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WINGS Birding Tours – Itinerary

France: Birding à la Française

Birds, Wine and Cheese in Southern France

Sunday 4 May to Wednesday 14 May 2025
with Fabrice Schmitt and Pierre Defos Du Rau as leaders
Sunday 3 May to Wednesday 13 May 2026
with Fabrice Schmitt and Pierre Defos Du Rau as leaders

Price: $4,850 (05/2025)

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Eurasian Bee-eater in Ligagneau Photo: Fabrice Schmitt

France is best known for its food and wine, but it also has wonderful birds! Our tour will mix these ingredients; binoculars will never be very far from the corkscrew, and you will be reading your field guide with a mouthful of local cheese.

Our idea is simple. We’ll visit some of the best birding spots in southern France and the island of Corsica, while taking time to taste local cheeses, wines, and regional food specialities. Your French leaders, who are both determined gourmets and cool birders, will take you to memorable places in search of birds and excellent local food: In the French Alps, we’ll enjoy local cheese and ‘caillette’ (local ‘pâté’ of pork and spinach) after looking at displaying Black Grouse; in the Camargue, we’ll taste the local telline (a type of clam) or bull cheeks after watching colorful European Bee-Eaters and European Greater Flamingos; in the Crau, part of the Natural Regional Park of Les Alpilles, we’ll celebrate our observations of rare Lesser Kestrels and Little Bustards with a tasting of local organic wines; and in Corsica we’ll look for the endemic Nuthatch and Corsican Finch, and track down the equally endemic beer and sausage.

If you enjoy birding in gorgeous landscapes, and if your ideal picnic is a basket of local ham, cheese, and red wine, this tour might be for you.

Day 1: The tour begins this evening at our hotel in Bastia with an introductory meeting and dinner together. Night in Bastia.

Birding à la Française: Birds, Wine and Cheese in Southern France is truly the birding tour of a lifetime. Thanks to Fabrice’s and Pierre’s amazing leadership and expertise, we observed an astounding number of new bird species, and discovered an interesting variety of local flora and fauna.  And, the wine and cheese were truly “magnifique.”

- Frank and Nancy K.

Day 2-3: Called L’île de beauté (island of beauty), Corsica will surprise you with wonderful landscapes, a fabulous coastline, tremendous mountains, and beautiful native pine tree forests. There are also beech and chestnut forests patrolled by gangs of semi-wild pigs, who serve as the base of the local charcuterie. Chestnuts also play an important role in Corsican food, as they are used in pastry, meat sauces, side dishes, beer, among other things. Our first stop may be to enjoy a view of Spotless Starlings and Hooded Crows, both common on the island, or to patronize a local delicatessen offering amazing wild boar sausage, goat and sheep cheese, chestnut cream, and ‘cédrat’ (local citrus) jam.

During our three days in the island, we’ll spend time in the attractive Asco valley, where we could find Eurasian Crag-Martins, flocks of Goldfinches, Cirl Bunting, and Moltoni’s and Marmora’s Warblers—the latter two both endemic to only a few Mediterranean islands, including Corsica. We’ll be driving through scenic gorges, and along a delightful stream where we hope to find a White-throated Dipper. Our hotel is perched high in the mountains, surrounded by the wonderful scenery of the upper Asco valley. While enjoying a beer or an intense Corsican wine on the hotel terrace we might possibly spot the very rare Lammergeier!

We’ll spend one morning in the magnificent Corsican pine forest of the upper Asco Valley looking for the only species known to be endemic to France (so far—taxonomy is changing quickly), the uncommon Corsican Nuthatch, as well as the near-endemic and lovely Corsican Finch. While looking for these, we have good chance of finding Coal and Long-tailed Tits, Mediterranean (Spotted) Flycatcher, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Eurasian Treecreeper, Raven, Eurasian Blackcap, and a few Red Kites. Corsica is a wonderful place for picnics so expect to savor local meats, cheeses, and chestnut ice-cream. Nights in the Asco Valley.

Day 4: After a last morning birding in the Asco Valley, we will head toward Bastia or Île Rousse (depending of the ferry schedule). We will stop around Lake Biguglia to look for Purple Heron, Greater Flamingo and eventually even the rare Audouin’s Gull. In the evening we will catch the ferry to the Continent. We leave in the evening, but we may still have a chance to spot a few Yelkouan Shearwaters and even the rarer Cory’s (Scopoli’s) Shearwater over the water. Night onboard the ferry.

Day 5-7: We’ll have three full days to explore the Camargue, the Crau, and Les Alpilles, some of the best birding areas in France. The Camargue is western Europe’s largest river delta, consisting of a vast plain dotted with large lagoons cut off from the sea by sandbars and encircled by reed-covered marshes, as well as an extensive cultivated area (mostly rice) and pastures grazed by cattle and horses unique the area. These vast wetlands and salt meadows attract a wide variety of birds and are extremely important, at the European scale, to the wintering, migrating, and breeding avifauna. Although our visit comes at the end of the migration period, we’ll have a good chance of finding flocks of Dunlins, Little Stints, and Curlew Sandpipers foraging together, along with breeding Pied Avocets, Black-winged Stilts, and Slender-billed Gulls. The colorful Greater Flamingoes come to breed in the salt marshes, as do Common Shelducks and Kentish Plovers. In the reed-covered marshes, we’ll seek a long list of songbirds, such as Cetti’s, Moustached, and Melodious Warblers, Common and Great Reed Warblers, the beautiful Bearded Reedling, and the handsome local subspecies of Reed Bunting. Up to nine species of heron can be found in a single (lucky) day, including the elegant Purple Heron, the cryptic (when perched) Squacco Heron, and the elusive Little and Great Bitterns. In the agricultural fields, it’s common to find flocks of the stunning Mediterranean Gull and the Glossy Ibis. Populations of these, together with the rare Eurasian Spoonbill, have increased recently following the introduction of crayfish. In dryer habitats, we’ll look for the superb Collared Pratincole, one more of the Camargue’s specialties, and we’ll have many opportunities to admire the sparkling, ubiquitous European Bee-eater. Birds may be a focus here but is also the place to taste the local telline or try some famous bull meat.

