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Etang de Canet-Saint-Nazaire - Saint-Nazaire, Pyrénées-Orientales (66)
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Site descriptions

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Natural setting of the watchpoint

The spring migration watchpoint of Canet Saint-Nazaire in the Eastern Pyrenees sits atop a hillock overlooking the west side of a coastal lagoon as well as meadows and reedbeds near the town of Cagarell. Set against the backdrop of the colourful Albères foothills of the Pyrenees, the site is ideally located to watch bird migration. From its slightly elevated position, the watchpoint offers a panoramic view across the lagoon, the Albères foothills sloping down to the Mediterranean Sea and the plain of Roussillon.

The best conditions for bird migration are with a strong, dry, cold wind from the northwest, called Tramontane: wind drift pushes the migrants towards the coast and forces them to fly low. With hardly any or a southeastern wind, however, birds move more freely, gain altitude (and may disappear out of sight) and tend to migrate inland along the hillsides on the edges of the plain of Roussillon.  

History of the survey and environmental issues

Spring migration at Canet has been surveyed for many years albeit irregularly by local birders. This is an important stop-over site on a major flyway for birds that need refueling after the crossing of the Albères foothills of the Pyrenees. It is one of the last natural sites on the coast of Roussillon. Despite its classification as a Special Protection Zone, it undergoes the toll of progress and faces strong pressures (urbanization, human disturbance, etc.).   

Ornithological interest, emblematic species

The best period is usually mid February to mid May. Several thousands of birds can be seen on the way to their breeding grounds, including raptors, storks, herons, gulls, waders and passerines. This is a birding hotspot for all tastes and twitchers will not be disappointed (Black-winged Kite, Eleonora’s Falcon, …).

The most numerous raptors are Honey Buzzard, Black Kite, Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard and Kestrel. Many Ospreys catch fish in the lagoon. This is the land of storks and some springs nearly 2000 White Storks are counted. Some feed and rest close to the watchpoint, sometimes accompanied by Cranes. Gulls and terns (including Caspian Tern) are also regular. Many passerines and small birds fly past at close range as they seek shelter from the strong winds: swifts, swallows, martins, finches, wagtails, Bee-eaters, Rollers, etc. Even when weather conditions are less favourable for bird migration, the wide variety of seaside habitats has a lot to offer : Purple Gallinule, Glossy Ibis, White-winged Black Tern, Audouin’s Gull, Slender-billed Gull, all the French heron species, crakes, Collared Pratincole, etc.


The hillock of Saint-Nazaire can be easily reached from the village bearing the same name. You can leave your car on the edge of a housing estate. From the car park, you have to continue on foot for about 100 m. Access is forbidden to vehicles.

Where to stay and where to eat?

The watchpoint is close to the seaside resort of Canet in Roussillon. There is a wide choice of accommodation and restaurants.  


Groupe Ornithologique du Roussillon  

4, rue Béranger 66000 Perpignan

Phone: 04 68 51 20 01


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