Barbuda Birdwatching Article
A Barbuda Birdwatching Paradise on an Unspoilt Caribbean Island
Barbuda birdwatching article written by barbudaful, edited by Linda Jackson, Editor Active Caribbean
Barbuda birdwatching habitats are perfect for hundreds of species of birds and animals – thanks to the island’s small population, large areas of undeveloped land, and a pristine coastline interspersed with natural salt ponds. The island is also home to nesting sea turtles, land turtles, wild boar, deer, and many rare birds. A number of Barbuda’s wildlife species are endangered in the Caribbean.
Not only is Barbuda home to one of the biggest Magnificent Frigate Bird colonies in the world, but the island also boasts its own very rare bird, the Barbuda Warbler – known locally as the Christmas Bird.
About the Barbuda Warbler
An endemic species of the island, the Barbuda Warbler was originally defined by Mr J H Riley in 1905. In 1998 a genetic study was published in ‘The Auk’ by Irby Lovette and colleagues which compared the DNA from warblers found in Barbuda, St Lucia and Puerto Rico. Evidence confirmed that the three are separate species and, in 2000, the American Ornithologists’ Union officially split them into three species.
Although not endangered a study has never been done on the Barbuda Warbler, so numbers and habitat requirements are unknown. Such a study has been considered by ornithologist Dr Cindy Staicer (Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia), and John Mussington, Barbuda, which would document these unique birds and numbers for the first time. It is envisaged that this bird can be used as the focus for encouraging further conservation efforts on Barbuda. The Codrington Lagoon protected area has been proposed, to include the Lagoon and the surrounding wetlands and vegetation, which is the major habitat area for the Barbuda Warbler.
Other Caribbean birds found during Barbuda birdwatching tours
The various ponds and mangroves on Barbuda are home to the endangered West Indian Whistling Duck (you’ll hear them at dusk, calling as they fly low over the village) as well as Egrets and Herons, a common sight. Around the island you will also sea pelicans, ground doves, various gull species, herons, wading birds, lots of humming birds, mockingbirds, grackles, small hawks and an occasional osprey. There are many coastal birds and salt pond birds in Barbuda and the Tropic Bird, with its long tail streamer, can be seen in large numbers in the cliffs and caves of Two Foot Bay. In Antigua and Barbuda as a whole there are one hundred and eighty-one different species listed, most of these are seen in Barbuda.
Barbuda’s Man O’War – the Magnificent Frigate Bird
Barbuda is best known for its enormous nesting colony of Fregata Magnificens – the Magnificent Frigate Bird – one of the most fascinating bird species in the world – it’s an aerial pirate of supreme daring and a flyer of consummate skill. Frigate Birds have very short legs and small feet and cannot walk or swim so they spend their time in the air or perched on a limb of a mangrove bush. With an incredible eight feet wingspan and an average body weight of only three pound, the Frigate Birds are able to soar effortlessly on ocean breezes for days at a time.
When hunting for food, two or more Frigate Birds will gang up and cruise until they find a slower flying bird which has just caught a fish. One Frigate will peel off to chase the quarry, matching manoeuvres zig-for-zag, sometimes capsizing the victim in flight… … the reason this bird has earned the nickname ‘Man O’War’. When the terrorised bird drops its prize, or disgorges the partly digested morsel from its gullet, one of the other Frigates snares the second-hand titbit even before it hits the water.
The Frigate Bird also shows great interest in the opposite sex: Barbuda’s amorous pirates start mating in September when the males make it their business to find new mates and set up home. Groups of posturing males inflate their huge scarlet neck pouches, sit on their chosen nest site until an unattached female passes by, then all go into action – quivering their outstretched wings, waving their heads back and forth, and drumming their beaks to attract attention… a noise you’ll hear from a Barbudan boat tour (a “must-do”). Look up almost anywhere in Barbuda and you will see these beautiful and prehistoric looking birds soaring above you.
Barbuda birdwatching, adventure activities, attractions, and things to do
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