List of birds of São Tomé and Príncipe
This is a list of the bird species recorded in São Tomé and Príncipe. As São Tomé and Príncipe is a series of islands, its avifauna grows whenever a "new" species arrives or is recorded for the first time; the list comprises over 140 species, of which 22 are endemic, three have been introduced by humans, several are rare or accidental (often termed "vagrants") and several sightings-cum-identifications require confirmation ("Uncertain record" per African Bird Club). Some 10 species are globally threatened.
This list's taxonomic treatment (designation and sequence of orders, families and species) and nomenclature (common and scientific names) for the most part follow the conventions of The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World, 6th edition. The family accounts at the beginning of each heading reflect this taxonomy, as do the species counts found in each family account. Introduced and accidental species are included in the total counts for São Tomé and Príncipe.
The following tags have been used to highlight several categories, but not all species fall into one of these categories. Those that do not are commonly occurring native species.
- (A) Accidental - a species that rarely or accidentally occurs in São Tomé and Príncipe
- (E) Endemic - a species endemic to São Tomé and Príncipe
- (I) Introduced - a species introduced to São Tomé and Príncipe as a consequence, direct or indirect, of human actions
- (?) Uncertain record - a species reported to occur or have occurred, but requiring confirmation (according to the African Bird Club)
Shearwaters and petrels
The procellariids are the main group of medium-sized "true petrels", characterised by united nostrils with medium septum and a long outer functional primary.
The storm petrels are relatives of the petrels and are the smallest seabirds. They feed on planktonic crustaceans and small fish picked from the surface, typically while hovering. The flight is fluttering and sometimes bat-like. There are 21 species worldwide and 2 or 3 species which occur in São Tomé and Príncipe.
- Wilson's storm petrel, Oceanites oceanicus
- European storm petrel, Hydrobates pelagicus (?)
- Band-rumped storm petrel, Oceanodroma castro
Tropicbirds are slender white birds of tropical oceans, with exceptionally long central tail feathers. Their heads and long wings have black markings.
Boobies and gannets
Phalacrocoracidae is a family of medium to large coastal, fish-eating seabirds that includes cormorants and shags. Plumage colouration varies, with the majority having mainly dark plumage, some species being black-and-white and a few being colourful.
- Long-tailed cormorant, Microcarbo africanus
Bitterns, herons and egrets
The family Ardeidae contains the bitterns, herons and egrets. Herons and egrets are medium to large wading birds with long necks and legs. Bitterns tend to be shorter necked and more wary. Members of Ardeidae fly with their necks retracted, unlike other long-necked birds such as storks, ibises and spoonbills.
- Grey heron, Ardea cinerea
- Purple heron, Ardea purpurea
- Great egret, Ardea alba (?)
- Black heron, Egretta ardesiaca
- Western reef heron, Egretta gularis
- Little egret, Egretta garzetta (?)
- Cattle egret, Bubulcus ibis
- Common squacco heron, Ardeola ralloides
- Striated heron, Butorides striata
Ibises and spoonbills
Threskiornithidae is a family of large terrestrial and wading birds which includes the ibises and spoonbills. They have long, broad wings with 11 primary and about 20 secondary feathers. They are strong fliers and despite their size and weight, very capable soarers.
- São Tomé ibis, Bostrychia bocagei (E)
Storks are large, long-legged, long-necked, wading birds with long, stout bills. Storks are mute, but bill-clattering is an important mode of communication at the nest. Their nests can be large and may be reused for many years. Many species are migratory.
- White stork, Ciconia ciconia
Flamingos are gregarious wading birds, usually 3 to 5 feet (0.9 to 1.5 m) tall, found in both the Western and Eastern Hemispheres. Flamingos filter-feed on shellfish and algae. Their oddly-shaped beaks are specially adapted to separate mud and silt from the food they consume and, uniquely, are used upside-down. There are 6 species worldwide and 1 or 2 species which occur in São Tomé and Príncipe.
Ducks, geese and swans
Anatidae includes the ducks and most duck-like waterfowl, such as geese and swans. These birds are adapted to an aquatic existence with webbed feet, flattened bills, and feathers that are excellent at shedding water due to an oily coating.
The Pandionidae family contains only one species, the osprey. The osprey is a medium-large raptor which is a specialist fish-eater with a worldwide distribution.
- Osprey, Pandion haliaetus
Hawks, kites and eagles
Accipitridae is a family of birds of prey, which includes hawks, eagles, kites, harriers and Old World vultures. These birds have powerful hooked beaks for tearing flesh from their prey, strong legs, powerful talons and keen eyesight.
- Yellow-billed kite, Milvus aegyptius
- Palm-nut vulture, Gypohierax angolensis
- White-backed vulture, Gyps africanus (A)
Caracaras and falcons
Falconidae is a family of diurnal birds of prey. They differ from hawks, eagles and kites in that they kill with their beaks instead of their talons.
