Where to watch birds in the Landes?

Where to watch birds  ...

The Landes lands are a paradise for birds. On the dunes of its coast, in the heart of its pine forest or its Landes de Gascogne Regional Nature Park, everyone will find their place and a cozy nest, whether to live there or for a winter stay. The Landes Guide reveals the best sites for bird watching.

Admiring the birds is an activity that can be done in any season, in the Landes. Its mouth, marshes, dunes and forests form a specific biotope, which hosts endemic species. The department is also located on one of the most important migratory routes in Europe. Many migratory birds take refuge there and the best periods for observation are the end of winter and the beginning of autumn.

Opening photo : @ Ryan Magsino / Unsplash

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The Landes de Gascogne Regional Nature Park, a place of passage for migrating birds

Straddling the Gironde and the Landes, the Landes de Gascogne Regional Natural Park stretches from the Arcachon basin to the outskirts of Casteljaloux on one side and Mont-de-Marsan on the other. This immense natural area encompasses different areas : A river valley crossed by the Leyre ; a delta with its Teich Ornithological Reserve ; ideal wetlands for wintering common cranes ; the Maison de la nature to discover the park in an educational, fun or unusual way; the Marquèze ecomuseum to find the customs and life of yesteryear.  

To observe birds, we offer several walks :

  • The Testarouman leisure center, in Pissos : Located in the heart of the park, it allows you to go down the Leyre by canoe, for an observation over the water, in particular of its magnificent birds with shimmering colors, the kingfishers. Then, you can exercise and have fun with your family, doing tree climbing, archery...
  • Another option : rent bikes at the leisure center and explore the Pissos forest by mountain bike independently.
  • The Teich Ornithological Reserve was established on the Leyre Delta. It is a rich and nourishing ecosystem, which attracts many migratory birds, in particular the Common Crane. Observation points have been installed and original tours allow you to admire the birds at the best times.
  • The Landes de Gascogne Natural Park publishes a small downloadable book : “ Your appointments with the Common Crane ” (fr).
common crane
Observe the Common Crane Photo: @ Santiago Lacarta / Unsplash

Did you know A " mouth " is a place of union between a river and the ocean. Under the impulse of the tide, the sea waves penetrate the land and mingle with the fresh waters of the river. This mixture of fresh water and sea is called "saumâtre ". The difference between an “ estuary ” and a “ delta ” is a question of the balance of power between the two… When the river is dominant, it is a “ delta ”. This is therefore the case with the Leyre! When the ocean dominates, it is an " estuary ".

the good idea In the authentic villages of the park, ecotourism is privileged and you can enjoy a peaceful and rejuvenating stay, surrounded by nature. This is a good opportunity to try unusual accommodation in the Landes.

stroll on the leyre

Walk on the Leyre Photo @Guide des Landes  

The Arjuzanx site

On an old mine, a natural space has been restored, but the vestiges of this past have favored the development of unusual plants in the region : certain plants, but also fungi and lichens. Insects have found their happiness there, attracting in turn, many birds. 177 species have been recorded there! On the Arjuzanx site (fr), you will be able to observe the Marsh Harrier or Common Harrier, the Saint-Martin, the Circaète Jean-le-Blanc, the Red-backed Shrike, the Pitchou Warbler… This site is one of the places of predilection of Common Cranes, which settle there during the winter.

Did you know The Landes have always been an important migration stage for the Common Cranes. The dunes and swamps offer them a comfortable refuge during the winter. They deserted them that during the period of intensive afforestation Landes in the 19th century, which was intended to stabilize the dunes and diversify the economy. Then in the 20th century, growing corn for poultry (mainly ducks) allowed the return of the cranes. Today 15% of European cranes stay in the Landes. Protecting this environment is there fore essential.

flaying shrike   pitchou warbler

A red-backed shrike and a Pitchou warbler Photos: Frebeck CC BY SA 3.0 & Francesco Veronesi CC BY-SA 2.0

The ornithological site of the Marais d'Orx

The Marais d'Orx Nature Reserve (fr) is a first-rate ornithological site. It is very vast, brings together very different landscapes : alder grove, saussaie, wet meadow, reed bed..., which are suitable for all kinds of birds : migratory, nesting... At least 247 species have been recorded, some of which are rare, such as the White Elanion or the White Spoonbill. Guides accompany you on " discovery tours ", accessible to all, or " naturalist tours " for hikers.

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Lesgau Nature Reserve, on the Barthes de l'Adour

" Barthes ", in Gascon, designate marshy meadows. These are the floodable banks of the Adour. They therefore form wetlands, made up of swamps, meadows and lawns, bogs, etc., which are full of food for birds. In Saint-Martin-de-Seignanx, not far from Bayonne, the Lesgau reserve, in the heart of Barthes de l'Adour, is a place of nesting, but also of parking for migrating birds. An ornithological observatory has been installed there and the tourist office organizes guided outings.

the barthes of adour

Les Barthes de l'Adour, marshy meadows. Photo: Ogrisel CC BY 3.0

The Courant d'Huchet Nature Reserve, the Little Amazon of the Landes

The Huchet current is a river since it flows into the Atlantic Ocean. It takes its source in the pond of Léon, of which it is the outlet, and its mouth is near Moliets-et-Maâ. Nicknamed the " Little Amazon of the Landes ", you will see a lot of wild animals, insects, fish and birds of course. For more practical information (accommodation, catering, visit, etc.), see our article on the Courant d'Huchet Nature Reserve.

A preview of your visit, would you like it? We take you aboard a " Galupe ", for a ride along the current, accompanied by the Bateliers du Courant d'Huchet.

Huchet current reserve

A descent by boat to enjoy this very exotic environment! Photo @ Lesley Williamson

Le Courant de Contis, a “Natura 2000” site

Going down along the Vignac, you will reach the Courant de Contis, in the heart of a site classified as “ Natura 2000 ”. This preserved environment is very exotic. The flora and fauna are exceptional. Under a " canopy " of trees that overlooks the river, in the midst of marsh hibiscus, carnivorous plants and ferns, you will be able to surprise hawks, hawks, egrets, kites, herons, kingfishers..., not to mention cistudes (turtles), otters and European minks!

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We suggest you go canoeing down the Contis current with Atlantis Loisirs. Read our article!  

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The Black Pond Nature Reserve

The Réserve de l'Étang Noir is a typically Landes and yet little known universe. It is a swamp forest, resembling a mangrove, which surrounds a pond, its stream which feeds it and a peat bog. It is the kingdom of birds : purple herons, egrets, kingfishers, etc., who come to eat in this wetland. Signs line the route to make the walk more interesting and footbridges, boats and other advances along the water allow you to contemplate nature and birds, without damaging the banks.

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We take you for a short walk along the Black Pond.

black pond

The view from one of the observatories. Photo : @Anne Pinsolle

Our tour of bird watching sites in the Landes is over. This is a great opportunity to discover the Landes in a new light and to introduce you to ornithology!

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