capable of developing in practically all water masses, including urban ones. In addition to the important resident population, Extremadura receives in winter many specimens from European countries. It feeds on both aquatic plants and small vertebrates or invertebrates.

Northern pintail Anas acuta
Waterfowl of Extremadura
Northern pintail

It is the most slender duck and is characterized by its long tail. It feeds on aquatic vegetables and small invertebrates. Very abundant in Sierra Brava and AlcollarĂ­n reservoirs. We can also observe it in Orellana, Cornalvo, los Canchales and La Albuera.

Northern shoveler Anas clypeata
Anas clypeata
Northern shoveler

Duck characterized by its very long and flattened beak, whose male has a very showy nuptial plumage. More wintering than breeding, it breeds nevertheless in some areas of the peninsula, and Extremadura is among them. It likes shallow wetlands rich in underwater vegetation. The best places to observe it are: the city of Badajoz, La Albuera,  Cornalvo reservoir, Los Canchales, Sierra Brava, Cubilar and Orellana.

Red-crested pochard Netta rufina
Netta rufina
Red-crested pochard

This beautiful diving duck has a pronounced sexual dimorphism between male and female. The male is especially beautiful with a chocolate head and a deep red beak. In Extremadura it breeds at the Orellana reservoir, the Portaje reservoir and the small Morantes reservoir. It is not a very common waterfowl of Extremadura, and is in a delicate state of conservation in the category of vulnerable.

Herons and storks. Waterfowl of Extremadura

Black Stork Ciconia nigra
Ciconia nigra
Black Stork, Mariano Cordero

One of the most iconic waterfowl of Extremadura, in danger of extinction due to the loss of its habitats, finds in this region its main breeding grounds. With customs totally different to the white stork, it does not tolerate human presence and needs tranquillity for its reproduction. Most of the navigation limitations of Extremadura’s reservoirs are made to protect this species, so we must be very careful to disturb it as little as possible when we sight it. We can observe it in Sierra de Gata, Gabriel y GalĂĄn, AlcĂĄntara lake, MonfragĂŒe, Peña del Águila reservoir, Los Molinos reservoir in Las Villuercas, Sierra Brava and of course the Orellana reservoir.

Common Spatula Platalea leucorodia
Platalea leucorodia
Common Spatula, Isaac Fdez Galisteo

Its characteristic wide beak at the end, its white colour and its large size make it unmistakable, even in the distance. It prefers shallow wetlands where it feeds on aquatic invertebrates as well as small fish or amphibians. Most of the population migrates to Africa in winter, although a growing percentage stays in the region all year round. We can see it in Gabriel y GalĂĄn lake, Almaraz, Los Canchales, La Albuera or Alange reservoir, among other places.

Eurasian bittern Botaurus stellaris
Botaurus stellaris
Eurasian bittern

This peculiar bird of the heron family has an extraordinary capacity to camouflage itself among the riverside vegetation. When it feels threatened, it stretches its neck, directing its beak upwards, and blends in perfectly with reeds and cattails. Its song is very powerful, it resembles the mooing of a bull, hence its name. It is in danger of extinction, although in slight recovery, and is one of the most difficult waterfowl to see. We can see it if we are very lucky in the Almaraz reservoir and in some sections of Guadiana River.

Glossy ibis Plegadis falcinellus
Waterfowl of Extremadura
Glossy ibis, Mariano Cordero

This species of ibis is becoming more and more frequent in the region, and hundreds of individuals can already be observed in Guadiana River, mainly at the height of Badajoz. Since 2012 it breeds in Extremadura, and we find its main population center in Badajoz dam, Montijo reservoir and Canchales reservoir.

Great egret Ardea alba
Waterfowl of Extremadura
Great egret, Álvaro de las Heras

It’s the largest egret, almost as big as the purple heron. Its populations are recovering, being more and more frequent as a wintering species, and some pairs have even reproduced in recent years in the region. Almaraz reservoir is once again an excellent place to see it, as well as Badajoz dam or Sierra Brava lake.

Greater flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus
Phoenicopterus roseus
Greater flamingo, Álvaro de las Heras

A regular visitor to Mediterranean coastal areas but an occasional visitor to Extremadura, in recent years there have been several sightings at Canchales and Sierra Brava reservoirs. Unmistakable in appearance, it is one of the largest birds we can observe in the region and on the peninsula. It visits us in winter and its population trend in recent years is positive. It feeds on all types of invertebrates, from small crustaceans to larvae or protozoa, which it captures in shallow wetlands.