- Red-footed falcon, Falco vespertinus
Pheasants and partridges
The Phasianidae are a family of terrestrial birds which consists of quails, partridges, snowcocks, francolins, spurfowls, tragopans, monals, pheasants, peafowls and jungle fowls. In general, they are plump (although they vary in size) and have broad, relatively short wings. There are 3 species which have been recorded in São Tomé and Príncipe.
- Scaly francolin, Pternistis squamatus
- Red-necked spurfowl, Pternistis afer
- Harlequin quail, Coturnix delegorguei
Guineafowl are a group of African, seed-eating, ground-nesting birds that resemble partridges, but with featherless heads and spangled grey plumage. There are 6 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in São Tomé and Príncipe.
- Helmeted guineafowl, Numida meleagris (I)
Rails, crakes, gallinules and coots
Rallidae is a large family of small to medium-sized birds which includes the rails, crakes, coots and gallinules. Typically they inhabit dense vegetation in damp environments near lakes, swamps or rivers. In general they are shy and secretive birds, making them difficult to observe. Most species have strong legs and long toes which are well adapted to soft uneven surfaces. They tend to have short, rounded wings and to be weak fliers.
- African rail, Rallus caerulescens
- African crake, Crecopsis egregia
- Allen's gallinule, Porphyrio alleni
- Common moorhen, Gallinula chloropus
- Lesser moorhen, Gallinula angulata
Pratincoles and coursers
Glareolidae is a family of wading birds comprising the pratincoles, which have short legs, long pointed wings and long forked tails, and the coursers, which have long legs, short wings and long pointed bills which curve downwards. There are 17 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in São Tomé and Príncipe.
- Black-winged pratincole, Glareola nordmanni
Plovers and lapwings
The family Charadriidae includes the plovers, dotterels and lapwings. They are small to medium-sized birds with compact bodies, short, thick necks and long, usually pointed, wings. They are found in open country worldwide, mostly in habitats near water. There are 66 species worldwide and 2–5 species which occur in São Tomé and Príncipe.
- American golden plover, Pluvialis dominica (?)
- European golden plover, Pluvialis apricaria (?)
- Black-bellied plover, Pluvialis squatarola
- Little ringed plover, Charadrius dubius (?)
- White-fronted plover, Charadrius marginatus
Sandpipers and allies
Scolopacidae is a large diverse family of small to medium-sized shorebirds including the sandpipers, curlews, godwits, shanks, tattlers, woodcocks, snipes, dowitchers and phalaropes. The majority of these species eat small invertebrates picked out of the mud or soil. Variation in length of legs and bills enables multiple species to feed in the same habitat, particularly on the coast, without direct competition for food. There are 13 species which have been recorded in São Tomé and Príncipe.
- Bar-tailed godwit, Limosa lapponica
- Whimbrel, Numenius phaeopus
- Eurasian curlew, Numenius arquata
- Marsh sandpiper, Tringa stagnatilis
- Common greenshank, Tringa nebularia
- Green sandpiper, Tringa ochropus (?)
- Wood sandpiper, Tringa glareola
- Common sandpiper, Actitis hypoleucos
- Ruddy turnstone, Arenaria interpres
- Sanderling, Calidris alba
- Little stint, Calidris minuta
- Pectoral sandpiper, Calidris melanotos (?)
- Curlew sandpiper, Calidris ferruginea
Skuas and jaegers
The family Stercorariidae are, in general, medium to large birds, typically with grey or brown plumage, often with white markings on the wings. They nest on the ground in temperate and arctic regions and are long-distance migrants. There are 7 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in São Tomé and Príncipe.
- Pomarine jaeger, Stercorarius pomarinus
Gulls, terns, and skimmers
Laridae is a family of medium to large seabirds, the gulls, terns, and skimmers. Gulls are typically grey or white, often with black markings on the head or wings. They have stout, longish bills and webbed feet. Terns are a group of generally medium to large seabirds typically with grey or white plumage, often with black markings on the head. Most terns hunt fish by diving but some pick insects off the surface of fresh water. Terns are generally long-lived birds, with several species known to live in excess of 30 years.
- Sandwich tern, Thalasseus sandvicensis
- Common tern, Sterna hirundo (A)
- Arctic tern, Sterna paradisaea (?)
- Bridled tern, Onychoprion anaethetus (?)
