Birding Fuerteventura, 5th to 19th November 2003

Published by Surfbirds Admin (surfbirds AT


by Alan Miller
Anne and I travelled to the Canarian Island of Fuerteventura for two weeks birding, sight-seeing and sun. This report chronicles the former, however it must be said that there were few occasions when we didn't have our bins to hand. The attraction to Fuerteventura was the prospect of the endemic Chat and other specialist species found on the island.

For research material we used 'A Birdwatchers' Guide to The Canary Islands' by Tony Clarke and David Collins (C&C), together with a number of trip reports published on the Web. For field clarification issues we carried Collins Bird Guide (Mullarney, Svensson, Zetterstrom & Grant). Having used C&C for a previous trip to Tenerife, we again found the site information invaluable and the species lists for birds, mammals, reptiles, dragonflies and butterflies extremely useful.

We travelled to Fuerteventura by air from Newcastle airport having booked two seats on a Mytravel charter holiday flight. We had a Renault Clio hire car for the duration booked through Worldwide Cars and supplied by Hertz. This was adequate for the terrain. We stayed at the Rural Hotel Era de la Corte near Antigua in the centre of the island. We found the Finca on the internet and booked it direct. It was ideally placed for travelling to all the birding sites recommended in C&C. The Finca had the advantage of a small library available to residents, specialising in Canary Island history, flora and fauna. Also the owner, Senor Andres was extremely knowledgeable and helpful. His wife, Senora Victoria ran the kitchen and the food, mainly Canarian specialities, was delicious.

Fuerteventura has few trees and a reasonably small resident population. We were suprised by the amount of housing under construction, especially around the main holiday centres. We also noted that many (probably 60-70%) of the roads had been recently tarmaced and in some cases bends straightened. In some areas it appeared that a layer of tar had been laid over an existing surface because there was a drop of six to nine inches at the edge of the carriageway so care had to be taken when pulling over in a hurry to check a bird sighting.

Having a fortnight we decided not to race about but to pace ourselves. Fuerteventura does not hold a large bird population so generally sightings had to be worked for. Much of the habitat is open rocky/sandy plains and the car made an excellent hide. In some areas we found disturbance by walkers and sun worshippers trying to find a secluded beach, and as the day wore on the heat-haze increased

We kept daily records and at the end of a relaxing holiday we totalled up and found we had reached 69 species including 4 lifers.

Itinerary Highlights

The garden of our Finca was very productive. Sightings included Berthelot's Pipit, Hoopoe, Spectacled Warbler, Blue Tit, Blackcap, Common Chiffchaff, Spanish Sparrow, Collared Dove and Robin. From the grounds (including the pool) and in the adjoining fields additions included Buzzard, Kestrel, Raven, Redwing, Grey Heron, Trumpeter Finch, Sardinian Warbler, Southern Grey Shrike and Pallid Swift.

Also at the Finca we saw Monarch, Painted Lady, African Migrant, Greenish black-tip and Red Admiral Butterflies; Emperor Dragonfly; Barbary Ground Squirrel, Eastern Canary Gecko and Haria Lizard.

Thursday 6 November

Our fist outing was to Barranco de la Torre and Salinas del Carmen (C&C site 7). We parked at the white building 3kms from the coast and walked down the track to the Barranco. On the way down we had our first sight of Barbary Partridge. We crossed through the tamarisk and turned right to where the Barranco narrowed with a rocky cliff close by. In the first 100 yards we had excellent views of five Fuerteventura Stonechats (3 male and 2 female), the Islands endemic species. Unlike common Stonechat which tends to sit out in the open, we found the birds low on the tamarisk and when flushed tended to fly back into cover.

The salt works and adjoining bay at Salinas del Carmen was a good source for waders with Whimbrel, Grey Plover, Redshank, Turnstone, Little Ringed Plover, Greenshank, and Common Sandpiper. Also there were Berthelot's Pipit, Little Egret, Southern Grey Shrike and Yellow-legged Gulls.

