Online Guide to Algarve Habitats and Wildlife

Algarve Wildlife - Iberian Azure-winged Magpie


This website is designed to help Algarve residents and holiday visitors enjoy the wonderful wildlife of this very special region.


Whether your main interest is birds, wildflowers, fungi or just enjoying wonderful scenic walks in the Algarve countryside, the maps, books and online information you need are here all in one place.


Each nature site or walk is illustrated by a Google map with facilities to zoom and scroll, and there are directions and pictures to help you find your way.


The menu tabs on the navigation bar at the top of each page link to main sections such as Habitats, Wildlife, Species, Sites and Walks, Books etc. The sub-menu tabs then take you to more detailed information and picture galleries.


Algarve Wildlife went live in Spring 2012 as a stand-alone website. For more than a decade it was the region's top website for wildlife and ecology information. As hosting costs have increased sharply and we no longer have an income from book sales, we decided in 2023 to make Algarve Wildlife an integral major section of the First Nature website.

The information below outlines what you can find via the main sections and subsections of this website; however, for many people our human-readable sitemap is an easier way of finding out what is on the first-nature.com/algarve website.

A More Detailed Introduction to the Algarve

Most holiday visitors and many residents soon get to know something about the many lovely towns and villages along the Algarve coast, where the beaches and harbours are particular attractions. From Odeceixe down through Bordeira and Carrapatiera to Vila do Bispo and Sagres, in Cape St Vincent Natural Park there are many lovely cliffs and small coves along the western coast. Turning east from the Cape there are little towns such as Figueira, Salema and Burgau; holiday resorts including Luz, Alvor, Portimao, Ferragudo, Carvoiero, Albufeira, Villamoura and Quarteira leading to the city of Faro, with its airport. Continuing towards Spain the towns of Olhao, Almancil and Tavira lead on to Castro Marim and Vila Real de St Antonio at the border. Inland the popular towns of Lagos, Aljezur, Marmelete, Monchique, Alferce, Porches, Silves, Messines, Loule, Odeleite and Alcoutim receive many visitors too.

The Algarve countryside receives fewer visitors, but it has a great deal to offer to anyone interested in wildlife, wildflowers and scenic beauty. Whether your main area of interest is birds, butterflies, flowers or fungi or whether, like us, you enjoy all aspects of wildlife from tiny insects to large wild animals, from microscopic lichens to mighty old trees, there are sections on Algarve Wildlife that should be useful to you.

Birders visit the Algarve for its southern European residents and visitors and the wealth of migrants that pass through this region of Portugal in both spring and autumn. Sagres is a notable migration watch-point particularly in autumn when the raptor passage can provide exciting opportunities for the wildlife photographer. Birdwatchers and photographers alike will enjoy spending time at the many saltpans that exist along the Algarve coast, especially east of Almancil. The sea cliffs of the west and, away from the littoral, rolling hill country, river valleys and cork oak woodland host an impressive range of bird species. At the appropriate time of year Red-crested Pochard, Little Bittern, Greater Flamingo, Black-shouldered and Black Kites, Short-toed and Booted Eagles, Griffon and Egyptian Vultures, Stone-curlew, Audouin’s and Slender-billed Gulls, Caspian Tern, Hoopoe, Eurasian Bee-eater, Golden Oriole, Red-rumped Swallow, Spectacled, Dartford and Subalpine Warblers, as well as the much sought-after Red-necked Nightjar, can all be found, along with many more, in their favoured habitat. Even the towns boast breeding White Storks and Pallid Swifts. Rarities add an element of spice and each autumn sees the discovery of several North American waders.

In the world of insects, butterflies and moths are well represented in the Algarve, where there are also several interesting dragonflies, such as the Red-veined Darter, and countless beetles. Butterflies of note include Adonis Blue, Holly Blue, Long-tailed Blue, Panoptes Blue and Lang's Short-tailed Blue; Red Admiral, Cleopatra, Brimstone, Spanish Festoon, Scarce and Common Swallowtail, Monarch and Two-tailed Pasha; Bath White, Green-striped White, Black-veined White, Spanish marbled White and Western dappled White; plus various fritillaries including Spanish, Marsh, Queen of Spain and Spotted Fritillary. Skippers and various browns including Dusky, Portuguese, Small and Spanish Heath butterflies are also plentiful. Hummingbird Hawkmoth, Praying Mantis and Egyptian Grasshopper are three more of the many fascinating bugs and other insects to interest anyone with an entomological leaning.

