Birding in the Caribbean

Birding in the Caribbean

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Strange as it may seem at first glance, the Caribbean islands are not equally endowed with features that attract birds. Elevation, flora, humidity and many other factors determine how many and what kinds of birds inhabit each island. The following tips will show you the best places to look for the birds you’re seeking.

1. Maria Islands Nature Reserve, composed of two little islands in the Atlantic off the southeast coast of St. Lucia, is home to frigate birds, terns and doves. Boat trips to the Reserve are arranged by the St. Lucia National Trust (nominal admission).

2. Screeching peacocks, herons and brilliantly colored parrots are residents of the giant walk-in aviary at Barbados Wildlife Reserve at Farley Hill, St. Peter.

3. The two roads through Washington/Slagbaai National Park on Bonaire are well-marked, but so rugged you have to drive slowly. That makes bird-watching for some 130 species all the easier. At the salt pad close by the park’s gate and on the lagoon near Playa Funchi, you’ll find flamingos roosting. Exotic parakeets seem to prefer the territory at the foot of Mt. Brandaris.

4. At Grand Etang National Park (a bird sanctuary and forest reserve with miles of hiking trails in the middle of Grenada) displays of the local fauna at the Grand Etang Forest Center will give you a good idea of what you may see on your hikes.

5. Along Francis Bay Trail on St. John, you’ll see white-cheeked pintails, wigeons,pelicans and frigatebirds.

6. About two dozen species of birds indigenous to Jamaica visit the bird sanctuary at Marshall’s Penn Great House. Tours of the sanctuary (by appointment only; phone 809/963-8569) are led by Jamaica’s leading ornithologists.

7. More than 500 tropical birds live in the aviary at Valombreuse Gardens in Petit-Bourg on the island of Guadeloupe.

8. Easterfield Road and Menna Trace in the Mason Hall area of Tobago are both great trails for viewing the Blue-Backed Manakin and the Collared Trogon. In Parlatuvier, Crested Oropendola come by the hundreds to roost at sunset in a stand of bamboo at the junction of two rivers.

9. Other great birdwatching spots include the 36-acre wildlife sanctuary at Little Fort National Park on Virgin Gorda; the green route of Christoffel Park in Curacao, home of White-tail Hawks, and any of the 12 national parks and five nature preserves in the Dominican Republic.

10. Every island has its resident ornithologist. Information on where to find him or her is usually available at tourist centers in the larger population centers.