Bird Watching in the Cayman Islands
By John Guinn
The is more to the Cayman Islands than a basic holiday, the Cayman Islands also has a wide range of resident and migratory birds, said to number 219. This includes endangered species such as the Cayman Parrot. The best time to go bird watching is either early in the morning or late in the afternoon. The migratory season is Mid to late October into November.
The Governor Michael Gore Bird Sanctuary
This is located in the Spotts Newlands area of Grand Cayman, and is home to around 60 species of birds. The greatest activity during the dry season (December to May) when this may be the only substantial body of fresh water for some distance.
This is a sand spit protrusion on the North West corner of Grand Cayman. It is made up of strips of low elevation dry woodland, salt-water mangrove marshland, expanses of mud flats and channels with direct access to the sea. This produces an abundance of feed for local waterfowl, as well as being an important stopover area for migratory birds. You can expect to see egrets, herons, woodpeckers, wintering ducks and warblers.
Meagre Bay Pond
This can be found just east of Bodden Town. This small wildlife sanctuary was once frequented by hunters seeking mallard and teal ducks. Today the government protects the area. The freshwater pond dries out in the winter months and fills up again in the summer. Flocks of shore birds and migratory wading birds, including willets, stilts, ibis, herons, grebes, egrets, and cormorants can be seen here. Though the government owns this mangrove-fringed lagoon, the land around it is private, which means that there is no public footpath leading to the sanctuary. Unless with an official guide, you'll have to make do with parking safely on the road and watch the birds from a distance.
Willie Ebanks' Farm
This is at the end of Hutland Road in the North Side district. Mr Willie Ebanks, a farmer, has dedicated an area of his land abutting the Malportas Pond mangrove wetland as a sanctuary for the endangered West Indian Whistling Duck. Birders can be almost guaranteed to see Whistlers. There is also the chance to see Blue-winged Teals, Coots, and Grebes. If you are really lucky then you might spot an Osprey or Peregrine Falcon in the Winter months.
The Mastic Reserve/Trail
This is part of the largest contiguous area of untouched, old growth dry forest that remains on the island. It is home to a wide variety of animals and plants unique to the Cayman Islands. A rich abundance of birds inhabit these forests. You may find that many are tame enough to allow a close approach. Cayman's native Parrot can also be found here, as well as the West Indian Woodpecker and the Caribbean Dove.
Red-Footed Boobies, frigate birds and West Indian Whistling Ducks are among the 200 indigenous and migrant birds that can be seen on Little Cayman. 40% of this Island is made up of wetland. There are elevated platforms around the wetlands that offer great bird watching opportunities.
Booby Pond Nature Reserve
This is home to 20,000 red-footed boobies (the largest colony in the Western Hemisphere) and is also the only breeding colony for the frigate bird in the Cayman Islands. The RAMSAR Convention designated it as a wetland of Global Significance.
This is home to herons, rails, stilt, sandpipers, plovers and ducks.
Here you may be lucky enough to witness birds dive bombing the water looking for crabs.
Grape Tree Ponds
Located on the North side of Little Cayman, and is home to whistler ducks.
These are wading ponds by Preston Bay and is home to black necked stilt, killdeer, willet and the American coot.
Home to the Cayman Brac Parrot, vitelline warbler, red-legged thrush and the brown booby. The Cayman Brac Parrot used to inhabit Little Cayman. It is believed that the great storm of 1932 wiped them out are destroying all the trees that offered good nesting cavities. There are around 400 parrots left on Cayman Brac, making it the rarest of all Amazon Parrots.
The greatest number of species can be seen from late October to April, where on a good day, you might count 60 species. The non-breeding migrants move on n the summer leaving residents to rule the roost.
The Brac Parrot Reserve
An area of pristine, ancient dry forest on a rocky terrain. It is home to breeding forest birds such as the Red-legged Thrush, White-crowned Pigeon ("Bald Pate") and Black-whiskered Vireo. In the winter months, the Reserve is filled with neotropical migrant songbirds, escaping cold northern climates.
For more information on how you can get most out of your Cayman Islands holiday visit our website
John Guinn is a travel researcher at Holiday Hut, which is a UK based travel agency. His website is http://holidaysinthecaymanislands.co.uk
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Views expressed in the article are those of the author and are not necessarily the opinions of CaribbeanChoice, its staff or members.