Cabo Verde

Caspian Tern Sterna caspia ©Ian Montgomery Website
Birding Cape Verde

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).

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 187

    (As at September 2018)
  • 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
Useful Reading

  • Aves De Macaronesia: Azores, Madeira, Islas Canarias, Cabo Verde

    (Field Guide to the Birds of Macaronesia: Azores, Madeira, Canary Islands, Cape Verde) By Eduardo García-del-Rey | Lynx Edicions | 2011 | Hardback | 342 pages, 150 colour plates, 230+ colour distribution maps | Text in Spanish | ISBN: 9788496553705 Buy this book from
  • Birds of the Atlantic Islands: Canary Islands, Madeira, Azores, Cape Verde

    By Tony Clarke, Chris Orgill & Tony Disley | Christopher Helm | 2006 | Paperback | 368 pages, 56 colour plates, b/w photos, b/w maps | ISBN: 9780713660234 Buy this book from
  • Birds of the Cape Verde Islands

    By Eduardo García-del-Rey | Editorial Sociedad Ornitológica Canaria | 2016 | Paperback | 235 pages, colour photos, tables | ISBN: 9788460695288 Buy this book from
  • 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

Abbreviations Key

  • IBA Ilhéu de Curral Velho

    InformationSatellite View
    The Ilhéu de Curral Velho and adjacent coast Important Bird Area lies in the southeastern part of the island of Boa Vista in the Cape Verde archipelago off the coast of north-west Africa in the Atlantic Ocean. It is a 986 ha site consisting of the Ilhéu de Curral Velho, as well as the area opposite it on Boa Vista centred on the deserted village of Curral Velho. It was designated as a Ramsar wetland of international importance. The islet is a nesting area for the brown booby, magnificent frigatebird and Cape Verde shearwater. Birds breeding on the adjacent mainland coast include Iago sparrow, common kestrel, common quail, cream-colored courser, Kentish plover and many other species.
  • IBA Ilhéu dos Pássaros

    InformationSatellite View
    It is an important nesting site for white-faced storm petrel and band-rumped storm petrel
  • IBA Ilhéus do Rombo

    InformationSatellite View
    The island group has been identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International because it supports seabird colonies as well as peregrine falcons and Iago sparrows. Birds include the Frigate bird (Pelagodroma marina) numbering around 1,000 in 1989, the Boyd's shearwater (Puffinus boydi), Oceanodroma castro, Bulwer's petrel (Bulweria bulwerii), the brown booby (Sula leucogaster) (50 pairs between 1986 and 1990) and Phaethon aethereus (only 5-10 couples between 1986 and 1990). Also there is a subspecies of the Peregrine falcon named madens, discovered in the mid-1960s with only 15 to 20 pairs
  • NP Fogo

    InformationSatellite View
    The volcano area of Fogo is an Important Bird Area. Key bird species are Fea's petrel, Boyd's shearwater and Cape Verde swift. The ocean around the island of Fogo is another Important Bird Area covering 2,473 km2 (955 sq mi)
  • NP Monte Gordo

    InformationSatellite View
    Fauna includes the Chioninia fogoensis (Fogo skink), Cape Verde wall gecko (Tarentola caboverdiana),[4] Fea's petrel (Pterodroma feae) and Cape Verde warbler (Acrocephalus brevipennis).
Trip Reports
  • 2011 [05 May] - Richard Bonser

    Report PDF
    …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 deCurral 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 fewcouples of the elegant Red-billed Tropicbird. Around the resort is almost all very rocky/sandy desert, there is apond less that a km away which attracts waders, sometimes Nearctic ones. This pond is powered by a sewagestation; therefore there are lots of insects and other water invertebrates very tasty for the waders. There are alsofew other small ponds on the other side of the hotel but they were quite bird less...
  • 2016 [01 January] - Massimiliano Dettori

    PDF Report
    ...Beside the notorious Barragem de Piolao, Barragem do Figuera Gorda (close to Santa Cruz) was the mostinteresting one; although very new with only less than a year, it had a variety of Ardeids (included 2 IntermediateEgrets and 1 Great Egret). The lake is very big and not very accessible if not only on 1 side. A local guide isrecommended. In this new lake we found also a new Bourne’s Heron new colony with 4 incubating birds.Every day I visited the local lagoons where an American Golden Plover found by Herbert was present the wholetime I was there with some common waders....
  • 2017 [02 February] - Birthe Rasmussen & Erik Vikkelsø Rasmussen - Santiago, Boavista, Sal, São Nicolau, Raso and Branco

    PDF Report
    ...This report deals with a journey through six of these islands of Cape Verde – Santiago, Boa Vista, Sal, SãoNicolau, Raso and Branco – in two weeks in February 2017 by a group of four Danish birdwatchers. Wehave all visited different part of the region before – Madeira, Tenerife, Fuerteventura and The Gambia etc,but it is was our first visit to Cape Verde Islands...
  • 2017 [03 March] - Peter van Scheepen & Dick Meijer - Cabo Verde

    PDF Report
    Birdwise we easily found four endemic species (Cape Verde Buzzard, Alexander’s Swift, Cape Verde Swamp-Warbler and Cape Verde Sparrow) and three endemic subspecies which are potential splits (Purple Heron bournei, Eurasian Kestrel alexandri and Barn Owl detorta) on Santiago. Cabo Verde also holds a few species which are difficult to see elsewhere in the Western Palearctic region, such as Redbilled Tropicbird and Gray-headed Kingfisher. In total we recorded 53 species of bird. We saw only one species of mammal: a bat at Porto Gouveia.
  • 2017 [07 July] - Owain Gabb - Sal

    PDF Report
  • 2018 [01 January] - Boa Vista, Cape Verde January 8 – 15 th 2018 Hans - Åke & Karin Gustavsson - Boa Vista

    PDF Report
    This short report contains the bird observationsmade on the island of Boa Vista during a one-week charter trip together with my wife. Most of our stay was spent relaxing and birding was confined to early morning walks close to our hotel as well as during a half day guided trip to the southern and interior parts of the island andduringa half day visit to the Rabil Lagoon by taxi.
  • 2018 [03 March] - Volker Hesse

    PDF Report
    This is one of the most popular sites on Boavista as there is quite a few rarities that have turned up here. During my stay there was nothing of great excitement. A few waders were present, also Spectacled Warbler and Iago Sparrow. All lark species were there too, they were only seen along the 4WD-track. Two Caspian Terns were the biggest surprise. During migration this site is said to be one of the best on the island...
Other Links
  • Aves de Cabo Verde

    On line version of a bird book
  • Birdwatching

    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
  • Birdwatching in the Cape Verdes

    The islands abound with seabirds and have several unique visitors, not found elsewhere. It is a haven for petrels, frigatebirds and occasional boobies. Native birds are less common except on the islands with more vegetation, such as Sao Nicolau, Santa Antao, Sao Vicente and Santiago. Here you can find larks, shearwaters as well as bird of prey such as falcons, kestrels, buzzards and owls and the Cape Verde sparrow. The Common Kestrel has a variant in the Cape Verdes now recognised by some as the Neglected Kestrel, which has been seen on Sao Vicente.

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