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Autonomous Region of the Azores

Cory's Shearwater Calonectris diomedea ©Giuliano Gerra & Silvio Sommazzi

The Azores are a group of nine islands that form a semi-autonomous part of Portugal. They are situated in the northern Atlantic west of Portugal, roughly one third of the distance to North America. The islands are in three groups – Flores and Corvo in the west, a central group consisting of Faial, Sao Jorge, Graciosa, Terceira and Pico, and Sao Miguel and Santa Maria in the east. The most developed islands are Sao Miguel and Terceira, and to a lesser extent Faial.

Transport between the islands is straightforward except in the winter months when schedules are frequently disrupted by the weather. All the islands have airfields, with flights to Lisbon and a few other international sites departing from Terceira and Sao Miguel. Inter-island flights are operated by TAP and SATA. Ferries operate within the central group year-round and more extensively in the summer season. There are direct flights to The Azores from Scandinavia but mostly flights involve changing in Lisbon, sometimes involving an overnight stay. During the main tourist season at least it is possible to fly between The Azores and Madeira.

The islands attract birders for four main reasons. Firstly, being so much nearer America than continental Europe, and Britain of course, the islands have an excellent record for attracting trans-Atlantic vagrants, especially water birds. One site, a disused coastal quarry at Cabo da Praia on Terceira, has an unrivalled reputation as the best western Palaearctic site for American waders, and birds have been found at many other sites. American birds tend to be found throughout the autumn and often stay for the winter. Secondly, the islands host healthy numbers of breeding seabirds such as Cory's Shearwater and Roseate Tern, and the colonies have recently been found to harbour individuals of highly sought after species such as Sooty Tern, Red-billed Tropicbird and even Bermuda Petrel. Thirdly, large numbers of migrating sea-birds can be seen, especially in late August and September. And fourthly, there is one Azorean endemic, the Azores Bullfinch, which is found in one area of forest at the eastern end of Sao Miguel; there are also endemic subspecies of several species such as Goldcrest, Grey Wagtail and Chaffinch, amongst others.

Being at the junction of three continental plates the islands are subjected to volcanic activity and earthquakes. The resulting landscape is often spectacular, and the site of the fairly recent eruption at Capelhinos, the western tip of Faial, is particularly memorable, as is the area of caldeiras and crater lakes in central Flores.

Prices on the islands are comparable with mainland Portugal. Roads are generally good, and there is a wide variety of accommodation available. The main tourist season finishes in September, when the weather becomes less settled.

Contributor

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 Atlantic Islands

by Tony Clarke Illustrated by Chris Orgill & Tony Disley Helm Field Guides 2006 ?29.99 See Fatbirder Review

ISBN: 0713660236

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Books, CDs etc

See the Fatbirder Portugal page for fieldguies etc. to Portugal or the Iberian penninsular as a whole…

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.

2006 [01 January] - James Brown

Report

…It was a good holiday, with some interesting birds, including endemic subspecies of some common British birds eg blackbird and robin, with notably different behaviour and song. We failed to find the Azores Bullfinch, despite walking the recommended Nordest road/track at the east of the Island. It was not the best time of year though I understand. It is a great walk nonetheless, with the trees full of canaries and chaffinches, filling the air with beautiful singing as I have never heard before. The coastal paths are worth walking at the east of the island, both for birds, views and escaping the cars of Ponta Delgado…

2015 [06 June] - Peter Alfrey & Chris Townend

Report PDF

... We then took an early afternoon flight to Graciosa and checked into our hotel before a brief trip out to sea where we saw our first Cory’s Shearwaters and Roseate Terns.

2015 [09 September] - Ed Drewitt - Whales & Dolphins

Report PDF

...Towards the end of our trip we saw not one but four separate Loggerhead Turtles! The first was a small, young animal being released by the skipper of another boat after becoming entangled in some plastic and rope and unable to dive. Some showed briefly at the surface, were of varying sizes, and all juveniles heading west from where they hatched in southern Central America. The fourth turtle was bigger and being pecked by a Cory's Shearwater. The turtle appeared fine and was probably allowing the shearwater to pick off any skin parasites.

2015 [12 December] - Nick Watmough - São Miguel

PDF Report

...The lake margins held 2 Eurasian Wigeon, 7 Eurasian Teal and a drake Green-winged Teal. After a couple of hours I headed further east and about 5km beyond Povoação I saw my first Azores Bullfinch flying along the roadside; inevitably there was nowhere to pull in. Turning off onto the unsurfaced road to Nordeste I parked after about 3km and birded up and down the road with no success....

2015 [12 December] - Santi Guallar - São Miguel

PDF Report

...Azores is an emerald island with high land bird densities: buzzards, chaffinches, canaries, robins, goldcrests, blackbirds and starlings are ubiquitous and tame. Woodpigeons, on the other hand, are shy, probably as a result of hunting pressure. Native vegetation have been largely cleared for cow pastures or supplanted by cryptomeria forests, which explains why Azores Bullfinch, the priolo, is endangered but also tells about the adaptivity of the other native passerines....

2015 [12 December] - Santi Guallar - São Miguel

Report

...We booked our trip 2 months in advance, but we strongly recommend you plan your trip to Azores on a much shorter term and take into account the weather forecast. We faced very unfavourable weather conditions: rained almost all day long and winds were moderate even with strong gusts until the 27th, especially at high elevations were fog was also present....

2016 [10 October] - Tim & Carol Inskipp

PDF Report

Illustrated list

Organisations

African Bird Club

Website

…Members are resident in many countries of the world and form part of a community of people with a common interest in the birds of Africa and their conservation..

Blogs

Birding Corvo 2009 - Olof Jonsson

Blog

Between 14th September and 16th November I'm birding the island of Corvo (Azores). Here you can read daily updates about the happenings out here during my stay. Enjoy!

Other Links

Azores Bulfinch

Website

Species account of this endemic…

Birds of the Azores

Website

Nine islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Of volcanic origin, with a subtropical climate and shaped by ocean winds. Where the flora and fauna are affected by elements from East and West and man's eagerness to control and set in the wild.

Pelagics

Website

Lying well out in the Atlantic, this scattered group of volcanic islands constitutes one of the remotest corners of the Western Palearctic and as such has gained some notoriety in recent times as an excellent place to see Nearctic vagrants…