Located just to the East of the Camargue, the Crau (pronounced “crow”) is the ancient confluence of the Durance and Rhône rivers and constitutes a vast flat alluvial fan. This is the only place in France, and one of the very last in Europe, where steppe habitat can still be found over a significant area. As such, it promises a fine selection of specialized steppe bird species. We’ll be looking for the charismatic Little Bustard, the vocal Greater Short-toed and Crested Larks, breeding Lesser Kestrels, the unique Eurasian Hoopoe, and the elegant Iberian Gray Shrike. With lots of luck, we may even spot Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, restricted in France to this little steppe territory.

In the background of the Camargue and the Crau are the famous Mediterranean hills of Les Alpilles. This scenic terrain is composed of arid limestone peaks separated by dry valleys and pine forests. Evening birding is a treat here, looking for Red-legged Partridge, the impressive Bonelli’s Eagle, the secretive but noisy Dartford, Western Subalpine and Sardinian Warblers, and the fancy European Roller. The villages of Les Alpilles are also known for excellent organic wines, so we may have no choice but to organize a picnic for dinner, with local wine, cheese, charcuterie, and local fruits. We’ll remain until dusk, enjoying the food and birds, and watching the night sky for a glimpse of a massive Eurasian Eagle-Owl or its dwarf relative, the Eurasian Scops-Owl. Nights in Fontvieille.

Day 8: After our early breakfast, we will head towards the Baronnies, a lovely Mediterranean region of middle elevation mountains (up to 1,600 meters/5,250 feet). Our drive should provide numerous good views of Eurasian Griffon Vulture, a spectacular species common to the area. We’ll need extremely good luck to spot the recently reintroduced Cinereous Vulture, or the rare Egyptian Vulture, but we’ll scan the sky all day to increase our chances. On the way, we’ll bird a rich agricultural area, mixing meadows, orchards, and pastures, where we can find a fine variety of birds such as European Turtle-Dove, Eurasian Wryneck, Eurasian Green Woodpecker, European Stonechat, Eurasian Golden Oriole, Red-backed Shrike, Western Orphean Warbler and Ortolan and Cirl Buntings. We may even spot Eurasian Hobby, as they sometimes hunt in these semi-open habitats. Night in La Motte-Chalancon.

Day 9: After a morning’s birding around the village of Rémuzat, dominated by an impressive cliff very attractive to Griffons, we’ll continue towards the charming village of La-Chapelle-en-Vercors in the Alps, where we’ll stay two nights. Along the way, we’ll stop to look for passerines such as Western Bonelli’s Warbler, Eurasian Linnet, and Yellowhammer, and we’ll certainly stop to buy some local cheese and enjoy a coffee or pastis in one of the many picturesque villages on our route. After checking-in to our hotel in the little village of La Chapelle-en-Vercors, we’ll spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the Nature Reserve and its birds including Great Spotted Woodpecker, Song Thrush, Firecrest, Goldcrests, Coal Tit, and perhaps even the beautiful Eurasian Bullfinch. Night in La-Chapelle-en-Vercors.

Day 10: We’ll begin well before sunrise to be in place to witness the remarkable Black Grouse lekking displays. Over the rest of the day, we’ll look for Red Crossbill, Mistle Thrush, Ring Ouzel, displaying Tree Pipits, or the cute Eurasian Nuthatch. We may also encounter the quite vocal Black Woodpecker, the largest European woodpecker.

We’ll take a full day to explore the Nature Reserve and its surroundings. With 17,000 hectares (42,000 acres), this is the largest continental reserve in mainland France. It protects alpine meadows and superb forests where no fewer than 750 species of plants are found, as well as numerous bird species such as Black Grouse, Eurasian Woodcock, the rare Eurasian Pygmy-Owl, Boreal Owl, and the superb Citril Finch. Alpine Chamois and Alpine Marmot also live here, and recently even the rare (and under-appreciated by farmers) Gray Wolf has been seen. Night in La-Chapelle-en-Vercors.

Day 11: Depending on yesterday’s birding success, we may spend this morning in the Haut-Plateaux du Vercors, or start to drive towards Lyon. On the way, we’ll pass through the stunning scenery of the Combe Laval cirque, taking a narrow four-kilometer road along an impressive cliff, where we may spot a few Eurasian Crag-Martin or even a soaring Golden Eagle. The tour concludes at the Lyon airport around 2:00 pm.

Updated: 20 May 2024


  • 2025 Tour Price : $4,850
  • Single Occupancy Supplement : $570


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Questions? Tour Manager: Stephanie Schaefer. Call 1-866-547-9868 (US or Canada) or (01) 520-320-9868 or click here to email.

* Tour invoices paid by check carry a 4% discount. Details here.

Maximum group size five with one leader; 10 with two leaders.

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