Madeira

Madeira Firecrest Regulus madeirensis ©Ashley Beolens Website
Birding Madeira

Madeira, as an island with temperate climate and dense vegetation is an ideal habitat for birds. Moreover, when it was discovered, in 1419, the only animals found here were birds and the endemic wall lizard Lacerta dugesii. As an island habitat, species which live here have adapted themselves to the geographical conditions; over time this causes endemism; 21% of Madeira bird species and sub-species can only be seen in the Madeira Archipelago whilst 33% are species and sub-species endemic to the Macaronesia region (this is the geographical region which comprises the archipelagos of Madeira, Azores, Canary islands and Cape Verde and also part of Northwest of Africa).

So, for those of you who thought that Madeira was only a trekking and beach holiday destination, be aware that there is birdlife here that makes the island worth a visit. Zino’s Petrels Pterodroma Madeira Trocaz Pigeon Columba trocaz and Madeira Firecrest Regullus madeirensis are the exclusively Madeiran species but there are also some interesting sub-species such as the Madeira Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs madeirensis, a race of Berthelot’s Pipit Anthus bertheloti madeirensis, and Madeira Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia madeirensis among others. As part of Macaronesia, Madeira has Fea’s Petrel Pterodrom fea, Plain Swift Apus unicolor and Canary Serinus canaria canaria as well as 13 sub-species including Little Shearwater Puffinus assimilis baroli, White-face Storm Petrel Pelagodroma marina hypoleuca, Kestrel Falco tinnunculus canariensis, Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus granti and Yellow-legged Gulls Larus cachinans atlantis to name but a few.

In general the Madeira Archipelago has 43 breeding species but beyond that it has some regular visitants like Little and Cattle Egrets, Whimbrel, Dunlin, Turnstone and sometimes very interesting accidental vagrants like Laughing Gulls, Spoonbills etc.If you want some birdwatching hot spots in Madeira then there is nothing like going to its IBAs (Important Bird Areas). In Madeira Island there are 4 IBAs all being situated in areas where human occupation is reduced or in difficult to access sites. Three of these are integrated into Madeira’s Natural Park, so are protected areas. This is the case for the Laurel Forest, the Central Mountainous Massif and Ponta de São Lourenço. The other IBA is in Ponta do Pargo – see these hotspots described below.

Top Sites
  • Central Mountainous Massif

    Satellite View
    This is a Mountainous area with deep escarpments and valleys, situated on the easter/central region of Madeira. Here, where the highest of Madeira’s peaks are, is one of the most visited areas during summer that is why it is not permitted to go there [without a special permit from the Natural Park] between sunset and sunrise, to protect Zino’s Petrel. Beyond the high-altitude vegetation one can find transitional areas of forest and some spots of Laurel forest in lower altitudes. Bird species include: Zino’s Petrel Pterodroma madeira, Trocaz Pigeon, Madeira Firecrest, Manx Shearwater, Sparrowhawk, Berthelot’s Pipit, Plain Swift, and Madeira Rock Sparrow.
  • Laurel Forest

    Laurel Forest is a vast forest area, with its origin in the Tertiary, which comprises about 25% of Madeira Island. It is situated in the north mountainsides with the majority of its vegetation made up of indigenous flora species, especially from the Laurus family. Deep water streams, steep valleys and abrupt cliffs distributed all around the area and associated with the dense vegetation, makes most places inaccessible. Bird species that may be observed here are: Trocaz Pigeon, Madeira Firecrest, Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus puffinus, Sparrowhawk, Woodcock Scolopax rusticola, Cory Shearwater Calonectris diomedea borealis, Plain Swift, Canary, Madeira Chaffinch, Robin Erithacus rubecula microrynchus, etc.
  • Ponta de São Lourenço

    Satellite View
    This is a rocky peninsula with a set of cliffs and small islets which form the most eastern point of the Island. All the area is mainly covered by shrubs and herbaceous vegetation.
  • Ponta do Pargo

