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Birdwatching in France

Quiet, relaxing, and peaceful, we look at the best birdwatching spots in France.

There’s nothing better than a country walk, binoculars in hand, looking for birds high and low. Europe has some lovely places for birdwatching, but the variety of birds in each region makes France a popular choice. What with its many wetlands, mountainous regions, and coastal stretches, France is full of places to look for birds. Whether you’re a keen birdwatcher or you’d like to give it a try, read our guide to the best birdwatching spots in France.

North eastern France

A visit to North East France gives you the chance to explore some of the country’s lesser-known areas. The champagne region has plenty of large forests and unspoiled nature reserves that are the perfect place to look for birds, as well as enjoy a drink!

Lake Der-Chantecoq

Distance from Calais: 4-hour-drive

The largest artificial lake in Western Europe, Lake Der-Chantecoq covers 19 square miles and plays host to several different species.

Located in Champagne, the journey here is well worth the drive. Every year thousands of Cranes stop at the lake during their spring and autumn migration, creating quite the spectacle on the banks. You may also see the Great Egret, Loons, and even a White-tailed Eagle if you’re lucky.

Grey rocks stretching along the side of a blue lake on the left and a grey path with a spire building in the background and green grass and trees

Bourgogne-Franche-Comté

Distance from Calais: 5-hour drive

Bourgogne-Franche-Comté has several reserves which are great places for bird watching. The Haut-Jura Regional Natural Park covers 165,000 hectares across three French departments: Ain, Doubs and Jura, offering plenty of opportunities for you to escape into the wilderness.

Likewise, the Morvan Regional Natural Park is a protected area of woodlands, lakes, and traditional farmland which creates a variety of habitats for several different species.

Grand-Est, Nancy

Distance from Calais: 5-hour drive

Grand-Est in North eastern France has multiple great outdoor spaces, perfect for birdwatching. The lakes in the area are famous for their Catfish and Carp fishery, if you fancy trying something new, but are also home to a fantastic number of birds.

The Lac du Der and Foret d’Orient are famous for their population of migrating cranes and act as the home for White-tailed Eagle during winter. Other great reserves include Chooz and Montherme based on the Meuse River, which is a great place to spot a Black Woodpecker and the La Horre lake which has breeding Purple Heron and Spotted Crake.

Birding in the mountains of France

The French mountains are a popular choice for all types of holidaymakers who enjoy the great outdoors. Ranging from hikers and cyclists to bird watchers, the diversity of the landscape is wonderful and makes for some great scenery while you’re out and about. Because of the altitude, the weather can be quite changeable, so think carefully about when you go.

Two tourists standing on a rock in the middle of a grassy field staring at the mountains beneath a blue sky with white clouds and green trees at the base of the mountains

Les Alpilles including Les Baux

Distance from Calais: 9-hour and 30-mins drive

Located in Provence, Les Alpilles is a small range of low mountains which make a wonderful place for bird watching, particularly if you’re keen to cross an Eagle Owl or Bonelli’s Eagle off your list.

If you do decide to brave the mountains in winter, Les Baux, a commune in Provence has some amazing guided birdwatching walks. A renowned site for a Wallcreeper, Les Baux also has some wonderful places to stay locally.

Mont Ventoux

Distance from Calais: 10-hour drive

Another mountainous region in Provence, Mont Ventoux, has a wide selection of species which can be found in the Alpine meadows and woodland. Rock Bunting, Crested Tit, Western Bonelli’s Warbler, and Citril Finch are all numerous and relatively easy to spot. The area also has plenty of other activities for you to enjoy, so if you’re travelling with fewer ornithologists, there’s plenty for everyone to enjoy.

Massif Central, Le Falgoux

Distance from Calais: 8-hour and 30-mins drive

Le Falgoux in the Massif Central has plenty of beautiful land expanses which are perfect for bird watching. The area also has some stunning mountain peaks, which are well suited to hikes and a great way to watch out for local wildlife. If you want to get closer to nature, Le Falgoux also has some amazing treetop accommodation you can rent.

