The Ultimate In Birding Tours

Europe (and its islands)

AZORES – Macaronesian Endemics & Rare Seabirds & Cetaceans

AZORES: OVERVIEW

Birdquest’s Azores birding tour is a short tour featuring two islands in this beautiful mid-Atlantic archipelago. Our Azores tour targets the endemic Azores Bullfinch, the breeding-endemic Monteiro’s Storm Petrel and the few interesting subspecies and other species present, as well as giving us the opportunity to see some cetaceans amongst some superb scenery.

The mid-Atlantic Azores Islands are an autonomous region of Portugal and are part of the Macaronesian faunal subregion that also includes Madeira, the Canaries and the Cape Verde Islands.

We will begin on the island of São Miguel, where we will find the rare Azores Bullfinch, the endemic Azores Chaffinch plus the Macaronesian-endemic Atlantic Canary and several Azorean forms which are candidates for future splits, including the endemic Common Buzzard, the Azores subspecies of Common Wood Pigeon and the different-looking Goldcrest.

We will then make our way to the charming island of Graciosa. Our reason for visiting this island is to look for the recently recognised Monteiro’s Storm Petrel, and we will have the opportunity to make two boat trips to look for this species and we have an excellent chance of finding them, as well as Cory’s Shearwaters, some interesting cetaceans and perhaps a rare seabird or two.

Birdquest has been operating tours to the islands since 1995.

This tour can be taken together with MADEIRA

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels are of a good standard. Road transport is by minibus and roads are mostly good.

Walking: The walking effort is easy throughout.

Climate: In the Azores, it is typically warm and mostly sunny in coastal areas, but it is regularly cool and overcast in the interior of the islands. There may be some rain.

Bird Photography: Opportunities are good.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Visiting the remote and dramatic islands of São Miguel and Graciosa in the Azorean Archipelago, way out in the Atlantic Ocean
  • Exploring the verdant forests of Pico da Vara in search of one of Europe’s rarest endemics, the Azores Bullfinch or Priolo as it is known locally
  • Finding the endemic Azores Chaffinch and other interesting species including Roseate Tern and Atlantic Canary and a series of endemic subspecies
  • Taking two pelagics from the tranquil island of Graciosa in search of the rarely-seen Monteiro’s Storm Petrel
  • Numerous Cory’s Shearwaters and a chance of other rarer seabirds including Bulwer’s Petrel, Barolo Shearwater and perhaps even Swinhoe’s Storm Petrel
  • Encountering cetaceans which may even include the huge Sperm Whale

OUTLINE ITINERARY

  • Day 1: The tour starts this afternoon at Ponta Delgada, São Miguel island.
  • Day 2: São Miguel island: Azores Bullfinch and more.
  • Days 3-4: Flight to Graciosa, probably via Terceira, for a two nights stay. Pelagic boat trips.
  • Day 5: Flight to Terceira. Tour ends.

To see a larger map, click on the square-like ‘enlarge’ icon in the upper right of the map box.

To see (or hide) the ‘map legend’, click on the icon with an arrow in the upper left of the map box.

To change to a satellite view, which is great for seeing the physical terrain (and for seeing really fine details by repetitive use of the + button), click on the square ‘map view’ icon in the lower left corner of the ‘map legend’.

PRICE INFORMATION

Birdquest Inclusions: Our tour prices include surface transportation, accommodations, meals and entrance fees.

We also include all tipping for accommodation/restaurant staff.

We also include the following flights:

Ponta Delgada-Terceira

Terceira-Graciosa-Terceira

Deposit: 20% of the total tour price. Our office will let you know what deposit amount is due, in order to confirm your booking, following receipt of your online booking form.

TO BOOK THIS TOUR: Click here (you will need the tour dates)


The single supplement will not apply if you indicate on booking that you prefer to share a room and there is a room-mate of the same sex available.

This tour is priced in Euros. Amounts shown in other currencies are indicative.

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.

AZORES BIRDING TOUR: DETAILED ITINERARY

Azores: Day 1  Our tour begins this afternoon at Ponta Delgada airport on the island of São Miguel in the Azores. We will be staying on São Miguel for two nights.

(Most flights to Ponta Delgada originate from Lisbon.)

Azores: Day 2  São Miguel is the largest and most varied of the nine islands that make up the Azores, and the closest to Portugal, which lies 1400 kilometres to the east. The Azores are known as ‘The Garden Islands of the Atlantic’ and, like most mid-Atlantic islands, are volcanic in origin. The verdant island of São Miguel, which is dotted with the picturesque villages of this largely farming and fishing community, has some spectacular volcanic calderas with brightly coloured lakes, but it is the luxuriant vegetation that makes the biggest impression and not least the ubiquitous banks of blue Hydrangeas.

The highest peak is the 1103m Pico da Vara at the eastern end of the island, and it is this area that holds the remnants of the once-extensive native shrub forest of the island, a mosaic of tree heather, juniper and laurel. Here survives one of Europe’s most threatened birds, the Azores Bullfinch (or Priolo as it is called locally). The remaining population numbers as few as 300 individuals, restricted to what is left of the native vegetation. The other endemic landlord we will encounter here is the Azores Chaffinch, recently recognised as a full species.

Other birds of particular interest on the island include the beautiful Roseate Tern, Atlantic Canary and the Azorean forms of the Common Buzzard, Common Wood Pigeon, Grey Wagtail, Common Blackbird, European Robin, Goldcrest, Eurasian Blackcap, Common Starling as well as the atlantis form of the Yellow-legged Gull (known as Azorean Gull), several of which are candidates for splitting.

Additional species we are likely to see on São Miguel include Common Tern,  House Sparrow, European Goldfinch and the introduced Common Waxbill, but perhaps we will find a rare Nearctic vagrant or two!

Azores: Day 3  Today we will take a flight from Punta Delgada to the charming little island of Graciosa, situated in the far northwest of the archipelago for a two nights stay. Our flight routing will most likely take us via the island of Terceira.

Graciosa is home to a population of the recently recognised Monteiro’s Storm Petrel (a member of the Band-rumped Storm Petrel group), and this will be our prime reason for visiting the island. We will have our first opportunity to go to sea today, and with a little good fortune, our chum will pull in a few of these poorly-known petrels.

Azores: Day 4  Today we will have another opportunity to go to sea, again targeting Monteiro’s Storm Petrel if we failed to find it yesterday. Cory’s Shearwaters are likely to be present in numbers, and other species likely include Roseate and Common Terns and Atlantic Yellow-legged Gulls. There is also a chance of a scarcer species such as Sooty Shearwater,  the rare Barolo’s Shearwater or Bulwer’s Petrel, and other rarities are always possible. Even Swinhoe’s Petrel has been recorded on pelagics here in the past!

In recent years, one or two Sooty Terns have been present in the tern colony on the Ilhéu da Praia and so we will be keeping a lookout for this handsome species, a rarity in Western Palearctic seas.

We will also focus some of our attention on cetaceans. A number of species occur here ranging from Common and Spotted Dolphins right up to the huge Sperm Whale, though it is of course quite unpredictable which species will be seen on any given day. Few land birds are present, and most overlap with those we will have seen on São Miguel, although Graciosa ise a good island on which to see the endemic subspecies of Common Quail.

Azores: Day 5  Today we will return by air to Terceira, where our tour ends.

(The flights from Graciosa to Terceira are sometimes in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon. From Terceira there are flights direct to Lisbon.)

AZORES TOUR REPORT 2021

View Report

Other Atlantic Islands birding tours by Birdquest include: