Trip Menu

If I was asked to recommend a birding holiday in the Balearics for anybody who has more than a passing interest in birding, I would have to say Mallorca. Even with all its faults the diversity of habitats on Mallorca make it far superior to all the other islands. However we did visit Menorca on the 6th – 20th October 2000, although we did escape back to Mallorca during the second week of the trip for 4 days.

As Menorca has been a popular holiday destination for many years I don’t intend to go into tourist information, suffice to say that you can easily get what ever you need for a successful birding holiday. Flights, Accommodation, Car Hire, etc, etc.

We opted for a self-catering holiday and hired a villa at Son Bou overlooking the extensive marsh. This was our first disappointment. The marsh is covered with reeds with very little open water, making scopeing opportunities from our terrace extremely limited with only the odd Marsh Harrier, Heron, Duck and Cattle Egrets seen. Another cautionary note, and one that you don’t seen in the holiday brochures – Son Bou has a popular nudist beach and the marsh is a haunt for homosexual activities. We are not homophobic but it can come as a shock if, as we did, you start exploring the marsh with bins & scope, totally oblivious of such activities.

Menorca is limited in the amount of good birding sites it has to offer. The main sites and the ones we found most productive are listed below:-

Es Grau

A vast body of water created to provide drinking water for the island. This is probably the premier birding site on the island as the trip report will testify. The reed-fringed bays can be productive for passage waders. A large development and golf course with the lovely name of “Shangri La” adjoins the site giving vehicular access to some high vantage points affording good views of the lake, although because of its size and shape, the whole of the lake can’t be scanned from any one vantage point.


A series of pools and wetland, which are inland and can produce many of the birds & waders seen on the island. Most productive during the winter when the area is full of water and used by wintering ducks. In late spring & summer the area dries out.

Salinas de Montgofre

A favourite of ours, these old saltpans are on a private estate and permission should be sort prior to entry. I must be honest here and say, using the old train-spotting parlance, we bunked them as they seemed deserted. I have always found saltpans to be especially productive, due mainly to their suitability for wading birds. In the main they tend to be shallow allowing the water temperature to rise quickly in the spring allowing the rapid growth of algae and Brine Shrimp both are a valuable resource for hungry passage waders.

Algendar Gorge

This site is worth a visit if only because it’s the most spectacular birding site on the island. The gorge consists of lush vegetation on the valley bottom with a small stream giving way to very imposing limestone cliffs. Warblers can be found at the valley bottom with the cliffs home to breeding Egyptian Vultures, Booted Eagles, Peregrines and Rock Thrushes. On our visits the gorge held spectacular numbers of various butterflies.

There are several other sites which we visited, but at the time of our visit they produced little in the way of new species.

For those who wish to visit Menorca I would recommend A Birdwatching Guide to Menorca, Ibiza & Formentera by the late Graham Hearl. ISBN 1 900159 20 1 first published in 1996.

Prior to our visit to Menorca the island had been subjected to very wet weather since the middle of September. This tended to make the water table high, which in turn made most areas usually suitable for wader passage unsuitable. We were informed by a couple of birding friends who had been on the Island for several weeks, that the influx of winter visitors had begun in earnest the weekend we arrived. This was borne out with large numbers of Robins and Black Redstarts obviously staking out winter territories. This was also obvious with the movement across the island of both Song & Mistle Thrushes together with numerous Blackbirds. Other notable winter visitors were the Starlings that roosted at Son Bou Marsh, this contained and estimated 1> million birds.

Kingfishers appeared to have taken up residence on every body of water, including every stream that held even the smallest amount of water. Cattle Egret numbers also increased in the Son Bou area over the period, from 11 to 19 individuals, these birds roosted in the trees at the east of Son Bou Marsh.

Late notable summer visitors were, 1 female Woodchat shrike, 12> Alpine Swifts, 1 female Pied Flycatcher, and a smattering of common Redstarts. House, Sand, & Crag Martins were all seen, with the two former going through during the period in pulses, although few Sand Martins were seen during the second week. Swallow passage was in full swing, with huge numbers seen most days, and many thousands roosted at Son Bou marsh.

