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Discovering Birds of Prey in the Aude, France


eagle

The Aude department in southern France is not only a haven for orchids and other flora but also a fantastic destination for bird watchers, especially those interested in birds of prey. With its diverse landscapes ranging from coastal cliffs to mountainous regions, the Aude offers an ideal habitat for various raptors. Here’s a guide to the majestic birds of prey you can find and the best places to spot them in our so-called neck of the woods.

 

Just Some of the Birds of Prey in the Aude


golden eagle

Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)

·       Description: With its powerful build and striking golden-brown plumage, the Golden Eagle is one of the most iconic birds of prey.

·       Where to Find: Look for them in the higher elevations of the Pyrenees and the Corbières mountains. They often soar high above cliffs and mountainous terrain.


Eurasian Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus)

·       Description: These large vultures are easily identifiable by their broad wings and fingered wingtips. They play a crucial role in the ecosystem as scavengers.

·       Where to Find: The limestone cliffs of the Corbières, the Razès and the rugged terrain of the Montagne Noire are prime spots to observe these impressive birds.


peregrine falcon

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)

·       Description: Renowned for its incredible speed, the Peregrine Falcon is a master hunter, often seen diving at high speeds to catch its prey.

·       Where to Find: Coastal cliffs, such as those along the Mediterranean near Narbonne, and high rock faces in the inland regions.


Short-Toed Snake Eagle (Circaetus gallicus)

·       Description: This eagle specializes in hunting reptiles, particularly snakes. It has a distinctive white underbelly and broad wings.

·       Where to Find: Open countryside and semi-open areas, particularly in the Razès, Malepère, Corbières and Minervois regions, where it can be seen soaring or perched on treetops.

booted eagle

Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus)

·       Description: A small eagle with a light and dark morph, the Booted Eagle is versatile in its hunting habits.

·       Where to Find: Wooded areas and open landscapes, often seen in the plains and rolling hills of Aude.


Eurasian Hobby (Falco subbuteo)

·       Description: A small, agile falcon that is adept at catching insects and small birds in flight.

·       Where to Find: Often seen in open fields and near water bodies during the summer months.

 

The Best Bird Watching Spots

It is common to see these magnificent birds of prey from many rural areas throughout the Aude, not least from the fields and crests just 1 to 2 kilometres from our Razès Gîtes, Escueillens! But if you want to visit some areas where their presence has been noted as prolific, then you may want a guided trip to one or more of the following areas and viewing sites.


The Vulture Observatory, Bugarach

Nestled in the picturesque landscape of Aude, the Vulture Observatory in Bugarach offers a unique opportunity to witness these majestic birds in their natural habitat. This region, characterized by its dramatic peaks and verdant valleys, is a haven for vultures and a must-visit for bird enthusiasts. The Vulture Observatory is dedicated to the conservation and study of vultures and plays a crucial role in educating the public about the importance of these birds and their role in the ecosystem.

griffon vulture

Educational Exhibits

The observatory features informative displays about the biology, behaviour, and conservation of vultures. Visitors can learn about the life cycle of these birds, their feeding habits, and their critical role as nature's clean-up crew.


Observation Platforms

Equipped with telescopes and binoculars, the observation platforms provide stunning views of the surrounding cliffs and valleys where vultures nest and soar. The platforms are strategically placed to offer the best chances of spotting these magnificent birds in flight.


Vulture Species You Might See


Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus): The most commonly seen species at the observatory. With a wingspan of up to 2.8 meters, these impressive birds are often seen soaring on thermals above the cliffs.


Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus): Smaller and rarer than the Griffon Vulture, the Egyptian Vulture is distinguished by its white plumage and yellow face. These birds are occasionally spotted in the region, especially during migration periods.


Black Vulture (Aegypius monachus): Although less common, the Black Vulture, with its dark plumage and enormous size, can sometimes be seen. These vultures are typically more solitary than their Griffon counterparts.


Best Time to Visit

The Vulture Observatory is open year-round, but the best time to visit is during the warmer months from April to October. During this period, the thermals created by rising warm air provide ideal conditions for vultures to soar, increasing the likelihood of sightings.

black vulture

Other Areas in the Aude


La Montagne Noire

Description: This mountain range offers a mix of dense forests and open areas, providing excellent opportunities to spot a variety of birds of prey.

Highlights: Look for Golden Eagles and Eurasian Griffon Vultures soaring above the peaks.


Le Massif de la Clape

Description: Near the Mediterranean coast, this area’s limestone cliffs and scrubland are perfect for spotting Peregrine Falcons and Booted Eagles.

Highlights: The coastal cliffs are particularly good for observing falcons in action.


The Corbières

Description: Known for its rugged terrain and biodiversity, the Corbières are a hotspot for raptors, especially Griffon Vultures and Short-toed Snake Eagles.

Highlights: The high cliffs and remote areas provide a safe haven for nesting birds of prey.


Narbonnaise en Méditerranée Natural Regional Park

Description: This park spans a variety of habitats, including wetlands, lagoons, and cliffs, offering diverse bird-watching opportunities.

Highlights: A great spot for observing Eurasian Hobbies and Peregrine Falcons along the coastal areas.

 

Conservation and Respect

Birds of prey are vital to the ecosystem, and their presence is a sign of a healthy environment. When bird watching in the Aude, please follow these guidelines:


Respect Wildlife: Maintain a safe distance to avoid disturbing the birds, especially during the breeding season.

Use Binoculars and Cameras: Equip yourself with good binoculars or a camera with a zoom lens to observe the birds without getting too close.

Stay on Trails: Stick to designated trails and observation points to minimize your impact on the habitat.

 

Conclusion

The Razès in the Aude, is a captivating destination for bird watchers, offering a rich variety of birds of prey amidst its stunning landscapes. Whether you’re an experienced birder or a curious nature lover, the sight of these magnificent raptors in their natural habitat is sure to leave a lasting impression. So, come for a week of walking for wellbeing, be sure to pack your binoculars, and let us guide you around the areas where you can best explore the skies of the Razès!






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