Birdwatching in France: Everything You Need to Know

A flock of Turnstones taking off on a beach in Île de Ré, France

Birdwatching is one of the most incredible activities you can do in France. When you are watching birds, you are connecting to nature. There are various options for birding in France, and it would be good to know the best places to go. You should also know what you need to be prepared for.

If you want to see flamingos, you should go to The Camargue Wetlands of the Mediterranean Coast. If a swan is more to your liking, you can go to Lake Der-Chantcoq. There are specific places to go when you want to see certain types of birds. You want to be an informed birdwatcher in France.

There are some major tourist attractions in France correlated with birdwatching. You can take in the scenery of this gorgeous place, and experience different areas to go to and discover birds you have never seen before. Read below to find out more about birdwatching in France.  

Why Should You Go Birdwatching in France?

France is a great place to go birdwatching. There is a variety of natural habitats that entice the birds.

Some of the major areas that you can find different birds in France include:

  • Wildish scrubland of garrigue
  • Maquis of the Mediterranean coast
  • Mountain habitats
  • Oak forests
  • Coastal areas

Metropolitan France has more than 541 species, and the entire country of France has over 800 species.

France is a large country. There are many rural areas that you can visit that are not so crowded, and you may find a plethora of birds.

Where Should You Go Birdwatching in France?

Many places are good for birdwatching in France. You can often find various birds in different areas. The following are some of the best places to go birdwatching in France.

The Camargue Wetlands on the Mediterranean Coast

Greater Flamingo feeding in the Camargue, France
Greater Flamingo feeding in the Camargue, France

This area is one of the most popular places in France to go birdwatching. The Camargue Wetlands is an enormous area of about 900 square kilometers. Most of it is marshland. The Camargue wetlands are a beautiful place for the avid birdwatcher to see these fascinating feathered creatures.

The birds flourish during the breeding season and make it a point to stop there during migration or winter. The birds that bring the most interest to these wetlands are flamingos.

As they prepare for breeding season, herons and egret rookeries make sounds to tell you they are preparing to mate. You may even get to spy Sacred Ibis, which is a rare breed primarily found in Africa. There has been a modest population of these birds in France since the 1970s.

The best site to go birdwatching in this wetland is the Ornithological Park Pont de Gau. The purpose of this park is to allow people to view nature and promote its conservation. At the park, there are several marsh habitats and an abundance of wildlife.

It is a beautiful site at night when you see these birds flying amidst the sunset. During the day, you see seas of pink flamingos flocking together in groups. You will see hundreds of birds in this area. It is one of the only places in Europe where bird watchers can discover the magnificence of flamingos.

Baie De Somme Wetlands, the Mouth of the Somme

The Baie De Somme is another popular spot in France for birdwatching. The wetlands are along the English Channel, and it is a stopping point for birds during migration.

In these wetlands, you can see over 300 species of birds. These birds include:

  • Birds of prey
  • Shorebirds
  • Waders

The place to go birdwatching in these wetlands is called Marquenterre Park. It is a sizeable 500-acre area that provides habitats for birds. They even have a special Bird and Nature festival for kids.

Lake Der-Chantcoq

This lake is the second-largest artificial lake in Western Europe, and it is about 19 square miles. The lake was originally part of a plan to halt flooding in Paris. It has become one of the best places for birdwatching in France. Some of the birds you can catch sight of in this area include:

  • Cranes
  • Great egret
  • Loons
  • White-tailed eagle
  • Swans
  • Geese
  • Peregrine falcon

The lake is recognized for its population of migrating cranes.  It is also known for its wide array of habitats. These include:

  • Marshes
  • Lakes
  • Old forests
  • Pastures
  • Cereal fields

The lake itself is fed by about a 7.5-mile-long canal that branches off the river Marne in Saint Dizier. It is situated in the communes.

Lac De Grandlieu Nature Reserve South of Nantes

This reserve has one of the largest lakes in Europe. There are countless species of birds there. Some of the birds you will see here include:

  • Storks
  • Greylag geese
  • Herons
  • Northern Shovellers
  • Teals
  • Common Pochards

Some rare birds make their way to this area often. Some claim that over 300 species come to the lake regularly. You can take a lovely countryside stroll and spot these birds. It is the second-largest bird reserve in Europe. 

Tarn Gorge Aveyron/Lozare

Saint-Chély-du-Tarn village and cascade, Sainte-Énimie, Lozère, France
Saint-Chély-du-Tarn village and cascade, Sainte-Énimie, Lozère, France

Tarn Gorge is a beautiful valley in the South of France. It was one of the very first tourist attractions in this region. Tarn Gorge has a large variety of birds of prey. Some of these include:

  • Golden eagles
  • Owls
  • Vultures
  • Ravens

Gorge has become very popular because of the 2015 Tour de France. Numerous castles nestled along with the Gorge date back to the Middle Ages. It is a great place to see larger birds and gorgeous scenery.