Grey heron Ardea cinerea
Waterfowl of Extremadura
Grey heron, Manuel Martin

It is one of the most common  waterfowl of Extremadura, rare is the body of water (pond, lagoon, river or reservoir) in which we can not observe it. Slightly larger than the purple one and more greyish in colour, it is a typical species of Extremadura’s aquatic ecosystems. It feeds on small vertebrates, mainly fish, craws and amphibians.

Little bittern Ixobrychus minutus
Ixobrychus minutus
Little bittern

One of the smallest herons, the size of a pigeon, is frequent on riverbanks, lagoons and reservoirs with abundant vegetation where it goes unnoticed. It is usually located when it flies from one bank to another, or by its song. More frequent in spring and summer, in winter most of the specimens migrate to Africa. It feeds on small aquatic vertebrates and invertebrates and can be found throughout the region provided there is a suitable habitat. Its population is not very numerous, although the difficulty in spotting it prevents us from having sufficient data.

Little egret Egretta garzetta
Waterfowl of Extremadura
Little egret, Álvaro de las Heras

This small heron is characterized by its entire white plumage. Its black bill and legs make it easily distinguishable from the cattle egret in the distance. It is relatively abundant and lives in wetlands with shallow banks, where it feeds on small fish, invertebrates and amphibians. The little egret is present all year round in the region and usually feeds alone. It nests in large trees, forming mixed colonies with other herons.

Night heron Nycticorax nycticorax
Nycticorax nycticorax
Night heron, Álvaro de las Heras

This medium sized heron is characterized by breeding in numerous colonies along with other heron species. Very colourful with its yellow legs and red eyes, it surprises us (or surprises her) on many days when we take a walk near Guadiana river. Relatively abundant, we can find it in Almaraz, Guadiana river from Orellana to Alqueva and in Orellana lake.

Purple heron Ardea purpurea
Ardea purpurea
Purple heron, Álvaro de las Heras

Slightly smaller than the grey heron, it is infinitely more rare and very elusive, so sighting it is a cause for joy. In Extremadura it is very localized, being zones of breeding and therefore good places for its sighting the own city of Merida, the dam of Badajoz, the river ZĂșjar, the reservoir of Alqueva and the Almaraz lake. Although it’s one of the waterfowl of Extremadura more difficult to see, we can see it relatively often along Guadiana River.

Squacco heron Ardeola ralloides
Ardeola ralloides
Juvenile squacco heron, Álvaro de las Heras

The same size as the frequent cattle egret, it differs from it mainly by its colors, having a blue beak and an ochre back. It is a very rare waterfowl of Extremadura, with its main population centres in Orellana, Sierra Brava, Los Canchales, Azud de Badajoz and especially Almaraz.

Western cattle egret Bubulcus ibis
Waterfowl of Extremadura
Western cattle egret, Álvaro de las Heras

This typical waterfowl of Extremadura is very common. It has a white plumage, although It has also orange feathers on their head and neck in the nuptial season. Its presence is much less linked to the aquatic environment than that of other herons, although it usually breeds in colonies near bodies of water. It is very typical to see flocks of these birds among livestock, in pastures and grasslands, feeding on both invertebrates and small vertebrates. Its population is in clear expansion, being able to find it all over the region.

White Stork Ciconia ciconia
Waterfowl of Extremadura
White Stork, Isaac Fdez Galisteo

Unlike the black stork, the white stork is becoming more common, and a greater percentage of them stay in the region for the winter each year. It typically nests in the bell towers of villages, in the countryside it uses tall trees, electricity pylons, abandoned buildings… any platform high enough with difficult access to predators is valid for it. Although it typically moves through aquatic ecosystems, it is able to take advantage of grasslands and farming areas also to feed on small vertebrates.

Waders

Black-tailed godwit Limosa limosa
Limosa limosa
Black-tailed godwit, Álvaro de las Heras

A wader of considerable size (it can have a wingspan of more than 70 cm), its population is in clear decline, both in Extremadura and throughout Europe. The rice fields of the Guadiana plains are an excellent area to observe it, since a significant number of individuals stop there during their prenuptial migration between January and March.

Black-winged stilt Himantopus himantopus
Himantopus himantopus
Black-winged stilt, Manuel MartĂ­n

This miniature stork brightens up our view of many wetlands in the community. In addition to rivers and reservoirs, it is a frequent visitor to the rice fields of the province of Badajoz, where it finds all kinds of invertebrates. The best areas to observe it are the reservoir of Arroyo Conejos, Alange, la Albuera, Orellana, Sierra Brava, los Canchales and Badajoz dam.

