Tenerife Blue Chaffinch

Birds of the Canary Islands Checklist

Guest Contributor|July 5, 2017|Blog Post

Located 62 miles west of Morocco, the Canary Islands are a Spanish archipelago revered around the world for its beautiful beaches and unspoiled natural attractions. It’s comprised of 13 islands and islets, including tourism hotspots such as Tenerife, Gran Canaria, and Lanzarote.

From UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as Mount Teide to Timanfaya National Park and the new Museo Atlántico underwater museum in Lanzarote, the islands offer an array of options for nature lovers. But the Canary Islands are named for one of its endemic bird species, and birdwatching is an ever-popular past time there.

Here’s a brief guide to some of the more commonly sighted birds of the Canary Islands:

 

Atlantic Canary

Widely known as the wild canary or island canary, this fetching finch is the most famous of the native birds of the Canary Islands. Wild ones are mostly yellow-green with brown streaks on the back and white underrated coverts, but captive varieties have been bred to boast an array of colors. Together with the date palm, this bird is the natural symbol of the Canary Islands.

 

Barbary Falcon

Native to Northern Africa, this crow-sized bird of prey is also commonly found in the Middle East, Central Asia, and South Asia. It looks like a peregrine falcon, but smaller (around 14 inches long) and with paler gray-blue upper parts and buff highlights as opposed to white. They’re usually found in semi-desert landscapes and dry, open hills, where they nest on cliff edges.

 

Barbary Partridge

This gorgeous game bird is in the pheasant family, with a gray-brown back, gray breast, buff belly, brown and white-spotted throat, and rufous-streaked white flanks. Laying its eggs on the ground in dry, open, hilly areas, the Barbary partridge is native to North Africa, the Canary Islands, and Gibraltar, where it is the national bird.

 

Berthelot’s Pipit

Although it may not be as colorful as other birds of the Canary Islands, this passerine bird is one of the area’s most commonly seen species. Measuring just five inches, with a shorter tail and larger head than its cousin the meadow pipit, these ground-nesters were named after French naturalist Sabin Berthelot.

 

Black-bellied Sandgrouse

With a range that extends from the Canary Islands and northern Africa east to Iran, the black-bellied sandgrouse has a small pigeon-like head/neck atop a stocky body. Males are mostly gray, with a chestnut throat, golden-brown uppers, a thin black border around the lower breast, white underwings, and black belly. Look for them around watering holes at dawn.

 

Bolle’s Pigeon

One of the endemic birds of the Canary Islands, this beauty boasts bolder colors than other wood pigeons. The male’s dark gray body has bluish overtones, with a metallic blue-green neck, metallic blue shoulders, purple chest, red beak, and yellow-orange eyes framed by a thin flesh-colored ring.

 

Canary Islands Chiffchaff

Once considered a subspecies of the common chiffchaff, this endemic leaf warbler is now classified as a separate species (Phylloscopus canariensis). One subspecies is found in the western islands, while another is found only on Lanzarote and Fuerteventura. Both have a longer bill, shorter wings, and a longer tail than other chiffchaffs.

 

Canary Islands Kinglet

Sometimes referred to as the Canary Islands goldcrest or Tenerife goldcrest, this tiny passerine bird has two subspecies that inhabit the pine forests of the eastern and western islands. It looks very similar to a goldcrest, but with a longer bill, darker underparts, and a broader black band with yellow stripe running down the center of its head.

 

Canary Islands Stonechat

Once common throughout the Canaries, this small passerine bird is now only found on Fuerteventura, and is also known as the Fuerteventura stonechat. They have dark brown heads, white throats and eye patches, and a light orange-to-chestnut breast. It was formerly classified as a member of the thrush family, but is now considered an Old World flycatcher.

 

Houbara Bustard

Also known as the North African houbara, this large (22-26” long, with a 53-66” wingspan) bustard is found in dry, arid environments across North Africa. It’s an odd but attractive bird, brown on top with a white belly, black stripes on its neck, and a cool black and brown pattern on its flight feathers.

 

Laurel Pigeon

Another pigeon endemic to the Canary Islands, the laurel pigeon is less colorful than the Bolle’s pigeon. It’s dark brown rather than bluish gray, with a dark pink breast, and lacks the Bolle’s dark tail bands. It’s also more endangered primarily due to habitat loss in the islands’ laurel forests.

