Like most islands of the world, the Canary Islands also have a unique collection of flora and fauna that features several endemic species. With the arrival of humans on the islands, several of these species became extinct. Hunting by humans and predation by animals introduced to the islands by humans led to a drastic decline in the population of many of these species. For example, the Gallotia goliath, a giant lizard, the Canariomys bravoi, a giant rat, and the Geochelone burchardi, a giant tortoise all became extinct. However, even today, the diverse habitats of the Canary Islands continue to host rare and endemic species like the Canary island stonechat, the Bolle’s pigeon, the La Gomera giant lizard, the canary big-eared bat, and others. Here, we mention some of the most notable animals and birds of the Canary Islands:
12. Atlantic Canary
The Serinus canaria is a small passerine bird that is endemic to the Canary Islands, Madeira, and the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean. The birds are yellow-green in color with brown streaks on the back. The bird is one of the natural symbols of the Canary Islands. The population of the bird in the archipelago is estimated to be between 80,000 to 90,000 pairs. The birds are found in a wide variety of habitats on the island ranging from laurel and pine forests to sand dunes. They are also found in human-modified habitats. Seeds of grasses, figs, and weeds constitute the major part of the diet of these birds. They also feed on small insects.
11. Tenerife Blue Chaffinch
The Fringilla teydea is a passerine bird of the Fringillidae family. The species is endemic to the Tenerife island of the Canary Islands archipelago. The bird is quite similar in appearance to the common chaffinch but has a thicker bill and a larger size. The birds are found at high elevations in the Canary Island pine forests. They prefer to live at elevations between 3,600 and 6,600 feet but during bad weather conditions, they move to lower altitudes. The Canary Island pine seeds are the preferred food of these birds. The young are, however, only fed insects.
10. Endemic Skinks
Three species of skinks are endemic to the Canary Islands. These include the Chalcides simonyi or the East Canary skink that occurs on the Lanzarote and Fuerteventura islands; the Chalcides sexlineatus or the Gran Canaria skink that is endemic to Gran Canaria; and the Chalcides viridanus or the West Canary skink. These skinks prefer temperate grassland or shrublands, rocky areas, plantations, grazing areas and sandy shores.
9. Canary Islands Stonechat
The Saxicola dacotiae is endemic to the island of Fuerteventura. Here, the bird is found in the ravines, rocky slopes and barrancos with sparse, shrubby vegetation. Insects form an important part of their diet. The bird is an endangered species as tourism-related construction and other developmental activities encroaching upon their habitat have forced them to inhabit increasingly smaller ranges. Feral cats and black rats act as predators of these birds and their chicks. Also, over-grazing of land by goats, and desertification act as threats to their survival.
8. Endemic Geckos
Four species of geckos found on the Canary Islands are endemic in nature. These are the East Canary Gecko, the Boettger's Wall Gecko, the Tenerife Gecko, and the Gomero Wall Gecko.
7. Laurel Pigeon
The Columba junoniae, a member of the Columbidae family in found in the Canary Islands of Spain. The bird is dark gray and brown in color with an average length of 38 cm. The bird inhabits the laurel and Canary pine forests of the island. It is also found in the cultivated areas of the forest. The pigeon is exclusively herbivorous with nearly 60% of its diet being fruit. The species is labelled as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List.
6. Canary Big-eared Bat
The Plecotus teneriffae is an endemic mammal of the Canary Islands that is found at elevations between 100 and 2300 m in woodland habitats. The bats roost in lava tubes, caves, and uninhabited buildings. Moths are their primary diet. Habitat loss threatens the species which is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
5. Canary Islands Chiffchaff
The Phylloscopus canariensis is a leaf warbler that is endemic to the Canary Islands. The bird is similar in appearance to the common chiffchaff but has shorter wings, and a longer bill, and a longer tail. The upperparts of the bird are darker brown and the underparts are brownish-buff. On the islands, the species is found in a wide variety of habitats ranging from high altitudes to the coastal gardens. However, the species is not found in semi-desert scrub habitats at lower altitudes. The birds feed on invertebrates and spend most of the day foraging for food.
4. Bolle's Pigeon
The Columba bollii is a member of the Columbidae family that is endemic to the Canary Islands. It is quite similar in appearance to the laurel pigeon. It has a length of about 36 to 38 cm and is dark gray in color. The dark gray plumage and the dark tail band of the parrot distinguish it from the laurel pigeon. The birds build their nests on the upper branches of a tree. They are found in lose-canopy laurel forests and heath vegetation as well as cultivated lands and degraded habitats. The Bolle’s pigeons feed primarily on fruits but also consume other plant parts like seeds, leaves, shoots as well as invertebrates. It is a least concern species but the degradation of its habitat has led to a population decline in recent years.
3. Endemic Lizards
Eight species of lizards are endemic to the Canary Islands. Among these eight species, five species are critically endangered: the EL Hierro Giant Lizard, La Gomera Giant Lizard, Tenerife Speckled Lizard, La Palma Giant Lizard, and the Giant Canary Giant Lizard. One species, the Atlantic Lizard, is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. The remaining two species, the Boettger's Lizard and the West Canaries Lizard are fairly common.
2. Tenerife Goldcrest
The R. teneriffae is a small passerine bird that breeds in the La Gomera and the Tenerife islands of the Canary Islands archipelago. Its preferred habitats include the laurel forests and the Canary Island pine forests.
1. Marine Life On The Canary Islands
The coastal waters surrounding the Canary Islands are also rich in marine life. Several species of sharks rays, scorpionfish, triggerfish, sea cucumber, sea urchin, starfish, and other marine life forms are found here. Five species of marine turtles can also be sighted in the islands.
About the Author
Oishimaya is an Indian native, currently residing in Kolkata. She has earned her Ph.D. degree and is presently engaged in full-time freelance writing and editing. She is an avid reader and travel enthusiast and is sensitively aware of her surroundings, both locally and globally. She loves mingling with people of eclectic cultures and also participates in activities concerning wildlife conservation.
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