France Birding Tours
The French Republic (“France” hereafter) is a western European country and shares its land borders with seven other countries: Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Andorra, and Spain, plus the principality of Monaco. The United Kingdom is located to the north of France, across the English Channel. France is the third-largest country in Europe, behind Russia and Ukraine, and is the largest country in Western Europe. The capital of France, Paris, is a world renowned, ancient and historic city, full of culture, top cuisine (and drink!), history, and instantaneously recognizable landmarks like the Eiffel Tower. France’s population stands at 64.9 million people with around 12.6 million people living in the Paris metropolitan area.
Throughout the Middle Ages France had numerous conflicts with England, Spain, and the Holy Roman Empire but largely triumphed and grew in prosperity throughout this period. During the 16th century the battle between the Catholic and Protestant faiths in France led to the country weakening and this was further compounded by multiple wars throughout the 17th century. In 1789 the French Revolution saw the fall of the monarchy and in the 19th century Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte took control of much of Europe. In the 20th century France saw victory in World War One but was occupied by Nazi Germany in World War Two before being liberated in 1944.
The landscape of France is varied but dominated by four main rivers: the Seine, Loire, Garonne, and the Rhóne and their catchment areas forms 62% of France’s land area. The Rhóne also divides the Alps and Massif Central mountain ranges and is a key waterway for migrating birds moving up from its mouth in the Mediterranean. Most of France’s land is made up of forests and low-lying countryside (with plenty of stately chateaus) but its south and eastern borders are dominated by two huge mountain ranges: The Alps and the Pyrenees. The Alps contains Mont Blanc which stands at 15,774 feet (4,808 meters), making it the tallest mountain in Western Europe. France’s climate is varied, with the majority of the country influenced by Atlantic Ocean weather systems. The mountain areas are typical tundra landscapes and the extreme south features a Mediterranean climate with hot summers and mild winters.
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Following International Ornithological Congress (IOC) taxonomy (v10.2 in December 2020) the bird list of France stands at 619 species, with 40 of these being globally threatened, this total includes the French island of Corsica and its endemic Corsican Nuthatch. France has a huge 277 Important Bird Areas (IBAs), sites identified by BirdLife International as having high value to birds. On top of this, France has nine national parks and 46 natural parks, plus plans are afoot to make 20% of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) into a marine protected area (MPA). One of the top birding sites in France is the Camarague Wetlands on the Mediterranean coast between the cities Montpellier and Marseille, in the region of 300 species have been recorded here.
France is typical of Western European countries in having a wide variety of bird species present year-round, with an influx of birds during the spring and autumn as birds migrate through the country heading further north, or south depending on the season. Interesting bird species occurring in France include Western Capercaillie, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Eurasian Eagle-Owl, Purple Heron, Slender-billed Gull, Bearded Vulture, Golden Eagle, Black Woodpecker, Wallcreeper (a much-desired monotypic family), Common Rock Thrush, White-winged Snow Finch, Alpine Chough, Alpine Accentor, Citril Finch, Cirl Bunting and so much more.
We are not currently offering scheduled bird watching tours to France but if you would like a private tour here, then please get in touch and we would be happy to help build a custom tour with dates to suit you. There are great birding sites not too far out of Paris if you wanted to tag some birdwatching onto a cultural city tour, such as to La Brenne – a beautiful patchwork of over 600 lakes and pockets of forest with over 200 species recorded.