Collared pratincole Glareola pratincola

The collared pratincole is a medium-sized wader that in flight reminds us of a large swallow. Cream-coloured, very pretty and striking, especially in spring, it emits a noisy song when moving in a group. They feed on insects in flight, and can be seen in the area of Llerena and Azuaga, Alange reservoir, Albuera, Orellana, Sierra Brava and Los Canchales lagoons.

Glareola pratincola
Collared pratincole, Álvaro de las Heras
Waterfowl of Extremadura
Collared pratincole, Álvaro de las Heras
Common greenshank Tringa nebularia
Tringa nebularia
Common greenshank

It is the largest of the greenshanks inhabiting the region, of good size and long legs. Its colouring is quite light and its beak is very slightly curved upwards. Wintering in Extremadura, it can be seen during the coldest months in the reservoirs of Cornalvo and Los Canchales, and occasionally in other shallow wetlands. It feeds on invertebrates and occasionally on small fry.

Common redshank Tringa totanus
Tringa totanus
Common redshank

Slightly smaller than a pigeon, and browner in colour than a redshank. It has red legs and is found in shallow waters of rice fields, reservoir tails and temporary lagoons. There it feeds on aquatic invertebrates and can capture small amphibians and fry. It has a breeding population in some parts of the peninsula, but in Extremadura it hardly breeds at all and is considered a wintering bird. It is not very abundant in the region.

Common ringed plover Charadrius hiaticula
Charadrius hiaticula
Common ringed plover

It is the only plover that does not breed on the peninsula, wintering on the peninsula and in the region. It has a large head and a short bill with which it feeds on small invertebrates, both terrestrial and aquatic. In addition to its size, it is distinguished by its orange bill with a black tip. It is mainly coastal, but can be seen in  Sierra Brava, Cornalvo and Los Canchales reservoirs.

Common sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
Waterfowl of Extremadura
Common sandpiper, Ángel Cañones

One of the smallest waders, lighter in colour and with shorter legs than the large sandpiper, lives in shallow wetlands. It is present in the region in winter, migrating in the breeding season towards the north, although it can occasionally reproduce. The common sandpiper feeds on small invertebrates that it captures on the surface or in muddy banks. It likes the banks of streams, rivers and reservoirs as long as they are sandy but with gravel and pebbles. It is not currently threatened, although it is not particularly abundant.

Common snipe Gallinago gallinago
Waterfowl of Extremadura
Common snipe

A small wader with incredible agility in flight, it comes to Extremadura only for the winter. Similar to a woodcock but with much more aquatic habits, it feeds on small invertebrates that it captures in shallow waters. It is also very common to see it in the rice fields of Las Vegas Altas. Relatively common in rivers, banks and wetlands, it is more abundant in the province of Badajoz. Its populations are in decline due to the loss of habitat in its breeding areas and because its a waterfowl of Extremadura that has hunting pressure.

Curlew sandpiper Calidris ferruginea
Calidris ferruginea
Curlew sandpiper, Kev Chapman

It stands out for its white obiscile and its reddish plumage during the nuptial season. It is not an abundant species on the Peninsula, where we can find passing or wintering specimens. More abundant in the province of Badajoz, it can be found in practically any wetland. It is often found in mixed groups together with sandpipers.

Dunlin Calidris alpina
Calidris alpina
Dunlin

A small, slender-legged, long-billed wader that usually runs along the silty banks of lakes and reservoirs. Present in Extremadura during the winter months, it feeds on small invertebrates. Also quite coastal in its habits, it is nevertheless at home in marshy areas, wetlands and other inland aquatic ecosystems. It is more abundant in the province of Badajoz and is currently not endangered.

Eurasian curlew Numenius arquata
Numenius arquata
Eurasian curlew

It is the largest of the waders in Extremadura, unmistakable because of its long curved beak. Its plumage is light brown with dark spots and its whitish belly. It feeds on slimy shores and rice fields of aquatic invertebrates. There is no established population, sightings are occasional and always in winter. As its populations are so fluctuating, it is difficult to determine a more suitable area for sightings, however Sierra Brava and Cubilar reservoirs and Las Vegas Altas are interesting spots.

