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THE CAPE VERDE ISLANDS

The Neglected Isles

Birdquest’s Cape Verde Islands birding tour explores one of the world’s least-visited archipelagos (relatively few birdwatchers set foot here!), yet a great place to see endemics and other specialities. Our Cape Verde Islands tour explores these arid but scenically dramatic islands and targets all the endemics and important seabirds, including Cape Verde and Boyd’s Shearwaters, Fea’s (or Cape Verde) Petrel, Cape Verde Storm-Petrel, Cape Verde Buzzard, Cape Verde Swift, the extraordinary Raso Lark, Cape Verde Warbler and Iago Sparrow, not to mention the remarkable ‘Neglected Kestrel’, the Mauritius Kestrel of the North Atlantic!

Friday 19th April — Thursday 25th April 2019
(7 days)


Leader: Dani López-Velasco

Group Size Limit: 9

Tour Category: Mostly easy walking and mostly comfortable accommodations

At the southern edge of the Western Palearctic, the Cape Verde Archipelago is home to a number of endemics, excellent seabirds and a selection of interesting African species. This is the endemic (as a breeding species) Cape Verde Shearwater (Tommy Ekmark)

At the southern edge of the Western Palearctic, the Cape Verde Archipelago is home to a number of endemics, excellent seabirds and a selection of interesting African species. This is the endemic (as a breeding species) Cape Verde Shearwater (Tommy Ekmark)

The Cape Verde archipelago lies some 450km off the coast of West Africa. This group of far-flung volcanic islands, towering up to 2800m out of the Atlantic, is considered a far flung part of the Palearctic region, rather than the Afrotropical realm. Relatively few ornithologists have visited the islands, some of which are inaccessible except by boat.

Here are found some of the most important seabird colonies in the Western Palearctic, with breeding species including Cape Verde Shearwater (split from Cory’s, and nesting only in these islands), Boyd’s (or Cape Verde) Shearwater (split from Little, and likewise only nesting here), Fea’s (or Cape Verde) Petrel (a species that breeds only in the Cape Verdes and the Madeira group), Bulwer’s Petrel, Cape Verde Storm-Petrel (split from Band-rumped or Madeiran), White-faced Storm-Petrel, Red-billed Tropicbird, Brown Booby and even Magnificent Frigatebird.

The landbird fauna is also quite fascinating. Although relatively impoverished, as is typical with remote island groups, there are a number of endemic landbird species; Cape Verde Buzzard (split from Common), Cape Verde Swift, Raso Lark, Cape Verde Warbler and Iago Sparrow. There are also some distinctive forms that have been proposed for full species status, but not yet been widely accepted as such, including Bourne’s (or Cape Verde) Heron (sometimes split from Purple), Alexander’s and Neglected Kestrels (both sometimes split from Common), Cape Verde Falcon (sometimes split from Peregrine), Cape Verde Owl (sometimes split from Western Barn),

In addition, the islands hold the only Grey-headed Kingfishers in the Western Palearctic and the most accessible Helmeted Guineafowls, as well as Cream-coloured Courser, Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark, Bar-tailed Lark, Brown-necked Raven and Common Waxbill. The avifauna of the Cape Verdes is still rather poorly known, as relatively little work has yet been done here, and so ornithological surprises are still quite possible.

The islands were first discovered by the Portuguese in 1460 (or possibly 1456) and at that time they were entirely uninhabited, without any trace of prior human occupation. The islands were soon settled and by 1466 the inhabitants of Santiago had been granted the rights to purchase slaves in Guinea on the African mainland and supply the new colonies in Brazil and the West Indies. As a result of this unusual history, the present day population of the islands is a ‘creole’ mix of Portuguese and African.

For most of their history these arid, drought-prone islands, which have little fertile land, have suffered from an impoverished economy. Farming has never been much more than subsistence, while local fisheries have never been developed. The situation became so bad that by the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that many of the inhabitants were compelled to go to sea to earn a living, or emigrate to the New World. Some islands are still uninhabited, whilst others are quite undeveloped, although this is now changing as tourism finally reaches even these remote outposts. Visiting the more remote parts of the archipelago is still a bit of a challenge, but well worth the effort.