The Pyrenees

Distance from Calais: 12-hour drive

Separating France and Spain, the Pyrenees is home to many birds of prey, including the Lammergeier, one of Europe’s largest and rarest vultures. The Citril Finch is also native to the Pyrenees and those who venture up to higher peaks, may have the pleasure of spotting the Alpine Accentor and Snowfinch.

Aerial view of a winding mountain road surrounded by trees

Southern France and the Mediterranean coast

Idyllic all year round and particularly popular during the summer months, the South of France is another great holiday destination for anyone who loves exploring in nature. From canoeing in the Dordogne to exploring one of the regions national parks, there’s plenty to love about birdwatching in southern France.

Camargue National Park

Distance from Calais: 9-hour and 30-mins drive

Located within the south west region of France, on the Mediterranean coast, Camargue Natural Park is home to flocks of wild birds, including the pink flamingos for which the area is famous. Thanks to the park’s wetlands, the beautiful flamingos can be seen throughout the year, but the best time to go is spring and autumn. As well as pink flamingos, you can also spot grey herons.

The Tarn Gorge

Distance from Calais: 9-hour drive

Running from Le Rozier to Quézac in the Lozère department, the Tarn Gorge is one the deepest (and prettiest) gorges in the world. Not only is the Gorge beautiful, with its limestone cliffs, luscious greenery, and picturesque villages, it’s also the perfect habitat for lots of great birds. Black vultures and griffon vultures are common in this region, as well as other cliff-dwelling birds.

Le Teich bird reserve

Distance from Calais: 8-hour and 30-mins drive

A protected nature reserve in Southwest France, Le Teich bird reserve is 110 hectares of woodland, reed beds, meadows and salt marsh designed to attract wild birds. There is also a breeding programme which has 88 different species including the Great Spotted Woodpecker, the Grey Heron, the Great Black-backed Gull and Passerines. Open all year round, this ornithological site is perfect for first time and experienced bird watchers. 

Little egrets and moorhens standing and swimming in water with a pebbly shore to the left

Western France

With so many different experiences on offer, Western France has some of the most diverse areas for bird watching in France.

The Forest of Rennes

Distance from Calais: 5-hour and 30-mins drive

The Forest of Rennes can be found to the north-east of the city and is easily accessible by car. The forest covers almost 3,000 hectares, including several lakes, making it Brittany’s largest forest. The forest is home to many types of flora and fauna, and it is especially good for birdwatching. European honey buzzards can be found alongside pretty kingfishers and several varieties of woodpecker.

The Bay of the Somme

Distance from Calais: 2-hour drive

Made up of marshes, dunes, and saltwater meadows, The Bay of the Somme is known for its unique landscape and the incredible ecological environment this has created. It is, undoubtedly, one of the best places to birdwatch in France. Make your way to the Parc du Marquenterre, where you can hire binoculars and look out for storks, spoonbills, oystercatchers, and egrets.

Lac de Grand-Lieu

Distance from Calais: 6-hour drive

You’ll find the Lac de Grand-Lieu about an hour’s drive south of Nantes, in upper Brittany. This magnificent lake is one of France’s largest, and it is home to a wide variety of beautiful plants and animals. Approximately 270 species of bird can be found at the lake, making it a prime location for birdwatchers. You can see purple herons, black-necked grebes, little egrets and many more. This is a great place to explore some of France’s most beautiful birds.

Ouessant

Distance from Calais: 7-hour and 30-mins drive, plus a 1-hour and 15-mins ferry crossing

A French Island 30km off the coast of Le Conquet, Ouessant is a birdwatching hotspot. Rare species found on the island include the Upland Sandpiper, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Scarlet Tanager, and Northern Parula. There are also guided tours around the island where experts can show you the best spots to find new species.

Brière Natural Regional Park

Distance from Calais: 6-hour and 30-mins drive

Located in the Loire Valley, the landscape of Brière Natural Regional Park is a delight for bird watchers. The vast expanse of water meadows, reedbeds and proximity to the Guérande salt marshes means that the park attracts a large number of birds. If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of a Stilt Plover or Purple Heron during your visit.

Pink flamingos standing in blue water with sun setting over trees

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