Birdwatching in Sardinia

Birdwatching map of Sardinia

As a birdwatcher who lived in the town of Sassari from 2005 to 2007, I decided to create this website to provide information about possible places for birders from all round the world to go birdwatching in Sardinia.  When I first arrived in Sardinia, I was surprised to find how little information there is about where to watch birds in Sardinia, or indeed about places you can go walking in Sardinia.  I've provided information about my favourite local birdwatching sites in the north-west of Sardinia, and also about some of the more famous sites from around the island.  The website does not include all possible locations for birding in Sardinia, as there are many more that I am still discovering, but it's a good start!  Birdwatchers visiting Sardinia should find the information useful.  Raising awareness is the first stage towards conservation.  To that aim, I hope this website comes in useful and helps with the appreciation and protection of the excellent wildlife that Sardinia can be proud of! 

Birdwatching at Lago di Baratz

Birdwatching at Stintino

Birdwatching around Porto Conte

Birdwatching at Pilo & Platamona

Birdwatching around Oristano

The Griffon Vulture Colony at Bosa

Birdwatching on Isola di San Pietro


Birding at Molentargius & Santa Gilla

Other places to birdwatch in Sardinia: Gennargentu, Laguna di Nora, Monte Arcosu

Links to other sites


Key bird species in Sardinia

If you have any further information about other possible sites or species that you have recorded in the area, let me know and I can add them to the website.  All comments and updates to the website are appreciated! 

        Happy Birding!        Jason Anderson                                  

Birdwatching in Eritrea A website for birdwatchers who want to visit Eritrea.

Jason Anderson Educational Consultant My professional website as a writer, teacher trainer and educational consultant.



