Birding in the Caribbean

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750 Posts
Joined Feb 2006
We did Freedom of the Seas last year and I managed to see some beautiful birds though mostly in walk-in aviaries. I have reports and photos on my website Feathered and Free.

I was too nervous to go far away on a non-cruiseline excursion and couldn't find anywhere close to port to do full-on birding in the wild with safety to get back to the ship on time.

We are doing Panama Canal in 2011 which has some good birding options. Huatulco has a Princess birding excursion. Nicaragua, I think we have to find something. Puntarenas, Costa Rica has a macaw sanctuary and Carara National Park not too far from the dock. So far, Princess doesn't have a shore excursion to Carara but it might be safe enough to go there in a rental car.
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Sun Princess March 2012 Brisbane-Sydney Repo
Coral Princess April 2011 Acapulco-Fort Lauderdale Trans-Canal
Freedom of the Seas Oct 2008 Western Caribbean
Pacific Star Dec 16, 2006 New Caledonia & Vanuatu
Island Princess Feb 8, 1991 Amazon (Manaus-San Juan)
Pacific Princess Sept 1984 Mexican Riviera
68 Posts
Joined Oct 2007
Back from the tour of the south western Carib on the Jewel of the Seas, Jan 2010. Details on birding:
Aruba - took a taxi to the Bubali Bird Sanctuary ($15 each way) and got some. Loaded with green herons. Not bad birding around the ship - bananaquit in the trees, white crowned pigeon in a mixed pigeon flock behind the restaurants in front of the ship along the water. Hiked along the waterfront to the park about a half mile to the east. Grackles common.

Cartagena - not much seen but some martins and swallows off the ship
Colon - take the Rain forest excursion, follow Louis around, he's a birder. 14 lifers.

Puerto Limon - Excursion to Bacaraque Wildlife Area. Xavier is your man guiding, but when you get there, stick close to Sebastian who knows no English but knows the locals by ear. Tip him a buck a bird, eh? Have an Imperial lager and enjoy it during the folk dancing. Another dozen or so lifers. There's a park in front of the dock outside the fence, but it's got tall palms and not enough understory for good birding. Don't even think about going there with a rental car - it's really a crappy road!

Cayman - hired a taxi and set up a tour for $240 for 4. Queen Elizabeth Botanical Park for an hour or two (the Flower garden is the most prolific birding, but check the water ponds). Skip going to Rum Point. The Bird Sanctuary a couple miles east of Georgetown is good for water birds, but most of them are migrants from the States. Nothing found walking around the town. another half a dozen or so.
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68 Posts
Joined Oct 2007
The items in red were added by another birder on the trip, most of which I agree with and forgot to write down.

Florida Keys. White Ibis, Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Boat-tailed Grackle, Brown Pelican, Laughing Gull.
Tortugas. Frigate bird (first US), Brown Noddy (not seen by Steve)-LB, White rumped sandpiper, royal tern, Burrowing Owl.

White Crowned Pigeon (not by Steve), Wilson's Plover (not by Steve), Brown throated Parakeet, Trop Mockingbird, Bananaquit (not by Steve), Caribbean Coot, Eared Dove – all LB
Rock Dove, Purple Gallinule, Moorhen, Green Heron, Great Egret, Little Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Sora, least grebe. Magnificient Frigate, American Bittern

Gray Breasted Martin (not by Steve) in air over ship – LB

Colonnone seen by Steve)
Tyrranies (spelling?), Social Flycatcher, Double toothed Kite, Black Hawk, Keel Billed Toucan, Smooth billed Ani, Squirrel Cuckoo, Short tail Swift, Rufous Hummingbird, Blue headed Parrot, Plain brown woodcreeper, Blue Dacnis, Blackpoll Warbler, Slaty Antshrike – all LB

Puerto Limon: (none seen by Steve)
Palm Tanager, Chestnut sided Warbler, Did you see the red winged blackbird we saw at the same time?
Montezuma Oropendola, Scarlet Rump Tanager (now Poulonini's Tanager or something like that), Green breasted Mango Hummingbird, Muscovy duck, Black cheeked Woodpecker, Olivacious Woodcreeper I looked the woodcreeper up and it was a tawny winged woodcreeper – all LB.
Another pair of Purple Gallinule with a chick, tropical Kingbirds all over.
I have added the ones I think we both saw.
Cattle Egret
Great Egret
Great Blue Heron
Rufous Tailed Hummingbird
Little Hermit Hummingbird
Common Black Hawk
Turkey Vulture
Keelbilled Toucan
Violet green swallow
Swainsons Hawk- light phase. I looked it up in my National Geographic when I got back to the ship.

I think I saw this with the birds I saw after everyone headed back for lunch, but it may have been when you were with me.

