Wildlife of France (Europe)
Butterflies and flowers including orchids in early summer. The Alps and Pyrenees mountains have large wild areas.
Enjoy Flower Watching while you explore.
The Carmargue is a fantastic place to see flamingoes and other wetland wildlife. Gavarnie in the Pyrenees has birds of prey, flowers, butterflies and amazing views and might be my favourite wildlife-watching spot in the whole world.
France is a developed country in western Europe with a relatively low population density and a lot of agricultural land. One of the wildlife highlights of rural France is the grazing land, which is often unimproved. This means flowers such as orchids and insects such as butterflies and grasshoppers. Steeper slopes have often escaped the industrialisation of farming: so hilly or mountainous areas are often better for seeing this unimproved grassland.
- World Map showing France
- Location 1: Gavarnie Glacial valley in the Pyrenees rich in wildlife all summer.
- Location 2: Organbidexka A pass in the Pyrenees. Famous for the birds of prey that migrate through in the autumn.
- Location 3: South East Coast A section of coast on the edge of the Mediterranean. Recommendations for places to stop along the road.
- Location 4: Carmargue A large estuary with great views of flamingoes, dragonflies and other wetland wildlife. Good all year round.
- Location 5: Cevennes An area of hills/low mountains with mammals including beaver, deer, Wild Boar and Mouflon. Birds include vultures and eagles.
- Location 6: Tours On the banks of the Loire river, the land in and around Tours has typical birds and wildlife of the French countryside.
- Location 7: Fontainebleau A large forest with Wild Boar, deer, woodpeckers and other forest wildlife. There are hiking trails, cycling trails, camping facilities and it is also popular with climbers who scramble on the isolated rocks found between the trees.
- Location 8: Hendaye Waders and waterbirds on the shoreline. The GR10 footpath starts here before going all along the Pyrenees. Many birds migrate along the coast here and waders can be seen on the shore. The road along the harbour side has good views of the waders on the mudflats.
- Location 9: Avesnois Countryside with river, farmland and woodland habitats. Damselflies, butterflies and other wildlife in the summer by the river.
- Location 10: Chamonix Alps Cable cars give access to the mountains for walking in the summer. June/July is peak time for flowers and butterflies. Marmots, birds and other specialist mountain wildlife all summer.
- Location 11: Charente Coast Many migrating birds follow the coast to avoid going any further east and having to fly over the sea. Waders can be seen feeding as they take a break. Thousands of finches and other birds can be seen on the best days in the correct places.
- Location 12: Jura Foothills of the Alps. Wooded gorges with birds, butterflies and flowers. Explore on foot or in a canoe/kayak.
- Location 13: Cauterets A valley in the Pyrenees with good views of Pyrenean Izard possible. Also good for flowers in early summer including lilies.
- Location 14: Landes Sandy soil, pine woodland, rivers and an estuary. The pine woodland can be quiet but I have seen lots of good wildlife on the rivers and by the estuary.
- Location 15: Vanoise Alps Winding roads give access to high valleys full of flowers and butterflies. A high pass gives snowy mountain views even in the summer. Network of mountain huts available for adventurous hikers.
- Location 16: Le Crau A famous place for wildlife. The land is very flat and so very exposed in the winter. A summer visit can provide lots of flowers and butterflies.
- Location 17: Les Alpilles A mountainous area to the east of the Carmargue. Some picturesque walking and good general birdwatching.
- Location 18: Pont du Gard An incredible viaduct built by the Romans and still intact. This popular tourist attraction offers good birdwatching including the chance of Rock Bunting and Wallcreeper in the winter.
- Location 19: Pic d'Anie Unusual mountain scenery with mountain wildlife including birds, butterflies and flowers.
Areas of France are hot enough in the summer to support larger insects such as this cricket which can be seen in the flower meadows of the Cevennes.
The Alps offer dramatic scenery and more extreme habitats and environments for the wildlife. Although there is less wildlife to see, the scenic views and specialist, hardy local species can make it just as rewarding.
A Griffon Vulture soaring in front of the cliffs of the Gorge du Tarn. They can also be seen in large numbers in the Pyrenees.
This article is part of the Nature Travel Guide and was published on June 2017.
Even more articles including detailed site descriptions, illustrated wildlife-watching activities, self-guided walks, itinerary recommendations, birdwatching overviews and mammal-watching overviews are available in the premium eBooks.