Showing Doñana since 1990


A subadult Spanish imperial eagle taking off

Raptors in August

By José Antonio Sánchez Iglesias

Posted in ,

High temperatures have scorched the park and water scarcity models landscapes and transforms animal lives. The marshes of El Rocio have dry out and the same has happened to the near La Rocina Stream; we have go up to Charco del Acebrón, next to the Acebrón Palace Visitor Center to find some water in its bed. A walk through the lush riverbank forest around it is one of the most recommended summer activities in Doñana. In the forests the yellow of the grass carpets contrasts with the green of pines, oaks and mastic trees. Iberian magpies patrol the pastures in search of food and a few rabbits nibble at dry bushes beside the road.

Bosque de alcornoques y helechos

Cork oaks and ferns


Mammals concentrate most of its activity around dawn and dusk. We can already hear frequently the howls of male red deer rutting. Some lucky days we get to see our star mammal, the Iberian lynx, although many other days we have to be happy with a fresh trail in the sand. We usually find some young Rastro de lince ibérico en la arenabooted eagles that still remain in the cork oak forests near the marshes, most of them have already started returning to their winter quarters in Africa. Some young black kites also show themselves as we move into the open marshlands. The little owls using the rabbits artificial warrens to live also show up often.

There the yellows and ochres of the salt bushes and parched grasses contrast with the green of tamarisks and some localized reed beds. Normally there is only water left in some sections of the Caño Guadiamar, where groups of waders and some herons concentrate. Here we can find some young red kites born in the area or just arrived wintering adults. Most of our waterfowl have been forced to move to the not distant paddy fields, where they find the shelter, water and food they need. Therefore, we usually include in our summer tours a visit to the nearby rice fields of Hato Ratón. On the way we pass next to the breeding colony of lesser kestrels, where there are often some individuals that will stay through the winter.

In the green rice paddies is not uncommon to find marsh harriers flying low in search of some careless prey. Storks, herons, egrets, spoonbills, glossy ibis and a good variety of waders feed also here always alert to the attack of predators.


Caño Guadiamar en verano

Caño Guadiamar


In the cracked plains only some lesser short-toed, calandra and crested larks, accompanied by small groups of pintail sandgrouses, all steppe birds, can withstand the harsh conditions of this ecosystem in summer. It is a propitious time though for many of our birds of prey. Griffon vultures arrived from the distant colonies at Cádiz and Huelva mountain ranges take advantage of the disastrous effects these hard conditions on herds of horses, cattle and sheep. Short-toed eagles have also plenty of food available and we found them perched on electric poles or hovering over our heads to detect their preys. Common Kestrels also use the power lines in the area near Lucio del Lobo as advantage perches.


The queen of our raptors, the Spanish imperial eagle can also be seen flying across the blue skies of Doñana in August or resting waiting for the right time to soar helped by the midday thermals, as this sub-adult, showing its rimmed white shoulders, was doing.


By the second half of the month we begin to see large numbers of migrating raptors flying south. Egyptian vultures and some griffon vulture, short-toed eagles, ospreys, booted eagles, black kites, honey buzzards, sparrowhawks and hobbies, lesser kestrels, all undertake a long journey that will take them to their wintering grounds in the sub-Saharan Africa.

About José Antonio Sánchez Iglesias

José Antonio Sánchez se licenció en Biología por la Universidad de Sevilla en 1985. Más tarde, durante varios años, se dedicó a organizar y guiar rutas de senderismo y naturaleza ...