Several reptiles and amphibians occur in the Algarve region including the European Chameleon, Algerian Sand Lizard, Spanish Terrapin, Iberian Water Frog and Natterjack Toad. Larger animals such as the Iberian Hare, Red Fox, Egyptian Mongoose, Otter, Rabbit and Weasel are sometimes seen, while at night bats feed on insects - the Serotine bat is quite a common sight. Wildcat and Iberian Lynx are always worth looking out for, but they are very rare.

Wildflowers, shrubs and trees are what many naturalists visit the Algarve to see. Flowers grow everywhere, on the shoreline and cliffs, in garigue and maquis, in the woodlands and waysides, and on farmland and any wasteland - the more disturbed the better for species such as poppies! From Almond blossom to Strawberry Tree, the range of flowering shrubs and trees is amazing; wildflowers include rare species such as Apple of Sodom and Dense-flowered Orchid as well as many beautiful and common (in the Algarve landscape) species. Orchids include Ophrys species such as Bee, Bumblebee, Sawfly, Sombre Bee, Mirror and Yellow Bee Orchids. Dense-flowered Orchid, Green-winged Orchid, Long-spurred Orchid, Pyramidal Orchid and Naked Man Orchid are widespread and in places abundant, while in woodlands the Broad-leaved Helleborine and the very rare Violet Limodore live among cork oaks, pines and eucalyptus trees. indeed the orchid species pictures in Sue Parker's book Wild Orchids of the Algarve were all taken on location in the Algarve.

Of the other flowers seen in the wild here, various scilla species (squills) including Scilla Peruviana and Scilla Monophylla are to be found in open woodland habitats, as are many Iris species, lavenders, mallows and daisies (Asteraceae). Cistus and gorse species dominates many of the hills, but nothing can prepare a visitor for the diversity of colours in wildflower meadows formed when fields are ploughed and allowed to lie fallow. Alkanet and Bugloss species give the most brilliant blue backdrop to red and pink poppies and Field Gladiolus dappled with white and yellow Crown Daisies and Field and Corn Marigolds with, in places, Wild Snapdragon, Yellow Lupin, Narrow-leaved Lupin and so much more. Several very rare orchids and other wild flowers rarely seen anywhere else occur in parts of the Algarve and are featured either on this website or via links to www.first-nature.com - and in the Walks and Reserves sections there is more information on where and when you can see these rarities.

Finally to fungi. Mycologists and interested general naturalists will enjoy the Algarve woodlands from October to April, when thousands of rare, common, edible or poisonous mushrooms and toadstools fruit in profusion. Bracket and crust fungi can be seen all through the year, but they produce spores and new fruitbodies in late autumn and winter, when they are at their finest. Look out for Caesar's Mushroom, Chanterelle, Golden Chanterelle, Horn of Plenty, Wood Blewit, Parasol Mushroom and Field Mushroom, all of which are good edible species. Amanita, Coprinopsis, Coprinellus, Tricholoma and Cortinarius species are among the most plentiful, but look out also for coral fungi, several earthstar species and the (rare in Britain) Red Cage Fungus, Clathrus ruber, plus many puffballs and earthballs such as the Dyeball (Pisolithus arhizus), a mycorrhizal species used in land remediation and forestry. Grassland fungi are less common, but some interesting waxcaps (Hygrocybe species) can be seen on villa lawns and shaded roadsides.

Sue Parker's latest ebook is a revised and enlarged second edition of the acclaimed Wildflowers in the Algarve - an introductory guide. Full details here...

Buy it for just £3.95 on Amazon...

Sue Parker's 5-star acclaimed field guide to the Wild Orchids of the Algarve is now available as an ebook. Full details here...

Buy it for just £5.95 on Amazon...

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