The Canary Islands have a lot more to offer the visitor than you might guess from their reputation as a boozy holiday destination. The islands boast over 650 endemic plant species, 6 endemic birds, 3 near endemics plus dozens of endemic subspecies, a few unique reptiles, and about 15,000 species in total. However, it is not only the species count that makes the islands special, but their huge range of habitats, ranging from costal sand dunes to alpine scrub. From the arid semi desert of Fuerteventura to the lush, subtropical laurel forests of La Gomera and the Blue Chaffinch studded pine forests of Tenerife; each island has its own character and unique set of creatures. Add to this mean temperatures ranging between 18 and 26 degrees Celsius, a laid back approach to life and great local cuisine and the growing popularity of rural tourism in the islands becomes obvious. Another advantage is that of accessibility, both via flights from Europe and once on the islands. A thorough, if often windy and sometimes plain hair-raising road system means most habitats and their associated beasties are within easy range of day-trippers and drivers alike.
Among the mouth watering bird species unique to the islands, the two endemic laurel pigeons, Bolle's Pigeon Columba bolli and Laurel Pigeon Columba junoniae, the Blue Chaffinch Fringilla teydea and the Tenerife Kinglet Regulus teneriffae are best seen during a visit to Tenerife. A day trip to the Las Lajas picnic site is probably the best place to see the Blue Chaffinch as well as the distinctive local race of the Great Spotted Woodpecker.
La Gomera is also more than worth a day trip if you are on Tenerife. The ferry trip itself is a good experience in itself, with Petrels and Shearwaters often in evidence along with Dolphins and Pilot Whales. La Gomera boasts large populations of the two laurel pigeons, plus the Kinglet and local race of the Sparrowhawk.
A trip to Fuerteventura is essential as it is the only place in the world that the Canary Island Chat is found (a separate subspecies on the islets of Allegranza and Montaña Clara to the north of Lanzarote is now unfortunately extinct). Other interesting species best seen on Fuerteventura include the Egyptian Vulture, Barbary Partridge, Cream-Coloured Courser, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Spectacled Warbler, Common Raven, Southern Grey Shrike and Trumpeter Finch. A good tip for birding in the Canaries is to head for fresh water, as birds tend to congregate around it, especially on the very dry Eastern islands.
Gran Canaria, perhaps the most interesting island from an overall ecological point of view, does not boast any endemics of its own but it is a good place for the endemic Berthelot's Pipit, Canary and the ever-present Canary Island Chiffchaff. Its most spectacular inhabitant is the Gran Canary Lizard, actually the largest of the 6 endemic Gallotia lizards on the islands. It is exceptionally common almost everywhere and is particularly fond of tomatoes. The endemic skink is also well worth watching out for, especially in the south of Gran Canaria where it sports a bright, electric-blue tail.
Lanzarote and the Chinijo Archipelago to its North are the place to go for the Eleonora's Falcon, and Barbary Falcon, as well as recent colonisers such as Cattle Egret and Little Egret. It is also the island to dream of rediscovering the extinct Black Oystercatcher.
La Palma is the only island in the archipelago where the Red-billed Chough breeds and also hosts its own endemic subspecies of Common Chaffinch and Blue Tit. El Hierro also has an endemic subspecies of Common Chaffinch and Blue Tit.
All the islands boast an impressive range of migrants and stragglers, with shorebirds, African and European species predominant on the Eastern islands and American stragglers making it to the Western ones. A growing number of exotics, including seven parrot species now breed on the islands, along with Common Myna, Common and Orange-cheeked Waxbills and Sacred Ibis. Recent colonisers and accidental breeders include the House Sparrow, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Black Winged Stilt, Little Bittern and Barn Swallow.
Check out the individual island pages:
Number of Species
Number of bird species: 400+
Number of endemics: 6
Bolle's Pigeon Columba bollii Laurel Pigeon Columba junoniae Canary Islands Chat Saxicola dacotiae Canary Islands Kinglet Regulus teneriffae Canary Islands Chiffchaff Phylloscopus canariensis Teydefinch Fringilla teydea
Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web
A Birdwatchers' Guide To The Canary Islands
by Tony Clarke and Dave Collins, published by Prion Ltd. 1996
ISBN: 1871104068Buy this book from NHBS.com
Aves de Canarias, Nidificantes
Tony S?nchez 240 pages, 200 col illus. Editorial Rueda 2002
ISBN: 8472071367Buy this book from NHBS.com
Aves del Archipilago Canario
by Aurelio Martin and Juan Antonio Lorenzo, published by Francisco Lemus Editor. 800 pages, 300 colour photos - Text in Spanish
ISBN: 8487973159Buy this book from NHBS.com
Birds of the Atlantic Islands
by Tony Clarke Illustrated by Chris Orgill & Tony Disley Helm Field Guides 2006 ?29.99
See Fatbirder Review
ISBN: 0713660236Buy this book from NHBS.com
Birds of the Macronesian Islands ? Part One: the Canary Islands & Madeira
from Cursorius Photo & Video Library of Haarlem, the Netherlands http://www.cursorius.com 2002. Filmed by JR Boon, narrated by Magnus Robb with a comprehensive introduction by Tony Clarke
See Fatbirder Review
Checklist of the Birds of the Canary Islands
Eduardo Garcia Del Rey, Turquesa Publicaciones 2001
ISBN: 8495412144Buy this book from NHBS.com
Finding Birds in the Canaries - DVD & Booklet
by Dave Gosney | Easybirder | DVD | region 2 | Nov 2013 | ISBN: 9781907316456 | Booklet | Paperback | 40 pages, 19 b/w maps | Nov 2013 | ISBN: 9781907316449
See Fatbirder Review
ISBN: 9781907316456Buy this book from NHBS.com
Guides & Tour Operators
Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area…
Josele J. Saiz
Better known for his wonderful birder's guesthouse in the Pyrenees [Boletas]; Josele guides throughout Spain and Morocco…
La Palma Nature Tours
The start of the season for foreign visitors to the island is about to commence. Cruise ships will be arriving in the harbour of Santa Cruz on a regular basis throughout the autumn and winter months. Charter flights to La Palma from Central and Northern Europe will peak during the same period... Looking for an original and informative way of touring the island during your stay? I am a local based, English-speaking guide with many years experience. Please browse through this nature blog, or visit my longer-running birding blog to get an idea of my fields of interest. I can provide or organize transport for personalised full- or half-day tours of the island, tailored to the requirements of individual guests or small groups, at very reasonable rates.
