Tour At A Glance





Single Room Supplement:


Tour Code:

Fairly relaxed but with several boat trips and irregular hours in the field.

Group Size:

Nine plus Leader

Zino's Petrel by Kirk Zufelt Madeiran Storm-petrel by Kirk Zufelt Trocaz Pigeon Barolo Shearwater by Hugo Romanao White-faced Storm Petrel by Mike Danzenbaker

Madeira - Searching for Europe's Rarest Seabirds

Date: 5th - 9th July 2021 - FULL
Leaders: Dr Robert Flood



Bulwer's Petrel by Juan Sagardia


The subtropical island of Madeira is one of Europe’s farthest outposts, in the Atlantic Ocean one thousand kilometres south-west of Portugal, situated between the Azores to the north and the Canary Islands to the south. Thankfully, it has escaped many of the worst excesses of the tourist industry that afflict other Atlantic islands and has retained a relaxed atmosphere. The Madeiran landscape is often spectacular and its vegetation is lush. The island rises sharply from the sea along most of the coast. Terraced hillsides of banana plantations quickly give way to steep forested hillsides. Madeira boasts the largest surviving area of laurel cloud forest on the planet. The forest zone often mists up in the afternoons but is typically clear in the mornings, giving breath taking views of the high volcanic peaks. The precipitous central mountains rise to around nineteen hundred metres and invariably poke out to well above the cloud base. Besides the main island, the Madeira archipelago includes nearby Porto Santo Island and the Desertas Islands.
Madeira supports fewer than fifty species of breeding birds, but the small number of species is easily compensated for by their fascinating nature and often-extreme rarity. Birding the land habitats on Madeira is a wonderful experience, but the island’s open-ocean position means that the greatest prizes are awarded to those who look seawards. Put simply, Madeira’s collection of seabirds is unique and outstanding. The principle aim of our tour is to search for the much sought after selection of seabirds that are present in the region and to this end we will make three offshore pelagic trips and chum in known hot spots for the optimum results. The aim is to get up close and personal with these enigmatic species.
The almost mythical Zino’s Petrel and its equally enigmatic sister-species Desertas Petrel both grace Madeiran waters.  Following recent studies using our crew and their vessel, both are identifiable at sea using up to date criteria – criteria that your tour leader helped to pioneer. By taking to the sea during the day and visiting the Zino’s Colony at night (the Desertas colony is completely inaccessible), we aim to gain the best possible encounter that a birder could have with these two very, very special petrels. We expect to see both species multiple times and get very close and sometimes prolonged views as the birds inspect and fly around the chum slick. Often views are so good that binoculars are not needed!
There are several other highly sought-after seabirds, some we expect to see, others we have a fair chance of seeing. The common seabird in Madeiran waters is Cory’s Shearwater and we will encounter good numbers on each trip to sea, sat in rafts on the ocean and visiting the chum. Manx Shearwater is fairly common and it should be noted that the Madeiran form differs morphologically from northern breeders and may represent an ecologically significant form. We have seen Great Shearwater on our trips. The biggest prize in respect to shearwaters is Barolo Shearwater (aka Little Shearwater). Although it breeds nearby, it is an elusive species, though one was seen during our 2019 tour. One of the most graceful seabirds of all, Bulwer’s Petrel, is another common bird off Madeira. Again, we will see Bulwer’s on all three trips to sea and see them in the chum slick at point blank range. They perform wonderfully well for the photographers. Storm-petrels can be fickle but we expect to see Madeiran Storm-petrel (the summer breeding form), Wilson’s Storm-petrel, possibly European Storm-petrel, and hopefully White-faced Storm-petrel. White-faced breeds in the nearby Selvagens Islands with perhaps 10,000 pairs and are normally seen over the three days of pelagic trips.Each year there are additional seabirds that we chance by, such as Great Skua, Sabine’s Gull and Roseate Tern, but these are bonus birds. There is always a chance of a rarity. Our crew on their vessel have seen and documented with photographs Black-bellied Storm-petrel, Swinhoe’s Storm-petrel and South Polar Skua. Your tour leader was present for the last two species and was central to their identification.
The seabirding is wonderfully complemented by the land birding that Madeira has to offer. We have plenty of time to catch up with Madeira’s endemic land birds. We will find the endemic Trocaz Pigeon in Madeira’s laurel forest, along with the endemic Madeiran Firecrest and the island’s distinctive endemic form of chaffinch, the ‘African Chaffinch’. These are stunningly beautiful birds. Plain Swift, Spectacled Warbler, Canary and Berthelot’s Pipit are all common in the right places, places that we will visit. We will look for Rock Sparrow at the harbour from where the pelagics depart. Many other birds, including Common Buzzard, Grey Wagtail, European Robin and Blackcap are represented by distinctive subspecies. For the gull-fans, the atlantis form of Yellow-legged Gull is very common and we are likely to see them alongside Lesser Black-backed for comparison. One of the joys of Madeira is the commonly encountered Monarch Butterfly. Madeiran Wall Lizard is always good value.
Your tour leader will be Dr Robert Flood, who has vast experience of leading pelagic tours all over the world and is an internationally recognized expert in his field. The itinerary is subject to changes depending upon local conditions and flight times. You can expect to see approximately forty species, plus several dolphin species, one or two whale species, Loggerhead Turtle, and other sea creatures.





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