Extremadura: An Introduction

Extremadura is a remote region of Western Spain, bordering Portugal, known particularly for its diverse wildlife. The region mainly comprises of forests, mountains, lakes and steppes, which support an enormous array of animals; birdlife in particular. In fact, Extremadura is famous for its birdlife, in particular its large numbers and density of birds of prey.

We have spent the past 10 days in this area, looking for its many species of wildlife, both in national parks and in its towns and along its roads. More posts to come.

The particular species of interest in Extremadura include the rare Spanish Imperial Eagle, found only in this part of Spain, various vulture species, harriers, bustards and the Iberian Ibex, found only in Extremadura and in the mountains of the south-east of Spain.

Habitats:
To support the vast number of species it does, Extremadura has a wide variety of habitats, including mountains, steppes and dehesas.

The dehesas of Extremadura cover 35% of the total area, and are unlike anything I have seen before. They look more suited to an African landscape than one in Europe. They are the result of a gradual clearance of the Mediterranean forest, resulting in a reduced number of trees standing individually across the land. Bird species of the dehesas include Hoopoe, Azure-winged Magpie, numerous warblers, buntings, and raptors such as Black-shouldered Kite, Black Kite and Booted Eagle.

As well as dehesas, there are a number of mountain ranges in Extremadura, which provide a home for different species of animal. The mountainous regions are often a raptor haven where birds such as Golden Eagles, Eagle Owls, Black Vultures, Griffon Vultures and Spanish Imperial Eagles can live and breed. The Parque Nacional de Monfrague is a particularly good spot for seeing raptors, with large colonies of vultures living and nesting on the cliff faces. Crag Martins, Blue Rock Thrush and Rock Buntings also thrive here. Iberian Ibex can be found in the Sierra de Gredos, a mountain range on the northern border of the region.

The steppes, plains and farmland in Extremadura cover most of the flat land between mountains or dehesas. This habitat is home to large populations of Great Bustards, whose courtship displays are a major attraction for birdwatchers. They live alongside Little Bustards, Sandgrouse, Stone Curlew and Little Owl. Montagu's and Hen Harriers hunt over the fields. 

Throughout Extremadura, rivers and streams cut through the countryside and create many unique habitats for a wide variety of life. In the north, the rivers support Dippers and Wagtails, whilst the riverside vegetation can support many smaller bird species such as Penduline Tits, Nightingale, Cirl Bunting and Blackcaps. Warblers, Kingfishers and Herons also thrive.



Extremadura posts to come...

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