Friday 7 November

In the afternoon we visited the reservoir at Los Molinos (C&C site 1), approaching from the direction of Las Parcelas. Although not many birds were present, we were treated to views of 5 Ruddy Shelduck, an accidental species which has bred. We also saw Coot, Common Sandpiper, Redshank, Greenshank and Yellow-legged Gull before locating an island speciality, Marbled Duck, another accidental species which has bred. There were 3 Marbled Ducks in the inlet down from the dam sitting on some dead branches. Next to the path back to the car parked above the dam was a pair of Fuerteventura Stonechats and two Berthelot's Pipits.

On the way back to Antigua we turned onto the bottom track to the reservoir from the Tefia/Betancuria road. About .9km, just after a dead truck, is a track to the right going up the Plain. Whilst parked in this area we had a Houbara Bustard fly over the car and land close-by giving stunning views.

Saturday 8 November

We visited La Oliva and decided to check out the dry plains to the northwest. The road has been changed and it is now necessary to turn left up and over a bank opposite the last house on the right. This I suspect to be the old road because after 200 yards we could see the old road bending to the right and a track going straight on. We took this track, went past the cultivations at Rosa de los Negrines and drove up onto the Plain. In an hour's scanning we had three Houbara Bustards and a mixed flock of 40 Linnet and Lesser Short-toed Lark. A check of the cultivations on our return revealed 5 Hoopoe, 3 Corn Bunting, Spanish Sparrow and Raven.

We ended the day by driving down to Playa de Lajas where we had Sanderling, Kentish Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper, Turnstone, Yellow-legged Gulls and a single Gull-billed Tern.

Monday 10 November

We spent the day at El Cotillo (C&C site 2). Firstly we checked the Plains to the south of the town. We found the most productive area to be about 4kn from El Cotillo where the track turns left away from the coast just before an obvious small stone building shell. We used the car as a hide and next to the track we came across both Black-bellied Sandgrouse and Cream-coloured Courser. Whilst the Sandgrouse took flight and moved further away, the Coursers were not as nervous and we had excellent close views.

North of El Cotillo to the lighthouse are a number of bays. We encountered the difficulty factor with binoculars and nude sun-worshippers but did find our first genuine Rock Doves near the lighthouse.

Back at the Finca after dinner we heard a Long-eared Owl calling. Whilst not on the list for Fuerteventura, Senor Andres told us that they used some nearby tall Palm Trees. Although we did scan over the rest of the holiday we failed to see them but did hear them again.

Tuesday 11 November

In the morning we visited Catalina Garcia (C&C site 5). We found it to be the best inland water site. Along the track to the lagoon we found a Fieldfare, an accidental visitor, on an exposed branch of a Palm tree. The bird looked uncomfortable and hot. It's wings were raised away from it's body and it was panting with it's bill open.

At the lagoon we had Little Egret, Spotted Redshank, Snipe, Black-winged Stilt, Ruddy Shelduck, Teal, Garganey, Coot, Kentish Plover and Little Ringed Plover, whilst nearby there was Berthelot's Pipit, Spectacled Warbler and Southern Grey Shrike.

We then drove to Gran Tarajal and had two House Martins around the seafront buildings.

We finished the day at Salinas del Carmen. We added Sandwich Tern, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Grey Plover to the list before scanning the sea. There was a very strong onshore northeasterly wind. Some yachts were sailing close to the land and nearby there was 8 Cory's Shearwaters.

Wednesday 12 November

C&C site 4 at Las Penitas was the target for the day. Unfortunately the lagoon was dry and there was disturbance with cyclists and walkers crossing the dried-up bed. We did, however, see Raven, Spectacled Warbler, Berthalot's Pipit and Blue Tit. Also adding to the list Black Redstart.

