Travellers who are also bird-watchers will find much to admire in Portugal. While the ‘British list’ has a little over two hundred varieties, the Portuguese exceeds three hundred, named by W C Tait in 1924, or two hundred and eighty named in 1973 by R Carey, who deals only with the south. The difference of nearly fifty per cent is partly because Portugal lies on a main migration route, receiving passengers from continental Europe on their way south and some African species on their way north. It is also due to the absence of any large industrial area and the survival of much countryside in the shape of mountainside, forests and open fields. There are several reserves, such as the coast north of Oporto at Mindelo, the National Park of Gerez-Penedo, the seashore of the Algarve, and the Berlenga Isles off the coast. Against this is the practice of eating birds, advertised in small restaurants with the sign: Há pássaros. There are two words for ‘birds’: larger kinds, such as chickens and above, are aves; small birds are pássaros, or with the diminutive, passarinhos.
There are eighteen warblers, thirteen gulls and eight terns: having no binoculars, I am not able to distinguish them. Birds not seen at all in the British Isles are: vultures, rare wanderers from the Spanish mountains; egrets; the purple gallinule, now confined to the reserve in the Algarve; and the serin, which can be heard in Lisbon. The azure-winged magpie is a native of China, found fifty years ago only at Montijo, on the south bank of the Tagus near Lisbon, but now reported from many places. Its spread will not surprise those who have witnessed the explosion of the magpie.
Among species now extinct in Britain are the stork, which is quite common and nests in towers, electricity-poles and elsewhere in villages: it is easily recognised and its clappering is a distinctive sound. The black stork is rare. The avocet is uncommon, and the great bustard survives in places in the Algarve and Alentejo. Cranes winter in parts of the Alentejo.
Birds extremely scarce in Britain include the hoopoe, bee-eater, golden eagle, osprey and kite. The hoopoe is a spring and summer visitor, common in the Alentejo, and the bee-eater also divides its time between Portugal and Africa: it occurs from the Douro southwards.