Four Birds You Can Only See In Portugal

Portugal may not be the first place you think of when planning a bird watching trip, but it has some amazing birds to see. With some species only available in Portugal, it is worth a visit.

The four birds endemic to Portugal are the Madeira laurel-pigeon, Monteiro’s storm-petrel, Madeira firecrest, and the Azores bullfinch. None of these are on the mainland but can be found in Madeira, the Azores, or São Miguel Island.

If you want to check off all the birds worldwide, you need to go to Portugal as these four birds aren’t found anywhere else. However, because of their locality, it isn’t easy to see some of them.

Although Portugal has only one national park, Portugal is a great place to view some beautiful birds. Portugal is a bird lovers paradise with nearly 600 species. Portugal has 22 endangered birds species, and four birds can only be seen in Portugal.

Portugal is easy to get to for most Europeans and is an excellent place to view some rare birds. Cinereous vultures, Spanish imperial eagles, golden eagles, red kite, and Zino’s petrel have all made an appearance in Portugal.

Make sure that Portugal is on your holiday birding wishlist.

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Madeira laurel-pigeon

The Madeira laurel-pigeon Columba trocaz is also known as the Trocaz pigeon. They are medium-sized birds measuring up to 40cm. They have silver-grey neck patches with a pinkish-orange breast.

They can be found on the island of Madeira, generally in the north of the island. They live in tall laurel trees and tree heather. They prefer to stay in trees that are covered in clouds. They can be seen in autumn in the lowlands, where they find food. Their diet consists of fruit, grain, and leaves and varies depending on the season, with fruit making up the majority.

The Madeira laurel-pigeon has a low-pitched rhythmic call sounding like rhuu-urh-rhu-rhooh. Although numbers have declined, this is thought to be because of food shortage, although the loss of habitat looks to be a continuing contributing factor.

Monteiro’s storm-petrel

Monteiro’s storm-petrel Hydrobates monteiroi is a small storm-petrel most recognised by its long, forked tail and white band across its rump. They are dark to blackish brown on top but slightly paler grey below.

Monteiro’s storm-petrel can be found in the Azores island chain, 1000km west of Portugal. They breed in small islets off Graciosa. They can often be seen flying over the open ocean, feeding on a diet of squid and fish.

They make a short ‘wicka’ sound from their burrows where they lay their eggs. The nests are excavated in the soil where a single egg is laid.

Because of their habitat and range, Monteiro’s storm-petrels are classed as vulnerable. They have a low population of probably under 1,000, and their main predators are Northern long-eared owls.

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Madeia Firecrest Rudi B. Flickr

Madeira Firecrest

The Maderia firecrest Regulus madeirensis, as its name suggests, can be found on the island of Madeira but also in Vila Baleira. They have a yellow-orange crownstripe and patch on the forehead with black stripes which join. They have dark eyestripes to the bill and a black moustache. They are brightly coloured birds with olive-green or yellow upper, two white wingbars, and pale below.

Their habitat consists of laurel forests with tree-heath or oak and juniper forests with tree-heath. They can be found at elevations between 600 and 1,550 metres.

They feed on large moths and caterpillars, although they will feed on foliage, moss and lichens if needed. Their calls come in three parts; a ‘bis bis’ call followed a trill, and then aggression calls.

They make their nests out of mosses, lichens and spider webs in large tree-heath. They don’t seem to be under any immediate risk. However, the loss of breeding habitat could be a concern in the future.

Azores Bullfinch

The Azores bullfinch is a medium-sized finch with a purplish-black crown, brownish-grey upperparts and darker purplish-black wings. Their underparts are buffish-orange, as are their throats.

They can be found in the Azores in the east of São Miguel Island, where they can be seen in the steep valleys of laurel forests. They can be found above elevations of 400 metres in Japanese cedar plantations and cheesewood woodland but can also be found along streams down to 300 metres.

Their diet consists of seeds, buds, fruit, and berries, feeding on nearly 40 plant species. They make a soft ‘pew’ sound.

Because of their distribution, not much is known about them, but they are classed as vulnerable. Because of their small range and inaccessible terrain, it is hard to know how many breeding pairs there are. In the 1970s, it was estimated that there were no more than 40 pairs, but the last estimation in 2008 believed there to be about 800 pairs.

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Baptista, L. F., P. W. Trail, H. M. Horblit, C. J. Sharpe, and P. F. D. Boesman (2020). Trocaz Pigeon (Columba trocaz), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, and E. de Juana, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.

Fjeldså, J. and G. M. Kirwan (2021). Monteiro’s Storm-Petrel (Hydrobates monteiroi), version 1.1. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, and E. de Juana, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.

Martens, J. and M. Päckert (2020). Madeira Firecrest (Regulus madeirensis), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, and E. de Juana, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.

Clement, P., D. A. Christie, and C. J. Sharpe (2020). Azores Bullfinch (Pyrrhula murina), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, and E. de Juana, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.

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