The views along the road to Pajara were spectacular and at the viewpoint we saw Barbary Ground Squirrels feeding from the hand and more Berthelot's Pipits looking for crumbs. We also saw another Barbary Partridge and Fuerteventura Stonechat.

Friday 14 November

In the morning we visited the Botanical Gardens at La Lajita which hold a wonderful display of cacti plants from all over the world. We got a surprise when we found a Laughing Dove as this species is not on the C&C Full Species List. On checking other trip reports, Laughing Dove is recorded in February and December 2002 with 8 birds and presumed to be a new colonist from Morocco. We again saw Fuerteventura Stonechat and Berthelot's Pipit.

We then went to La Pared Plain (C&C site 6) where a couple of hours scanning produced a flock of 23 Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Hoopoe, Raven, Southern Grey Shrike, Kestrel and our only Barbary Falcon of the trip.

We returned from La Pared on the Pajara road. The mountain scenery was spectacular. In Pajara we came across a pair of Ring-necked Parakeet.

Saturday 15 November

Another visit to Catalina Garcia turned up some new birds, the best of which was two Ring-necked Duck, another accidental species and an American vagrant. We also added to the list Wigeon, and Pintail.

Sunday 16 November

In the morning we visited Pozo Negro. Checking the cliffs to the south of the bay we saw a pair of Peregrine Falcon and four Rock Doves. Then on to Salidas del Carmen where, in addition to the normal cast of waders, we found a flock of 12 Trumpeter Finch

Monday 17 November

A return visit to El Cotillo. On the Plain to the south we found 22 Black-bellied Sandgrouse in groups, the largest being of seven birds. To the north on the beach near a hotel building site we found a flock of 30 Trumpeter Finch and a Common Stonechat.

On the return journey to Antigua just before dusk we called at the Tefia track to Los Molinos and were treated to fantastic views of a displaying male Houbara Bustard, 12 Lesser Short-toed Larks and a male Fuerteventura Stonechat.

Tuesday 18 November

For our last full day we revisited Catalina Garcia. The Ring-necked Ducks were still present, three Buzzard circled overhead and we added White Wagtail to the list.

On the road between Pajara and Las Penitas we saw Buzzard and Egyptian Vultures. At the viewpoint Ravens joined the Barbary Ground Squirrels and Berthelot's Pipits taking food from the tourists! We also had a party of 5 Barbary Partridge on the road in front of us as we rounded a bend.

A final check of the fields opposite the Finca produced the last new bird of the trip, a group of three Redwing.

Species Lists

Cory's Shearwater Calonectris diomedea borealis (Macaronesia subspecies) 8 off Salinas del Carmen on 11th

Little Egret Egretta garzetta Widespread around the coast and seen on all visits to Catalina Garcia. Highest count was three birds on 11th and 13th at Salinas del Carmen.

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea Single birds seen on most days both at the coast and inland.

Wigeon Anas Penelope Catalina Garcia - 4 on 11th, 2 on 15th and 3 on 18th

Teal Anas crecca Catalina Garcia - 8 on 11th, 12 on 15th and 17 on 18th

Garganey Anas querquedula Catalina Garcia - 2 on 11th

Pintail Anas acuta Catalina Garcia - 1 on 15th

Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris Catalina Garcia - 2 on 15th and 18th

Marbled Duck Marmaronetta angustirostris Los Molinos - 3 on 7th

Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea 5 at Los Molinos on 7th. 2 at Catalina Garcia on 11th and 15th

Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus 2 between Pajara and Las Penitas, and 1 at Las Penitas on 18th

Common Buzzard Buteo buteo insularum (Canary Islands subspecies) Seen regularly inland. Highest counts: 3 over the Finca at La Corte on 9th. 3 over Catalina Garcia on 18th

Kestrel Falco tinnunculus dacotiae (Canary Islands subspecies) At least 2 or 3 seen every day. Highest count was 6 on 11th

Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus 2 at Pozo Negro on 16th

Barbary Falcon Falco pelegrinoides 1 at La Pared on 14th

Barbary Partridge Alectoris Barbara 1 at Barranco de la Torre on 6th. 9 at Barranco de las Penitas on 12th. 5 on road near Vega de Rio Palma on 18th

Coot Fulica atra 12 at Los Molinos on 7th. 12 at Catalina Garcia on 11th, 15th and 18th

Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulata fuertaventurae (Canary Islands subspecies) 1 at Los Molinos on 7th and 17th. 3 at La Pared on 8th

Cream-coloured Courser Cursorius curson bannermani (Canary Islands subspecies) 3 at El Cotillo on 10th

Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus Catalina Garcia - 2 on 11th, 3 on 15th and 2 on 18th

Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius Seen regularly at Catalina Garcia and Salinas del Carmen. High count 8 at Salinas del Carmen on 11th

Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula Seen regularly at Catalina Garcia and Salinas del Carmen. High count 8 at Salinas del Carmen on 16th

Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus 1 at Playa de Lajas on 8th. 2 at Catalina Garcia on 11th. 4 at Salinas del Carmen on 13th. 2 at Salinas del Carmen on 16th

Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola Salinas del Carmen - 6 on 6th, 6 on 11th, 3 on 13th and 4 on 16th

Sanderling Calidris alba 1 at Playa de Lajas on 8th

Dunlin Calidris alpina Salinas del Carmen - 4 on 6th, 4 on 13th and 3 on 16th

Snipe Gallinago gallinago 3 at Catalina Garcia on 11th, 15th and 18th

Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus Salinas del Carmen - 1 on 6th, 2 on 11th and 2 on 16th. 1 at El Cotillo on 17th

Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus 1 at Catalina Garcia on 11th, 15th and 18th

Redshank Tringa totanus Salinas del Carmen - 4 on 6th, 1 on 11th, 1 on 13th and 1 on 16th. 1 at Los Molinos Reservoir on 7th

Greenshank Tringa nebularia 2 at Salinas del Carmen on 6th. 5 at Los Molinos Reservoir on 7th. 1 at Catalina Garcia on 15th and 18th

Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 1 at Los Molinos Reservoir on 7th. 1 at Playa de Lajas on 8th. 1 at Catalina Garcia on 11th. 1 at Salinas del Carmen on 13th and 16th. 1 at El Cotillo on 17th. 1 at La Corte on 18th

Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres Seen regularly around the coast. High count 9 at Salinas del Carmen on 11th

Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus 2 at Salinas del Carmen on 11th

Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus Seen in ones and twos around the coast but a flock of 32 went over La Corte on 15th

Yellow-legged Gull Larus cachinnans atlantis Good numbers around the coast. High count 50 at Playa de Lajas on 8th

Gull-billed Tern Gelochelidon nilotica 1 off Playa de Lajas on 8th

Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis Seen in most coastal bays. High count 8 at Salinas del Carmen on 11th

Black-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis El Cotillo Plain - 6 on 10th and 22 on 17th. La Pared Plain - 23 on 14th

Feral Pigeon Columba livia (domest.) Abundant and widespread. Largest flock - 50 at Gran Tarajal on 11th

Rock Dove Columba livia 4 at El Cotillo on 10th. 2 at Barranco de las Penitas on 12th. 2 at La Lajita on 14th. 4 at Pozo Negro on 16th. 6 at Vega de Rio Palma on 18th

Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto Seen daily throughout the Island

Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis 1 at La Lajita on 14th

Ring-necked Parakeet Psitacula krameri 2 at Pajara on 14th

Long-eared Owl Asio otus Heard from the Finca at La Corte on 10th. Advised by the owner that they roost in the Palm Trees nearby. Searched for but not located.