    Satellite View
    It is the extreme west of Madeira Island which congregates a series of habitats different, being its diversity what confers it the importance in terms of avifauna. The coast is rocky with steep cliffs and terraces created by landfalls. In the higher areas there are small agricultural plots and areas where herbaceous vegetation exists. There are also some Pine trees, Eucalyptus and pastures. Although it is not on Madeira Island it belongs to the Archipelago, one should not miss the opportunity to make a sea trip to the Desertas Islands, which are another IBA. These are three islands of volcanic origin that are very barren and inhospitable, with great escarpments. During this trip it is possible to observe: Madeira Storm Petrel Oceanodroma castro, Bulwer’s Petrel Bulweria bulwerii, Little Shearwater Puffinus assimilis baroli, Fea’s Petrel, Common Tern Sterna hirundo, Cory Shearwater etc.
Contributors
Checklist

  • iGoTerra Checklist

    Portugal (Atlantic)
    Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web
Useful Reading

  • A Birdwatchers' Guide to Portugal, the Azores & Madeira Archipelagos

    | By Colm Moore, Gonçalo Elias & Helder Costa | Prion | 2014 | Paperback | 212 pages, b/w illustrations, b/w maps | ISBN: 9781871104134 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Birds of the Atlantic Islands

    | (Canary Islands, Madeira, Azores, Cape Verde) | by Tony Clarke Illustrated by 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
  • 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
  • Where to Watch Birds in the Madeira Archipelago

    | By Claudia Delgado | Sociedade Portuguesa para o Estudo das Aves | 2006 | Paperback | 111 pages, colour photos, colour illustrations, colour maps | ISBN: 9789729901898 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
  • African Bird Club

    Website
  • Sociedade Portuguesa para o Estudo das Aves

    Website
Reserves

Abbreviations Key

  • NP Parque Natural da Madeira

    InformationSatellite View
    The Madeira Natural Park is a large biological reserve in Madeira with a unique endemic flora and fauna. It was created in 1982 to safeguard the natural heritage of the archipelago, and contains a number of endangered species including global rarities such as Zino's petrel. This national park encompasses nearly two-thirds of the territory of the island of Madeira, and within it are nature reserves, protected landscapes and leisure zones. Its key habitat is the laurel forest.
Guides & Tour Operators


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

  • Madeira Wind Birds

    Tour Operator
    Despite Madeira not having a great variety of breeding species and lying off the main migration route for passerines, this group of islands offers excellent conditions to birdwatchers, not only in terms of breeding birds but also vagrants… They also run regular pelagics…
Trip Reports


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

  • 2007 [05 May] - Ashley Beolens

    Report
    …Another morning searching the gardens, this time in the sunshine, gave us exquisite views of the stunning Madeira Firecrest, and allowed me the opportunity to get some fantastic photos of this energetic sprite. We also had our first meeting with the island’s only lizard Lacerta Dugesii the Madeira Wall Lizard, whose colour ranges from a striped brown in the youngsters to a deep green/blue in full adults, and contrary to its name was first seen by us on a tree! We also had a brief view of the Three-toed or Trocaz Pigeon - well the underside of one sat in the top of a tree! The other new trip bird was a distant circling Sparrowhawk. As well as some Clouded Yellow butterflies…
  • 2010 [02 February] - Catarina Fagundes

    PDF Report
    …The endemic Zino's Petrel, Pterodroma madeira, also known as Madeira freira or just freira, is no exception and by the middle of the last century was considered extinct, but a relict population was rediscovered in 1969 by Alec Zino with the help of a shepherd called Lucas who was able to distinguish its call. After much investigation the breeding colonies were found….
  • 2011 [11 November] - Honeyguide

    PDF Report
    …we walked along the riverside to observe vagrant birds which was very successful, including white wagtails, common sandpipers and a kingfisher. The highlight was a white-rumped sandpiper, Madeira’s fourth, which fed in the river alongside a greenshank…
  • 2012 [08 August] - E.J. Alblas

    PDF Report
    …I only saw Berthelot's Pipits, Kestrels and Red-legged Partridges and waited till around 10 pm when it was all dark and searched the area by slowly driving around, checking all poles and wires, listening carefully and sometimes playing the sound of Barn Owl…
  • 2012 [11 November] – Catarina Fagundes

