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Union of the Comoros

Comoro Blue Vanga Cyanolanius madagascarinus comorensis ©Claire Spottiswoode Website

The Comores are a superb archipelago of four volcanic and (largely) forested islands between East Africa and Madagascar. As a birding destination, they have much to offer: no less than sixteen endemics – including such desirable species as Comoro Blue Vanga and the monotypic Humblot's Flycatcher – set in rugged volcanic landscapes fringed by idyllic tropical beaches, and linked by good air and road infrastructure.

Grand Comore, the largest and arguably most accessible island, is dominated by the 2361m-high bulk of the Karthala volcano, cloaked at higher altitudes in lush forest and capped by alpine heathland that surrounds its crater (the world’s largest). Here and on the lesser (and inactive) volcanoes at La Grille, as well as at various localities at lower altitude, no less than five Grande Comore endemics (as well as a further six endemic to the archipelago) are on offer: in order of ease of finding, these are Grande Comoro Drongo, Grande Comoro Brush-Warbler, Humblot's Flycatcher, Karthala White-eye and Karthala Scops Owl. Endemics that are largely common and accessible on most of the islands are Comoro Thrush, Comoro Pigeon, Humblot's Sunbird, Comoro Bulbul, Comoro Fody and the magnificent Ninga or Comoro Blue Pigeon.

Mohéli, the smallest and most laid-back island of the archipelago, also possesses a considerable area of untouched forest spanning its 790m ridge. Here, a day's hike is almost certain to produce the superb Comoro Blue Vanga, as well as two further species restricted to this tiny island: Benson's Brush Warbler and Comoro Green Pigeon. A fourth endemic, Mohéli Scops Owl, is predictably harder to find. Mohéli also offers excellent opportunities for seeing nesting Green Turtles, and the endangered and spectacular Livingstone's Flying Fox – a giant black bat with the wingspan of a small eagle.

Anjouan offers two further endemics – Anjouan Sunbird and Anjouan Scops Owl – or even three if its very distinctive thrush is given species rank. The Sunbird is common even within the grounds of the airport area, and the second very difficult indeed to see. Anjouan has suffered considerably from human pressure, although patches of forest still cling to its spectacularly rugged mountains.

Mayotte, by choice a French-administered territory, has an excellent infrastructure geared to well-heeled French tourists and is easy to get around. As the oldest island of the archipelago, its topography is also the most gentle and dominated by drier, open woodland and forest. The endemics here are Mayotte Drongo, Mayotte White-eye and Mayotte Sunbird. Again, all are reasonably easy to find, the last two even common at sea level.

October to December are the best months to visit – before the rains set in in earnest, but when bird activity is still reasonably high. Regular international flights via Kenya, Tanzania, Yemen and Madagascar service Dzaoudzi, Mayotte and Moroni, Grande Comore, and small planes make inexpensive daily flights between the four islands. There are adequate hotels and the possibility of taxi hire on all the islands. A website dedicated to Comoro birding and eco-tourism is under construction…

Contributor

Claire Spottiswoode

Percy Fitzpatrick Institute of African Ornithology; University of Cape Town

claire@birding-africa.com

http://www.birding-africa.com

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 151

Endemics

Number of endemics: 16

Anjouan Scops Owl Otus capnodes Grand Comoro Scops-Owl Otus pauliani Comoro Olive-Pigeon Columba pollenii Comoro Drongo Dicrurus fuscipennis Comoro Thrush Turdus bewsheri Humblot`s Flycatcher Humblotia flavirostris Comoro Bulbul Hypsipetes parvirostris Comoro White-eye Zosterops mouroniensis Moheli Brush-Warbler Nesillas moheliensis Grand Comoro Brush-Warbler Nesillas brevicaudata Moheli Brush-Warbler Nesillas mariae Humblot`s Sunbird Nectarinia humbloti Anjouan Sunbird Nectarinia comorensis

Checklist

iGoTerra Checklist

iGoTerra Checklist

Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web

Useful Reading

Birds of the Indian Ocean Islands

Sinclair, Ian & Langrand, Olivier. 1998 Struik Publishers, Cape Town, South Africa.
See Fatbirder Review

ISBN: 1868729567

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Les Oiseaux des Comores

Michel Louette 192 pages, 8 col photos, 27 b/w photos, 33 illus, figs, tabs, maps. Mus?e Royal de l'Afrique Centrale Distributed by NHBS

ISBN: 25237

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Photographic Guide to the Birds of the Indian Ocean Islands / Guide Photographique des Oiseaux des Iles de l'Oc?an Indien

Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Reunion and the Comoros Ian Sinclair, Olivier Langrand and Fanja Andriamialisoa 128 pages, 142 colour plates. C Struik

ISBN: 177007175X

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Useful Information

CD of Bird calls (Guide sonore des oiseaux nicheurs des Comores)

Herremans, Marc. 2000 Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium.[Also available from the Africamuseum shop]

Guides & Tour Operators

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Birding Africa

Tour Operator

Birding Africa organize regular tours of the Comores.

