Portugal country programme

As part of our ongoing support for BirdLife International, we are supporting SPEA, the Portuguese BirdLife Partner, to become a stronger, more effective and self-sustaining organisation.

 Manx shearwater Puffinus puffinus, adult flying low over the water of an evening, Isles of Scilly


Together we tackle key nature conservation issues in Portugal, safeguarding sites and protecting species, while at the same time building the internal structures and processes which make SPEA a solid, professional, NGO and a leader in nature conservation in Portugal.
RSPB started work with the Portuguese BirdLife partner in 1998, when SPEA was only five years old. Portugal is especially important to the RSPB because its Atlantic archipelagos support some of the rarest bird species in Europe, namely the endemic Azores bullfinch, the Madeiran petrel and the Desertas petrel. Portugal also includes magnificent natural sites and habitats, including internationally important marshlands and high nature value farmland, such as the spectacular cork oak ‘montados’ across large parts of the country. Many of these are also very important sites for migratory species. BirdLife International and the RSPB benefit from a strong partner in Portugal who is able to put birds and nature on the political agenda. By doing so influence policies in the Iberian peninsula and European Union which will also help us to protect birds across Europe and in the UK.


  • Build a strong and effective BirdLife Partner organisation in Portugal, by exchanging knowledge on developing and managing the operations of an organisation, such as strategic planning, project development and delivery, financial management, as well as growing and maintaining membership services
  • Identify, protect and manage Important Bird Areas in Portugal
  • Save globally threatened species from extinction, including the Azores Bullfinch and the Desertas Petrel
  • Monitor the population trends of common and rare breeding birds and the bird populations in IBAs in order to identify threats at an early stage and then act to address them
  • Lobby for the protection of rare and common bird species alike in the wider countryside, by influencing rural development, agriculture and forestry policies at a national level
  • Promote bird and nature conservation among the Portuguese society and build public support for SPEA


Planned Work

Our support to SPEA is a combination of annual funding for key elements of SPEA’s core organisational costs and focussed technical support in key areas.
As SPEA continues to grow steadily in experience, capacity and size, it will become self-sustaining. In parallel, the RSPB will gradually reduce its technical and financial support to SPEA until our partner is fully able to work effectively for bird and nature in Portugal without regular support from the RSPB. There is no specific timescale for RSPB’s withdrawal, but instead this will be negotiated based on identified needs which will enable us to reallocate our resources to other deserving partners.


  • SPEA has grown to become an efficient, professional nature conservation organisation with more than 20 full-time staff and an impressive portfolio of conservation projects and public outreach work. It is the leading bird conservation organisation in Portugal.
  • SPEA has recruited 1,200 paid-up members, and has a campaign underway to significantly increase its number of members in the next few years.
  • SPEA has identified and is monitoring 93 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Portugal. Thanks to pressure by SPEA and the European Commission, many these are already protected as Special Protection Areas (SPAs). SPEA is developing a comprehensive network of dedicated site caretakers for these IBAs, and is actively working at selected high priority sites to secure their effective management and long-term protection.
  • SPEA is running campaigns which are fighting to save the most threatened sites from damage or destruction, such as the Salgados (Pera marsh) IBA.
  • SPEA is running comprehensive conservation programmes for the globally threatened Azores bullfinch (Europe’s rarest songbird) and the Desertas petrel, an endemic species recently identified as being distinct from Fea’s petrel.
  • With 50-100 volunteers in each case, SPEA monitors common breeding birds, maintains national IBA monitoring, collects data on bird deaths caused by electricity lines, completes an annual migration watch, a Christmas bird count, and in the Azorean islands has recently started an annual buzzard count.
  • SPEA is the leading European BirdLife International partner in the research and identification of coastal and marine IBAs that will protect important feeding areas for pelagic seabirds.
  • SPEA maintains one of the largest marine databases of Europe, and plans to use it not only for seabird conservation and marine protection, but also to implement management plans around islands and in busy coastal areas.
  • SPEA is lobbying the relevant authorities on national policies that can have a negative impact on birds and biodiversity, such as wind farms, rural development and agro-environmental schemes.
  • SPEA advises airport authorities on actions to reduce the risk of ‘bird strikes’ at airports.
  • SPEA is running a series of programmes to introduce several thousand people every year to birds and nature conservation. In the Azores, SPEA has also opened recently its first information centre.
  • SPEA is implementing projects to develop and promote birdwatching and nature-based tourism in Portugal, and publishes the only national birdwatching magazine.

Species affected (not UK birds)

Azores bullfinch
Desertas petrel
Madeiran kinglet


SPEA-BirdLife Portugal, Avenida da Liberdade, No 105 - 2oEsq, 1250-140 Lisboa, Portugal 
Telephone: (+351) 21 322 04 03.         
Fax: (+351) 21 322 04 39 
E-mail: spea@spea.pt


This programme is not externally funded


Coast on a stormy day

Mark Day

Head of Partner Development Unit, Europe, Middle East and Central Asia

Tagged with: Country: International Country: Portugal Project status: Ongoing Project types: Advocacy Project types: Education Project types: Site protection Project types: Species protection