GRAN CANARIA (CANARY ISLANDS)

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1 GRAN CANARIA (CANARY ISLANDS) 18 th 23 th September 2013 Introduction After receiving information about Blue Chaffinches being recently seen on Gran Canaria, I made plans for a quick visit to see this and some other endemic subspecies. Travel to the Canary Islands is usually easy to arrange and this time was no exception. I flew from a local airport to Gran Canaria, arriving in the evening and picking up a hire car to spend the night in a nearby hotel in Vecindario. The next day I drove the narrow and winding roads to the mountainous interior of this island where I spend four nights in a hotel in traditional style in Tejeda. During these days I extensively searched for Blue Chaffinch and had 10 observations of at least 5 different birds. I also concentrated on finding the two other potential splits: Gran Canaria Robin and Gran Canaria Chaffinch and some of the other specialities I had seen before. The weather was very helpful with little or no wind which was a great advantage to find the often elusive forest birds in dense pine forest. It was a pleasure to discover the quiet interior of Gran Canaria at leisure, much in contrast to the hectic and wasted coastal areas where most tourists stay.

2 Systematic list of birds recorded The following birds were recorded during this trip. The taxonomy is according to the Dutch committee for avian systematics (CSNA), but also based on the information in the Field Guide to the Birds of Macaronesia by Eduardo Garcia-del-Rey (hereafter: GdR): Red-legged Partridge intercedens (introduced) Buzzard insularum Kestrel canariensis Yellow-legged Gull michahellis? 4 Rock Dove livia Collared Dove decaocto Plain Swift monotypic Great Spotted Woodpecker thanneri Berthelot s Pipit monotypic Grey Wagtail cinerea Gran Canaria Robin marionae Blackbird merula Sardinian Warbler melanocephala Canary Islands Chiffchaff canariensis? Gran Canaria Blue Tit monotypic Pied Flycatcher hypoleuca Spanish Sparrow hispaniolensis Rock Sparrow petronia 4 2 Gran Canaria Chaffinch canariensis Blue Chaffinch polatzeki H 1 1H Canary monotypic Greenfinch vanmarli? + Goldfinch parva + + Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa intercedens An introduced species that is common in mountainous areas. During my stay it was obviously much hunted, with the sound of barking dogs and gunshots frequently echoing through the valleys. Buzzard Buteo buteo insularum Several recorded daily in mountainous areas in central Gran Canaria. Canary Islands endemic subspecies although not supported by genetic evidence (GdR). Kestrel Falco tinnunculus canariensis Common all over the island. Macaronesian endemic subspecies (western Canary Islands, Madeira). On the eastern Canary Islands (Fuerteventura, Lanzarote) the subspecies dacotiae occurs.

3 Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis ssp. A few seen near Vecindario. Birds from the Canary Islands, Madeira and the Selvagens are usually separated as atlantis, but perhaps they should be included in the nominate michahellis, with only the birds from the Azores separated as true atlantis. Rock / Feral Dove Columba livia livia / Columba domesticus As well as Red-legged Partridge, Pigeons are much hunted and therefore very shy. It is not difficult to imagine how the endemic pigeons got extinct on Gran Canaria with this kind of hunting pressure. Collared Dove Plain Swift Streptopelia decaocto decaocto Apus unicolor Common in mountainous areas in central Gran Canaria with dozens seen every day. Macaronesian endemic (Canary Islands and Madeira). Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopus major thanneri Locally common in pine forest like Pajonales, Cruz de Tejeda, Llanos de la Pez, Campamento El Garanon and Tamadaba. Gran Canaria endemic subspecies. Has a clearly lighter belly and underparts compared to the endemic subspecies canariensis from Tenerife. GdR however states that there is no genetic evidence to separate thanneri from canariensis and that only the latter subspecies should be retained. Berthelot s Pipit Anthus berthelotii A common bird in all kinds of habitat, except perhaps pure pine forest. Macaronesian endemic. Birds from the Canary Islands and Selvages are usually separated as berthelotii (and those from Madeira as madeirensis) but is considered monotypic here following Pipits & Wagtails by Alström and Zetterström.

4 Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea cinerea Regularly observed in the interior of Gran Canaria, especially near villages and barrancos where water is available. Birds from the Canary Islands are usually separated as canariensis but are included here in the nominate cinerea following Pipits & Wagtails by Alström and Zetterström. Gran Canaria Robin Erithacus (superbus) marionae Heard commonly in vegetated areas, both in pine-, deciduous- and mixed vegetation. Not shy but retiring and often difficult to find. Some birds were however very approachable once found and could be seen well and even photographed, like this bird in a small garden next to the Spar supermarket in Tejeda: Gran Canaria endemic (sub)species. The taxon superbus (occurring in Tenerife and Gran Canaria) was split from Robin Erithacus rubecula as Tenerife Robin. New research has shown that the robins in Gran Canaria differ both genetically and morphologically from the robins in Tenerife and probably concern another cryptic species for which the name marionae ( Gran Canaria Robin ) has been proposed. Blackbird Turdus merula merula Common in areas with enough suitable vegetation. Birds from the Canary Islands and Madeira are usually separated as cabrerae but is included here in the nominate merula because of a lack of genetic evidence to support this subspecies (GdR) Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala melanocephala Quite common in scrub on hillsides, valleys and in well-vegetated villages. Birds from the Canary Islands are sometimes separated as leucogastra but is included here in the nominate melanocephala following Sylvia Warblers by Shirihai, Gargallo & Helbig and GdR.

