Last updated on February 23, 2023 by Wandering our World
Gran Canaria, round in shape and of volcanic origin, has unfortunately suffered lots of deforestation over the years. The result of which means it’s now the Canary Island with the most deforestation.
That’s had many negative effects on the wildlife population, but luckily there’s still plenty of animals to try and spot when visiting like giant lizards, several endemic birds, and even huge manta rays!
If you’re planning a trip to Gran Canaria then don’t just stay amongst the clear blue waters and stunning beaches. Instead branch out and try and find some of the interesting wildlife that’s hidden around Gran Canaria, and add some fun animal spotting into your itinerary!
And with almost no dangerous animals on the island, you can enjoy your wildlife spotting adventure without any worries. Here’s some of the animals you could see and where to find them.
- Common Animals In Gran Canaria
- Rare & Endangered Animals In Gran Canaria
- Dangerous Animals In Gran Canaria
Common Animals In Gran Canaria To Try & Spot!
1. Canario Silvestre
The Canario Silvestre is a small songbird with a round body only growing to be between 12.5-13.5 cm. They have a long wingspan compared to the size of their body, averaging between 21-23.7 cm and they often weigh about 15 grams.
In how they appear, they are seen with long forked tails, a bright yellow breast, and brownish-gray stripes going down the back. Typically, females are less colorful and duller than their male counterparts.
Canario Silvestre’s are sociable birds and rarely seen alone. Often, they are spotted in joint flocks with other small birds like goldfinches or linnets and seen sitting on branches, singing.
They nest in groups and build their nests behind leaves on tree branches, easily hidden from potential predators. They feed in flocks at low vegetation near gardens, farmland, or other areas with sparse vegetation.
This bird often lays their eggs in the first few months of the year, between January and July usually laying between 3 and 5 eggs.
Unfortunately, these birds were previously used as a warning system in coal mines. Since they could be heard singing most of the time, if there was an issue, their singing would cease due to them dying and that would alert the miners to leave
Luckily now populations are plentiful and it’s quite likely you’ll see or hear a few of these birds on Gran Canaria while searching for wildlife.
2. Mosquitero Canary
The Mosquitero Canary, also known as Canary island chiffchaff, is a small leaf warbler endemic to the Canary Islands. They have shorter wings than the common Chiffchaff and can be seen in woodlands, gardens, bushy areas, and plantations.
When identifying them, you’ll notice olive-colored feathers with a yellowish-white chest underbelly, chin, and throat.
They only grow to be around 10-12 centimeters in length with a wingspan ranging from 15-21 cm and are easily identifiable by the prominent eyebrow above their eyes, thin, dark-colored bill, and small pale legs.
If you don’t see the Mosquitero Canary hopping around on the ground, looking for insects to munch on, you’ll likely hear their quick bird song in a deeper voice than the common Chiffchaff.
Often, they are solitary birds seen alone, however, during the breeding season they can be found in pairs, and in the winter seasons, they prefer the protection of a small group.
They live on Gran Canaria year round, as they have small rounded wings that can’t support them through migration, so should be one of the easiest species of wildlife to spot.
3. The Gran Canaria Giant Lizard
The Gran Canaria giant lizard is commonly seen on the island and can grow up to 80 centimeters! It is most often seen being gray, or brown with red hues with a white belly.
This giant lizard can live up to eleven years old and males are usually seen with large jowls, heads, and a greater body mass than females.
They have an omnivorous diet, mostly consisting of soft fruits and invertebrates, and as they age their diet shifts to be mostly plants and plant matter.
They are protected under Spanish law, due to the quick decline of their population. This legislation makes it illegal to hunt, harm, or even catch these lizards.
They are quite gentle creatures but they do have a strong bite, and they won’t let go once they’ve latched on. They will also drop their tails when they are scared or a predator grabs onto them. So when wildlife spotting on Gran Canaria give them their space when you find them.
In fact they are great for the environment too because they have a plant-focused diet, and they help disperse seeds of 50 different types of plants!
4. Canarian Black Pig
The Canarian black pig is most commonly used for food and has long ties to rural life, often raised by families to later be slaughtered. They have thick hair bristles, often black in color with spots sometimes visible on their bellies.
Their appearance is quite distinct, they have small short heads with lots of wrinkles, long droopy ears that can sometimes reach their muzzle, and thin, short legs. They are quite large, their weight often ranges from 130-160 kilograms and their chests are unpronounced.
The Canarian black pig is a natural waste disposal, helping eat any leftovers and food scraps created by humans. This helps eliminate potential food other rodents may try to eat. They are also considered a delicacy and are very profitable to farmers.