Pallid Swift Apus pallidus 3 over the Finca at La Corte on 9th

Hoopoe Upupa epops Seen almost daily at La Corte. Largest count 5 at the Rosa de los Negrines cultivations on 8th

Lesser Short-toed Lark Calandrella rufescens polatzeki (Canary Islands subspecies) 20 at La Oliva Plain on 8th. 10 at El Cotillo Plain on 10th. 12 at Tefia Plain (Los Molinos) on 17th

House Martin Delichon urbica 2 at Gran Tarajal around the seafront buildings on 11th

Berthelot's Pipit Anthus berthelotii (Macaronesia endemic and Canary Islands subspecies) Widespread in all habitats. Often very confiding. Highest count 6 at Las Penitas viewpoint on 12th and at Catalina Garcia on 18th

White Wagtail Motacilla alba 1 at Catalina Garcia on 18th

Robin Erithacus rubecula 1 in the Finca garden at La Corte on 9th

Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros 1 at Vega de Rio Palmas on 12th

Fuerteventura Stonechat Saxicola dacotiae (Fuerteventura endemic) 5 at Barranco de la Torre on 6th. 2 at Los Molinos Reservoir on 7th. 1 at Las Penitas viewpoint on 12th. 1 on roadside between La Pared and Pajara on 14th. 1 at Tefia Plain (Los Molinos) on 17th

Stonechat Saxicola torquata 1 at roadside near Tuineje (K31 post on Antigua Road) on 15th. 1 at El Cotillo on 17th

Redwing Turdus iliacus 3 in fields opposite Finca at La Corte on 18th

Fieldfare Turdus pilaris 1 at Catalina Garcia on 11th

Spectacled Warbler Sylvia conspicillata orbitalis (Canary Islands subspecies) Widespread and seen regularly. Highest count - 5 at La Corte on 5th

Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala 2 on 5th and 1 on 9th at La Corte. 1 on 12th at Vega de Rio Palmas. 2 on 14th at Pajara

Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla La Corte - 6 on 9th, 2 on 13th and 2 on 19th. 2 at La Pajara on 14th

Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita Seen regularly around the Finca at La Corte. High count 4 on 6th and 16th

Blue Tit Parus caeruleus degener (Fuerteventura and Lanzarote subspecies) A pair seen most days around the Finca at La Corte. 2 at Vega de Rio Palma on 12th

Southern Grey Shrike Lanius excubitor koenigi (Canary Islands subspecies) Seen almost daily around the Island, mainly in pairs

Raven Corvus corax tingitanus Abundant and widespread. Seen daily in good numbers.

Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis abundant and widespread. Seen daily in good numbers.

Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis 1 at La Corte on 7th and 9th. 1 at Pajara on 14th

Linnet Carduelis cannabina harterti (Fuerteventura and Lanzarote subspecies) 20 at La Oliva Plain on 8th. La Corte - 1 on 10th and 2 on 15th

Trumpeter Finch Budanetes githagineus amantum (Canary Islands subspecies) 2 on 6th at Los Alares. 4 on 10th and 30 on 17th at El Cotillo. 6 on 11th and 12 on 16th at Salinas del Carmen. 2 on 14th at roadside between La Pared and Pajara. 12 on 18th at La Corte

Corn Bunting Miliaria calandra 3 on 8th at the Rosa de los Negrines cultivations


Monarch Danaus plexippus
Plain Tiger Danaus chrysippus
Red Admiral Vanessa Atlanta
Painted Lady Cynthia cardui
Canary Island Brimstone Gonopteryx Cleopatra
Greenish Black-tip Elphinstonia charlonia
African Migrant Catopsilia florella


Emperor Dragonfly Anax imperator
Scarlet Darter Crocothemis erythraea
Red-veined Darter Sympetrum fonscolombei


Haria Lizard Galiotia atlantica
Eastern Canary Gecko Tarentola angustimentalis


Barbary Ground Squirrel Atlantoxerus getulus
Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus
Algerian Hedgehog (road casualty) Atelerix algirus