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Cape Verde

Caspian Tern Sterna caspia ©Ian Montgomery Website

The Republic of Cape Verde, is a republic located on an archipelago in the Macaronesia ecoregion of the North Atlantic Ocean, off the western coast of Africa. The previously uninhabited islands were discovered and colonized by the Portuguese in the fifteenth century (though there may have been earlier discoveries), and attained independence from Portugal in 1975.

The Cape Verde archipelago is located approximately 375 miles (604 km) off the coast of West Africa. It is composed of ten islands (of which nine are inhabited) and eight islets. The islands have a combined size of just over 4,000 square kilometers. The islands are divided into the Barlavento (windward) islands (Santo Antão, São Vicente, Santa Luzia, São Nicolau, Sal, and Boa Vista) and the Sotavento (leeward) islands (Maio, Santiago, Fogo, and Brava). These islands are divided into 22 municipalities (concelhos) and subdivided into 32 parishes (freguesias) (see Administrative divisions of Cape Verde). The largest island, both in size and population, is Santiago, where the capital of Praia is located.

Though Cape Verde's islands are all volcanic in origin, they vary widely in terrain. A still-active volcano on the island of Fogo is the highest point on the archipelago (elevation 2,829 meters). Extensive salt flats are found on Sal and Maio. On Santiago, Santo Antão, and São Nicolau, arid slopes give way in places to sugarcane fields or banana plantations spread along the base of towering mountains.

Cape Verde’s climate is milder than that of the African mainland; because the island is surrounded by the sea, temperatures are generally moderate. Average daily high temperatures range from 25 °C (77 °F) in January to 29 °C (84 °F) in September. Cape Verde is part of the Sahelian arid belt and lacks the rainfall levels of West African countries. When it does rain, most of the rainfall occurs between August and October, with frequent brief-but-heavy downpours. A desert is usually defined as terrain which receives less than 250mm of annual rainfall. Cape Verde's total (261 mm) is slightly above this criterion, which makes the area climate semi-desert.

Cape Verde's isolation has resulted in the islands having a large number of endemic species, many of which are endangered by human development. Endemic birds include Alexander's Swift (Apus alexandri), Raso Lark (Alauda razae), Cape Verde Warbler (Acrocephalus brevipennis), and Iago Sparrow (Passer iagoensis), and reptiles include the Cape Verde Giant Gecko (Tarentola gigas).



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Number of Species

Number of bird species: 161


Number of endemics: 4

There are four true endemics: Alexanders Swift Apus alexandri, Razo Skylark Alauda razae, Cape Verde Swamp-Warbler Acrocephalus brevipennis, Cape Verde Sparrow Passer iagoensis and also two other birds that breed nowhere else: Fea's Petrel Pterodroma feae and Cape Verde Shearwater Calonectris edwardsii



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Useful Reading

A Field Guide to the Birds of the Atlantic Islands

- Canary Islands, Madeira, Azores, Cape Verde Tony Clarke, Chris Orgill and Tony Disley Series: HELM FIELD GUIDES 320 pages, 56 col plates, maps. Christopher Helm See Fatbirder Review

ISBN: 0713660236

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Birds of the Macaronesian Islands, Part 2: The Cape Verde Islands

Cursorius Photo & Video Library 2003 ISBN: 134597

The Birds of the Cape Verde Islands

An Annotated Checklist Cornelis J Hazevoet Series: BOU CHECKLISTS 13 192 pages, 48 col plates, tabs, maps. British Ornithologists' Union

ISBN: 0907446175

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Trip Reports

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Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

2005 [03 March] - Chris Batty


The Cape Verde Islands are situated in the extreme southwest of the Western Palearctic, south of the Tropic of Cancer and only around five hundred kilometres west of Senegal. The archipelago consists of twelve main islands but on a comprehensive birding tour it is only necessary to birdwatch on four islands (Raso, Branco, Santiago and Boa Vista) but to reach these will require visiting a least Sal and São Nicolau, and probably São Vicente…

2007 [01 January] - Henk Hendriks


…Despite 3 outings at dusk/evening at a known stake-out for Cape Verde Barn Owl I neither heard or saw this species and a total of 7 hours scanning the skies around the Pico do Antonio on Santiago did not give me the hoped for Cape Verde Peregrine…

2008 [03 March] - Tony Clarke


The latest Birdquest to these islands was, like the others, a considerable success as far as endemic species and subspecies were concerned. All the widely recognized species – Cape Verde Shearwater, Cape Verde Swift, Raso Lark, Cape Verde Warbler and Iago Sparrow were easily located, as were most of the following Boyd’s Shearwater, Bourne’s Heron, Cape Verde Buzzard, Alexander’s Kestrel, Neglected Kestrel and Cape Verde Owl…

2011 [05 May] - Richard Bonser

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…Santiago is the most bird rich island of the Cape Verdes, and holds a number of notable species including Red-billed Tropicbird, Bourne’s Heron, Alexander’s Kestrel, Helmeted Guineafowl, Cape Verde Swift, Grey-headed Kingfisher, Cape Verde Warbler and Iago Sparrow. There is also a reservoir – Barragem de Poilão – that had only just been built when I visited in 2007, and has already gained a reputation as a top site to search for vagrant water birds…

2014 [12 December] - Massimiliano Dettori - Boavista

PDF Report

I spent a week in Boavista, Riu Touareg hotel. I have chosen this resort because it is very close to the rock (Ilheu de Curral Velho) where the last couple of Magnificent Frigatebird can be seen regularly in the WP region. The species was my main target and I managed to see the couple almost daily, along with hundreds of Brown Booby and few couples of the elegant Red-billed Tropicbird. Around the resort is almost all very rocky/sandy desert, there is a pond less that a km away which attracts waders, sometimes Nearctic ones. This pond is powered by a sewage station; therefore there are lots of insects and other water invertebrates very tasty for the waders. There are also few other small ponds on the other side of the hotel but they were quite bird less...


African Bird Club


With a number of endemic land birds and large seabird colonies with species which are difficult to see elsewhere in the area, the Cape Verde Islands offer much of interest. With few organised trips at present, the islands offer perhaps an opportunity for the individual traveller…

West African Ornithological Society


The West African Ornithological Society grew out of the Nigerian Ornithologists’ Society, which was founded in February 1964. Its object is to promote scientific interest in the birds of West Africa and to further the region’s ornithology, mainly by means of its journal Malimbus (formerly the Bulletin of the Nigerian Ornithologists’ Society). This journal is biannual and bilingual, a unique feature in Africa.The West African Ornithological Society grew out of the Nigerian Ornithologists’ Society, which was founded in February 1964. Its object is to promote scientific interest in the birds of West Africa and to further the region’s ornithology, mainly by means of its journal Malimbus (formerly the Bulletin of the Nigerian Ornithologists’ Society). This journal is biannual and bilingual, a unique feature in Africa.

Other Links

Aves de Cabo Verde


On line version of a bird book…



Bird watching is an activity which can be enjoyed on any of the islands as a main holiday option or purely as pleasant pastime during your visit. The islands all have their own unique variety of bird life, with special bird breeds associated with certain islands…

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Trips off Cape verde