Flora and Fauna of the Algarve

Image galleries of the manifold fauna and the lush vegetaion of the various landscapes of the Algarve in the south of Portugal: the coastal strip of the Litoral, the hilly Serra and the Barrocal region in between

The lagoon landscape of the “Ria Formosa” stretches along the Eastern Algarve coast from Faro International Airport to the village of Cacela Velha near Tavira. It is well protected from the open sea of the Atlantic by a chain of islands and peninsulas and a unique habitat of immense ecological value. The salt marshes, sandbanks, dunes and estuaries of the Ria form an internationally important breeding, wintering and staging area for numerous species of water birds, and many migrating birds stop over here on their passage south. Oystercatchers, egrets, ibis, cranes and even flamingos can frequently be seen wading through the mudflats. The so-called "Costa Vicentina", the western coast of the Algarve stretches over more than 60 km from Cape St. Vincent, the south-western most tiper of the European continent, to Odeceixe on the Algarve-Alentejo border. The landscape is still, generally, unspoilt by tourism and rich in many different types of flora and fauna. The Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e da Costa Vicentina with 70.000 ha it is one of Portugal's largest nature reserves. The Reserva Biogenética de Sagres has a unique ecological system, which attracts ornithologists from all over the world during the autumn. In October the areas around Sagres and Cape St. Vincent are particularly sought out by migratory birds. Most of the species that make their way to Africa each winter pass through here, particularly the great glider birds that circle for hours on the thermal air currents. To take advantage of this phenomenon, the World Bird Watchers’ Festival is held here every year, offering visitors the chance to take part in walks organized by specialists, whose explanations make the bird watching experience even more exciting. In the Eastern Algarve from the estuary mouth of the river Guadiana, the border with Spain, to the beginning of the Ria Formosa east of Tavira, sandy dunes with a unique vegetation separate the coastal strip from the backdrop of pine woods. The rocky Western Algarve is interrupted by several large bays with sandy beaches protected by dunes, stretching for miles, salty marshlands and lagoons, where a variety of bird species live in a protected habitat. The natural beauty of the Barrocal, the region between the coastal strip and the Serra in the hinterland, results in a rich and varied flora, made up of over 390 species of plants – endemic, medicinal and aromatic. Highlights include a striking species of wild rose, yarrow, wild orchids and differing types of scented rosemary. Standing out amongst the diverse animal life surviving here are the large birds of prey, such as the Bonelli’s eagle, the buzzard and the eagle owl, in addition to the many other birds patrolling these skies, such as the bee-eater, which digs its nest out of the escarpment slopes, the great spotted woodpecker and the tit. Wild rabbits and hedgehogs share the land with foxes, genets, mongooses and a small species of wild boar.