About Desertas and Porto Santo

The Ilhas Desertas are located 11 miles southeast of Madeira and are made up of 3 arid, uninhabited islands: Ilhéu Chão, Deserta Grande and Bugio.

The colonies of seabirds sheltered by these islands have a world-wide importance and include the largest Atlantic colony of Bulwer's petrel (Bulweria bulwerii), Band-rumped Storm-petrel (Oceanodroma castro), Cory's shearwater (Calonectris diomedea borealis) and Little shearwater (Puffinus assimilis baroli). The population of Fea's petrel (Pterodroma feae) deserves special mention, since this is the only European site where this species breeds. Its entire population, about 200 pairs, is restricted to Bugio.

Other fauna to be pointed out includes the presence of the monk seal (Monachus monachus), one of the most threatened species in the world. The Desertas, which has a colony of about 25 individuals, represent one of the last Atlantic refuges for this species, which at the time of the discovery of Madeira, was very abundant.

In 1995, the Ilhas Desertas Nature Reserve was created, although the special protected area of Desertas has been in existence since 1990. In recognition of the importance of this natural heritage, it was distinguished as a European Council Biogenetic Reserve.

The island of Porto Santo is located to the northeast of Madeira and is the second inhabited island of the archipelago. There are various islets surrounding the island, which is a testimony to the existence at one time of a larger island, permanently subjected to the forces of erosion.

It is on these islets that we find the greater part of the colonies of seabirds, such as the Cory shearwater, Bulwer's petrel, Little shearwater, and Madeiran storm-petrel.

Porto Santo also has a long beach of golden sand, where some waders are commonly seen, such as the snowy plover (Charadrius alexandrinus), the sanderling (Calidris alba) and the whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus).

The presence of water reservoirs on the island also makes it possible to see some migratory birds, who make use of these small oases to rest. Recorded visitors include the spotted sandpiper (Actitis macularia), the squacco heron (Ardeola ralloides) and the night heron (Nycticorax nycticorax).

The island of Porto Santo is an excellent spot for bird watchers. The different habitats found there, together with the sparse vegetation, allow you to watch numerous land species, including the spectacled warbler (Sylvia conspicillata), which is common in the west part of the island.

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