Trip Reports

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

CloudBirders

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.

2008 [11 November] - Pete Morris - The Comoros & N Madagascar

Report PDF

…On the Comoro Islands, the clean- sweep of all of the endemics was very pleasing, and good views of them all to boot! Getting all four of the endemic scops owls firmly fixed in the spotlight beam was perhaps the single most satisfying achievement (bringing our tally of owls on the trip to nine!), but other great birds included the electric blue Comoro Blue Vanga, the rare Grand Comoro Drongo and the plentiful but attractive Comoro Blue Pigeon. We saw plenty of other great wildlife too…

2012 [10 October] - Markus Lagerqvist

Report PDF

…The first part of the trail goes through small cultivated lots and secondary forest. In this habitat we saw Kirk’s White-eyes, Comoros Blue Pigeons, Lesser Vasa Parrot, Grand Comoro Cuckoo-Roller, Grand Comoro Paradise Flycatcher, Comoros Cuckooshrike, Grand Comoro Green and Grand Comoro Humblot’s Sunbird and a couple of spectacular Comoros Olive Pigeons….

2012 [11 November] - Johannes Fischer - Grande Comoro, Mount Karthala

Report

…The birding is very good all endemics with all endemics seen, except the Drongo; Comoro Blue Pigeon (just a single one), Comoro (Olive) Pigeon (large numbers at higher altitude, above the forest), Comoro Bulbul (numerous at higher elevation where Madagascar Bulbul does not occur), Grande Comoro Thrush (four noted in good quality forest), Humblot´s Flycatcher (small numbers in good quality forest), Comoro Brush Warlber (fairly common in high altitude scrub), Kirk´s White-eye (very common up to 1600 m.a.sl.), Karthala White-eye (surprisingly scarce and very unlike the drawing in the book, small numbers noted at high altitude…

2014 [10 October] - Dani Lopez-Velasco

PDF Report

This was our third tour to explore some of the more remote areas of Northern Madagascar and the Comoro Islands, and although logistics (the number of broken vehicles during the tour was probably a Birdquest record!), including a major Air France strike, didn’t work as smoothly as we would have hoped, we put up with all hardships, in part thanks to an excellent and understanding group. And the result was a hugely successful tour, basically enjoying excellent views of every single Comoro endemic species and future split candidates, as well as almost all key northern Madagascar targets...

2014 [11 November] - Justin Nicolau - Comoros & remote Madagascar

PDF Report

2014 [12 December] - Phil Gregory

Report

This trip had its germination on the Field Guides Madagascar tour in 2013 when I noticed a couple of new airlines operating in the Comoros, including Ewa Air as a subsidiary of Air Austral and flying from Dzaoudzi in Mayotte to Moroni on Grande Comore. This made the logistics suddenly look far better, so I invited Tom and Simon along to see how it was going to work out, basically as an expedition-style trip where we take it as it comes!

2015 [12 December] - Tropical Birding

PDF Report

There are 22 endemic species according to the 2015 update of the Clements list. Every one of these was seen during this trip...

Organisations

African Bird Club

Website

The Comoro archipelago comprises four islands. Ngazidja (Grande Comore), Mwali (Mohéli) and Ndzuani (Anjouan) became independent in 1975 and today form the Union des Comores Republic (UDC), whereas Maore remained under French administration as Collectivité territoriale de Mayotte (now Collectivité départementale) but is claimed by the Union. From an ornithological perspective, the four islands represent an area of high endemism and it makes sense to cover them together. Although there has been little ornithological activity in recent years in UDC, an important atlas project has been ongoing since 2003 on Mayotte, contact Michel Louette…

Reserves

Important Bird Areas

Website

The Comoro archipelago is classed as a single Endemic Bird Area (EBA) with 19 restricted-range species. 9 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) have been identified in total of which 4 are in UDC, covering some 35,000 ha, and 5 are on Mayotte, covering some 7,000 ha or 19% of the land area. Most IBAs are unprotected by law…

Other Links

Comoro Islands

BirdLife IBA

The Comoro Islands are situated in the western Indian Ocean in the northern part of the Mozambique Channel, equidistant from continental Africa and Madagascar. Three islands-Grand Comoro (or Ngazidja, 1,148

In search of the Badanga

Website

In November 1995, I was lucky enough to visit the Comoros - a little visited group of islands lying in the Indian Ocean midway between the African mainland and Madagascar. The archipelago supports about 20 currently accepted endemics, but with a total avian endemic taxa list of about 54. Most single island endemics occur on Grand Comoro although the eastern island of Anjouan is home to several. Amongst those endemic to Anjouan is perhaps the most enigmatic of all Comoran birds, the mysterious and elusive Badanga or Anjouan Scops Owl, Otus capnodes.