European golden plover Pluvialis apricaria
Pluvialis apricaria
European golden plover

The size of a dove, this wader visits the region in large flocks in the winter season. Speckled yellowish-brown with a short beak, it feeds on worms and other invertebrates on plains and waterlogged meadows. It is often seen in mixed flocks with lapwings. In spring it returns to more northern countries to breed. Los Llanos de CĂĄceres, Las Vegas Altas and La Serena host important populations of several thousand individuals each.

Green sandpiper Tringa ochropus
Tringa ochropus
Green sandpiper

Small wader characterised by its strong contrast between its white belly and dark brown back. Its bill is slender and long, adapted for catching invertebrates in shallow water. Its legs are slender, greyish-green and it has a characteristic wagging tail and body swaying movement. Wintering in the region, it is distributed in all types of inland waters with a positive population trend.

Grey plover Pluvialis squatarola
Pluvialis squatarola
Grey plover

This species of plover is much less abundant than the golden plover, but it also visits us during the winter. Either on migratory passages or because it hibernates in the Iberian Peninsula, we can observe it between October and March approximately. Like the dorado, its breeding plumage is much more striking, although we cannot normally see it with its plumage, as it breeds in northern Europe and Asia. More common in coastal areas, it can be seen in different wetlands in Extremadura.

Jack snipe Lymnocryptes minimus
Lymnocryptes minimus
Jack snipe, Tony Hisgett

The smallest of the snipe, although its populations are rather scarce, it visits Extremadura every winter. It is most likely to be seen in the province of Badajoz, although during its migrations it can be seen throughout the region. It feeds on small invertebrates that it captures on the edges of wetlands or sufficiently damp ground. When we surprise it and it takes flight, it emits a very characteristic song.

Kentish plover Charadrius alexandrinus
Charadrius alexandrinus
Kentish plover, Álvaro de las Heras

Another wader with very coastal habits, but which can also be seen in the region. It is easily identified from other plovers by its red beret. Rare in the region, it rarely breeds in Extremadura, although in winter it is easier to see specimens from European countries. It feeds on small invertebrates, both insects and worms, and is classified as vulnerable.

Little ringed plover Charadrius dubius
Charadrius dubius
Little ringed plover

Small wader characterized by its black collar and mask and a bright yellow eye ring. It usually walks along the silty banks of ponds and streams where it feeds on small invertebrates. It nests on rocky shores and islands where there is gravel and sand and during the cold season it migrates to Africa. This plover is not particularly threatened, although habitat loss and nest predation affect its populations negatively.

Little stint Calidris minuta
Calidris minuta
Little stint

It is the smallest wader in the region, and is characterised by its black legs and bill. The underparts are white and the back is mottled brown. It feeds mainly on aquatic invertebrates and although it is an eminently coastal bird, it can be found in the region during the winter. The reservoirs of Sierra Brava, Cornalvo and Los Canchales are frequently visited by these sandpipers, whose population has been fairly stable in recent years.

Marsh sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis
Tringa stagnatilis
Marsh sandpiper

An occasional wader in the region, it is characterized by its greenish legs. It feeds on small invertebrates in shallow waters. Its wintering area is mainly in the African continent, and during this migration we can observe some specimens in Extremadura. The best places to observe them are the Montijo reservoir and Vegas Altas del Guadiana.

Pied avocet Recurvirrostra avosetta
Recurvirostra avosetta
Pied avocet

Similar in size to the black-winged stilt, although much scarcer, it is one of the most striking waders because of its contrasting black and white plumage. It occasionally visits the region in winter, having been sighted mainly at Sierra Brava and Orellana reservoirs.

Ruff Philomachus pugnax
Philomachus pugnax
Ruff

Relatively large wader, the size of a partridge that frequents natural wetlands and shallow reservoir banks. It is characterised by a very striking nuptial cortege in which the males display feathered plumes and dance. With its long, fine and robust bill, it feeds on aquatic invertebrates during winter. It breeds in Arctic and sub-Arctic areas and its population is quite threatened in the Iberian Peninsula. Very scarce in Extremadura, we can locate it during the migratory passage in the lagoons of the Albuera.

Sanderling Calidris alba
Calidris alba
Sanderling

It breeds at really high latitudes, being one of the waders whose breeding area is furthest north. It spends the winter in mid-latitudes, especially in western European countries such as Spain, France, the United Kingdom and Ireland. A part of the population reaches Africa, which is why in the Iberian Peninsula and in Extremadura we can find wintering or passage populations. White and grey in winter, it is not rare (although not frequent) in Extremadura, although the bulk of the population tends to live in coastal areas.

Spotted redshank Tringa erythropus
Tringa erythropus
Spotted redshank

Poco frecuente en la regiĂłn, aunque se suele observar en los pasos migratorios en otoño y primavera. Al igual que el archibebe comĂșn, las patas son rojas o anaranjadas y tiene un color mĂĄs oscuro que este, casi negro en plumaje nupcial. Principalmente es costera, aunque puede habitar en humedales interiores y arrozales. En la regiĂłn podemos observarlo en la Albuera, los Canchales y en las vegas Altas, alimentĂĄndose de invertebrados asociados al medio acuĂĄtico.

Temminck’s stint Calidris temminckii
Calidris temminckii
Temminck’s stint

A rare species both on the Iberian Peninsula and in Extremadura, which can occasionally be seen during its migration. It breeds in northern Europe and Asia, moving to Africa to spend the winter. It likes all types of humid areas where it can be seen alone or in small flocks. Small size, discreet plumage and also discreet habits, as it is not usually seen together with other waders.

Wood sandpiper Tringa glareola
Tringa glareola
Wood sandpiper

LimĂ­cola muy estilizada que tiene las patas mĂĄs largas que otros andarrĂ­os. CrĂ­a el norte de Europa y Asia y en invierno emigra a África por lo cual en la penĂ­nsula lo encontramos generalmente de paso. EsporĂĄdicamente puede ser invernante y podemos localizarlo en humedales someros, en los que se alimenta de invertebrados, fundamentalmente insectos. La destrucciĂłn de sus hĂĄbitat de invernada hacen que estĂ© en declive en las Ășltimas dĂ©cadas.

Passerines associated with the aquatic environment

Bearded reedling Panurus biarmicus
Panurus biarmicus
Bearded reedling

It is not a very abundant bird in the region but there are sedentary populations that inhabit the region throughout the year. It is usually found in wetlands, with large areas of reeds, bulrushes, cattails…. The bearded reedling usually feeds on their edges and is a rather shy bird. It is not easy to see and the male is characterized by two black spots that resemble a mustache, hence its name. There are populations in the Almaraz reservoir, the banks of the Guadiana and in the small reservoirs near Arroyo de la Luz.

Common grasshoper warbler Locustella naevia
Common grasshoper warbler

Slightly smaller than a sparrow, its mottled brown plumage blends in perfectly with the marshy vegetation it inhabits. It feeds on small insects and spiders, and is present in Extremadura only during its migratory passages. The Arrocampo reservoir is the best place to observe it, both in spring and autumn. In Spain it only breeds on the Cantabrian coast and likes to frequent wetlands and riverbanks with dense marsh vegetation.

Common kingfisher Alcedo atthis
Waterfowl of Extremadura
Common kingfisher, Jorge LĂĄzaro

This small but beautiful bird shows incredible skills for fishing small fish and tadpoles. I have decided to include it among the waterfowl for the same reason as the dipper. It swoops for its prey and is able to dive with great skill. It inhabits all kinds of wetlands in the region, always with a minimum quality of water and in winter the population increases due to the migration of individuals from northern countries.

Common reed bunting Emberiza shoeniclus
Emberiza schoeniclus
Common reed bunting, Artur Rydzewski

Although there are small breeding nuclei in the Iberian Peninsula, the specimens we can see in Extremadura are always wintering, coming from central and northern Europe. Brownish on the back and whitish on the belly, the male has a striking black head during the nuptial period. They usually move in flocks in areas of reeds, cattails and other marsh vegetation and are very clearly identified by their song, similar to a whistle. They usually seek the edges of crops where they feed mainly on seeds.

Common waxbill Strilda astrild
Estrilda astrild
Common waxbill

Originally from Africa, the common waxbill or common strilda is an invasive species that has been permanently inhabiting the peninsula for several years now. Very small size, usually lives in flocks of dozens of specimens in areas of marsh vegetation. It feeds on small seeds and occasionally on insects. It can be found in more and more marshy areas, mainly in the province of Badajoz.

Eurasian penduline tit Remiz pendulinus
Remiz pendulinus
PĂĄjaro moscĂłn europeo

The size of a goldfinch, it is easily identified by its black mask, grey head, reddish-brown back and pink belly. It lives in banks with abundant marshy vegetation, reeds, swords, bulrushes… The Almaraz reservoir is one of the best places to observe it, as well as Las Vegas Altas del Guadiana. It feeds on insects and other invertebrates and is present all year round in the region. In winter many specimens arrive from northern countries and their populations are slightly increasing.