Key Bird Species in Sardinia

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Corsican Citril Finch Griffon Vulture
The Corsican Citril Finch, endemic to Sardinia and Corsica is locally common in Sardinia.  Unlike in Corsica, where it can be found down to sea level, in Sardinia the Corsican Citril Finch is usually only found in upland areas (over 800m in summer, and over 500m in winter).  Some of the best places to see the Corsican Citril Finch in Sardinia include the whole Gennargentu area, for example at Funtana Bona, south of Orgosolo or at Monte Perda Liana 20km west of Tortoli.  I've also seen it in the Monti di Ala, near Oschiri.  Other birders have also reported it at Monte Paidorzu, south east of Ozieri.  Look for it in areas of open woodland or lightly-grazed alpine meadows.  The flight call is easy to learn and diagnostic.  The Corsican Citril Finch forages both in trees and on the ground in Sardinia. The Griffon Vulture can be easily found in Sardinia.  The only remaining colonies are located just north of Bosa.  Click here to go to the page that describes the exact location.  Number estimates vary, but there are certainly no more than 100 pairs between the two colonies, so the species is still extremely vulnerable in Sardinia.  There used to be a colony at Punta Cristallo, just north of Capo Caccia, however, only 1 or 2 pairs breed here at best nowadays.  The Griffon Vultures are easy to find and identify, as a number of birds are to be found at the main colony all year round.  Like all vultures, they fly more in the afternoon/evening and are instantly identifiable due to their 2.5m wingspan!  The adults have a creamy white neck ruff, and the juvenile birds have a pale brown neck ruff.  These birds feed mainly on livestock carcasses that are left out by local farmers, and can be seen up to 30km from the colony scouring the landscape for food.
Eleonora's Falcon Purple Swamp Hen
Eleonora's Falcon is a summer visitor to Sardinia (May to October), where it is known to nest in 2 key locations:  San Pietro Island (and locally along the mainland coast of the south west) and the Gulf of Orosei on the East coast.  San Pietro Island (Isola di San Pietro) is the easiest location to see Eleonora's Falcon, and it's well worth the trip across on the ferry to see them there.  Click here to go to the page that I've dedicated to this island.  The colony in the Gulf of Orosei (Golfo di Orosei) is very difficult to get to, although occasional birds can be seen from the resorts at Arbatax and Cala Gonone.  Eleonora's Falcon prey mainly on small birds and take advantage of the southbound autumn migrants to feed their young, who don't fledge until late September.  The 2 colour morphs (dark and light) can both be seen in Sardinia.     The Purple Swamp Hen (formerly called Purple Gallinule) is a fairly common, but very elusive resident across most of Sardinia's freshwater wetlands.  It can be seen at Platamona and Valledoria in the north, at various locations across the Oristano wetlands and at Molentargius in the south, the only place where it is abundant and easily seen.  Many other locations may exist.  It forages among Phragmites reeds or green water vegetation, sometimes at the water's edge, sometimes deep within the reedbeds.  It is most active early in the morning, and has a loud, diagnostic contact call.  From a distance, it's white undertail shows up best of all.  Click here to go to the page on Birdwatching at Oristano which describes one reliable location in detail.   
Note:  All the following species roughly follow the order of standard taxonomy
Night Heron Little Bittern
Fairly common, but elusive around Oristano.  I've seen and photographed it at S'Ena Arrubia.  Also possible at some Cagliari wetlands.  A common but elusive summer visitor to all freshwater wetlands in Sardinia.  Good sites include Molentargius, S'ena Arrubia, Lake Baratz and Platamona.  Often seen flying into and out of reedbeds in summer, rarely seen feeding.
Great Egret Squacco Heron
Common on passage and frequent during the winter at all major wetland areas in Sardinia, both freshwater and saline.  Cattle Egret is widespread in Sardinia and expanding its range.  Quite local in Sardinia.  I've seen and photographed the Squacco Heron at Molentargius and at Platamona.  Possible also around Oristano. 
Glossy Ibis Purple Heron
Uncommon migrant in Sardinia.  Rare breeder at Cagliari wetlands.  I've seen it on migration at Lake Baratz and Stintino. Common summer visitor to all freshwater wetlands in Sardinia.  These include Molentargius, Oristano, Lake Baratz, Platamona, Valledoria and the Stagno di Calich.
Greater Flamingo Spoonbill