We shall start our travels on the island of Santiago, by far the richest island for endemic landbirds in the Cape Verdes. We will also visit the island of São Nicolau, our base for a boat trip to the island of Raso, the only home of the Raso Lark, and in search of pelagic seabirds.

Birdquest pioneered bird tours to the Cape Verde Islands as far back as 1985.

Boa Vista Option: Providing there are enough participants wanting to do so, we will arrange an extension after the tour to the arid island of Boa Vista where the last pair of Magnificent Frigatebirds in the Western Palearctic breed on a small islet just offshore. There will also be the chance to spend the night at a colony of White-faced and Cape Verde Storm-Petrels. There is also a small wetland which regularly turns up vagrant shorebirds. The extension will probably involve two extra days (depending on flight schedules) and cost will depend on the number of participants. Please inform us at the time of booking if you are interested in a Boa Vista extension.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels on Santiago is of good standard. On São Nicolau we will be staying in a fairly simple but clean and comfortable guesthouse. Road transport is by coach, minibus, 4x4 or small truck with seats in the back (the typical mode of transport on the smaller islands). Roads are mostly poor (although distances are short).

Walking: The walking effort is mostly easy, occasionally moderate.

Climate: The weather will be predominantly warm or hot, dry and sunny. Although it may become overcast, rain is most unlikely. Strong winds blow up from time to time and it can get quite cool out to sea, or from late evening to early morning on land.

Bird Photography: Opportunities are quite good.

Prices are provisional

Tour Price: £1690, €1990, $2210 Praia/Praia. Single Room Supplement: £144, €170, $189. Deposit: £300, €360, $390.

Includes surface transportation, accommodations, meals, water, entrance fees and tips/gratuities.

Also includes these flights: Praia-São Nicolau-Praia.

Base prices for this tour are in Euros. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = €1.180 and €1 = $1.110.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

Other interesting seabirds which are difficult to see elsewhere in the Western Palearctic include the attractive White-faced Storm-Petrel (Tommy Ekmark)

Other interesting seabirds which are difficult to see elsewhere in the Western Palearctic include the attractive White-faced Storm-Petrel (Tommy Ekmark)

... and the supremely elegant Red-billed Tropicbird (Tommy Ekmark)

... and the supremely elegant Red-billed Tropicbird (Tommy Ekmark)

The attractive Iago Sparrow is one of the more common and easy to see endemics (Tony Clarke)

The attractive Iago Sparrow is one of the more common and easy to see endemics (Tony Clarke)

The Cape Verde form of Fea's Petrel may in fact be endemic to the archipelago as it has recently been proposed that the birds breeding in the Desertas (Madeira) are a separate species! (Tommy Ekmark)

The Cape Verde form of Fea's Petrel may in fact be endemic to the archipelago as it has recently been proposed that the birds breeding in the Desertas (Madeira) are a separate species! (Tommy Ekmark)

The endemic taxa of the islands have been under close scrutiny leading to the splitting of several forms such as Neglected Kestrel (Tommy Ekmark)

The endemic taxa of the islands have been under close scrutiny leading to the splitting of several forms such as Neglected Kestrel (Tommy Ekmark)

... Alexander's Kestrel (Tony Clarke)

... Alexander's Kestrel (Tony Clarke)

... and Bourne's Heron (Ian Lewis)

... and Bourne's Heron (Ian Lewis)

More traditional endemics include the vocal Cape Verde Cane Warbler (Tony Clarke)

More traditional endemics include the vocal Cape Verde Cane Warbler (Tony Clarke)

... and the strange Razo Lark (Tony Clarke)

... and the strange Razo Lark (Tony Clarke)

Other more widespread residents include Black-crowned Sparrow-lark (Tommy Ekmark)

Other more widespread residents include Black-crowned Sparrow-lark (Tommy Ekmark)

... Spectacled Warbler (Tommy Ekmark)

... Spectacled Warbler (Tommy Ekmark)

... and Cream-coloured Courser (Tony Clarke)

... and Cream-coloured Courser (Tony Clarke)

Many of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOL Certificate

Birdquest Ltd is Registered in England, Company No. 01568270. The address of our registered office is Two Jays, Kemple End, Stonyhurst, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 9QY

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