History of Las Pajareras (Doñana National Park)



In Doñana, the term "pajarera" ("the bird nesting place") is used to describe the breeding colonies of herons, storks and spoonbills. The first written references we have from Doñana nesting places are from the eighteenth century, although at that time were located in other places (“Laguna de Santa Olalla”, “Sotos”, “Lomo del Grullo”). Over time, the bird nests have come to occupy different locations, abandoning some and colonizing other. Of these, the most famous and spectacular, which has appropriated the name "Pajarera" is that which has been set in the “Vera” of Doñana, ecotone zone between the stabilized dunes and the marshes.

The “Pajarera” was discovered to science back in the 50's of last century, when Francisco Bernis (founder of the Spanish Ornithological Society), José Antonio Valverde (first director of the Doñana Biological Station and first curator of the Doñana National Park) and Jose Manuel Rubio (Professor of Geography at the University of Seville), described and took a census of the colony. At that time, the Pajarera was not in the same place as now but occupying  the heather and oaks located in "La Algaida", a farm situated at the north of the actual Biological Reserve. At that time, there was no road from Almonte to El Rocío, and the access to the Doñana Palace was made from Sanlúcar de Barrameda, after a tiring day on horses through the sands, crossing the Guadalquivir river mouth on a boat.
Once in the Palace, people had to travel on foot or by mule several miles to the bird colony. It has an enormous merit the information provided by these scientists, taking into account the means they had. On the other hand, they were the first ones who warned about the pernicious effect of bird droppings on vegetation, finding that after several years of occupation, the heathland vegetation and cork trees where birds built their nests, were completely destroyed.

 

 


 

 

 

As a courtesy of José Manuel Rubio
As a courtesy of José Manuel Rubio

 

In the mid 60's, the "PAjarera" moved south to occupy the edge of the Doñana Biological Reserve, where it remains today, settling on oaks, poplars, willows and some of them on wild olive tree. Before the end of winter, groups of herons and storks start to arrive, beginning the reproductive process that reaches its peak in spring and lasts until summer. Currently, the colony is composed of seven species: storks (Ciconia ciconia), herons (Ardea cinerea), spoonbills (Platalea leucorodia), egrets (Egretta garzetta), cattle egrets (Bubulcus ibis), herons (Nycticorax nyticorax) and squacco (Ardeolla ralloides). The size of the colony , depending of the year, can range from a few dozen of pairs to several thousand, depending on flood conditions of the marsh, which is the main habitat where they find their food.

 


 

 

 

 

 

H. Garrido/EBD-CSIC

 

H. Garrido/EBD-CSIC