Alqueva is a small village that gives its name to a huge dam built on the River Guadiana. Since the floodgates of the dam were closed in 2002, the diversity of birds inhabiting the area has changed greatly, with waterfowl becoming much more common over the last 14 years.
The Crane is one of the most charismatic species to winter in the Alentejo. Each year, thousands migrate to the Iberian Peninsula from Northern Europe to populate the ‘Montados’ and great views of the species can be obtained as they feed on the banks around the Alqueva Dam.
Following the construction of the lake, several colonies of Cormorant arrived in the area, and the species is easy to see throughout the year. The Egyptian Goose, an African introduction which has spread rapidly across Europe (see eBird map), can be found in large flocks in certain areas, but more usually scattered in small groups along the entire lake.
Waders, including Black-winged Stilt, both Common and Green Sandpiper, Little Stint and Dunlin can be found in suitable habitat around the margins of the lake. Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed Gull are seen throughout the year, with higher concentrations appearing during the winter period, while the huge Caspian Tern can be observed occasionally.
The birdwatching around the Alqueva Dam is very rewarding during the winter months, and from the mid-December, Birdwatch in Alentejo will offer daily tours of the area – stay tuned for more announcements.