5. Gran Canaria Skink
The Gran Canaria skink lives in temperate forests, shrubland, grassland, rocky areas, and sandy shores.
As adults, they can grow between 16-18 centimeters with their tails making up around half of their length. They only weigh around 12 grams, have slim legs and 5 fingers on each hand, and are endemic to Gran Canaria.
Their diet consists mainly of insects, such as flies, crickets, slugs, and snails, and occasionally, they are seen munching on plants and moss.
The Gran Canaria skink is a territorial animal, often building their nests in areas where they are protected from the elements. They try to avoid confrontation, guarding their nests and even digging tunnels underground to protect themselves against any potential prey or predators.
If they do feel threatened they have long tails that can shed when the predator grabs onto them or scares them.
When exploring the wildlife in Gran Canaria, you’ll most likely find one of these skinks basking in the sun, perched on rocks or logs throughout the day!
6. Gran Canaria Blue Finch
The Gran Canaria blue finch is an endangered species of young blue finch that is identifiable by two white bands on its wings.
They are a dull blueish-grey in color, and the females are often a dull brown, and have a white underbelly and grow to be less than 14.5 centimeters and weigh under 18 grams.
The Gran Canaria blue finch is a non-migratory bird and can be seen on the island year-round. But they are only found in the highlands of Gran Canaria, living in dense forests.
Their diet consists of pine seeds and insects and they are seen building their nests out of pine needles and broom branches.
When exploring Gran Canaria and its wildlife keep an eye out for these beautiful birds!
7. Osorio Shrew
The Osorio Shrew is native to Gran Canaria and its most prominent feature is its bright white, unpigmented teeth.
This species of shrew has prominent ears with a weight between 11-14 grams. The length of their head and body averages between 6-9 centimeters and their tails can be anywhere between 3-4.5 centimeters long.
Osario shrews are most often seen in temperate regions of the island where there’s lots of insects, such as in woodlands or grasslands. Their diet consists of mostly insects, other small rodents, lizards, and amphibians.
When they find a good environment, they will build nests under stones, logs, and burrows and they’ve been seen in elevations below 1000 meters.
The Osario shrew is a semi-social mammal that likes to live in close proximity to each other. Their lifespans average around 18 months and they have litters of 2-10 young, which are taken care of by both parents.
8. Presa Canario Dog
The Presa Canario dog is a large breed originating from the Canary Islands. They are most commonly found in Gran Canaria and Tenerife with their height averaging between 22-26 inches and weight between 84-110 pounds.
They can live between 9 and 11 years old and were traditionally used by farmers as cattle or guard dogs.
Quite calm and attentive, the way they move is often agile, similar to a feline. This is partly due to their stature since they are slightly longer than they are tall.
Unfortunately, due to their size and appearance, these dogs were also used in dog fighting which was legal in Spain until 1936. Now illegal, these dogs are most commonly kept as pets and commonly seen around the island.
The Rare & Endangered Animals In Gran Canara You’ll Be Lucky To See!
1. Angel Shark
The angel shark is a critically endangered species that has a flat head and body with wing-like pectoral fins, making them appear to resemble rays.
They have their eyes located on the upper surface of the head and they range up to 2.5 meters in length. With their species quickly declining, they are protected under Spanish law.
They are most commonly found in warm and temperate waters, and have a diet consisting mostly of boney fish and invertebrates.
Angel Sharks aren’t often seen hunting, instead, you’ll more likely catch them waiting for potential pray and ambushing once they get close.
2. Manta Ray
Manta rays can live up to 50 years old, grow up to 29 feet long and can be seen in the ocean off Gran Canaria – consider yourself lucky if you see one of these giants of the island’s wildlife scene.
They are classified as a vulnerable species and have large, flat, diamond-shaped bodies. There are two main species of manta rays: one prefers to live near reef systems, and the other species likes to stay far away from land, but both species are found in warm waters.
Manta rays are highly intelligent animals that have the largest brain-to-size ratio of any cold-blooded fish. They are most commonly seen living alone or in small groups and it’s even speculated that they could potentially recognize themselves if they were to look in a mirror!
They are considered predators, often searching for food in deeper waters. However, manta rays are filter feeders and swim with their mouth open to pull in zooplankton, krill, and other small animals.
Normally, they are seen swimming close to the surface, but also like to keep clean and make regular visits to busy reefs where they stay still for a few minutes and fish will remove parasites and dead skin!
3. Butterfly Ray
Butterfly rays have pectoral fins, which form a disk that is broader than it is long, creating the illusion of wings.
They are considered a critically endangered species but luckily, the Spanish government has progressive protection for endangered species, and these beautiful rays are protected.
