Birdwatching in the Cape Verdes
Unique Palearctic endemics and rare vagrant seabirds
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.
Boa Vista is the only breeding ground on the eastern side of the Atlantic for Frigatebirds. The Brown Booby also nests here. The Red-billed Tropicbird has also been sighted off Boa Vista. And there have been sightings of Boyd's Shearwater and White-faced Storm-petrel. Other sea birds seen on the Sao Vicente shoreline are the Yellow-legged gull. Madeiran Storm-petrels have also been recorded here.
Amongst the rarest of land birds are the Raso lark, of which perhaps only a hundred survive on Raso island an unpopulated islet west of Sao Nicolau. Migrants from across the Atlantic include green-winged teal, sandpipers (two variants) and lesser scaup, which may be seen on the unihabited islets or on Sao Vicente..
Santa Antao, which is the most verdant of the Cape Verdes has Fea`s Petrel and Bannerman's Buzzard as wll as a number of less exotic birds of prey such as eagles and vultures, which can be readily seen soaring in the strong updrafts over the mountains. The Greyheaded Kingfisher is quite plentiful on Santiago, its only population on the eastern Atlantic. There are also several types of lark such as the Bar-tailed Desert Lark and the White-crowned Sparrow Lark, on the drier parts of the island. Cape Verde swifts and the common waxbill Spanish sparrow Brown-necked Raven and Rock Dovecan also be seen. The beautiful Cattle egret can be seen close to the shore on several the islands.
The Cape Verde Warbler (Acrocephalus brevipennis) is a relative of the European warbler. ,It is grey-brown upper, greyish-white lower, without markings . Its song is a distinctive liquid bubbling, like a bulbul. It now breeds only on Santiago and Fogo although previously also found in Brava and Sao Nicolau. A small bird it lives amidst cultivated valleys, , avoiding dry spots and nesting amongst reeds where its eggs are laid in a hanging nest. British ornithologists are proposing to study it in some depth, to assist in conservation measures.
C is an expert on Cape Verde birds.
"M, A and T accompanied me on an eleven day visit that produced all the hoped for endemics except for Cape Verde Peregrine Falcon. Following a conservative approach to taxonomy the Cape Verde Islands hold six species of Western Palearctic endemic - Magnificent Frigatebird, Cape Verde Swift, Grey-headed Kingfisher, Raso Lark, Cape Verde Warbler and Cape Verde Sparrow. However, If the phylogenetic species concept is employed the islands hold a further eight Western Palearctic endemics - Cape Verde Shearwater, Cape Verde Little Shearwater, Bourne's Heron, Cape Verde Buzzard, Alexander's Kestrel, Neglected Kestrel, Cape Verde Peregrine Falcon and Cape Verde Barn Owl.
Sadly, Cape Verde Kite is now presumed to be extinct (if it ever existed) whilst Bourne's Heron and Cape Verde Peregrine Falcon are both endangered. Additionally, highly sought after breeding seabirds in the Cape Verde Islands include Fea's Petrel, White-faced Storm-petrel, Madeiran Storm-petrel, Red-billed Tropicbird and Brown Booby. In the past the islands have produced some exceptional Western Palearctic vagrants including White-tailed Tropicbird (1999), Red-footed Booby (llha de Cima, August 1986), Black Heron (Boa Vista, February-March 1985) and Broad-billed Roller (Maio, November 1897 and Santiago, April 1924)."
G from Portugal, A from South Africa, and E from Denmark had a very successful trip.
"The weather conditions were ideal: calm, warm and sunny almost all the time - only with a few scattered, showers by the end of the trip on Boa Vista. Fortunately, the sea was very calm during our boat trip to Raso and Branco. October seemed to be a fine time of year: the rainy season had just finished, and the vegetation on these dry islands was at its peak. The land birds seemed to have their breeding time. We managed to see all the endemic species and subspecies of the Cape Verde Islands, except for the Cape Verde Red Kite (which is sadly now probably extinct). Moreover, we saw all the breeding birds as such of the islands, except Madeiran Storm-petrel, Cape Verde Little Shearwater and Black Kite (close to extinction), plus the two introduced species Village Weaver (Sao Vicente) and Ring-necked Parakeet (Praia, Santiago). Moreover, we were lucky to find some migrants that are rare or unusual in the Cape Verde Islands: Leach's Storm-petrel, Squacco Heron, Western Reef Heron, Teal, European Marsh Harrier, Pectoral Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Great Skua, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Common Wheatear and White Wagtail".
Bird species found in Cape Verde:
During September and October storms which leave large pools of fresh water even the dry landscape of Sal can attract migrant birds. In 2010 the following were recorded. Black Winged Stilt, Turnstone, Sanderling, Kentish Plover, Greenshank, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Whimbrel, Little Egret, Alexander's Kestrel, Osprey, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Yellow Wagtail, Turtle Dove, Wheatear, Greater Hoopoe Lark, Bar Tailed Desert Lark, Hoopoe, Iago Sparrow; House Sparrow, Swallow.