Caribbean Wildlife Article

A round up of fauna in one Caribbean wildlife article

Caribbean wildlife article written by Travel Writer Linda Jackson

Within the wonderful mix of islands that make up the Caribbean, lies one of the most varied and well-preserved ecosystems on the planet – a living tropical paradise overflowing with colour and Caribbean wildlife… from blue ‘dragons’, green monkeys, white-tailed deer, brown boobies and red howlers to chirping tree frogs, parrot fish, upside-down jellyfish, bee-sized birds and whistling ducks.

In a region rich in history this Caribbean wildlife article will help you discover a tropical paradise that houses a kaleidoscope of landscapes… just a stone’s throw away from rows of sun beds and beach bars. It’s another side to the Caribbean – the wild side – where you might spot white browed and pink muzzled monkeys in a lush rainforest; vivid marine life in multi-coloured coral reef hotspots, possibly nesting turtles on black volcanic or pink coral sand beaches. Migratory bird traffic through the region is vast, marine life is rich, and there are myriad lizards of all shapes and sizes – some slow and short-legged, others speedy and long-legged, many with sticky toe-pads that dwell in high up places.

Caribbean wildlife article paragraph on the Greater Antilles

In a setting of crystal clear waters, pristine reefs and stunning powder white sand beaches, Grand Cayman is the largest of the three Cayman Islands. It’s home to the giant Blue Iguana and Grand Cayman has a major conservation programme in operation to save them from extinction – breeding them in captivity and releasing them into the protected forests and gardens of the QE II Botanic Park where these magnificent iguanas roam freely. They range in colour from brown-grey to luminous blue and possess a blue dragon-like crest that runs the length of its entire body, up to almost 6ft.

Grand Cayman is consistently rated among the top five diving sites in the world for its breathtaking wall dives, shallow coral reefs and rich marine life. But it’s not necessary to dive for a surge of excitement: you can stand in 3ft of water on a sandbar in the middle of North Sound in ‘Stingray City’ to feed the southern stingrays; they will brush your legs and take titbits from your hands. Kayaking through the central mangroves, the ecological heart of Cayman, is a tranquil way to search for green turtles, upside-down jellyfish, green herons and West Indian whistling ducks; but to spot the spectacular indigenous parrots and other bird species in the wilderness, walk the Mastic Reserve trail situated towards the East End of the island.

Blessed with stunning mountains, cloud-shrouded rainforests, breathtaking waterfalls and white sand beaches, Jamaica is home to many fascinating endemic bird species: the orangequit and the Jamaican tody, greater owl, Antillean bullfinch (sub-species) and Becard, as well as the beautiful emerald green streamer-tailed hummingbird also known as the doctor bird, the national bird of Jamaica, whose whirring noise is distinctive when in flight and its high-pitched noise heard island-wide from coastal plain to mountain. Jamaica’s largest wetland area, Black River Morass, is a good birding spot where over 100 species have been sighted; and in the Rocklands bird ‘sanctuary’, a small garden near Anchovy (a three-mile taxi ride from Montego Bay), humming birds, finches and bananaquits are tame enough to be hand fed.

Caribbean wildlife article covering the southern region

A complete contrast in scenery is in store on the island of Aruba: austere, yet stunning, the arid landscape is robust with cacti, aloe, and (strangely contorted by the trade winds) divi divi trees (watapana) which give shelter to an assortment of animals from vividly-coloured ruby-topaz hummingbirds to whiptail lizards and iguanas. The endangered burrowing owl has made its home on the island, and four keys in the south-eastern part of Aruba (San Nicolas Bay Keys) provide major nesting sites for sooty terns and both black and brown noddies. Migratory birds in search of lush vegetation in which to nest find a haven in the Bubali Bird Sanctuary, a former saltpan now an artificial freshwater wetland in which over 80 species of migratory birds rest and breed; this is where brown pelicans and cormorants dive for food in the deep water, and snowy egrets and scarlet ibis settle for the evening.

Another large bird, the West Indian flamingo, is evident year-round on Curaçao which offers a remarkable variety of beaches from long sandy stretches to rocky coves surrounded by massive cliffs. A chalk-cheese type of island, with a vibrant east and an arid wild west, where, excepting the endangered white-tailed deer and several species of bats, wildlife is abundant: endemic to the island, whiptail lizards in all colours and sizes are found basking in the sun everywhere; 168 bird species have been recorded here, and four types of turtles are common in the water.

