Union of the Comoros

Malagasy Kingfisher Corythornis vintsioides ©Birding Ecotours Website
Birding the Comoros

The Comoros 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…

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 146

    (As at September 2018)
  • Number of endemics: *4

    A number of authorities recognise some other birds as full endemic species: Mayotte Scops Owl Otus mayottensis, Anjouan Brush Warbler Nesillas longicaudata & Anjouan Sunbird Cinnyris comorensis One further species is also considered to be endemic by some: Mohéli Shearwater Puffinus temptator although most consider it a subspecies of Audubon's Shearwater Puffinus lherminieri
  • Number of endemics: 14

    Comoro Blue Pigeon Alectroenas sganzini, Comoro Olive-Pigeon Columba pollenii, Anjouan Scops Owl Otus capnodes, Grand Comoro Scops-Owl Otus pauliani, Mohéli Scops Owl Otus moheliensis, Comoros Thrush Turdus bewsheri, Grand Comoro Flycatcher Humblotia flavirostris, Comoro Bulbul Hypsipetes parvirostris, Mount Karthala White-eye Zosterops mouroniensis, Grand Comoro Brush-Warbler Nesillas brevicaudata, Mohéli Brush-Warbler Nesillas mariae, Humblot`s Sunbird Nectarinia humbloti, Mayotte Sunbird Cinnyris coquerellii, Mayotte Drongo Dicrurus waldenii
  • 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

    By Sinclair, Ian & Langrand, Olivier | New Holland Publishers | 2013 | Paperback | 264 pages, 71 plates with 1160 colour illustrations; colour distribution maps | ISBN: 9781431700851 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Photographic Guide to the Birds of the Indian Ocean Islands

    (Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Reunion and the Comoros) | By Ian Sinclair, Olivier Langrand & Fanja Andriamialisoa | Random House Struik | 2006 | Paperback | 128 pages, 142 colour plates | ISBN: 9781770071759 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]
  • African Bird Club

    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…

Abbreviations Key

  • Important Bird Areas

    WebsiteSatellite View
    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
  • NP Parc Marin de Mohéli

    Facebook PageSatellite View
Guides & Tour Operators
  • Birding Africa

    Tour Operator
    Birding Africa organize regular tours of the Comores.
Trip Reports
  • 2012 [10 October] - Markus Lagerqvist

    PDF Report
    …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

    …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 [12 December] - Phil Gregory

    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!
  • 2018 [01 January] - Budget Birders

    ...As we sat around playing tape and scanning, we started to find a few of the more common endemics such as Anjouan Thrush, Anjouan Sunbird, and Anjouan White-eye. We were pretty surprised when we heard a sparrowhawk start to call (after all this bird was considered extinct just a few years prior) and soon we had tracked down a pair of Anjouan Sparrowhawks in the valley below us...
  • 2018 [10 October] - János Oláh - Cormoros & North Madagascar

    PDF Report
    This was our fourth tour to explore some of the more remote areas of Northern Madagascar and the Comoro Islands. We were pioneers in the area back in 2008 but even nowadays very few birders visit the Comoros, and even fewer birding companies offer such a comprehensive tour. A
Other Links
  • Comoro Islands

    BirdLife IBA PDF
    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

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