Saturday, 24 May 2014

Quest for the Wild Canary 14: Canaries and other finches

Atlantic Canary
The canary is actually named for the Canary Islands, rather than the other way around as you might think. The name originates from the Latin name for the islands – Canariae Insulae “Island of Dogs” – a name allegedly given to one of the islands by the Mauretanian king Juba II as a result of the many large dogs found there, although it is possible that the ‘dogs’ were Monk Seals.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Quest for the Wild Canary 13: Warblers and others

Canary Island Chiffchaff
By now it will not surprise readers that there are numerous endemic taxa of warblers on the islands, but at least today there is only one classed as a full species, the Canary Chiffchaff Phylloscopus canariensis. We saw many of these on Tenerife, including in the middle of town, so any birders taking their families on a beach holiday should keep an eye out for it. They breed on the central and western islands, but a separate subspecies, P.canariensis exsul, was formerly found on Lanzarote (and possibly Fuerteventura) but is now extinct. Other Phylloscopus warblers on the islands are only passage migrants for the most part, but we were also lucky enough to see at least two wintering Yellow-Browed Warblers, P. inornatus. Yellow-Browed Warblers have increasingly wintered in western Europe (including even the UK) in recent years, but they do not breed closer than the Urals.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Mauritius video - highy recommended

Several year ago I began this blog with a series of posts on the island of Mauritius and its wildlife. The latest edition of the Mauritius Wildlife Foundation includes a link to a great Youtube video about the restoration of the habitat on Isle Aux Aigrettes - please check it out.

The video can be found here: 

Friday, 9 May 2014

Quest for the Wild Canary 12: Pipits, Wagtails, Thrushes and Chats

There is a wide range of endemic or near-endemic species and subspecies of insectivorous passerines on the Canaries, which reflects the complicated ecological history of the islands. As the only breeding pipit in the region, Berthelot’s Pipit Anthus berthelotti is found on the Canaries, Madeira, and some nearby smaller islands. I found it very confiding – the photo at the top of this post was taken from only a few feet away as it hopped around our feet in a car park on Fuerteventura. As with almost all pipits’ it is a ground nesting bird, which must make it vulnerable to feral cats, but despite this the species is doing well in its range, and is listed as Least Concern by the IUCN.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Quest for the Wild Canary 11: Larger Passerines

Common Raven
There is a wide variety of endemic or near-endemic passerines on the Canaries, but the most prominent large bird to be seen is the very widespread Common Raven. This is of a different race to the form found in Britain, and is classified as Corvus corax tingitanus, which is the same subspecies as is found across North Africa, and has a higher pitched call than the nominate subspecies. As a generalist and adaptable feeder, it must be a major nest predator of all species both native and introduced, and no doubt also feeds at rubbish tips or anywhere else food can be found. The one I photographed here was hanging around a coach stop on Fuerteventura and was obviously used to being fed by tourists.