Europe and Central Asia
12 Jul 2016

The Azores: a beautiful drop in the ocean

The Azores are full of awe-inspiring mountains and beautiful beaches. Photo: Joaquim Teodosio
The Azores are full of awe-inspiring mountains and beautiful beaches. Photo: Joaquim Teodosio
By Bruna Campos, Nuno Oliveira and Tania Pipa

Between Europe and North America, sitting on top of the mid-Atlantic ridge, is the Azores, an archipelago of islands that is an autonomous region of Portugal.

These islands abound in natural beauty, from mountain peaks to beautiful beaches. It is also a top diving and snorkel site with underwater caves. This summer, this little dot on the world map could be your next summer destination.

There are currently 11 marine Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) that have been identified on these islands by SPEA (BirdLife in Portugal), including the Praia Islet east of the Graciosa Island. This was designated as a Special Protected Area by the Azorean government in 1991 as an important area for seabirds. You can see the islet up close with a boat tour – you might even get a glimpse of some seabirds that nest on the cliffs and rocky outcrops.

Seabirds to see

A Cory's Shearwater. Photo: Pedro Geraldes

 Right: A Monteiro's Storm-petrel. Photo: Nuno Oliviera


Cory’s Shearwater – better known in Portuguese as Cagarra. A shearwater with brownish-grey upper parts and white under parts and a yellowish bill. It breeds on open grounds or rocks in the Azores during summer. During the day, you will most likely see it gliding above water and diving for fish. They can dive as deep as 15 m.

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Monteiro's Storm-petrel is an endemic species from the Azores. It’s a small seabird with the typical shape of others European storm-petrels – a black body with a white band on the base of the tail. Also a summer breeder on the islands, it favours rock cavities. To see this bird, you need to take a boat from Graciosa Island.

Watch out for those invasive species

Seabirds that nest on the Azores are extremely vulnerable to predation by mammals. This is a major problem for the seabirds, who are at risk from rats that are not native to the islands, but have been introduced by humans.

How you can help

Are you an experienced seabird observer? Keen on helping out? A team of experts, as part of the network of observations of seabirds and mammals, will be counting seabirds in several spots in the Azores throughout the summer. This is a great opportunity to see the island. Get in touch with Tânia Pipa from the SPEA team.

To protect the Monteiro Storm-petrel, SPEA is developing an action plan through the LIFE EuroSAP project to be able to advise the national government on the action it must take to ensure invasive species don’t enter the island.

Tips from the locals: Tânia Pipa

“Each island in Azores is unique in its biodiversity, landscape and traditions. The best season to visit is from May to October, but it all depends on your purpose. The Azores is amazing for hiking among nature and old volcano craters. The sea is usually warm and always inviting for a swim. In case you include São Miguel Island in your visit, come visit the SPEA team and one of our amazing projects at the Interpretation Centre of Priolo.”






Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe.