To the Sado Estuary

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From Lisbon


The Sado Estuary, the second largest estuary in Portugal, is an area of enormous natural wealth and biodiversity. The area lies a little more than 30 minutes from Lisbon and includes two Zones of Special Protection and a Natural Reserve (RNES), which together cover an area of about 23,000 hectares. The Sado Estuary is also a Ramsar site of international importance.

The richness of different biotopes in this area ensures a prolific avifaunal diversity, not just amongst aquatic species, but also birds associated with woodland habitat. Compared with its bigger counterpart (the Tagus Estuary), the Sado Estuary offers better opportunities to see certain species, including Red-breasted Merganser, Black-necked Grebe, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Caspian Tern, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Iberian Green Woodpecker, Scaly-breasted Munia, Hawfinch and Cirl Bunting. Besides an excellent range of ducks, waders and gulls, other charismatic species regularly seen include Greater Flamingo, Eurasian Spoonbill, European Bee-eater, Eurasian Hoopoe, Iberian Grey Shrike and Iberian Magpie. The natural reserve bird list comprises more than 250 species.

Though the wetland area is of great importance as a wintering site and migration stop-over point, it also holds important breeding populations of a number of species. A visit to the Sado Estuary is interesting at any time of the year. In winter the area holds thousands of wintering aquatic birds; during migration, the number of species increases and it is not unusual to observe more than 100 bird species in a single day; in summer, the breeding species may number close to 100.

The estuary is home to a small and unique population of Bottle-nosed Dolphins; individuals and small pods are frequently seen.

The places visited include a variety of special habitats: open water, inter-tidal mudflats, salt marshes, salt pans, rice fields, reedbeds, river beaches, sand dunes, Cork Oak and Stone Pine woodlands, small dams, eucalypt plantations and poplars and willows.

Given the closeness of Lisbon to the Sado Estuary, Birds & Nature has half day (morning or afternoon) and full day guided tours to the area.

Main Species

Red-breasted Merganser, Red-legged Partridge, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Greater Flamingo, White Stork, Black Stork, Glossy Ibis, Eurasian Spoonbill, Little Bittern, Squacco Heron, Purple Heron, Great Egret, Western Osprey, Black-winged Kite, Short-toed Snake Eagle, Booted Eagle, Bonelli’s Eagle, Western Marsh Harrier, Black Kite, Water Rail, Western Swamphen, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Black-winged Stilt, Pied Avocet, Kentish Plover, Eurasian Whimbrel, Eurasian Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit, Black-tailed Godwit, Red Knot, Ruff, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Green Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, Common Greenshank, Mediterranean Gull, Caspian Tern, Little Tern, Common Tern, European Turtle Dove, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Common Cuckoo, Little Owl, Short-eared Owl, Red-necked Nightjar, Pallid Swift, Common Kingfisher, European Bee-eater, Eurasian Hoopoe, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Iberian Green Woodpecker, Common Kestrel, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, Iberian Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Iberian Magpie, European Crested Tit, Eurasian Penduline Tit, Woodlark, Crested Lark, Red-rumped Swallow, Cetti’s Warbler, Long-tailed Tit, Iberian Chiffchaff, Western Bonelli’s Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Eurasian Reed Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Savi’s Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Dartford Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Short-toed Treecreeper, Spotless Starling, Bluethroat, Common Nightingale, Spanish Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Black-headed Weaver, Yellow-crowned Bishop, Common Waxbill, Scaly-breasted Munia, Western Yellow Wagtail, Water Pipit, Hawfinch, European Serin, Cirl Bunting and Common Reed Bunting.

Rare or Accidental Species

In recent years, a number of species that are considered major rarities in Portugal have been seen at this site during our tours; these include Surf Scoter, Velvet Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Red-throated Loon, Common Loon, Slavonian Grebe, Lesser Flamingo, White Pelican, Lesser Yellowlegs, Marsh Sandpiper and Franklin’s Gull.


Half Day Private Tour

  • 1 person – 180 €
  • 2 persons – 220 €
  • 3 persons – 260 €
  • 4 persons – 300 €

(+ 40 € per additional person)

Full Day Private Tour

  • 1 person – 280 €
  • 2 persons – 340 €
  • 3 persons – 400 €
  • 4 persons – 460 €

(+ 60 € per additional person)

Contact us now for reservations or further details

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Photos by Pedro Marques