Caribbean wildlife article paragraph on the Leeward Islands

Hawksbill and green turtles, both endangered species, also nest on the beaches of Antigua, where the females lay eggs several times each year; these turtles weigh as much as 175lbs when mature and can grow to around 3ft long. Antigua boasts one of the most beautiful natural harbours in the world, as well as the longest barrier reef in the Caribbean, the Cades Reef Marine Reserve, a popular snorkelling area where turtles might be spotted alongside barracuda, stingray and a variety of reef fish.

You’ll find snorkelling heaven in Tortola in the picturesque peaceful British Virgin Islands: Brewer’s Bay is home to barracuda, stingrays, octopus, sergeant majors and schools of trumpet fish; the island is peppered with coves and isolated beaches, powder white sand beaches, and lush mountains. Venture into the interior of St Kitts (an unspoilt island with dramatic volcanic peaks that dominate the landscape) to discover a dense rainforest echoing with the sounds of birds and monkeys; into South Friars mangrove swamp in St Kitts for a variety of wildlife – crabs, monkeys, egrets, herons, and plovers. Majestic great frigate birds soar high over the island of St Maarten, while egrets and pelicans are evident island-wide – just as they are on the analogous island of St Thomas in the protected Mangrove Lagoon Wildlife Sanctuary & Marine Preserve.

Windward islands wildlife

Wildlife in the Windward Islands is especially diverse, well worth a dedicated Caribbean wildlife article of its own. Endangered hawksbill and green turtles can be seen at Freshwater Bay on the west coast of Barbados and mischievous green monkeys, originally from Senegal and the Gambia, in gullies that criss-cross the coral island. As infants mature, their fur thickens into a brown-grey colour with yellow and olive green specks, the overall green ‘hue’ being the reason for the name, and they’re found mainly in St John, St Joseph, St Andrew and St Thomas parishes where natural vegetation and woodlands still exist.

A visit to Grand Etang Forest Reserve high up in the often mist-shrouded mountains of Grenada is a great way to get acquainted with the island’s natural beauty, the lush rainforest is home to a rich diversity of fauna including the white browed and pink muzzled Mona monkey, opossums, mongooses and nine-banded armadillos, and the verdant vegetation a shelter for many species of birds…  the ‘gree-gree’ (broad-winged hawk), purple-throated carib, little doctor bird (Antillean crested hummingbird) and the ‘soursop’ (lesser Antillean tanager). In Grenadian waters, with a 97% sighting success rate December-April, about 15 species of whales can be seen.

Known as the ‘Nature Island’, mountainous Dominica is a gem and April no better time to be there to see nursery groups of female Sperm whales with their young calves. You’ll also see Pilot and Pygmy whales, as well as Bottlenose, Spinner, and Pantropical Spotted dolphins. In the rainforest are intriguing creatures like the endangered mountain chicken (a kind of frog), the Agouti (a sort-of cross between rat and guinea pig), and two indigenous species of parrot.

In the lush mountains and valleys of the interior of St Lucia (an island that possesses a topography and ecology hard to match) – in areas such as the Bois d’Orange Swamp, Boriel’s Pond, and the vast National Rain Forest – visitors can observe some of the island’s rare and beautiful birds… the brightly-hued ‘Jacquot’ (St Lucia Parrot), white-breasted Thrasher, St Lucia Peewee, St Lucia Wren, and the St Lucia Oriole. Sperm whales and false killer whales are regularly seen in St Lucian waters (Humpback and Bryde’s whales occasionally) as well as Spinner and Pantropical dolphins, and from May to August endangered leatherback turtles nest on the beaches – Grande Anse Beach being the centre of activity.

Visiting the West Indies at any time is a great privilege and a wonderful opportunity to discover the common and indigenous species that roam the land, sea and air on a number of the beautiful islands of the Caribbean – not only one of the world’s most idyllic destinations, but also one of nature’s finest accomplishments.

[May 2014]

Caribbean wildlife article - fauna roundup - Active Caribbean articles
Caribbean wildlife article - fauna roundup - Active Caribbean articles
Caribbean wildlife article - fauna roundup - Active Caribbean articles
Caribbean wildlife article - fauna roundup - Active Caribbean articles
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