Canary Islands

Canary Island Chat Saxicola dacotiae ©Nigel Blake Website
Birding the Canary Islands

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:Tenerife | Gran Canaria | Fuerteventura | Lanzarote

Contributors
  • Alex Bramwell

    | abramwell@editorialrueda.es

  • Tony Clarke

    Tenerife | bluechaffinch@btopenworld.com

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 373

    (As at May 2019)
Endemics
  • 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
Checklist

  • iGoTerra Checklist

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

  • A Birdwatchers' Guide To The Canary Islands

    | By Tony Clarke & Dave Collins | Prion Ltd | 1996 | Paperback | 110 pages, figures, maps | ISBN: 9781871104066 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Aves de Canarias, Nidificantes

    | By Tony Sánchez | Editorial Rueda | 2002 | Paperback | 240 pages, 200 colour illustrations | ISBN: 9788472071360 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Aves del Archipilago Canario

    | By Aurelio Martin & Juan Antonio Lorenzo | Francisco Lemus Editor | 2001 | Hardback | 787 pages, 300 colour photos | Spanish | ISBN: 9788487973154 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Birds of the Atlantic Islands

    | 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 NHBS.com
  • Checklist of the Birds of the Canary Islands

    | By Eduardo Garcia-del-Rey | Turquesa Publicaciones | 2001 | Paperback | 30 pages, tables | ISBN: 9788495412140 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Field Guide to the Birds of Macaronesia

    | (Azores, Madeira, Canary Islands, Cape Verde) | By Eduardo Garcia-del-Rey | Lynx Edicions | 2011 | Hardback | 341 pages, 150 colour plates, 230 distribution maps | ISBN: 9788496553712 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Finding Birds in the Canaries

    | By Dave Gosney | Easybirder | DVD | Region 2 | Runtime 81 Minutes | #210706 | ISBN: Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Finding Birds in the Canaries - DVD & Booklet

    | By Dave Gosney | Easybirder | 2013 | Paperback | 40 pages, 19 b/w maps | ISBN: 9781907316449 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Rare Birds of the Canary Islands

    | (Aves Raras de las Islas Canarias) | by Eduardo García-del-Rey & Francisco Javier García Vargas | Lynx Edicions | 2013 | Hardback | 328 pages, colour photos, colour illustrations, colour distribution maps | English & Spanish | ISBN: 9788496553910 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Wildlife of Madeira and the Canary Islands

    | (A Photographic Field Guide to Birds, Mammals, Reptiles, Amphibians, Dragonflies and Butterflies) | by John Bowler | WILDGuides | 2018 | Paperback | 224 pages, colour photos, colour distribution maps | ISBN: 9780691170763 Buy this book from NHBS.com
Organisations
Guides & Tour Operators


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

  • Birding Pal

    Information
    Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area
  • Josele J. Saiz

    Tour Operator
    Better known for his wonderful birder's guesthouse in the Pyrenees [Boletas]; Josele guides throughout Spain and Morocco
  • La Palma Nature Tours

    Guiding
    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.
Trip Reports


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

  • 2012 [12 December] - Jos Stratford

    PDF Report
    …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 [05 May] - Yvonne van der Salm - La Palma

    PDF Report
    Brief Diary…
  • 2014 [02 February] - John Bowler - La Gomera

    Report
    …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 [12 December] - Mark Graham - La Palma

    Report
    ...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....
  • 2018 [09 September] - Jesse Fagan

    Report
    We visited four islands in 6 days, which included a couple of ferry rides and one small hop from Gran Canaria to Fuerteventura by plane. Overall, it was a relaxed and fun island adventure in which we recorded all the endemic species and a bunch of interesting subspecies.
  • 2019 [03 March] - Mark Graham - Cruise to Canary Islands

    Report
    We went on the P&O ship, the Oriana, on a cruise to La Coruna [Spain], Madeira, La Palma, La Gomera, Tenerife, Lanzarote, Cadiz and then up the Spanish and Portuguese coast back to Southampton.
  • 2019 [03 March] - Sam Bosanquet

    PDF Report
    Blue Chaffinch has been one of my dream birds for nearly 20 years, and a trip to Tenerife allowed me to combine paying my respects to this species with seeing two new pigeons and a host of interesting subspecies...
  • 2019 [09 September] - Chris Barfield

    PDF Report
    This short trip was mainly to get to see the specialities and endemics of the islands and nudge my WP list a little bit nearer to 500, so I make no apologies for not spending a lot of time doing general birding or visiting sites not likely to produce anything new! Other times of year will likely produce quite different results.
Blogs
  • Birding Canarias

    Blog
    Juan Jos
  • La Palma Birds

    Blog
    Birding BLOG for the island of La Palma (Canaries) providing news of sightings and information for birders
  • Miradas Cant

    Blog
    A nature observation BLOG in Canaries
Photographers & Artists
  • Naturfotografie Kanarische Inseln

    Website
    Nature photography of the Canary Islands. German and Spanish language

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