Birding in Sao Tome and Principe
As well as being a pleasant place for tourists São Tomé is also a splendid location for lots of birds. Experts report over 135 species in 40 families on the islands. The widest variety is found in the southern part of the island, but Principe, too, boasts many species, including parrots still roaming free in the jungle.
The Sao Tome and Principe are considered an extraordinary place for birdwatching. Specialists have sighted over 143 species in 40 families on the islands. The number of endemic birds in Sao Tome and Principe equals that of the much more extensive Galapagos Islands and exceeds the Seychelles; they are furthermore much easier to find than those in Hawaii. These factors make them possibly the easiest and most concentrated group of island endemics anywhere in the world!
Species include some wonderfully distinctive and unusual birds. Dohrn’s Flycatcher is in a genus of its own, its former name of Dohrn’s Thrush-babbler suggesting still-unclear taxonomic relationships. Black-capped and Principe speirops are two of a group of four speirops confined to offshore islands of West Africa and Cameroon—related to the White-eyes, they are distinctive, cute, and precocious! The Giant Weaver really lives up to its name; it is frankly huge. The Sao Tome Weaver has adopted the ecological niche of nuthatch/treecreeper, with behavior quite unusual for a typical weaver. The Sao Tome Sunbird is a rare treat and one of three endemic sunbirds. Its former name of Giant Sunbird is much more apt, as, like the Giant Weaver, it truly is a massive bird compared to its congeners. In addition to these eye-catchers, there is a fascinating and varied range of other endemics, including a paradiseflycatcher, scops-owl, prinia, swift, white-eye, seedeater, oriole, thrush, starling, and four pigeons.
Three species endemic to the island—Bocage’s Longbill, Newton’s Fiscal, and Sao Tome Grosbeak—are much harder to find, but entirely possible.
You should also find an interesting “supporting cast” of birds, including many West African mainland specialties such as Olive Ibis, Harlequin Quail, Gray Parrot, Whitebellied and Blue-breasted kingfishers, Velvet-mantled Drongo, Chestnut-winged and Splendid glossy-starlings, Chestnut-breasted Negrofinch, Golden-backed Bishop, and Blue-breasted Cordonbleu. Seabirds and wetland species may include White-tailed Tropicbird, Brown Booby, Bridled Tern, Brown Noddy, Long-tailed Cormorant, and Western Reef-Egret.
There are tourist operators that organise birdwatching outings on both island and in the ocean. To learn more about birdwatching tours in Sao Tome and Principe, in order to be able to identify th species, it is advisable to refer to an Bird Guide.