Any birders who visit Menorca or Mallorca and see Dartford Warbler should inform the (Grup Balear d’Ornitologia I Defensa de la Naturalesa) Tel 971 89 22 50. Email

Species List

Little Grebe  Tachybaptus ruficollis    20 to 30 birds present on Es Grau, with the odd bird seen on Tirant wetland.
Black-necked Grebe  Podiceps nigricollis    At least 2 pairs were seen at Es Grau, 2 birds at Salinas de Montgofre and 1 singleton at Tirant.
Cory’s Shearwater  Colonectris diomeda    A crossing to Mallorca was made on 13th, many birds were evident. It was interesting to note that the majority of the birds were on the Mallorcan side.
Mediterranean Shearwater Puffinus yelkouan    8 birds were seen on the same crossing to Mallorca with no birds seen on the return leg on the 17th.
Cormorant Phalacrocarax carbo   A dozen plus birds were observed at Es Grau 2 birds were at Salinas De Montgofre.
Shag  Phalacrocarax aristotalis    Small numbers seen on the rocks at Son Bou most days.
Cattle Egret  Bubulcus ibis   As previously stated the Cattle Egrets at Son Bou marsh increased from 11 to 19 over the period 15 birds were seen loafing on the rocks at Es Grau.
Little Egret Egretta garzetta    Although it is difficult to count because of the topography of the area, there were probably 50> birds at Es Grau.
Great White Egret  Egretta alba   3 birds were seen at Es Grau 8th of October. No birds seen on 19th.
Grey Heron  Ardea cinerea   Birds were common at all suitable habitats with 50+ birds Es Grau. A flock of 14 seen flying over Es Grau 19th.
Greater Flamingo  Phoenicopterus ruber 11 juveniles Es Grau 8th, 1 juvenile at Salinas De Montgofre 9th, 1 adult and 8 juveniles Es Grau 19th.
Wigeon  Anas penelope   2 males & 4 females Tirant wetland 10th Oct.
Gadwall Anas strapera  2 females at Tirant  10th Oct.
Teal  Anas crecca  Good numbers of birds at most suitable habitats.
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos Common at all suitable habitats.
Pintail Anas acuta  3 males & 5 females Tirant wetland 10th Oct.
Shoveler Anas clypeata   Good numbers of birds at both Tirant, and Es Grau.
Red-crested Pochard  Netta rufina  3 females, Tirant 18th Oct.
Pochard Ayhtya farina   5 males & 3 females at the Tirant 19th and a mixed flock of 30+ birds Es Grau on the same day.
Red Kite  Milvus milvus   Birds seen over most parts of the island, 1 bird seen with blue wing tags at the Salinas De Montgofre on the 9th of Oct.
Egyptian Vulture  Neophron percnopterus  Birds seen mostly in the Algendar Gorge. 2 adult & 3 juvenile birds seen flying together 7th Oct, 2 adult & 1 juvenile same site 20th Oct.
Marsh Harrier  Circus aeruginosus  Upto 3 female birds seen over Son Bou marsh most days 2 females seen leaving the marsh at day break 17th, 1 female seen Es Grau 18th.
Common Buzzard Buteo buteo  Single birds seen on 10th & 12th.
Booted Eagle  Hieraaetus pennatus  Birds common over the whole of the island.
Osprey Pandion haliaetus   Single birds seen at Es Grau 8th & 18th, also at Salinas De Montgofre 9th Oct.
Kestrel Falco tinnunculus   Common over the whole island.
Peregrine Falco peregrinus   1 bird seen at the entrance to the Salinas De Montgofre 9th Oct. 1 bird (dark phase) La Val Estate.
Moorhen  Gallinula chloropus   Birds at all suitable locations.
Coot  Fulica atra   Birds abundant at all suitable locations with 200+ at Es Grau.
Ringed Plover  Charadrius hiaticula  3 birds Es Grau on 8th & 18th of Oct.
Kentish Plover  Charadrius alexandrinus  7 birds Es Grau 8th.
Lapwing  Vanellus vanellus  5 birds Tirant wetland 10th & 1 on the 18th.
Dunlin  Calidris alpina   2 birds at Es Grau 18th Oct.
Snipe  Gallinago gallinago  1 bird at the flooded fields to the west of Son Bou marsh.
Green Sandpiper  Tringa ochropus  2 birds at the Depuradora 10th & 18th 3 birds also at Es Grau 8th.
Common Sandpiper  Actitis hypoleucos   Small numbers of birds at all suitable habitats.
Black-headed Gull  Larus ridibundus  Small numbers of birds at Es Grau.
Audouin’s Gull  Larus audouinii  3 birds seen on the Cap De Cavalleria.      
Yellow-legged Gull  Larus cachinnans  Birds common all round the coast. 100+ birds loafing Es Grau on all visits.
Rock Dove  Columba livia  A colony of 20> birds seen at Cala De Santa Galdana all visits.
Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus    Common at all suitable locations.
Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto   2 birds were seen flying together at Ciutadella harbour, obviously resident.
Alpine Swift  Apus melba    12+ birds at the Algender Gorge 7th Oct.
Kingfisher  Alcedo atthis   Another winter visitor seen in good numbers. Every bridge and water-course seemed to have its own resident Kingfisher.                         
Hoopoe  Upupa epops  Although not as common as one would have imagined birds were seen at most suitable sites.
Thekla Lark  Galerida theklae  birds common enough at suitable locations.
Sand Martin  Riparia riparia  Good numbers passing through the island from 6th to 13th, numbers then tailed off with few birds in mixed hirundine flocks. Mainly early morning passage.
Crag Martin  Ptyonoprogne rupestris  8 birds seen at the Algendar Gorge 7th Oct.
Swallow  Hirundo rustica   Hugh numbers of passage birds were observed 6th to 20th Oct. Many thousands used the Son Bou marsh as a night roost.
House Martin  Delichon urbica  These birds appeared to pass through the island in pulses, normally with Swallows, and could be in very good numbers. Again early morning passage seemed to be preferred.
Tree Pipit  Anthus trivialis.  2 birds were observed, 1 at Son Bou 7th Oct, and 1 at Es Grau 19th Oct.
Grey Wagtail  Motacilla cineria  3 individuals seen, 1 below Son Bou  8th, 1 at the Depuradora 10th, & 1 Es Grau 19th.
Robin  Erithacus rubecula  Birds continued to flood into the island over the 2 weeks with birds at all suitable locations.
Black Redstart  Phoenicurus ochruros  As stated earlier there was a large influx of birds from the 10th with early birds appearing to be juveniles and females. Adult males appeared towards the end of the second week, 15th October.
Redstart  Phoenicurus phoenicurus  The odd bird was seen from the 7th to the 12th Oct, mainly juveniles and females.
Northern Wheatear  Oenanthe oenanthe   1 bird seen at Tirant 10th of Oct.
Blue Rock Thrush  Monticola solitarius  Birds seen at most suitable sites. 1 male using the urbanisation at Son Bou. All birds encountered were males.
Blackbird  Turdus merula    Birds common at all suitable sites, numbers appeared to build over the 2 weeks.
Song Thrush  Turdus philomelos   Numbers building over the  weeks, evidence of birds staking out winter territories.
Mistle Thrush  Turdus viscivorus   Birds were observed moving through the island, usually in 2s & 3s.
Cetti’s Warbler  Cettia cetti   Common at most suitable habitats.
Fan-tailed Warbler  Cisticola juncidis   Birds seen at most suitable locations.
Sardinian Warbler  Sylvia melanocephala  The commonest of all the warblers with birds common at all suitable sites.
Lesser Whitethroat  Sylvia curruca  1 at Son Bou 7th & 1 at Algendar Gorge 7th.
Blackcap  Sylvia atricapilla  Good numbers of birds at most suitable sites, females appeared to outnumber males 2:1.
Chiffchaff  Phylloscopus collybita  Good numbers of post moult birds seen all over the island.
Willow Warbler  Phylloscopus trochilus    Large numbers of birds passing through the island with numbers increasing after the 10th of October.
Pied Flycatcher  Ficedula hypoleuca   1 female bird seen at Es Grau 8th Oct.
Blue Tit   Parus caeruleus  1 bird seen Algendar Gorge 7th & 19th Oct.
Great Tit  Parus major  Small numbers of birds seen at most suitable sites.
Woodchat Shrike  Lanius senator  1 female bird, Tirant wetland 12th Oct.
Raven Corvus corax  Birds common at all suitable habitats.
Starling   Sturnus vulgaris  As stated previously, Son Bou marsh roost in excess of 1 million birds. A ribbon of birds 30ft deep stretched the length of the marsh. 
House Sparrow  Passer domesticus Birds common everywhere.
Chaffinch  Fringilla coelebs  Common at all suitable habitats.
Greenfinch  Carduelis chloris  Common at all suitable habitats.
Goldfinch  Carduelis carduelis   The commonest of all the finches with several hundred birds feeding on the seed heads in the maize fields at Son Bou. Other birds also feeding on the maize heads included Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Linnet, Chiffchaff and Willow Warblers.
Linnet Carduelis cannabina   Small flocks of 6-10 birds seen daily.
Corn Bunting  Miliaria calandra  2 singletons seen 1 at Son Bou 7th and 1 at Salinas De Montgofre 9th