Eurasian reed warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus
Acrocephalus scirpaceus
Eurasian reed warbler

Small bird with very discreet colours that inhabits the banks of rivers and streams with abundant marsh vegetation. It stands out for its powerful song and feeds mainly on invertebrates. It is most abundant in the province of Badajoz and the best places to observe it are Guadiana dam and river Caya in Badajoz, Vegas Altas and Almaraz. At the end of summer it migrates to Africa and is not currently threatened.

Great reed warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus
Acrocephalus arundinaceus
Great reed warbler

It is the largest of the peninsula’s warblers, slightly larger than a sparrow and characterised by its peculiar song. With a greyish-brown or greenish back and a lighter belly, its habitat is very similar to that of the common reed warbler. Like the reed warbler, it migrates to Africa in summer and is not endangered, although it is slightly less abundant than its companion. It feeds mainly on invertebrates, although outside the breeding season it may eat small fruits and seeds.

Grey wagtail Motacilla cinerea
Motacilla cinerea
Grey wagtail

Very similar in appearance to the western yellow wagtail, it differs from this one in that in addition to the beret, it also has a bluish-grey back, and it also has a black throat. It is closely linked to continuous and clean water currents, which is why it is more common in the north of CĂĄceres. It is present all year round in the breeding areas, and in the winter the region also receives specimens from more northern countries. The grey wagtail also feeds on small invertebrates and its state of conservation is good.

Red avadavat Amandava amandava
Amandava amandava
Red avadavat

This passerine is one of those present in this block that are not native to this country. Its populations probably arose from releases or escapes, as they are birds widely used as pets. It has adapted very well to the plains near the aquatic environment, taking refuge in reeds, cattails and shrubs and other riparian vegetation. They present a clear sexual dimorphism, being the males of very showy red colors and the females gray with reddish obispillo. They tend to adapt very well to anthropic environments, they are hardly afraid of humans.

Savi’s warbler Locustella luscinioides
Locustella luscinioides
Savi’s warbler, Ron knight

Similar to the common grasshoper warbler, it differs from the latter in that it has more reddish colors, without stripes and a more rounded tail. Quite shy, it is only seen when it is singing. In Extremadura there are some resident populations and lives in areas of reeds and cattails. Almaraz or the banks of the Guadiana are 2 points where we could observe it. It also feeds on small invertebrates, always near wetlands.

Sedge warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus
Acrocephalus schoenobaenus
Sedge warbler

This small bird mimics incredibly well and is quite difficult to spot. Present in the region during migratory passages, there is no stable population in Extremadura throughout the year. Present in humid areas with a lot of marsh vegetation, it is characterized by a dark crown and a pale eyebrow. Common in central and northern Europe, it migrates to Africa in winter and it is during this migration when we can observe it making a stopover in our country. Rare in Extremadura, we can observe it both in the wetlands of CĂĄceres and Badajoz.

Village weaver Ploceus cucullatus
Ploceus cucullatus
Village weaver

The size of a sparrow, this passerine, originally from sub-Saharan Africa, has recently become established in Extremadura, where it currently has a stable population. In their original habitat they live in a wide variety of open and semi-open habitats, but in Extremadura they are usually seen in areas of reeds, rushes and bulrushes. However, as they feed on seeds, they are also closely associated with crop fields.

White-throated dipper Cinclus cinclus
Waterfowl of Extremadura
White-throated dipper

About the size of a blackbird but a little more chubby and with a white chest. Perhaps it is not the most appropriate to include it among waterfowl of Extremadura, but I have decided to do so, as I have divided it by habitat. It lives mainly in the well-preserved rivers north of Cåceres, with clean waters, where it captures underwater invertebrates. We can also observe it in the area of Guadalupe and near  Gabriel y Galån reservoir.

Western yellow wagtail Motacilla flava
Motacilla flava
Western yellow wagtail

Small bird typical of wetlands, irrigated meadows and riverbanks. It is also used to move among the cattle and stands out because of its grey beret, its olive yellow back and its bright yellow belly. It feeds on small insects and invertebrates and is frequently observed on its migratory passages, although some couples manage to reproduce. Not very common in the region, Los Llanos de CĂĄceres is one of the areas where we can most easily observe it. In winter it migrates to Africa.

White wagtail Motacilla alba
Motacilla alba
White wagtail

The size of a sparrow, it is characterized by its long tail and its white, black and gray tones. It frequents riverbanks, the banks of reservoirs and irrigated crops, feeding on small invertebrates. Present all year round in Extremadura, it is more frequent in winter. During the winter it tends to concentrate in large roosts in urban parks. It is very adaptable to different environments and its population is not threatened.

