Fuerteventura does not have many native mammal species, but the island makes up for that with its many bird species. The island is a birdwatching hotspot since there are several species and subspecies of birds that are endemic to the island. Many European and North African species use the island as a resting place while travelling on further south to their wintering grounds. The egyptian vulture and the canary stonechat are species that since they became extinct on other islands, they have become endemic for Fuerteventura.
Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus majorensis). After several days of hiking along the coastline we finally got to see one the most impressive birds of the island. It came sweeping in over the cliffs by the sea, near the caves of Ajuy.
A couple of egyptian vultures trying to get to the nest of a couple of barbary falcons (Falco pelegrinoides) and they met furious resistance. The falcons were going mad and made many spectacular attacks while screaming loudly.
The fight went on for about 40 minutes until the egyptian vultures were finally fought off and returned inland to a hill where they sat down to rest.
If you get too close to the nest or the territory of the barbary falcon you will know it. These falcons are very noisy and make spectacular attacks towards you, but so far they always turn when they get close enough to do any harm. This picture was taken while climbing in montaña del Cardón, which is being guarded by at least four individuals.
The barbary falcons make their nests in caves or in holes in cliffs where they have a good supply of food (rock doves).
Kestrels (Falco tinnunculus) are very common sights in Fuerte and you find them in ravines, coastal cliffs, towns and villages. It feeds mostly on invertebrates like grasshoppers and beetles, but it occasionally takes small vertebrates like lizards and mice. The kestrel is very territorial and makes a high pitched sound when disturbed by for instance, buzzards and ravens.
The nominate species of common buzzard (Buteo buteo buteo) and the canarian subspecies (Buteo buteo canariensis) and are very difficult to differentiate. Previously only the canary buzzard was present on Fuerteventura but the nominate species was introduced by humans as an attempt to keep the squirrel populations down.
Canary ravens (Corvus corax canariensis) are seen everywhere on fuerteventura and other Canary islands and they have a much thicker bills than the usual european species (Corvus corax corax).
After we located the nest of this hoopoe (Upupa epops) in a stone wall under a fig tree, we waited for the return of the parent and managed to take this picture.
Trumpeter finch (Bucanetes githagineus) drinking water in the caves of Montaña de Cardón. The caves are special to birds becasue there is water and to people since they make a pilgrimage every year to visit a small virgin Mary inside the cave.
The Canary islands stonechat (Saxicola dacotiae) has become the symbol of Fuerteventura since it is only found here in the whole world (endemic). In appearance the Canary islands stonechat is something in between of a European stonechat and a winchat.
When we have been camping in the beaches and coastal ravines of Fuerteventura, the nights have been far from calm and quiet. Cory’s shearwaters (Calonectris diomedea) made sure that every night during the spring was a big party with constant babbling and alien like sounds while flying around the cliffs.
You almost never see shearwaters on land in daylight since they spend the whole day fishing at sea (sometimes they dive down 15 m to catch fish). At night they return to their nests in the steep cliffs and rocks around the islands. We got so happy the first time we saw shearwaters when while taking the ferry between Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria. This bird was seen flying outside of the city of Las Palmas in Gran Canaria.
Ruddy shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea) in La Pared on the soutwest coast of Fuerteventura. The first sighting of these ducks were made in 1994, and there are now between 30-50 breeding couples in the island. It is quite surprising that a bird so strongly associated with freshwater has chosen such a dry island for breeding. While it has disappeared from many of its previous breeding grounds in western Europe, a few ravines and dams in Fuerteventura is home to the last remaining naturally occuring population in Spain.
Ruddy shelducks drinking in the springs of the ravine close to the beach in la Pared.
Many waders make a pit stop on the Canary islands in spring and autumn while migrating to and from their breeding grounds in Europe. In this picure, a whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) with sanderlings (Calidris alba) on the rocky shores of Famara in northern Lanzarote.
Kentish plovers (Charadrius alexandrinus) gazing at the sea in the evening at Famara, Lanzarote
Most of the spoonbills (Platalea leucorodia) you see on the Canary islands come from the big colonies of waderbirds in Holland and use the Canary islands as their wintering grounds or as a resting place during their flights. Its regularly seen in Fuerteventura but never in great numbers.
Spoonbills are higly social birds and don’t mind hanging out with other species. In this photo we see a spoonbill chilling in the morning together with a little egret (Egretta garzetta). The photo was taken on the beach of Barranco de los Canarios.
The little egret is a common small white heron which often pass through the Canary islands on its migratory routs.
The sacred ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus) is a birds that only recently established a population in Fuerteventura and its being debated whether it flew in from Africa or if its actually feral birds from the local zoological gardens.
There are many exotic species on the island. Monk parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus) originally come from Argentina and surrounding countries but have now established wild populations in the south of Fuerteventura as well as in several cities in Europe.
Sources: Peña Tejera, Gustavo. Las Aves de la Reserva de la Biosfera de Fuerteventura, 2013.