- Sooty tern, Onychoprion fuscatus
- White-winged tern, Chlidonias leucopterus
- Black noddy, Anous minutus
- Brown noddy, Anous stolidus
Pigeons and doves
- Rock pigeon, Columba livia
- Rameron pigeon, Columba arquatrix
- Maroon pigeon, Columba thomensis (E)
- São Tomé pigeon, Columba malherbii (E)
- Lemon dove, Columba larvata
- Forest dove, Columba simplex (E)
- Laughing dove, Spilopelia senegalensis
- São Tomé green pigeon, Treron sanctithomae (E)
- African green pigeon, Treron calva
Parrots, macaws and allies
Parrots are small to large birds with a characteristic curved beak. Their upper mandibles have slight mobility in the joint with the skull and they have a generally erect stance. All parrots are zygodactyl, having the four toes on each foot placed two at the front and two to the back.
Cuckoos and anis
The family Cuculidae includes cuckoos, roadrunners and anis. These birds are of variable size with slender bodies, long tails and strong legs. The Old World cuckoos are brood parasites. There are 138 species worldwide and 4–5 species which occur in São Tomé and Príncipe.
- Pied cuckoo, Clamator jacobinus
- Great spotted cuckoo, Clamator glandarius
- Common cuckoo, Cuculus canorus
- Klaas's cuckoo, Chrysococcyx klaas (?)
- African emerald cuckoo, Chrysococcyx cupreus
Barn owls are medium to large owls with large heads and characteristic heart-shaped faces. They have long strong legs with powerful talons. There are 16 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in São Tomé and Príncipe.
- Barn owl, Tyto alba
The typical owls are small to large solitary nocturnal birds of prey. They have large forward-facing eyes and ears, a hawk-like beak and a conspicuous circle of feathers around each eye called a facial disk. There are 195 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in São Tomé and Príncipe.
Swifts are small birds which spend the majority of their lives flying. These birds have very short legs and never settle voluntarily on the ground, perching instead only on vertical surfaces. Many swifts have long swept-back wings which resemble a crescent or boomerang. There are 98 species worldwide and 3–5 species which occur in São Tomé and Príncipe.
- São Tomé spinetail, Zoonavena thomensis (E)
- African palm swift, Cypsiurus parvus
- African black swift, Apus barbatus (?)
- Common swift, Apus apus (?)
- Little swift, Apus affinis
Kingfishers are medium-sized birds with large heads, long pointed bills, short legs and stubby tails. There are 4 species which have been recorded in São Tomé and Príncipe.
- Malachite kingfisher, Corythornis cristatus
- White-bellied kingfisher, Corythornis leucogaster
- Blue-breasted kingfisher, Halcyon malimbica
- Pied kingfisher, Ceryle rudis
Rollers resemble crows in size and build, but are more closely related to the kingfishers and bee-eaters. They share the colourful appearance of those groups with blues and browns predominating. The two inner front toes are connected, but the outer toe is not. There are 12 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in São Tomé and Príncipe.
- European roller, Coracias garrulus
- Hoopoe, Upupa epops (A)
Swallows and martins
The family Hirundinidae is adapted to aerial feeding. They have a slender streamlined body, long pointed wings and a short bill with a wide gape. The feet are adapted to perching rather than walking, and the front toes are partially joined at the base. There are 75 species worldwide and 3 species which occur in São Tomé and Príncipe.
Wagtails and pipits
Motacillidae is a family of small passerine birds with medium to long tails. They include the wagtails, longclaws and pipits. They are slender, ground feeding insectivores of open country. There are 54 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in São Tomé and Príncipe.
- African pied wagtail, Motacilla aguimp
Thrushes and allies
The thrushes are a group of passerine birds that occur mainly in the Old World. They are plump, soft plumaged, small to medium-sized insectivores or sometimes omnivores, often feeding on the ground. Many have attractive songs. There are 2 species which occurs in São Tomé and Príncipe.
Cisticolas and allies
The Cisticolidae are warblers found mainly in warmer southern regions of the Old World. They are generally very small birds of drab brown or grey appearance found in open country such as grassland or scrub. There are 111 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in São Tomé and Príncipe.
- São Tomé prinia, Prinia molleri (E)
- Sedge warbler, Acrocephalus schoenobaenus (A)
Old World warblers
The family Sylviidae is a group of small insectivorous passerine birds. They mainly occur as breeding species, as the common name implies, in Europe, Asia and, to a lesser extent, Africa. Most are of generally undistinguished appearance, but many have distinctive songs.
Old World flycatchers
Old World flycatchers are a large group of small passerine birds native to the Old World. They are mainly small arboreal insectivores. The appearance of these birds is highly varied, but they mostly have weak songs and harsh calls. There are 2 species which have been recorded in São Tomé and Príncipe.
The monarch flycatchers are small to medium-sized insectivorous passerines which hunt by flycatching. There are 99 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in São Tomé and Príncipe.