Finding flamingos in Sardinia is not difficult.  This is a surprisingly abundant species in the winter, even more common on passage, and still fairly widespread in the summer.  Although the only confirmed nesting colonies on the island are near Cagliari (at Molentargius and Santa Gilla), there are lots of other birds around the island all year round.  Pretty much any saltwater Stagno has a population at certain times of the year, however Flamingos can appear and disappear quite suddenly depending on availability of food/salinity levels.  In the Oristano area, the Stagno Sale Porcus boasts a large winter colony of flamingos, often over 200 birds.  S'Ena Arrubia always has plenty (I've counted up to 1000 flamingos here!) and various other small Stagni often have small numbers.  In the north west of Sardinia, the Stagno di Pilo sometimes has over 100 birds, and the Stagno delle Saline at Stintino sometimes has a small population.  Always avoid approaching too close to flamingos, as they are vulnerable to disturbance.  If they stop feeding as you approach, you've got as close as you can.  Any closer and they'll fly off.    Uncommon but regular winter and migrant species in Sardinia.  I've seen Spoonbill at S'Ena Arrubia near Oristano, at Molentargius, Santa Gilla, and at Stintino in the north west several times.
Ferruginous Duck Red-crested Pochard
Never common, but frequent in various freshwater locations, mainly in winter and on passage, although some birds breed at Molentargius near Cagliari.  It can also be seen at various small freshwater lakes around Oristano, for example one near the Stagno di Cabras.  Go to my Oristano page for more details, In the north west it is frequent at the Stagno di Platamona and occasional at Baratz.  Very similar in its locations, habits and scarcity to the Ferruginous Duck.  Some birds breed in the Oristano area, and possibly at Molentargius near Cagliari.  Can also be seen regularly on passage at Platamona.
Golden Eagle Bonelli's Eagle
Still fairly widespread in Sardinia.  The Golden Eagle's stronghold is unsurprisingly the high mountain area of Gennargentu, however it can also be seen in the north east at Monte Limbara, at the Altopiano di Budduso, at Monte Arcosu and the Iglesiente Mountains in the south west.  A few pairs can also be seen north of Bosa and some in the Sarrabus mountains to the north east of Cagliari.   I've done a lot of research on Bonelli's Eagle in Sardinia, and I'm fairly certain that the species no longer breeds here.  In Europe this is a resident species, so Bonelli's Eagle is probably extinct from Sardinia.  The last reliably confirmed breeding report is of a pair breeding in the Gennargentu area near Arbatax in the 1980s.  Short-toed Eagle is more likely on passage in Sardinia.  Sardinian ecotourism websites often boast Bonelli's, but these reports tend to be based on outdated hearsay. 
Osprey Montagu's Harrier
An uncommon, but regular migrant at Sardinia's stagni and lakes in spring and autumn, with occasional birds wintering in Sardinia, for example at Stagno di Pilo in the north west. Small breeding populations can be found in agricultural areas near Oristano, Arborea and also south of Bosa.  Hen Harriers winter in Sardinia, so confusion between females of the two species is possible in spring and autumn.
Goshawk Lesser Kestrel
Extensively distributed in Sardinia, but never common.  Frequents both mature Leccio (Holm Oak) and Sughero (Cork Oak) forests, as well as some areas of mature macchia scrub interspersed with trees.  The best places to see Goshawk in Sardinia include Monte Arcosu and the whole Iglesiente area in the south west and Gennargentu in the east.  Sardinian Goshawk are smaller than mainland European birds according to Caredda1 Extensively distributed but always local in Sardinia.  Identification of females in Sardinia is highly problematic as the resident Kestrel race in Sardinia tends to be smaller and more rufous on the underside than in the UK or other northern European countries, which may easily lead to misidentification.  Lesser Kestrel can be seen anywhere in Sardinia, but good locations to try for the species are around the Bosa area in the north west, and near Osilo and Tempio in the north.
Little Bustard Barbary Partridge (Pernice Sardo)
A challenging bird to find in Sardinia, however it can be locally common, with reports of up to 60 birds congregating in some spots in the winter.  Try between Osilo and Ploaghe - follow the only road that links the two villages and keep your eyes peeled!  Little Bustard also breed in good numbers around the villages of Tula and Oschiri near the Lago di Coghinas.  I expect there are many other populations around the island.  The males display only at dawn in the spring.  At other times of the day and the year, it can be very elusive.  The Little Bustard is protected from hunting by Italian law. Fairly ubiquitous and common on macchia scrub throughout Sardinia despite extensive hunting. The territorial call is clear and distinctive (but quite different from the Red-legged Partridge) and as it is the only partridge species in Sardinia, any birds flushed are identified!  To locate the Barbary Partridge, follow a path across an extensive area of hilly macchia scrub, and listen for the calls.  Birds tend to flush at about 10-15 metres, giving good views.     