Cayman Islands:
Antillean Grackle, Rose Throated Parrot, West Indian Woodpecker, Caribbean Alaenia – all LB
White winged Dove, Moorhen, Pie billed Grebe, Little Blue Heron, Bananaquit.
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68 Posts
Joined Oct 2007
Originally posted by PABirder
Wow! Quite a list.
Not good enough - about a hundred bucks a bird, I figure.... I'm going to book a nature trip to Costa Rica one of these days. Frontier flies to San Jose out of Denver decently cheap, and the tours run about a thousand a week, including room, meals and transportation.

Currently, I'm going to Galveston for the FeatherFest in April; then settle in to making a good effort around Colorado, except I might hit the Prairies/Potholes in North Dakota. Maybe one more stab at the Rio Grande Bird Fest in Nov this year (I've gone the last two years..) - still missing the darn Falcon and a bunch of others.

The cruise on Vision of the Seas in August to the Arctic Circle should add about 50 more lifers, I figure. Sure is easier with those water birds - where they gonna hide?
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Southeastern PA
25,209 Posts
Joined Jul 2005
Went to Costa Rica back in '03. Was quite a trip! Just sitting outside the hotel in San Jose, I picked up about 10 new birds in about 7 minutes. Never did get to see a quetzal, though.

As for birds hiding in the Arctic Circle - they can be hard to see if it is very foggy! Although I've been to Alaska twice, never been as far as the circle (closest was Fairbanks). Did have some pretty foggy weather, though (in August-September).
68 Posts
Joined Oct 2007
If you've never done this: load up Google Earth. Move the world to north cape of norway, then zoom way in to see the little cameras - those are pictures from that place. Now find bird island southwest of north cape and click on the pictures. Yep, foggy all right; the cliffs are just loaded with birds and that's one of the cruise tours. Darn good thing I never get seasick, eh?

FeatherFest in two weeks, and I'm getting sick of shoveling snow so it's time!
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Southeastern PA
25,209 Posts
Joined Jul 2005
jdbirch - I tried what you said and couldn't find Bird Island. I did see a picture of some reindeer on the road, though. Is there a specific name on the picture that is displayed?
68 Posts
Joined Oct 2007
Ah, nuts.... I tried about 3 ways to get that kmz file in here but couldn't, and cruise critic won't take that format. Oh, well - go all the way to the north end of Norway (North Cape). It's on a pretty big island. The offshore smaller island on the west side is "Bird's Island" - try that.
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68 Posts
Joined Oct 2007
Birds of Europe: Norway Cruise 8/11/2010 – 8/23/2010, plus a day in Copenhagen before and after.

Copenhagen 8/10 -11
Rock dove
Ground dove
Hooded Crow
Carrion Crow
Herring gull
Common gull
House Sparrow
Eurasian Collared Dove
Common Swift
Blackheaded Gull

Baltic 8/12 (in Wake of ship)
Manx Shearwater

Alesund 8/13
Park below overlook
Blue Tit
Greater BlackBacked Gull (all around harbor on roofs)
Lesser BlackBacked Gull ditto
Common Eider one on small island in harbor
Green Finch
Greylag Goose (flyover of 2 Vs)

NorthCape at sea 8/14
thousands of Fulmars
Kittiwakes (3 over ship)

Sommoya (fishing village tour from Tromso)
Oystercatcher (2)
Greylag geese (4)
Rock Pipit (2)

White-tailed Eagle
White Wagtail
more Oystercatchers

Willow Warbler (hike to glacier)

Great Tit
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St. Paul, MN
52 Posts
Joined Jan 2008
We'll be on a Princess Cruise this February going to the Caribbean. Ports include St. Thomas, Antigua,St. Lucia and St. Kitts,and Barbados. Any suggestions on where to go birding? We'll be in port for 8-10 hours.
Thanks so much
68 Posts
Joined Oct 2007
Pretty much, just take the excursions that go to the nature preserves and parks. There's sometimes a city park withing walking distance of the cruise ship, just look for a big batch of trees from the top deck. Going to the beach will mostly get you gulls that are picking up the dropped food and not much else. You can also go down the taxi ranks and ask for "who knows the birds?" - once in awhile you'll get lucky! I would test them on that a bit first.

When walking around the cities, I mostly eyeball the area and switch to the cheapo bins from the Swarovskis if I don't like what I see.... I used to live near Detroit, so my instincts are pretty good.
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beautiful Jersey Shore
968 Posts
Joined Oct 2005
That advice is spot-on. I can only add that areas around shopping centers and the beaches - areas where there is a large concentration of people - also draws the attention of pigeons and doves. In the Caribbean there can be several lifers in that flock, so don't dismiss them all as Mourning Doves. More likely the modos are Scaly-naped Pigeons, and the tiny ones are Common Ground Doves.