 

Tenerife Blue Chaffinch

Endemic to the Tenerife highlands (where it is the natural symbol, along with the Canary Islands dragon tee), this blue beauty is larger, more colorful, and has a thicker bill than the common chaffinch. Visit the islands from the end of April to late June/early July to see the males in their peak breeding season blues. 

 

Bret Love is a journalist/editor with 24 years of print and online experience, whose clients have ranged from the Atlanta Journal Constitution and American Airlines to National Geographic and Yahoo Travel. Along with his wife, photographer/videographer Mary Gabbett, he is the co-founder of ecotourism/conservation website Green Global Travel and Green Travel Media.

Related Blog Posts

  • Zegrahm Expeditions Sea to Sahara
    Blog Post

    5 UNESCO Must-Sees On Our Sea to Sahara Journey

    December 14, 2017 | Blog Post

    On our special Sea to Sahara journey, Zegrahm president Van Perry and co-founder Mike Messick lead guests to amazing discoveries across the west coast of Africa.

    Read More

    Valletta, Malta
    Field Report

    2017 Circumnavigation of Sicily Field Report

    December 6, 2017 | Field Report

    Wednesday & Thursday, September 27 & 28, 2017 - Valletta, Malta / Embark Variety Voyager

    Read More

    Taveuni, Fiji
    Blog Post

    5 Reasons Travel is Among the Best Family Gifts You Can Give

    December 5, 2017 | Blog Post

    Gift-giving is almost always challenging and rewarding in equal measure, but especially around the holidays. There’s an inherent pressure to find the perfect gift for your loved ones—one that will both show them how much we love them and how well we know them.

    Read More

  • Milford Sound, New Zealand
    Blog Post

    20 Intriguing Christmas Traditions Around the World

    November 20, 2017 | Blog Post

    Christmas has become an almost ubiquitous celebration found all around the world. Nearly every country—even those not traditionally steeped in Christianity—acknowledges the holiday in some fashion.

    Read More

    Grimsey Island
    Blog Post

    Tips for Surviving a Long Layover

    November 7, 2017 | Blog Post

    Ah, the dreaded long layover… We all love the convenience of direct flights to our destination. But there are times when long layovers are simply unavoidable, especially when you’re traveling internationally.

    Read More

    Berber Drummer, Morocco
    Blog Post

    The Importance of Cultural Geography: A Q&A with Zegrahm Expert Ron Wixman

    October 26, 2017 | Blog Post

    It’s tough to know where to start when you’re talking to a guy with a resumé like that of Zegrahm’s cultural geography expert, Ron Wixman.

    Read More

  • Bordeaux, France
    Blog Post

    5 Must-Sips in Western Europe

    September 19, 2017 | Blog Post

    Sailing aboard the newly refurbished Ocean Adventurer, guests on our upcoming Discoveries of Coastal Europe journey can drink in Western Europe’s dramatic coasts from Lisbon to London.

    Read More

    Sahara Desert
    Infographics

    Sea to Sahara [Infographic]

    September 18, 2017 | Infographics

    Take a glimpse into our brand-new itinerary, Sea to Sahara, showcasing far-flung islands and exotic ports of call, including Cape Verde, Canary Islands, and Morocco.

    Read More

    Sylt, Germany
    Field Report

    2017 Best of the Baltic Field Report

    August 29, 2017 | Field Report

    Saturday & Sunday, July 15 & 16, 2017 - London, England / Embark Island Sky

    Read More

  • La Gomera, Canary Islands
    Video

    Sea to Sahara: A Brand-New Small-Ship Cruise Expedition

    August 29, 2017 | Video

    Watch as Director of Operations Jon Nicholson and Cruise Director Kelsey Simmons, talk about our brand-new expedition, Sea to Sahara, that explores Cape Verde, the Sahara Desert, the Canary Islands, and Morocco.

     

    Read More

    European Crested Tit
    Blog Post

    European Birds: 10 Endemic Species

    August 28, 2017 | Blog Post

    The birds of Europe include around 700 different species, many of which are similar to those found in northern Asia and North America. In fact, there are only 10 endemic species of European birds that you won’t see anywhere else in the world.

    Read More

    Lanzarote Island, Canary Islands, Spain
    Blog Post

    10 Things to Do on Canary Islands Holidays

    August 7, 2017 | Blog Post

    From lush forests to daunting volcanoes, Canary Islands holidays offer unexpected variety and dramatic, dynamic landscapes.

    Read More