Stone Curlew Collared Pratincole
Fairly abundant though decreasing in Sardinia.  Generally resident, although more active in the summer, and noisy in the spring, when easiest to find.  Likes stony, rough grazing land, and sometimes cultivated fields.  Very local summer breeder.  I've seen them at one location near Oristano, and they also breed in wetlands near Cagliari (Caredda1).
Black-winged Stilt Avocet
Fairly common across Sardinia's many Stagni and Saline.  Breeds and some birds also winter here, but the Black-winged Stilt is more abundant during spring and autumn.  Good locations to find it are Stintino, Isola di San Pietro in the south west, and Stagno di Sale Porcus at Oristano. Local breeding species.  Numbers increase in spring and autumn and some birds remain for the winter.  Good locations are near Oristano and on the Isola di San Pietro. 
Kentish Plover Audouin's Gull
Fairly common resident around the whole coast of Sardinia, although easily overlooked on Sardinia's white beaches and around the numerous salines. Stintino is a reliable location.     Very difficult to see during the winter months, Audouin's Gull breeds at several selected locations around Sardinia (most are islands such as Isola Piano, near Asinara north of Stintino and San Pietro in the south west), however the largest breeding colony in Sardinia is at the Laguna di Nora south west of Cagliari, next to the Roman ruins of Nora.  Click here for details on this location.  I've also seen them quite regularly at Platamona during the summer in the north and around Porto Conte near Alghero.  The islands of Maddalena in the north east are another good place to see them.
Slender-billed Gull Gull-billed Tern
Fairly common summer visitor to the stagni and salines of Sardinia, where they spend a lot of time swimming on the water, both feeding and resting.  Due to the general lack of gull species, they are fairly easy to identify as all similar species are very rare in Sardinia except Audouin's Gull, which is much larger.  Only confusable with Black-headed Gull in autumn.  Good locations include Isola di San Pietro and Stintino.  Very local summer visitor and breeder.  Molentargius and Santa Gilla near Cagliari are the only 2 reliable locations that I know of, although they should also be found in the Oristano area.  The call is distinctive for a tern.  They need to be separated from Sandwich, Common and Little Tern in Sardinia. 
Roller Bee-eater
Rare summer visitor to Sardinia.  The best place to find it is the area around Abbasanta about 40km north east of Oristano along the 131 motorway, where the extensive open olive groves and cork oak pastures make ideal territory.  Also reported from the Porto Conte area in spring and in the north west near the Stagno di Pilo, although more likely these birds are migrants.    Common summer visitor to Sardinia.  Frequents open agricultural land, preferring cultivated areas to rough pasture.  The distinctive call is usually the first sign of a party of bee-eaters.  Often sit on telegraph wires.
Alpine Swift Pallid Swift
Common summer visitor to a variety of habitats, especially mountainous and rocky areas, but also over agricultural land.  The call is distinctive and easily identifies the species. One of the best places to see it is at Capo Caccia in the spring and autumn. Very difficult to separate conclusively from the Common Swift, so it's difficult to evaluate how common the Pallid Swift is in Sardinia.  Most of my definite identifications have been in hilly or mountainous areas, although they also frequent towns according to most authors, and may mix freely with Common Swift.
Calandra Lark Short-toed Lark
Fairly common resident in Sardinia, found across most of the arable land of the island.  Tolerates even very dry, barren areas with little ground cover.  Song flight in spring showing dark underwing and thick white trailing edge is quite distinctive.  Here, during song flight Calandra Lark mimicks species such as Kestrel, Cetti's Warbler, Goldfinch and Meadow Pipit (the last of these separates it reliably from Short-toed Lark in Sardinia).  Sometimes reluctant to fly and so difficult to see in the winter.  Needs to be separated from Skylark, Woodlark (which inhabits even treeless terrain in Sardinia) and Short-toed Lark.  Sardinian birds have a clearly visible dark patch on the side of the neck.  A good places to look for it is in the dry meadows and fields along the 199 road from Olbia to Sassari.  Also possible from Stintino to Porto Torres in the north west.  One of 4 lark species in Sardinia along with Calandra Lark, Sklark and Woodlark.  It is only found in the summer, unlike the other 3 species.  Look for it on arable land, ideally neglected or fallow fields from sea level up to about 800m.  The Short-toed Lark prefers slightly thicker ground cover than the Calandra Lark.  Restless mover, feeding in small flocks even in the summer.  The song flight includes a lot of good mimicry, but is unlikely to be confused with Calandra Lark due to size and underwing colouration.  Woodlark song is very different, and Skylark song, which is familiar to all birdwatchers, sounds a little different to Short-toed Lark. 