D. Temple
Atlantic Highlands, NJ
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68 Posts
Joined Oct 2007
Already have the common ground dove from South Texas, but the scaly-naped would be nice.... Got a White-Crowned pigeon last January working in the dumpsters behind restaurants in Aruba, hanging out with his cousins. Garbage is always good. A lagoon or two is a good spot, especially fresh water. Love the ducks, no place to hide - not like looking in a rain forest!

Have had some success with - you can find a local to go around with, plus they know the common birds by quick glance.
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68 Posts
Joined Oct 2007
The Azamara Journey goes to the smaller islands - a lot more parky and less party! Although the unlimited wine at meals makes a hard day of birding a lot better....

Birding the Caribbean – November 2010
day 1: checkin and departure, Miami
Turkey Vultures overhead (no blacks), Laughing Gulls, Crows, Brown Pelicans, pigeons

Day 2/3: at sea, never saw anything – looked about an hour a day

Day 4: St Johns, USVI
Brown Pelicans and Frigates in the harbor approaches, Brown Booby at Annenberg beach, a beautiful American Kestrel in a tree about 15 feet away at the sugar mill, Zenaida and Common Ground doves, Pearly Eyed Thrasher at Trunk Bay in the eating areas.

Day 5: Marigot, St Martin
Brown Boobies around the harbor, Frigates in the air, Gray Kingbirds on half the wires in town an around the fort, Caribbean Grackles in the streets, ground doves in the streets. Went to the marina area and spent half an hour – nothing. Went along the back streets of the town (beat up, but safe) – nothing

Day 6: St Kitts
Took the sugar train around the island – gray kingbirds on a lot of wires. Brimstone Hill had a red-tailed hawk and an osprey soaring, nothing pishable in the bushes. Tour stops and shows us a cattle egret rookery on the way back. Mooring points in the harbor: pelicans, brn boobies, royal terns, herring gull, reddish egret. On top deck watching the sail away when a brown noddy carrying a fish was being harassed by a tern – landed on a mooring point and proceeded to eat it!

Day 7: Antigua
Docked at the north pier, so I walked to the south pier, then straight inland a hundred feet or so. There is a field where some of the taxis park, a fenced “playground, sorta” behind it. The fence doesn't go to the water, so go around it and sit on the stairs. To your left, snowy/cattle/great egrets, pelicans, a great blue heron, frigates overhead, terns passing by, an osprey cruising for fish. The land has plentiful kingbirds, Lesser Antillean Bullfinches, Bananaquits, and the occasional warbler (looked like a Barbudan) Zenaida and ground doves fly in and out, and check the tall grasses around the field. Care of the body? There's an ice cream stand right behind you, and a bar another block away if you get thirsty. Off the top deck were a bunch of peeps at too great a range and a belted kingfisher working the shore. Also a big black guy on the workboat that stepped to the rear and took a leak in full view of the passengers (who weren't looking).
The last time I was here I took a field trip to English Harbor – the hill overlooking to the east had a ton of hummers working the flowers in January.

Day 8/9: St Barts
Gray kingbirds on wires all over the island, but that was it on the tour (no stops). I mostly birded near Shell Beach on the south end of Gustavia. Go to the south end of the marina, there's a park, Anglican Church across the street, La Bistro restaurant at the west end of the park. Go up the street across from La Bistro, take the second right at the green shingled house, go to the end of that street at the school, then left to the beach. A block short of the beach across from the school is a field of flowers and a green throated Carib was working the hisbiscus. Take the street up the hill a bit, and theres a parking place overlooking the whole mess of plants. Bananaquits galore, LA Bullfinches, both doves again, kingbirds flying around. Across the road uphill is another productive jungle with the same birds. Pulsating whistles were working the best for pishing. Owner of the parking space drove up while I was there and liked me birding. More B-quits in the park on the way back.
Harbor: second rock out is loaded with brown boobies (look for the whitewash). About 4 oclock the first day (sunset was 5:30) a flock of 40-50 tropic birds returned from the sea on the shore side of the harbor. Finally got one close enough to see a red-billed – not as dark wings as the book indicates, and I think there were maybe a half dozen total. The second day, there were only about 6, but the sprinkling weather was probably a factor.

Day 10: Virgin Gorda, BVI
Nothing seen, and I looked for an hour around the harbor and the Baths. No blooming flowers outside of the nursery.

Day 11/12: at sea
Wasn't counting on anything, but the first day I went up at 6 AM to have my coffee and hang over the back rail contemplating life, when a Masked Booby flew up, soared around the ship for a solid 15 minutes, then dove on a fish!
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282 Posts
Joined Feb 2009
We are sailing the Liberty of the Seas from Miami on 3/5/2011 to San Juan, St. Martin, St. Thomas & Labadee, Haiti. We will dive @ one site and I get to bird (officially) @ one stop. Any recommendations or guides?
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