Teich Bird Reserve Arcachon, Southwest of the Bordeaux

This reserve is a beautiful 250-acre area. It is an excellent place for the whole family to enjoy. The reserve encompasses woods, waterways, and salt marsh. It has over 300 species of birds and about 100 breeding residents. Some of the birds you can find here include:

  • Ducks
  • Geese
  • White Stork
  • Woodpecker

Teich Bird Reserve is a safeguarded nature reserve with a view of birds that its visitors can see up close. The Reserve is designed in such a way that birdwatchers can observe the birds in their natural environment.

What Time of Year and Time of Day Are Good for Birdwatching in France?

It has been concluded that for the most part, the best time of the year to go birdwatching in France is September through March. However, October is a significant month for birdwatching in France.

The most common birds in France include:

  • Greylag geese
  • Swallows
  • House martins
  • Pied avocets

These birds migrate in October. Chaffinches and blackbirds can be seen all year round in certain parts of France. There are also peak periods in mid-April to mid-May and mid-September to mid-October. From sunrise to 11 am is the best time of day to go birdwatching.

Some birds signify a change in season. The common crane migrates in a 200km-wide corridor that crosses France on a diagonal path from northeast to southwest. The spotting of the first common cranes is indicative that winter is on its way.

Alone or With a Guide? The Best Way to Birdwatch in France

You can charter a tour guide to take you along the way when you are bird watching. A local guide will guide you to all the hotspots and help you get the utmost enjoyment from your trip. If you need to make the most of your time, hire a tour guide to suit your needs.

When birdwatching, your tour guide will make sure you experience:

  • Native people
  • Scenery
  • Culture
  • History

A tour guide can explain the areas you choose to birdwatch and offer exciting and enlightening information. Hiring a tour guide will boost the local economy and help to protect the birds and other wildlife in their natural habitat.

If you plan your birdwatching trip correctly, you will get to choose the types of birds you want to watch. A local tour guide can give you good locations to watch birds and know the best times for birdwatching. 

Should I Go With a Tour Group?

Tour groups are enjoyable. The leaders of the group are often food and wine connoisseurs, as well as experienced birders. A company named “Wings Birding Tours Worldwide” offers several tours in France, and an example would be “Birding À la française.” The focus of the tour is birds, wine, and cheese in Southern France.

The cost of the ten-day tour is $4,300 per person. During this excursion, you will see some of the best birding spots in Southern France and the island of Corsica while enjoying the cheese and wine that France has to offer.   

What Should You Bring While Birdwatching in France?

Experienced birders know that they need to come prepared. When you go birdwatching, there are a few essential items you should take with you. These include:

Binoculars

The essential item a birder should carry with them is a pair of binoculars. Binoculars help you to see birds from a closer view. Binoculars have specifications, such as “12×50”. The number indicates what the specifications mean. This information will show you how to understand the use of binoculars:

  • The first number tells you about the magnification. A “12×50” binocular will magnify an object 12 times its actual size.
  • The second number shows you the size of the objective lens furthest from your eye. A larger objective lens collects more light, which means that the bird you are looking at will be clearer, especially in low light. A 12×50 binocular has a 50-millimeter objective lens.
  • There are many different binoculars you can choose from, and you will need to find a pair that you feel comfortable with. The most helpful way to do this is to borrow a pair of binoculars from someone but not purchase them until you have tried them out.

A good pair of binoculars will cost about $150 to $300, but they will last years if you take good care of them.

You can also use a spotting scope if you want. A spotting scope is like a telescope, which will give you the most significant magnification, but the scope is big and clunky to carry. If you want to remain in one spot and birdwatch, they might be a good option.

Field Guide

If you bring a field guide with you, you will be able to identify birds based on the pictures in the book and their descriptions. There are a plethora of good bird books you can choose from. For example, the following link goes straight to a birdwatching book for France available on Amazon

Every birdwatcher should have a bird book that pertains to the area in which they are birding. 

Journal and Pen

Sometimes birdwatchers like to record the birds they see along with their descriptions. This one is for the experienced birdwatcher who may want to check each type of bird they see off their list. Any important details about the birds you find or the area you are birdwatching may be helpful to you.

Camera

Many birders like to bring a camera with them while they are birdwatching. If you are the type to put together photo books, this may be a fun way to learn and identify all the birds you come across. It would also be nice to have something to show when you have company. 

A Good Pair of Boots

Most birdwatchers find it challenging to stick to the trail they are walking on. They often find themselves spotting an incredible-looking bird, and they end up following them into a wet or muddy area.

If you do not have the proper pair of shoes, it can be detrimental to whatever shoes you may be wearing. Several scenarios can lead you astray when you are birdwatching, so you should be prepared. 

Conclusion

Birdwatching in France is a unique and fascinating experience. There are certain places you should go to birdwatch in France, and it can be even more exciting if you go on a tour or with a group of fellow birdwatchers. Bird watching is such an incredible activity because you get to learn so much about nature.



Share This On Social Media!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *