Central mountain range of Ilha de São Nicolau

Year of compilation: 2001

Site description
The site consists of a chain of rugged mountains in the western part of the island of São Nicolau, roughly situated between the villages of Fajã de Baixo and Praia Branca, and includes the peaks of Tope de Moca (1,057 m) and Monte Gordo (1,312 m). Maize and beans are grown in many places on the lower slopes. Some of the higher parts are forested with a variety of tree species; this is particularly so in the Monte Gordo area, where precipitation levels from mist and drizzle are relatively high and trees are thickly covered with lichens.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Table 2 for key species. The site is an important breeding area of Pterodroma feae (and the type-locality of the species). Surveys in 1998 gave an estimate of c.30 pairs. Puffinus (assimilis) boydi breeds rather commonly in the mountains. The endemic raptors Milvus (milvus) fasciicauda and Buteo (‘buteo’) bannermani, which formerly occurred, had not been reported from São Nicolau since the 1960s, but in the 1990s there were a couple of sightings of B. (‘buteo’) bannermani, involving single birds only. If any M. (milvus) fasciicauda should still survive, this site appears to offer the most suitable habitat. The rare endemic Falco (peregrinus) madens has been collected and observed in the area and probably breeds. Sylvia conspicillata, Sylvia atricapilla and the endemic Apus alexandri are all common. In February 1998, a small population (c.8 pairs) of Acrocephalus brevipennis, thought to be extinct on São Nicolau since 1924, was rediscovered.

Non-bird biodiversity: The Fajã area and adjacent mountain slopes are the main centre of occurrence of the tree Dracaena draco (V), a Macaronesian endemic, in the Cape Verdes. The endemic lizards Mabuya fogoensis and Tarentola caboverdiana are common.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Colonies of Pterodroma feae now appear confined to cavities in precipitous cliffs, inaccessible to humans, so direct exploitation is probably no longer a problem. There remains, however, continuing threats posed by feral cats and rats. A telecommunications station has been constructed on the summit of Monte Gordo and this may have caused disturbance to the breeding grounds of P. feae, although the species mainly breeds at somewhat lower elevation and was probably not affected by the construction itself.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Central mountain range of Ilha de São Nicolau. Downloaded from on 07/05/2021.