Crag Martin Red-rumped Swallow
Widespread and common in all mountainous and rocky coastal areas of Sardinia all year round.  Quite big, can often give an impression of being more like a swift than a swallow.  Frequent migrant in spring and autumn in Sardinia, mainly along the coasts, but sometimes congregating over water bodies with other swallow species.
Blue Rock Thrush Rock Thrush
Common coastal and upland bird in Sardinia.  Any fairly rocky coastline or rocky outcrop above 600m should have a resident pair.  The call of the male is an easy way to identify the species.  Often they call from prominent rocks within the territory.  I have looked hard for this bird in Sardinia and haven't found it (yet!).  Various authors testify to its presence in Sardinia, but there is very little suitable habitat, almost none over 1500m.  According to Caredda1 it is a regular migrant and breeder in the "zone interne dell'Isola" (internal zones of the island.  To be confirmed.
Marmora's Warbler Dartford Warbler
More challenging to find in Sardinia than many accounts indicate.  It is resident and usually prefers altitudes of 200m or higher, becoming more common as you ascend, right up to over 1000m, although it can be found down to sea level in some areas of suitable macchia, especially along cliff tops.  Marmora's Warbler prefers low macchia scrub, below 60cm in height, and can do well in well-grazed alpine meadows with occasional juniper and cistus macchia.  Not too shy, birds will reveal themselves if you are patient.  To find it easily, you need to learn it's Stonechat-like 'chuck' contact call, which is very different from that of the Sardinian Warbler. Fairly widespread resident throughout Sardinia, though never common.  It seems to prefer fairly thick, mature macchia, sometimes up to 3 or 4 metres in height, especially with lots of brambles or juniper.  The contact call is distinctive, but difficult to describe, much more 'squishy' (for want of a better word) than that of the Sardinian warbler.
Sardinian Warbler Subalpine Warbler
By far the most common Sylvia species in Sardinia.  Nearly every bush in lowland areas has one!  It is vocal all year round.  To pick out the rarer species, it is essential to become familiar with all the calls of the Sardinian Warbler.  Except in the spring, it can be very tricky to get good views of here, as it very rarely moves into the open and dives for cover whenever people approach.  Not common in Sardinia, despite some reports, although it can be found in a variety of habitats, including fairly mature macchia scrub and low oak trees of various species, often along stream valleys alongside Blackcap.  Easiest to see males performing song flight in spring.  One reliable location is the lush valleys on the east coast south of the town of Calagonone, which are also very good for passerine passage migrants in the spring. 
Spectacled Warbler Red-backed Shrike
Local breeder in Sardinia, found in macchia scrub and sometimes on salt flats with low lying Salicornia species in lowland areas only.  Elusive and difficult to see. Recently filmed by Steve Evans on the salt flats between Tharros and Cabras, just north west of Oristano. Fairly common summer visitor, usually found in macchia scrub.
Woodchat Shrike Rock Sparrow
Fairly common summer visitor, preferring macchia and open, non-intensive farmland.  Much more local in Sardinia than many reports seem to indicate.  It has a scattered distribution in upland areas. It has recently been seen near Tula, and also filmed by Steve Evans near the famous Basilica of the Holy Trinity of Saccargia, just near the junction of the 131 and the 597 roads.
Chough Spotless Starling
I've never seen Chough in Sardinia.  According to Caredda1 they nest on the eastern side of the island, presumably in the area of the Gulf of Orosei and Gennargentu.  To be confirmed. Fairly common across Sardinia.  In the winter, the vast flocks of (Common) Starling that arrive from mainland Europe can make it difficult to 'spot' (joke), but it is still here.  In the spring the (Common) Starlings leave and the Spotless Starlings are much easier to find through the summer.  They tend to prefer cultivated areas of arable crops, orchards etc. and nest on the buildings of small villages and farms.  Around Bosa, for example, Spotless Starling are always easy to find.
Serin Cirl Bunting
Common across Sardinia, even in towns and cities, where the Serin's distinctive call is more noticeable in the spring. Very common across Sardinia.  The Cirl Bunting likes both agricultural land and rough pasture from sea level up to over 1000m.  Easily located by its call and song, which is reminiscent of Yellowhammer without the final fall-rise note.
1 Salvatore Caredda:  Gli Uccelli della Sardegna; Edizioni Il Maestrale (no year given!)

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