Birds of St Lucia

Beez Neez
Skipper and First Mate Millard (Big Bear and Pepe)
Mon 23 Feb 2009 22:53
The Birds of Saint Lucia

Birds we are the lookout for include:

Non-passerines: Grebe. Shearwater and Petrel. Tropicbird. Pelican. Booby and Gannet. Cormorant. Darter. Frigatebird. Bittern, Heron and Egret. Ibis and Spoonbill. Flamingo. Duck, Goose and Swan. Osprey. Hawk, Kite and Eagle. Caracara and Falcon. Rail, Crake, Gallinule and Coot. Oystercatcher. Avocet and Stilt. Plover and Lapwing. Sandpiper. Skua and Jaeger. Gull. Tern. Pigeon and Dove. Parrot and Macaw. Cuckoo and Anis. Barn Owl. Nightjar. Swift. Hummingbird. Kingfisher.

Passerines: Tyrant Flycatcher. Swallow and Martin. Wren. Mockingbird and Thrasher. Thrush. Vireo. New World Warbler. Bananaquit. Tanager. Buntings, Sparrow and Seedeater. Saltators. Cardinal. Troupial.




The St Lucia Amazon, Jacquot (Amazona versicolor) is a species of parrot in the Psittacidae family. It is endemic to Saint Lucia and is the country's national bird. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist mountain forest. It is threatened by habitat loss. The species had declined from around 1000 birds in the 1950's to 150 birds in the late 1970's. At that point a conservation program began to save the species, which galvanised popular support to save the species, and by 1990 the species had increased to 350 birds. In the darkness of the forest, their feathers appear dull and the parrots blend into their leafy world. But when the sunlight shines on their feathers, they display a brilliant pallet of red, green and blue. In the early morning and evening the parrots search the treetops for food, which includes a wide variety of fruits and seeds. The birds have a range of calls, from soft and liquid to harsh and strident. We have not managed to see this parrot, but, have heard them calling one another. The others I have written about we have been lucky to see.



The Tropical Mockingbird, Mimus Gilvus, is a resident breeding bird from southern Mexico south to northern Brazil, and in the Lesser Antilles and other Caribbean islands. The birds in Panama and Trinidad may have been introduced. The Northern Mockingbird (M. polyglottos) is its closest living relative, but the critically endangered Socorro Mockingbird (M. graysoni) is also much closer to these two than previously believed. Adults are 25 cms long and weigh 54 grams. They are grey on the head and upper parts with yellow eyes, a white eye stripe and dark patch through the eye. The underparts are off-white and the wings are blackish with two white wing bars and white edges to the flight feathers. They have a long dark tail with white feather tips, a slim black bill with a slight downward curve, and long dark legs. The sexes are alike, but immature birds are duller and browner. Tobagensis, found only on Trinidad and Tobago, has darker grey upper parts and more extensive white on the wing coverts and tail than the mainland forms. This bird has a varied and musical song, huskier than that of Northern Mockingbird, and may imitate the songs of neighbouring Tropical Mockingbirds, but rarely those of other birds. It will sometimes sing through the night. This mockingbird is common in most open habitats including human habitation. Tropical Mockingbirds forage on the ground or in vegetation or fly down from a perch to capture invertebrates. They mainly eat insects and some berries. These fearless birds will also take food off unattended plates or tables. While foraging they will frequently spread their wings in a peculiar two-step motion, flashing the white wing linings, and then fold them again. It builds a twig nest and the normal clutch is three greyish-green eggs. Incubation, by the female alone, is 13-15 days, with slightly longer again to fledging. This bird aggressively defends its nest against other birds and animals, including large iguanas, dogs and mongooses.