5 Canary Islands Chiffchaff Phylloscopus canariensis canariensis? Abundant in all kinds of habitat. Canary Islands endemic. Canary Islands Chifchaff occurring on Gran Canaria could be a separate cryptic species based on genetic research (GdR) although they looked and sounded like any other Canary Islands Chiffchaff I have seen on the other islands (El Hierro, La Palma, Tenerife). The form exsul that occurred only on Lanzarote, is sadly extinct. Gran Canaria Blue Tit Cyanistes hedwigae Very common in all areas with enough vegetation, even at sea level. Gran Canaria endemic. This is an example of a cryptic species which was described and recently split on the basis of genetic research. Does look exactly the same as Tenerife Blue Tit (Cyanistes teneriffae, occurring on La Gomera and Tenerife) but has a different Serin-like call, which was heard quite frequently. Other species of Blue Tit occurring in the Canary Islands are Ultramarine Tit (Cyanistes u. ultramarinus, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura), Palma Blue Tit (Cyanistes palmensis, La Palma) and Hierro Blue Tit (Cyanistes ombriosus, El Hierro). Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca hypoleuca Obviously a regular migrant with ones and twos seen (all female-types) at several places in pine forest in central Gran Canaria (Pajonales, Campamento El Garanon and Tamadaba). Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis hispaniolensis Quite common in towns and villages. All the males I saw were already in winter plumage. Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia petronia Only a few seen: 4 near El Juncal and several between San Bartolome de Tirajana and Santa Lucia de Tirajana. Not found near or in Artenara despite searching. Birds from the Canary Islands and Madeira are sometimes separated as madeirensis but are included here in the nominate petronia (GdR).

6 Gran Canaria Chaffinch Fringilla (coelebs) canariensis female, Llanos de la Pez male, Llanos de la Pez males and 2 females, Campamento El Garanon All observations are listed above. I only found Chaffinch in this relative small area consisting of pine forest with deciduous trees nearby and a lot of undergrowth, on a relatively flat area at an altitude between 1600 and 1700 meters above sea level. All birds were initially found by call. Canary Islands endemic (sub)species. Chaffinches in the Canary Islands are probably sufficient distinct to be considered as a separate species within the genus Fringilla. It is also suggested that three (sub)species can be found in the Canary Islands, in which the birds from La Palma and El Hierro are grouped together as a single subspecies and the current canariensis (formerly called tintillon) is split into two with one subspecies occurring on La Gomera and Tenerife and the other on Gran Canaria (GdR, Wikipedia). As I had already seen Chaffinch on La Palma, El Hierro and Tenerife, I was very keen to see a Chaffinch on the island of Gran Canaria. Blue Chaffinch Fringilla (teydae) polatzeki I had 10 observations of at least 5 different birds at an undisclosed location in central Gran Canaria. On the 20 th I saw four birds (3 female-types and 1 male) together. Perhaps this was a family group that gathered as a small foraging flock at the end of the breeding season. Gran Canaria endemic subspecies. On Tenerife the subspecies teydae is a common bird in mixed and pine forest and often easy to observe. The subspecies polatzeki that I saw on Gran Canaria is far more difficult to find and on the brink of extinction and therefore no further details about the location where I saw these birds are given in this report. I have sent these details however to the relevant conservation authorities. Canary Serinus canaria Very common in all kinds of habitat. Macaronesian endemic.

7 Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis parva Several seen and heard as roadside birds. Greenfinch Carduelis chloris ssp. Several seen near the village of Tejeda. It is unclear to what subspecies Greenfinches belong that occur on the Canary islands. Sometimes they are attributed to aurantiiventris, but on geographical grounds the subspecies vanmarli is perhaps more likely. It is interesting to know that at least two other species of Greenfinch occurred in the Canary Islands in the upper Pleistocene-Holocene ( years ago) and got extinct afterwards: Slender-billed Greenfinch Carduelis aurelioi and Trias Greenfinch Carduelis triasi. Birds not seen I did not see the following endemic (sub)species, that breed on Gran Canaria. I saw all these sub(species) however during earlier trips to the Canary Islands: - Cory s Shearwater Calonectris diomedea (normally inevitable but I didn t visit a single coastline during this trip) - Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus granti - Stone-curlew Burhinus oedicnemus distinctus - Long-eared Owl Asio otus canariensis - Lesser Short-toed Lark Calandrella rufescens rufescens (based on genetic research it is now clear that the former subspecies polatzeki is a synonym of the nominate subspecies rufescens (GdR) As a result all birds in the Canary Islands should be assigned to the nominate). - Spectacled Warbler Sylvia conspicillata orbitalis - Desert Grey Shrike Lanius elegans koenigi - Raven Corvus corax ssp. (birds from the Canary Islands are sometimes separated as canariensis, but the validity of this subspecies has been questioned and it is perhaps better to include them in the subspecies tingitanus that also occurs in North Africa. The subspecies tingitanus is sometimes considered a separate species (African Common Raven). Raven must be doing pretty bad in Gran Canaria as I didn t see a single bird. - Linnet Carduelis cannabina ssp. (birds from the Canary Islands are usually separated as harterti (eastern islands) and meadewaldoi (western islands including Gran Canaria) but based on genetic research these subspecies are no longer considered valid (GdR). It is now unclear which subspecies occurs in the Canary Islands but possibly mediterranea or the (undetermined) subspecies from Northwest Africa. - Trumpeter Finch Bucanetes githagineus amantum Common Waxbill (Estrilda astrild), Monk Parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus) and Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri) are common breeding birds in Playa del Ingles as I experienced in June 2006 when I stayed there with my family. For any questions, remarks, et cetera please contact: E.J. Alblas, The Netherlands ej.alblas at kpnplanet.nl

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