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Ornithological reserves in South of France

Birdwatching in France

Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur is home to many birdwatching hotspots – from ornithological reserves to wetlands and Mediterranean shores -, where you can observe birds in their natural habitat.  The numerous regional and national natural parks in the area provide privileged environments to support the development of bird populations. Discover our protected bird species, fresh out of the nest and free as air!

Gaze unseen at birds of prey

Outstretched wings and an eagle eye…

1, 2, 3…10! How about taking part in a vulture count in Écrins National Park? Launched by the French Alps, this operation is designed to monitor the number of vultures currently inhabiting the park. The count starts when the birds come to rest on their perches at sundown… Next stop: the Baronnies Provençales Regional Nature Reserve to track down the majestic Rémuzat Griffon Vulture. The reserve is home to the area’s largest griffon vulture colony and kitted out with binoculars, you can observe them from the cliff. The Verdon regional natural park is also a top birding hub – you can observe griffon vultures gliding silently through the air on their 2-metre wings from the Route des Crêtes. Raise your eyes and enjoy the perfectly-choreographed ballet above your head. If you want to learn more about this intriguing and fascinating bird, opt for a guided birding session.

The iconic birds of LIFE Alpilles

Head out for a green weekend in the Alpilles Regional Nature Reserve courtesy of the LIFE programme and its specialist-interest signposted walking trails, allowing you to get up close and personal with local wildlife. Many bird species cohabit in this treasure of biodiversity. The reserve features six birding trails including Petite Crau, set under the watchful eye of large birds of prey… Its rolling steppes and agricultural plains offer varied habitats for a particularly rich diversity of bird species. A unique natural heritage.

The Aulnes Pond is a must-visit spot for birdwatching enthusiasts in the south of France. You can observe numerous species such as the European roller, the little owl, or the painted sandgrouse.

Birding : observing rare feathered friends

Floating above the waves of the Mediterranean Sea

On the shores of the Med, seabirds hover over steep cliffs to the rhythm of the waves, sometimes soaring inland over the hills. Climb aboard a boat bus to Frioul archipelago, offshore of Marseille: 16 seabird species have set up home on these little Mediterranean islands. Here, you’ll find Scopoli’s shearwater and crested cormorants inhabiting the Calanques fjords, or rock-dwellers such as the peregrine falcon. A little way on, Port-Cros island welcomes you for a forest hike and fascinating foray into a land of crested cormorants and Dartford warblers… Some species are rarer than others, so keep your eyes peeled and make sure you don’t miss the show. A tip for recognizing gulls: watch how they fly – they hardly ever flap their wings!

Common species also have their charm. For example, the gull, a marine animal found everywhere, is very interesting to observe.

Ornithological beauties in Mercantour National Park

Birdwatching in the Alps, the realm of raptors, is a unique experience in France. Take advantage of a trail in the heart of the mountains to enjoy watching the birds soaring in the blue sky of the Southern Alps.

Make your way to Mercantour National Park for an ornithological adventure flying the flag of the Esprit Parc National label. Why not start with the southern slopes of the Roya Valley? This unique site forms an essential environment for rare species such as the rock partridge, while the slopes of Plan Tendasque are an ideal vantage point for observing the short-toed Snake Eagle: a majestic bird of prey that feeds solely on snakes. In addition to introducing you to endemic species, these delightful walks are havens of French Southern Alps scenery. Some walks are guided – you can check out the dates and prices on the park’s website. Book your next ecotourism weekend now!

Get acquainted with wetland birds

Listen, watch, count

Next stop: the Luberon Regional Nature Reserve and Durance ornithological reserve in beautiful Provence. Well camouflaged in your hide, all you need to do is wait for the 243 bird species to come out and play in their natural habitat… In Mérindol, a pretty walk between garrigue and the banks of the Durance river awaits you – along with a myriad of waterbirds. This accessible, 1.5-hour stroll is ideal for all the family and perfect for introducing little ones to nature. Combining forests, trails and tow paths, it leads you on a voyage to the heart of the Luberon wetlands. Accompanied by the LPO (bird protection league), France’s leading association for nature conservation, you can also enjoy a fascinating guided walk on the topic of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur’s bird species. Awareness rules!

Here, birding also serves as a pretext to explore a magnificent region, featuring stunning landscapes dotted with picturesque villages.

Between Camargue and the saltmarshes of Hyères: behold the flamingos

Set out to discover the Pont de Gau ornithological reserve teeming with Camargue birds. Here, marshes, lakes and reed beds form a dream home for pink flamingos. This 150-acre natural area is a paradise for would-be adventurers. Located just 4 kilometres from Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, its 7 kilometres of signposted footpaths offer a privileged vantage point for observing these unique birds. You can wind up your ornithological tour with Les Marais du Vigueirat on the opposite bank of the Rhône river.

Further South, the Salins d’Hyères saltmarshes are a remarkable natural site, ranked a ” Wetland of International Importance”. Start your walk at the Vieux Salins, then head along the double isthmus linking the mainland to Giens peninsula. Don’t miss a guided tour of the astonishing Salin des Pesquiers too. And as the sun sets over the horizon, raise your eyes to admire flocks of flamingos taking to the skies… Pure magic.

Places to discover