Birding in the delta of the Ría de Villaviciosa

BirdLife International also has a Spanish branch (SEO Birdlife, which stands for Sociedad Española de Ornitología) with departments in the different Spanish regions. On October 6, 2018 during the ‘Día de las Aves’, or the Day of the Birds, more than 400 activities are organized throughout Spain. The department in Asturias organizes a birding excursion in the delta of the Villaviciosa river, which I join today.

We gather at the Centro de Interpretaciόn‘, or the information center about the estuary of the Ría de Villaviciosa. Here visitors can find information about the origin of the area, common flora and fauna and routes. There is also a small shop. Various birdwatching routes start from here. Today we take a boat and leave a bit further north from the harbor near the sea. Immediately as we leave the port we see a kingfisher (Alcedo atthis); his color splendor is even more striking on a grey day like this!

Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) in the harbour

Other species that we spot are curlew (Numenius arquata), cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo), small egret (Egretta garzetta), greenshank (Tringa nebularia), sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos), widgeon (Anas penelope), red-tailed godwit (Limosa lapponica) and spoonbills (Platalea leucorodia). At one point a large bird of prey flies over, an osprey (Pandion haliaetus)! My first in Spain, hurray ?! After the boat trip we go to another point where it is good birding, namely a small swampy area right next to Villaviciosa, including plank path and observation hut. Here I see a water rail (Rallus aquaticus) (first sighting!) and a few snipes (Gallinago gallinago), only a few meters away.

Water rail (Rallus aquaticus)

The information center is a good starting point for birding in the delta. Excursions are regularly organized. To be honest, it may be less interesting for, for example, a Dutch person like me, because the species present here can also be found (in large numbers) in the Dutch coastal areas. What I really liked is to meet the birds here in a ‘Spanish context’. A good example is the group of spoonbills that we saw. A number of them were ringed in the Netherlands, which means that they spent the summer there and are now on their way to their wintering grounds in Africa. Very nice to see these ‘Dutch’ spoonbills enjoy their ‘tapas’ here!

Do you want to do birding in the delta of the river Villaviciosa yourself, individually or with a guide, and on foot, by boat or by canoe? Send a message to and I will give you more information!

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