Caribbean Birdwatching & Birds
Caribbean birdwatching is rewarding – it’s one of the most rewarding regions for birding vacations
This Caribbean Birdwatching page is designed to give you an idea of the best destinations for birding, but for more information on birds you might see on specific islands, go to the Caribbean Wildlife section and check out the country you are planning to visit for your Caribbean birdwatching tour or vacation. The Caribbean is a birdwatcher’s Mecca. From bird colonies in Tobago and Little Cayman to the Asa Wright Nature Centre in Trinidad and the Frigate Bird Sanctuary in Barbuda, ornithologists will find the Caribbean one of the most rewarding regions in which to spend a dedicated birdwatching holiday.
If you are travelling with non-birding friends or partners you’ll find the Caribbean ideal as many of the islands are small so distances to travel are short. So while you go Caribbean birdwatching your partner can chill out on a beautiful beach. If you are travelling independently, hire a local professional Caribbean birdwatching guide – they are flexible, knowledgeable, and know the birding hotspots.
To choose where to go for the best Caribbean birdwatching experiences is not easy… there are so many destinations where you’ll discover some great birding opportunities – Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Panama, Costa Rica, Cuba… Below is information on some of the most popular Caribbean birdwatching destinations. Information on Caribbean birdwatching opportunities and birds you’ll find in other Caribbean countries are listed on each destination’s dedicated wildlife page. Go to the Caribbean Wildlife section for more information on Caribbean birdwatching in specific countries.
Some great Caribbean birdwatching destinations
Because of the location of TRINIDAD & TOBAGO the islands offer an impressive mix of Caribbean birdwatching and South American birding. The diversity of habits means great birding opportunities – wetlands, mountain ranges, rainforests, mangrove swamp, mud flats, coastal, open country and scrubland. With the number of recorded bird species more than 430 (but thought to be getting near the 500-mark), and good birding year-round, Trinidad and Tobago is one of the Caribbean birdwatching hotspots and one of the most popular activities for visitors to the island of Tobago.
CUBA offers excellent Caribbean birdwatching opportunities and has more than 365 species of birds, around 22 of them endemic. The national bird of Cuba is the colourful Cuban Trogon, and the country boasts the smallest bird in the world – the bee hummingbird. The Cuban pygmy owl is also one of the smallest owls in the world. Interesting Caribbean birdwatching areas in Cuba include Zapata (scrub, mangroves, forest, coast), the coral cays (low islands), La Guira National Park (tropical forest, semi –deciduous).
With a great diversity of habitats JAMAICA offers varied and interesting Caribbean birdwatching opportunities. The national bird of Jamaica is the exquisite Streamertail hummingbird. The country has more than 305 species, while native species number around 200, including 25 endemic species – more endemics than any other Caribbean island. Winter months, with the migrating birds, sees the number of species just about double.
As do many islands in the Caribbean, PUERTO RICO enjoys a variety of habitats from rocky shorelines and beaches to wetlands and tropical rainforest. This interesting mix of habitats adds to the enjoyment of Caribbean birdwatching excursions in Puerto Rico. There are a number of species that are endangered such as the Puerto Rican parrot and yellow-shouldered blackbird. The island has around 350 bird species, 17 of which are endemic.
Undeveloped BARBUDA is home to thousands of magnificent frigate birds – 5,000 of them – and you’ll find them in the lagoon in the north western part of the island in the Frigate Bird Sanctuary. There are more than 170 species of birds there. Thanks to the island’s small population, large areas of undeveloped land, and a pristine coastline interspersed with natural salt ponds, Barbuda is the perfect habit for birds. Read about Caribbean birdwatching in Barbuda in our Caribbean Articles section.
Caribbean birdwatching opportunities in GRENADA: Around 150 bird species are on the island including the Grenada dove – one of the world’s most endangered birds. At the other end of the spectrum is the kite which, in the Caribbean, is widespread. There are a few havens for wildlife in Grenada, including Lake Antoine, Mount Hartman National Park, and the salt pond at the La Sagesse estuary. To name but a few of the 150 species, birds you might see in Grenada include the limpkin, black-necked stilt, heron, mangrove cuckoo, tern, the common snipe, brown-crested flycatcher, Caribbean coot, northern jacana, three species of hummingbirds, frigate bird, boobies, bananaquit, mockingbird, osprey and the barn owl.
The ST LUCIA parrot – a Caribbean birdwatching treat. The lush island of St Lucia, together with its diverse flora, is home to around 28 bird species and in the rainforests of St Lucia you might be lucky to spot the island’s national bird and only parrot, the green-blue-red coloured St Lucia parrot – the population of which has increased in recent years due to the introduction of conservation measures. Locally the St Lucia parrot is called the Jacquot. A small island off St Lucia, aptly named Frigate Island, is used by the frigate birds which migrate to nest here from Africa. Unfortunately in recent years the number of frigate birds nesting there has dropped dramatically.
Check out these Central America birding countries
PANAMA is a great birding destination and the richest Central American country – bird-wise – boasting around 970 species. The rainforest hills to the east of the Panama Canal is a birdwatcher’s heaven, the Western Highlands is where you’ll find some unusual species (the blue-throated Toucanet, and beautiful resplendent quetzals for instance) and in the east of the country, harpy eagles – some of the largest and most powerful birds of prey in the world.
With a huge variety of habitats COSTA RICA has proved to be a top country to visit for birding enthusiasts. Around 840 species have been recorded and if you include the island of Coco, this is boosted to over 850 species, over 630 are resident. There are around 50 raptor species in Costa Rica. The national bird is the brown buff coloured robin, called the Yiquirro. In Costa Rica the major Caribbean birdwatching zones are the lowland – both the Pacific northern and the Pacific southern, as well as the Caribbean lowlands.
Boasting more than 587 different species, BELIZE is a ‘must-visit’ for Caribbean birdwatching opportunities. It is one of the prime bird (and wildlife) destinations in Central America. Go to the Orange Walk district for one of the best birding experiences. Late afternoons or early mornings are the best times to go birdwatching. Bird watching tours can also be enjoyed by cruise ship passengers as well as private birdwatching tours, canoeing birding package,s and leisurely boat trip tours.
Although off the beaten tourist track HONDURAS boasts more than 700 bird species. Very good mountain birding is available at La Tigra National Park, the area around the Nombre de Dios mountain range (behnd La Ceiba) offers rich pickings, and among Mayan ruins you’ll see colourful Scarlet Macaws. Habitats range from wetlands and lowland rainforest to cloud forest.The western and southwestern areas of Honduras are the most accessible. Avi-tourism, year-on-year, is growing in Honduras.
To read the Caribbean birdwatching and wildlife books that Active Caribbean has reviewed, go direct to the Caribbean Book Reviews section or via the image links below.
Caribbean books and articles which may be of interest
Written by Herbert Raffaele, James Wiley, Orlando Garrido, Allan Keith, Janis Raffaele. Helm Field Guides
Text by Richard ffrench, photographs by Roger Neckles. Published by Macmillan Caribbean Natural History
Written by Michael Bright, with Karen Bass and Scott Alexander. Published by BBC Books.
Birding in the Caribbean is rewarding
Trinidad & Tobago
Images on this Caribbean Birdwatching page are copyright of www.linda-jackson.co.uk Trinidad & Tobago Tourism Development Company Ltd, Antigua & Barbuda Tourist Office, and featured books Publishers/Authors