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 [03 March] - Alan Miller
La Palma isn’t a large island, being 64kms North/South by 40kms East/West. The population is around 70,000, of which 18,000 live in and around the capital, Santa Cruz. We hired a car for the middle week of our 3-week stay to explore the island…
2012 [12 December] - Jos Stratford
…airlines, a realm of the sun-seeker. Thanks to their geographical isolation however, and due to a number of recent taxonomic splits, the islands also boost a whole raft of endemic and near-endemic birds, including such notables as Fuerteventura Chat, Houbara Bustard, Blue Chaffinch and both Bolle's and Laurel Pigeons…
2013 [02 February] - David Hoddinott
…Exploring the area near Los Molinos Reservoir we were soon enjoying stunning views of Barbary Partridge, which showed rather well. Next we were off to the area of La Oliva and en route we saw a Common Buzzard with prey (most likely an unfortunate Barbary Ground Squirrel), a confiding Southern Grey Shrike, Northern Raven, Lesser Short-toed Lark, a fabulous pair of the endemic Canary Islands Stonechat that showed very well, Berthelot’s Pipit and our main target of the tour, the impressive Houbara Bustard…
2013 [05 May] - Yvonne van der Salm - La Palma
2014 [02 February] - David Walsh
…This was supposed to be full of ‘Tenerife’ Goldcrests, ‘Tenerife’ Robins and other target birds, and an easy place to see them. Not today. The weather had turned dramatically for the worse, mist reducing visibility to virtually zero, and rain and a howling wind soon eliminated any thoughts of birding. A helpful policeman explained that the road ahead was blocked because of snow down as low as 1,200 metres, most unusual…
2014 [02 February] - John Bowler - La Gomera
…We took it slowly and aimed to get good views all the specialities. The weather in the north was distinctly cooler than in the south although still very pleasant at about 21 degrees during the day and cooler at night. We saw 39 species and had great views of all the target species: Laurel Pigeon, Bolle’s Pigeon, Barbary Partridge, Plain Swift, Tenerife Kinglet, Canary, Canary Islands Chiffchaff, Berthelot’s Pipit, Chaffinch (race tintillon) and African Blue Tit, plus a good range of seabirds including Macaronesian Shearwater and a brief Madeiran Petrel. Apparently resident species not seen included Woodcock, Raven, Linnet and Goldfinch…
2016 [02 February] - David Walsh
This Ornitholidays tour to the Canary Islands was highly successful, helped by the weather which was kind to us throughout and never caused us to change our plans. There was plenty of winter sunshine on Tenerife in particular, and it was wonderfully mild as we marvelled at the landscape around the Teide volcano. Our carefully designed programme allowed us to experience the scenery and wildlife of three remarkably different islands, not to mention the ferry crossings to and from La Gomera. We enjoyed the food at both hotels. Once again, we were able to use direct flights both out to Tenerife and back from Fuerteventura, which effectively gave us an extra day in the field compared with our earlier tours.
2016 [12 December] - Mark Graham - La Palma
...Two Grey Wagtail were in residence by the Guanchos banana-sorting building every day. Two Grey Heron flew past on 30/11/12 but weren’t seen again during the week. A very common bird on La Palma is the Kestrel....
2017 [02 February] - David Walsh
...As is the norm, we saw all the endemic bird species extremely well. Tenerife Blue Chaffinches were seen at four locations in the pines on Tenerife, Atlantic Canary, Berthelot’s Pipit and Canary Islands Chiffchaff were common and confiding as always, and Plain Swifts were seen in good numbers. We saw perched Bolle’s and Laurel Pigeons through our telescopes in northern Tenerife and then had seconds of both on La Gomera the following day. Once again, Canary Islands Stonechats were seen well at the first place we looked for them. We also enjoyed fine views of a number of distinctive subspecies, including Goldcrest, European Robin and Great Spotted Woodpecker...
African Bird Club
…A host of good birds including endemic species and subspecies, good transport connections to most European countries, wonderful weather and an excellent tourist infrastructure, make the Canary Islands a popular destination for birdwatchers….
Photographers & Artists
Naturfotografie Kanarische Inseln
Nature photography of the Canary Islands. German and Spanish language…