The Bananaquit, Coereba flaveola, is a passerine bird first described by Linnaeus in his Systema naturae in 1758 as Certhia flaveola. It was reclassified as the only member of the genus Coereba by Louis Jean Pierre Viellot in 1809. Prior to 2005 the Bananaquit belonged to the monotypic family. Coerebidae; there is currently no agreement to which family it belongs. I'm not bothered about that, when we saw him we were just pleased to see this happy colourful little chap. The Bananaquit is possibly close to some grassquits Tiaris but the precise phylogeny remains unresolved. The AOU thus classes it as species incertae sedis. It is resident in tropical South America north to southern Mexico and the Caribbean. It is a rare visitor to Florida. The Bananaquit is a very small bird attaining an average length of 11 cms. It has a slender, curved bill, adapted to taking nectar from flowers. It sometimes pierces flowers from the side, taking the nectar without pollinating the plant. It cannot hover like a hummingbird, and must always perch while feeding. It will also eat fruit and insects. It often visits gardens and may become very tame. Its nickname, the sugar bird, comes from its affinity for bowls or bird feeders stocked with granular sugar, a common method of attracting these birds in the USVI. Birds in the genera Cœreba, Dacnis, and allied genera belonging to the family Cœrebidæ, are all referred to as sugar birds. The Bananaquit has dark grey upperparts, a black crown to the head and yellow underparts and rump. It has a prominent white eyestripe. The sexes are alike. On Grenada and Saint Vincent, most Bananaquits have black plumage, suggesting divergence from other West Indian populations. The Bananaquit builds a spherical lined nest with a side entrance hole, laying up to three eggs.




The Lesser Antillean Bullfinch (Loxigilla noctis) is a species of bird in the Emberizidae family. It is found in Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Montserrat, Netherlands Antilles, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the BVI's and the USVI's. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry forests, subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests, and heavily degraded former forest. In 2006 the Barbados Bullfinch (Loxigilla barbadensis) was elevated to the species level; previously the species had been considered only a non-sexually dimorphic subspecies of the Lesser Antillean Bullfinch.

The Green-throated Carib (Eulampis holosericeus) is a species of hummingbird in the Trochilidae family. It is found in Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Montserrat, north-east Puerto Rico, Saba, Saint-Barthelemy, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Martin, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sint Eustatius, the BVI's and the USVI's. Its natural habitat is heavily degraded former forest.

The Scaly-breasted Thrasher (Allenia fusca) is a species of bird in the Mimidae family. It was formerly united with the Pearly-eyed Thrasher in Margarops but now is again placed in the monotypic genus Allenia. It is found in Antigua, Dominica, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Montserrat, Netherlands Antilles, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. It may have disappeared from Barbados, Barbuda and Sint Eustacius. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry forests, subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests, subtropical or tropical dry shrubland, and heavily degraded former forest.




The Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus) is a small hawk of the Buteo genus. The photo on the right I took as this bird flew over us in the marina. During the summer they are distributed over most of eastern North America, to as far west as the Alberta province and Texas; they then migrate south to winter in the neotropics from Mexico down to Southern Brazil. Many of the subspecies in the Caribbean are endemic and most do not migrate, who can blame them. Adult birds range in size from 34 to 45 cms (13 to 18 inches), weigh from 265 to 560 grams (9.4 oz to 1.2 lbs) and have a wingspan from 81 to 100 cms (32 to 40“). As in most raptors, females are slightly larger than males. Adults have dark brown upper parts and evenly spaced black and white bands on the tail. Light morphs are pale on the underparts and underwing and have thick cinnamon bars across the belly. The light morph is most likely to be confused with the Red-shouldered Hawk, but that species has a longer, more heavily barred tail and the barred wings and solid rufous color of adult Red-shoulders are usually distinctive. Dark morphs are a darker brown on both upperparts and underparts. They are much less common than the light-coloured variant. Dark-morph Short-tailed Hawks are similar but are whitish under the tail with a single subterminal band. Broad-winged Hawks' wings are relatively short and broad with a tapered, somewhat pointed appearance unique to this species. At all times, Broad-winged Hawks inhabit forested areas, with even migratory birds choosing only wooded areas to roost in. They are seemingly indifferent to the type of forest used either for breeding or wintering. These birds hunt by sitting on a perch and watching for prey, and have been described as "cat-like" while stalking. When prey becomes apparent, they swoop down to the forest floor after it. Rarely, they will also fly in search of prey. The diet is variable, but small mammals, like rodents and shrews, are the most regular prey. More than other North American Buteo hawks, they are thought to take many amphibians,reptiles, insects and other invertebrates. Birds up to the size of Ruffed Grouse (but usually much smaller) are also sometimes taken. In the springtime, the breeding pair build a stick nest relatively low in a mature tree. The clutch can number from 1 to 5 eggs, but usually 2 or 3. The brown-spotted eggs are usually 49 × 39 mm (1.9 × 1.5 inches) and weigh about 42 grams (1.5 ozs). The incubation period is 28 to 31 days, with the male doing most of the foraging while the female incubates. The semialtricial, 28 gram (1 oz) hatchlings are brooded for 21 to 24 days. The young first leave the nest at 5 to 6 weeks of age, and linger around the nest site for up to 8 more weeks. Predators of eggs and nestlings include raccoons, crows, porcupines and American Black Bears. Predation of adults and immatures is not well known, but they are known to fall victim to Great Horned Owls and Bald Eagles. Broad-winged Hawks are long-distance migrants, except for the Caribbean subspecies. They travel in large flocks or "kettles" during migration. During days with favorable winds, enormous kettles of tens of thousands of Broad-wings can be seen along flyways. Although this bird's numbers are relatively stable, populations are declining in some parts of its breeding range because of forest fragmentation.




The Frigatebirds are a family, Fregatidae, of seabirds. There are five species in the single genus Fregata. They are also sometimes called Man of War birds or Pirate birds. Since they are related to the pelicans, the term "frigate pelican" is also a name applied to them. They have long wings, tails and bills and the males have a red gular pouch. Frigatebirds are pelagic piscivores which obtain most of their food on the wing. A small amount of their diet is obtained by robbing other seabirds, a behaviour that has given the family its name, and by snatching seabird chicks. Frigatebirds are seasonally monogamous, and nest colonially. A rough nest is constructed in low trees or on the ground on remote islands. The duration of parental care in frigatebirds is the longest of any bird. Frigatebirds are large, with iridescent black feathers (the females have a white underbelly), with long wings (male wingspan can reach 2.3 metres) and deeply-forked tails. Frigatebirds are found over tropical oceans and ride warm updrafts. Therefore, they can often be spotted riding weather fronts and can signal changing weather patterns. These birds do not swim, cannot walk well, and cannot take off from a flat surface. Having the largest wingspan to body weight ratio of any bird, they are essentially aerial, able to stay aloft for more than a week, landing only to roost or breed on trees or cliffs. As members of Pelecaniformes, frigatebirds have the key characteristics of all four toes being connected by the web, a gular sac (also called gular skin), and a furcula that is fused to the breastbone. Although there is definitely a web on the frigatebird foot, the webbing is reduced and part of each toe is free. Frigatebirds produce very little oil and therefore do not land in the ocean. The red gular sac is used as part of a courtship display and is, perhaps, the most striking frigatebird feature. They lay one or two white eggs. Both parents take turns feeding for the first three months but then only the mother feeds the young for another eight months. It takes so long to rear a chick that frigatebirds cannot breed every year. It is typical to see juveniles as big as their parents waiting to be fed. When they sit waiting for endless hours in the hot sun, they assume an energy-efficient posture in which their head hangs down, and they sit so still that they seem dead. But when the parent returns, they will wake up, bob their head, and scream until the parent opens its mouth. The hungry juvenile plunges its head down the parent's throat and feeds at last. We have been lucky most times we have been to the beach to see these huge, wonderful birds flying over Rodney Bay.


ALL IN ALL what lovely birds, stunning.