Porto Santo Preview

image by Joao Maximo used under Commons licence

I have back to back holidays this autumn (tough gig I know). I’m going to Shetland, Skerries in particular, on go big or go home dates in late October and I’ll say something about that nearer the time. Before that Jane and I are going to Porto Santo and this short blog sets the scene in birding terms.


Porto Santo is part of the Madeiran archipelago, one of four island groups in Macaronesia (Azores, Canaries, Cape Verde and Madeira). By my reckoning I’ve been to thirteen islands in Macaronesia – seven Canaries, three Azores, two Madeira and one in the Cape Verdes. This includes a previous day trip to Porto Santo on the ferry when we were having a week in Funchal.

Birders don’t generally go to Porto Santo. They go to Madeira for a trio of endemic bird species – Zino’s Petrel, Trocaz Pigeon and Madeiran Firecrest as well as other special seabirds that nest on offshore islets.

That said there are a number of reasons why Porto Santo could be good for a leisurely birding holiday:

  • it’s smaller than Madeira and easier to cover
  • it’s considerably less lush than Madiera so migrants seeking cover will in theory be easier to discover
  • there’s nothing between the island and Europe / North Africa so if the winds are in the right direction it should get migrants
  • there are ponds at the golf course and Tanque that have a track record of getting some waterbirds

The plan is to get around by bicycle. The plan is also to do blogs every day of the birding if the wifi is willing. Watch this space in a couple of weeks to see how reality compares with expectation. In the meantime for those who are particularly interested more detail can be found in the document hopefully linked below.

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