    PDF Report
    "We headed to Caniçal… here we had an amazing sighting of a black butterfly with three white spots in each wing. There were at least three specimens of this butterfly: male diadems Hypolimnas missipus – a scarce vagrant to Madeira. …good views of trocaz pigeon, Madeira firecrest and many blackcaps in addition to red admiral, blue emperor dragonfly, island darter, lizards and various other species."
  • 2015 [08 August] - Andreas Ranner

    PDF Report
    ... But the spectacle was still to come: When the night broke onDeserta Grande, the air was literally filled with the calls of Cory’s Shearwater, Bulwer’s Petrels and (later on) Band-rumped Storm Petrels, all returning to their colony next to our camp. Sometimes we even collided with the birds!
  • 2017 [07 July] - Catarina Correia- Fagunde s

    PDF Report
    ... A male Blackcap and Eurasian Collared-doves were also observed here. After we headed to the n orth side of the island, to Faial, in search for the endemic Trocaz Pigeon and where we were very successful watching a few flying and others sitting on branches on open view...
  • 2017 [09 September] - Gergő Gábor Nagy

    PDF Report
    Laurel forest - especially around Pico Ruivo de Santana - was breathtaking: laurels, humid forest, butterflies, birds, etc. All in all during the entire trip we saw 48 bird species (including all endemics and two introduced), 3 mammal species, 1 endemic lizard and 9 buterfly species.
  • 2018 [03 March] - Mark Graham

    Report
    ...Our detour meant we would arrive late in Madeira, at 10 a.m. so this would result in an ideal sail-in for birdwatching. As the sun rose we passed Porto Santo and the North East coast of Madeira lay ahead. There were three Great Skua causing havoc and lots of Yellow-legged Gull and Cory’s Shearwater...
  • 2019 [02 February] - Geoff Upton

    PDF Report
    The large gulls were a bit perplexing: at first I thought the main group in the distant harbour were all lesser blackbackeds, but that seemed ridiculous. Most were clearly yellow-legged when I saw them close, but they were dark, and at distance looked too dark. It wasn’t until we got back home that I realised we’d been looking at the darker atlantis race – wish I’d taken some photos!
  • 2019 [03 March] - Dave Flumm

    Report
    This was a two-week family holiday with my wife Gerda and brother Tony to escape the rain and gales in Cornwall. We often go to the Canaries at this time of year, driven by the dreadful weather back home but none of us had visited Madeira before so promises of Trocaz Pigeon and Madeira Firecrest as well as other island endemics provided a further attraction in addition to the promise of better weather. We were not to be disappointed.
  • 2019 [03 March] - Mark Graham - Cruise

    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.
Other Links
  • Birding Madeira

    Website
    The numbers of European birdwatchers that visit the Madeira archipelago have increased dramaticly in recent years. The reasons for this are many and varied. The main reason to visit Madeira has always been the endemic bird species and races. The second reason, and probably the most important one, is the excellent opportunity to seawatch from the mainland or boat crossings between the nearby islands. The hot spot Porto Moniz, which is the number one site for seawatching, is certainly the good reason for many birders to visit Madeira. However, Madeira offers easy birding and is a perfect destination for a combined holiday. Every birding site or boat trip has something for everyone!
  • Madeira Birding

    Webpage
    Madeira has the reputation of having the best pelalgic birding in the Western Palearctic. The island boasts a couple of endemic species and plenty of endemic subspecies. Although I visited the island on a family holiday I did do the three day pelalgic trip run by Madeira Wind Birds - a trip for hard-core birders if there ever was one. The remainder of the time I did virtually no birding at all
  • Madeira Seawatching

    Website
    Both the gallery and the website will continue to grow and new photographs are always welcome. The criteria for any photo we publish on this site is that it has to be photographed in the Madeiran archipelago (Madeira, Porto Santo and Desertas). If you have any suitable photographs that would warrant publication then please don't hesitate to contact me for further details or e-mail me at Birding Madeira.
Blogs
  • Aves at Ilha da Madeira

    BLOG
    Photo BLOG contributed to by a Group of amateur photographers in Madeira Island...

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