They are found in tropical and subtropical waters living on the bottom of the ocean in open sandy areas., are migratory, and have been recorded living between 70-100 years old!
Like all rays, these animals have large mouths to help them feed on invertebrates, fish, shrimps, crabs, mollusks, and other small organisms. When searching for prey, they have electric senses that exceed many other animals, helping them recognize when another animal is coming close.
Often, these rays have a poisonous tail that they can use for defense against predators. Though not lethal, it can be quite painful for humans.
Seahorses are a fascinating species, and as their name suggests they have heads that resemble a horse. They have a relatively short lifespan, only ranging between 1 and 5 years old and they can grow 0.6-14 inches.
Unlike most other fish species, they can swim upright, and many different species are mostly spotted, striped, or speckled.
Their appearance is quite unique compared to other fish species. They aren’t covered with gills, instead, they have bony plates covered in flesh, and the plates work independently of each other.
They also have small dorsal fins that beat frantically to help them swim, as well as prehensile tails that are used to grasp items on the sea floor.
These fish get exhausted quite easily and can get swept away by strong waves and currents. Because of this, they often are seen in calm shallow waters, also staying near long sea grass, mangroves, and coral reefs.
Seahorses are ambush predators and will sit and wait for krill, fish larvae, and other small creatures to float by. They don’t have any teeth and have little stomach storage, which is why they appear to be constantly feeding throughout the day.
Most interestingly, seahorses are unique in that the males are the ones experiencing pregnancy. The female will place her eggs in the male’s frontal pouch and the male incubates, feeds, and carries them to term. With seahorses, males are the ones who are there when the baby seahorses are born!
Dangerous Animals In Gran Canaria To Watch Out For!
1. Giant Centipede (Scolopendra morsitans)
The giant centipede can grow around 13 centimeters in length and is characterized by its bright red heads, though their coloration can vary depending on location.
It’s actually considered to be an invasive species and is most often found hidden under objects like leaves, tree bark, or rocks on the ground.
They are aggressive and opportunistic predators that feed mainly on arthropods and other small vertebrates.
The giant centipede is nocturnal, most often hunting at night, and they use their strong jaws and neurotoxic venom when trying to capture their prey. Their venom is neurotoxic, so it attacks the nervous system of invertebrates and the autonomic nervous system in vertebrates.
In appearance, the giant centipede has a brownish body with distinct striations between each body segment. They have large front-facing fangs, which they use when capturing their prey and they have been observed living up to nearly 10 years old!
Although they aren’t fatal to humans, if you get bit, you’ll likely see redness, swelling, and in some cases severe pain near the bite spot. It’s best to be cautious of these creatures and not grab anything off the ground without checking underneath first!
2. Moray Eel
The Moray eel is a type of fish that usually hides in small cracks and crevices in coral reefs, but in rare cases, you might spot it out swimming around.
They are beautifully colored, boney fish that lack scales, but are covered in a mucus layer which in some species is toxic to humans!
Moray eels are often found living in tropical, temperate waters near coral reefs, only leaving their hiding spots to hunt. They have poor vision and usually use their large nostrils and chemoreception to help them sense what’s around them and catch their food.
They are carnivorous ambush predators, waiting for small creatures to pass by before attacking.
Moray eels are double-jawed and have powerful bites – if they feel threatened they will bite and latch on. It’s best to avoid getting too close so they don’t feel threatened!
Scorpionfish, also known as a rockfish or stonefish, are commonly found living among rocks off the coast of Gran Canaria. They are dull in color, with spiny heads, helping them blend into their surroundings.
They are considered bottom-dwelling creatures, found in depths of up to 2625 feet, hiding in coral reefs waiting for prey. These fish are carnivorous and their diet consists of smaller fish and sea creatures. Scorpionfish also are quite sedentary, only attacking when prey is near.
They have strong, sometimes venomous fin spines that produce painful, deep wounds and can grow up to one meter long.
Typically, they are solitary animals. However, they will congregate for migrations. Their spines are fatal to other animals and incredibly painful for humans – this is one form of wildlife you don’t want to mess with when visiting Gran Canaria!
4. Jellyfish Swarms
Jellyfish swarms are especially common in the winter so it’s best to keep an eye out for signs on the beach. Often when there are jellyfish sightings, a flag will be displayed.
In the Gran Canaria wildlife scene, the Portuguese man-o-war is the most dangerous type of jellyfish you could find. It has a painful sting that, if severe enough, could lead to many issues.
There are also Vellela Vallela jellyfish, also known as the sailor jellyfish, that form large swarms and are more common in the spring – luckily they are a non-dangerous jellyfish species.
Jellyfish stings are never enjoyable, so it’s best to air on the side of caution and check the beaches for flags before going in!