- Black-headed paradise flycatcher, Terpsiphone rufiventer
- São Tomé paradise flycatcher, Terpsiphone atrochalybeia (E)
Sunbirds and spiderhunters
The sunbirds and spiderhunters are very small passerine birds which feed largely on nectar, although they will also take insects, especially when feeding young. Flight is fast and direct on their short wings. Most species can take nectar by hovering like a hummingbird, but usually perch to feed. There are 131 species worldwide and 5 species which occur in São Tomé and Príncipe.
- Príncipe sunbird, Anabathmis hartlaubii (E)
- Newton's sunbird, Anabathmis newtonii (E)
- São Tomé sunbird, Dreptes thomensis (E)
- Eastern olive sunbird, Cyanomitra olivacea
- Western olive sunbird, Cyanomitra obscura
The white-eyes are small and mostly undistinguished, their plumage above being generally some dull colour like greenish-olive, but some species have a white or bright yellow throat, breast or lower parts, and several have buff flanks. As their name suggests, many species have a white ring around each eye. There are 96 species worldwide and 4 species which occur in São Tomé and Príncipe.
- Black-capped speirops, Speirops lugubris (E)
- Príncipe speirops, Speirops leucophoeus (E)
- São Tomé white-eye, Zosterops ficedulinus (E)
- Annobón white-eye, Zosterops griseovirescens (E)
Old World orioles
The Old World orioles are colourful passerine birds. They are not related to the New World orioles. There are 29 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in São Tomé and Príncipe.
Shrikes are passerine birds known for their habit of catching other birds and small animals and impaling the uneaten portions of their bodies on thorns. A typical shrike's beak is hooked, like a bird of prey. There are 31 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in São Tomé and Príncipe.
The drongos are mostly black or dark grey in colour, sometimes with metallic tints. They have long forked tails, and some Asian species have elaborate tail decorations. They have short legs and sit very upright when perched, like a shrike. They flycatch or take prey from the ground. There are 24 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in São Tomé and Príncipe.
Starlings are small to medium-sized passerine birds. Their flight is strong and direct and they are very gregarious. Their preferred habitat is fairly open country. They eat insects and fruit. Plumage is typically dark with a metallic sheen. There are 125 species worldwide and 2 or 3 species which occur in São Tomé and Príncipe.
- Splendid glossy starling, Lamprotornis splendidus (?)
- Príncipe glossy starling, Lamprotornis ornatus (E)
- Chestnut-winged starling, Onychognathus fulgidus
Weavers and allies
The weavers are small passerine birds related to the finches. They are seed-eating birds with rounded conical bills. The males of many species are brightly coloured, usually in red or yellow and black, some species show variation in colour only in the breeding season. There are 116 species worldwide and 10 species which occur in São Tomé and Príncipe.
- Príncipe golden weaver, Ploceus princeps (E)
- Vitelline masked weaver, Ploceus vitellinus
- Village weaver, Ploceus cucullatus (I)
- Giant weaver, Ploceus grandis (E)
- Black-headed weaver, Ploceus melanocephalus
- São Tomé weaver, Ploceus sanctithomae (E)
- Red-headed quelea, Quelea erythrops
- Black-winged bishop, Euplectes hordeaceus
- Golden-backed bishop, Euplectes aureus
- White-winged widowbird, Euplectes albonotatus
Waxbills and allies
The estrildid finches are small passerine birds of the Old World tropics and Australasia. They are gregarious and often colonial seed eaters with short thick but pointed bills. They are all similar in structure and habits, but have wide variation in plumage colours and patterns. There are 141 species worldwide and 4 or 5 species which occur in São Tomé and Príncipe.
- Chestnut-breasted nigrita, Nigrita bicolor
- Blue-breasted cordonbleu, Uraeginthus angolensis
- Cinderella waxbill, Estrilda thomensis (?)
- Common waxbill, Estrilda astrild (I)
- Bronze mannikin, Spermestes cucullatus
The indigobirds are finch-like species which usually have black or indigo predominating in their plumage. All are brood parasites, which lay their eggs in the nests of estrildid finches. There are 20 species worldwide and 1 or 2 species which occur in São Tomé and Príncipe.
Siskins, crossbills and allies
Finches are seed-eating passerine birds, that are small to moderately large and have a strong beak, usually conical and in some species very large. All have twelve tail feathers and nine primaries. These birds have a bouncing flight with alternating bouts of flapping and gliding on closed wings, and most sing well.
- São Tomé grosbeak, Neospiza concolor (E)
- Yellow-fronted canary, Crithagra mozambicus
- Príncipe seedeater, Crithagra rufobrunneus (E)
- Lepage, Denis. "Checklist of birds of São Tomé and Príncipe". Bird Checklists of the World. Avibase. Retrieved 27 April 2007.
- Clements, James F. (2000). Birds of the World: a Checklist. Cornell University Press. p. 880. ISBN 0-934797-16-1.
- African Bird Club (2007). "São Tomé e Príncipe: News". ABC. Retrieved 2 March 2008.[dead link]