Yellow-crowned bishop Euplectes afer
Euplectes afer
Yellow-crowned bishop

Invasive in nature, its populations have increased greatly in recent years throughout the Guadiana basin. It adapts very well to areas with riverside vegetation such as reeds, rushes, bulrushes, but also to rice fields. It is a very colourful bird with marked sexual dimorphism during the breeding season, when the males are black and bright yellow. It feeds mainly on seeds, but in the breeding season invertebrates become an important part of its diet.

Zebra finch Taeniopygia guttata
Taeniopygia guttata
Zebra finch

The finch, also known as the mandarin finch or zebra finch, is a species introduced in the region, originally from Oceania. Its use as a pet has meant that it is now present in many countries around the world, with ever-increasing populations. It is highly adaptable to different environments, although it is usually associated to marshy areas. It groups together in flocks of several dozen specimens and feeds mainly on seeds.

Zitting cisticola Cisticola juncidis
Cisticola juncidis
Zitting cisticola

It is one of the smallest birds on the peninsula, brown in colour with dark spots on the back and a whitish belly. It inhabits areas of marshy vegetation, crops and riverbanks. Present all year round in Extremadura, it feeds on small insects and other invertebrates. It can be identified by its undulating flight, which is usually accompanied by a characteristic song. It is distributed throughout the region, although La Serena, Orellana, Los Canchales and Los Llanos de CĂĄceres are the best places to observe it.

Ralids and other waterfowl of Extremadura

Black-headed gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus
Chroicocephalus ridibundus
Black-headed gull

A small gull, it is characterized by its dark chocolate head in its summer plumage. We can observe it in big reservoirs, rivers with slow currents, crops and rice fields. It is very abundant in winter, staying a few specimens in summer to reproduce. It usually moves in numerous and very noisy flocks and feeds on small animals, both vertebrates and invertebrates. The black-headed gull is distributed throughout the region.

Black tern Chlidonias niger
Chlidonias niger
Black tern

A very rare species both in the Iberian Peninsula and in Extremadura, where it can be seen as a passage bird but not as a breeder. Small in size, like the whiskered tern, it is characterized by its dark color bordering on black during the breeding season, turning to grayer tones in summer. Normally we can observe it both in migratory passage and in winter in different reservoirs of the region, although sometimes we can also observe non-breeding specimens in summer. It feeds mainly on invertebrates and small fish.

Common gull Larus canus
Larus canus
Common gull

Of medium size, it is a regular wintering bird on the peninsula, mainly on the coasts. A percentage of individuals go inland, mainly to large reservoirs, and it is in these that it can be seen in Extremadura. It is not particularly abundant and is intermediate in size between the smaller black-headed and mediterranean and other larger birds such as the lesser black-backed or yellow-legged. In addition to its size, it is easily identified by its white “mirrors” on the tips of its outer primaries. It feeds on small vertebrates and invertebrates associated with the aquatic environment.

Common moorhen Gallinula chloropus
Gallinula chloropus
Common moorhen

The size of a partridge, this dark blue, almost black, pale is easily identified by its red beak with a yellow tip. It frequents all types of wetlands as long as there is little current and abundant marsh vegetation. Present throughout the year in the region, it also frequents the rice fields of Las Vegas Altas. With a great capacity to adapt, it could be considered abundant and feeds on both plant material and invertebrates associated with the aquatic environment.

Common tern Sterna hirundo
Sterna Hirundo
Common tern in flight

It is the most common of the terns in the Iberian Peninsula, however in Extremadura it is not very common and can be observed mainly during migratory passages. Its characteristic red bill and black beret make it easily identifiable. Its song is also very characteristic and at the end of summer it is usually grouped in large flocks. In Extremadura it can be seen mainly in large rivers and reservoirs, feeding on small fish and invertebrates.

Eurasian coot Fulica atra
Waterfowl of Extremadura
Eurasian coot, Manuel MartĂ­n

Matte black, with a white beak and forehead, it is one of the most common waterfowl of Extremadura’s wetlands. Frequent in reservoirs, lagoons and wetlands in which it makes floating nests with the vegetation present there. Present all year round in Extremadura, it feeds on aquatic invertebrates and plants. It is not a particularly demanding species in terms of choice of habitat and its populations are widely distributed.

Great cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
Waterfowl of Extremadura
Great cormorant, Ángel Cañones

It is one of the most common waterfowl of Extremadura but also in the world. It is adapted to both marine and terrestrial ecosystems and in Extremadura its populations have grown exponentially. Large and black, it feeds mainly on fish, but also on other aquatic vertebrates. It has a predilection for large reservoirs in which it finds large numbers of small fish, although it can also be seen in smaller bodies of water.

Gull-billed tern Gelochelidon nilotica
Gelochelidon nilotica
Gull-billed tern

The size of a pigeon but with thin and long wings, it is characterized by its black head, beak and legs. It frequents aquatic ecosystems such as reservoirs in which it breeds on islands devoid of vegetation, but we can also see it in meadows and crops. For example Orellana, Sierra Brava and Los Canchales reservoirs are good spots to see it. A summer bird in Extremadura, it migrates to Africa to spend the winter. It feeds on small vertebrates and some invertebrates, not necessarily associated with the aquatic environment.

Lesser black-backed gull Larus fuscus
Larus fuscus
Lesser black-backed gull

A large gull with dark grey wings and a yellow beak, with a red spot on the underside. Frequent in reservoirs, dumps, crop fields… it has a great capacity to adapt. This waterfowl is very numerous in winter, but does not breed in the region. It feeds on all kinds of small vertebrates and invertebrates, as well as waste in rubbish dumps. It is distributed throughout the region and its population is on the rise thanks to its adaptability.

Little tern Sternula albifrons
Waterfowl of Extremadura
Little tern

It is the smallest of the terns, characterized by its long wings and forked tail that give it extreme agility. It is very curious to see the way it feeds, swooping from a considerable height to capture small fish. This tern breeds on the ground in small colonies, especially in Alange and Canchales lakes. Present in most of the reservoirs in the province of Badajoz, in winter it migrates to Africa.

Mediterranean gull Larus melanocephalus
Larus melanocephalus
Mediterranean gull

Much less common than the Black-headed Gull, it is often found in mixed flocks with them, with which it is easily confused. It can be seen in practically all the reservoirs and wetlands of the region. The mediterranean has a more intense red bill and the primary feathers of the wings are black in the black-headed, while white in the mediterranean. Both have black or very dark heads in summer plumage, but the mediterranean is usually slightly larger. They tend to gather in groups and feed on invertebrates and small fish.

Yellow-legged gull Larus michahellis
Larus michahellis
Yellow-legged gull

It is one of the most common gulls on the coasts of the Iberian Peninsula, although not so common inland. It is a large gull and in Extremadura it can be seen throughout the main rivers and lakes of Tajo and Guadiana basins. It feeds on all kinds of small animals, and is also very common in the vicinity of rubbish dumps. It can be seen throughout the year in the region, being more abundant in winter. It differs from the Lesser Black-backed Gull in its larger size and its back, which is lighter in colour in the Yellow-legged Gull.

Water rail Rallus aquaticus
Waterfowl of Extremadura
Water rail

Another one of the pale ones present in the region, the size of a common moorhen, but with a longer red beak and the most vivid colours. It has a brown back with black spots and a metallic blue chest and belly. Frequent in wetlands, rice fields, canals and ditches, provided there is abundant marsh vegetation. It is present throughout the year and feeds on both small vertebrates and invertebrates. More common in the province of Badajoz, it is not particularly threatened, although it is not abundant either due to its specific habitat requirements.

Western swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio
Porphyrio porphyrio
Western swamphen in Badajoz, Hilary Hoe

This large bird of the ralid family was on danger of extinction due to loss of habitat and high hunting pressure. However, the efforts made for its protection and its great capacity of recovery have contributed to the fact that today it is a settled species, even abundant in some wetlands of the community. The best spots for its sighting are Almaraz reservoir, the city of Badajoz itself, Los Canchales reservoir and Guadiana river between Merida and Badajoz.

Whiskered tern Chlidonias hybrida
Chlidonias hybrida
Whiskered tern

Slightly smaller than a turtledove, but with longer and thinner wings, it is easily identified by its black hood with red beak and legs. It feeds on insects and other aquatic invertebrates, and usually hunts in small groups. They build floating nests with branches in wetlands and dammed waters, and in late summer they migrate to Africa. We can observe it in Alange, Sierra Brava, Los Canchales reservoirs and Albuera lagoons.

Thanks to Manuel Martín, Alvaro de las Heras  Olivecobirding, Mariano Cordero and Isaac Fernåndez Galisteo for the pictures of these waterfowl of Extremadura.

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