Trinidad and Tobago birding

Our Trinidad and Tobago Birding Guides found 237 species in the “Off Season”

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Their eBird Checklist Collaboration with Caligo Ventures Was a Win-Win-Win

Our Trinidad and Tobago birding guides found 237 species of birds in August & September during a win-win-win collaboration with Caligo Ventures that also benefits birders everywhere. They submitted 20 eBird checklists representing two dozen birding hotspots throughout the islands.

“We should all be encouraged by this outcome and for the impressive numbers of birds which we now know can be seen during what we generally consider our off season; including dozens of rarities and even a few lifers,” wrote Jason Radix, our longtime lead guide for Tobago, who coordinated the eBird checklist project. “This update can now be used as a reference list for future bird watching tours.”

To see what they saw on these unique and gorgeous islands, join one of Caligo Ventures’ guided group tours to Trinidad and Tobago.

Helping our guides cope with a loss of tourism income was the primary motivation for Caligo Ventures’ owner and founder of Naturalist Journeys Peg Abbott to create the eBird checklist incentive program. In a COVID-induced lull in eco-tourism she paid the guides a modest monthly stipend to keep getting out in the field and to keep their birding skills sharp, while contributing to important citizen science.

It is a bonus that their eBird checklists will be a great encouragement to birders who have begun to return to the just-opened country, as they demonstrate that a great variety of birds continue to proliferate in Trinidad and Tobago, even in what’s considered off-season. The COVID-19 pandemic saw the country shut to tourism for a long 16 months, during which, UNESCO named Northeast Tobago a Man and the Biosphere Reserve, underscoring just how precious it is to biodiversity.

In all, our guides visited more than two-dozen birding hotspots and submitted 20 eBird checklists. 

Surprising them both, our longtime Trinidad and Tobago birding guides actually recorded life birds during the project: Our Tobago expert Jason Radix saw his first Bran-colored Flycatcher, after many years of birding the islands, and Lester Nanan, a third-generation eco-tourism pioneer in Trinidad, saw his first Hook-billed Kite.

Their eBird checklists are especially important in the absence of reports from visiting birdwatchers. This bird data drought was observed all over the world, as described recently in the journal Biological Conservation, not only with birds but for all user-dependent collaborative nature data collection.

“The outbreak of COVID-19 followed by stay-at-home orders have definitely affected the quantity and quality of data collected by participants,” according to lead author Wesley Hochachka, a researcher at the Cornell Lab quoted in an article about the study on eBird’s website.

Studying eBird checklist data from New York, Spain, Portugal and California, “​​(o)ne of the biggest changes they noted was in the type of habitat the reports were coming from,” eBird wrote in its piece, Pandemic-related Changes in Birding may have Consequences for eBird Research. “With more people at home, more people reported birds around urban areas…Less common habitats, such as wetlands, may then be under-sampled because restrictions on human travel make it less likely that birdwatchers will go there.”

Our guides not only traveled to wetlands but to all the varied habitats our guests get to experience on our tours in Trinidad and Tobago. Below, enjoy descriptions of those habitats and see galleries representing the many wonderful birds that can be seen even in the “off season” with Trinidad and Tobago birding.

Caroni Swamp

In Caroni National Park, we moor up at a quiet spot in the mangroves to let the sunset show begin. Hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of Scarlet Ibis cloud the sky as they fly in to roost, an experience you won’t soon forget.

Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Scarlet Ibis
Scarlet Ibis. Photo Credit: Hugh Simmons Photography
Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Mask Cardinal
Masked Cardinal. Photo Credit: Hugh Simmons Photography
Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Common Potoo
Common Potoo. Photo Credit: Carlos Sanchez

Waterloo

The best area for finding shorebirds in Trinidad is the extensive area of tidal mudflats along the west coast—an area locally known as “Waterloo”. We plan our departure time with tides in mind. Of significant interest are birds arriving from mainland South America.

Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Laughing Gull
Laughing Gulls. Photo Credit: Terry Peterson
Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Black Skimmer
Black Skimmer. Photo Credit: Peg Abbott
Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Solitary Sandpiper
Solitary Sandpiper. Photo Credit: Terry Peterson
Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Tricolored Heron.
Tricolored Heron. Photo Credit: Mike Boyce
Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Osprey
Osprey in flight. Photo Credit: Mike Boyce

Nariva Swamp

We bird the swamp formed where the Nariva River reaches the sea; freshwater environments of herbaceous swamp and mangrove swamp forest make for spectacular birding. This is a very full day with many stops and the discovery of species found nowhere else on the island.

Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Savannah Hawk
Savannah Hawks. Photo Credit Peg Abbott
Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Yellow-hooded Blackbird.
Yellow-hooded Blackbird. Photo Credit Sandy Sorkin
Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Purple Gallinule
Purple Gallinule. Photo Credit: Carlos Sanchez
Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Pied Water Tyrant
Pied Water-Tyrant. Photo Credit: Mike Boyce
Pinnated Bittern. Photo Credit: Dave Ramlal

Yerette

We visit the hummingbird retreat called Yerettê, “Home of the Hummingbird.” Located in the Maracas Valley, this private home and lush garden attracts up to fourteen of the eighteen species of hummingbirds found in Trinidad and Tobago.

Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including White-tailed Sabrewing
White-tailed Sabrewing. Photo Credit: Peg Abbott
Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Long-billed Starthroat
Long-billed Starthroat. Photo Credit: Hugh Simmons Photography
Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Ruby Topaz.
Ruby-topaz Hummingbird. Photo Credit: Hugh Simmons Photography
Copper-rumped Hummingbird. Photo Credit: Buck Nelson
Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Blue-Chinned Sapphire
Blue-chinned Sapphire. Photo Credit: Hugh Simmons Photography

Aripo/Arena Forest

A remnant of a once major lowland habitat, the seasonally-wet Aripo Savannah is surrounded by sugar cane fields. We explore the tropical birds unique to this habitat, as well as the distinctive flora that has adapted to the savannah’s harsh conditions—alternating from wet to dry.

Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Striated Heron.
Striated Heron. Photo Credit: Mike Boyce
Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Red-bellied Macaw
Red-bellied Macaw. Photo Credit: Peg Abbott
Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Orange-winged Macaw
Orange-winged Macaws (r) with bonus Yellow-crowned Parrot. Photo Credit: Hugh Simmons Photography
Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Collared Trogon.
Collared Trogon. Photo Credit: Robert Martinez

Main Ridge Forest Reserve

We visit the Main Ridge Forest Reserve, tracing the spine of Tobago. Founded in 1776 and considered the first forest reserve created for a conservation purpose, it’s a great place to find furtive species.

Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Blue-backed Manakin.
Male (left) and female Blue-backed Manakin. Photo Credit: Mike Boyce
Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist includingTrinidad Motmot.
Trinidad Motmot. Photo Credit: Mukesh Ramdass
Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Olivaceous Woodcreeper. Photo Credit
Olivaceous Woodcreeper. Photo Credit: Cristina Heins
Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including White-tailed Sabrewing
White-tailed Sabrewing. Photo Credit: Peg Abbott
Trinidad and Tobago birding can produce an impressive eBird checklist including Yellow-legged Thrush
Yellow-legged Thrush. Photo Credit: Dave Ramlal

Full List of Birds:

Little Tinamou
Common Ground Dove
Ruddy Ground Dove
White-tipped Dove
Eared Dove
Pale-vented Pigeon
Gray-fronted Dove
Scaled Pigeon
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)
Scaly-naped Pigeon
Ringed Kingfisher
American Pygmy Kingfisher
Belted Kingfisher
Green Kingfisher
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Cattle Egret
Great Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron
Green Heron
Striated Heron
Tricolored Heron
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
White-bearded Manakin
Golden-headed Manakin
Blue-backed Manakin
Striped Cuckoo
Squirrel Cuckoo
Smooth-billed Ani
Greater Ani
Osprey
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
White Hawk
Common Black Hawk
Zone-tailed Hawk
Savanna Hawk
Gray-lined Hawk
Short-tailed Hawk
Great Black Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk
Yellow-headed Caracara
Plumbeous Kite
Long-winged Harrier
Apolmado Falcon
Pearl Kite
Crane Hawk
Hook-billed Kite
Black-hawk Eagle
Tropical Pewee
Great Kiskadee
Boat-billed Flycatcher
Olive-striped Flycatcher
Tropical Kingbird
Gray Kingbird
Fork-tailed Flycatcher
Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet
Yellow-breasted Flycatcher
Yellow-bellied Elaenia
Brown-crested Flycatcher
Forest Elaenia
Bran-coloured Flycatcher
Slaty-capped Flycatcher
Spotted Tody-Flycatcher
Yellow-olive Flycatcher
Euler’s Flycatcher
White-throated Spadebill 
Streaked Flycatcher
Ochre-bellied Flycatcher
Fuscous Flycatcher
Sulphury Flycatcher
Bran-colored Flycatcher
Rufous-tailed Jacamar
Trinidad Motmot
Wilson’s Snipe
Western Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper
Solitary Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Lesser Yellowlegs
Greater Yellowlegs
Wattled Jacana
Southern Lapwing
Ruddy Turnstone
Willet
Whimbrel
Stilt Sandpiper
Semipalmated Plover
American Golden-Plover
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Spotted Sandpiper
Sanderling
Black-necked Stilt
Masked Cardinal
American Flamingo
Scarlet Ibis
Hudsonian Godwit
Rufous-vented Chachalaca
White-headed Marsh Tyrant
Pied Water-Tyrant
Green-backed Trogon
Guianan Trogon
Collared Trogon
Magnificent Frigatebird
Brown Pelican
Red-billed Tropicbird
Laughing Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Large-billed Tern
Roseate Tern
Royal Tern
Sandwich Tern
Bridled Tern
Yellow-billed Tern
Common Tern
Gull-billed Tern
Brown Noddy
Brown Booby
Red-footed Booby 
Audubon’s Shearwater
Black Skimmer
Bicolored Conebill
Bananaquit
Blue Dacnis
Turquoise Tanager
Bay-headed Tanager
Swallow Tanager
Speckled Tanager
Blue-gray Tanager
Palm Tanager
Hepatic Tanager
White-lined Tanager
Silver-beaked Tanager
Red-crowned Ant-Tanager
White-shouldered Tanager
Trinidad Euphonia
Violaceous Euphonia
Purple Honeycreeper
Green Honeycreeper
Red-legged Honeycreeper
Grassland Yellow-Finch
Saffron Finch
Blue-black Grassquit
Blue-faced Grassquit
Sooty Grassquit
Ruddy-breasted Seedeater
Tricolored Munia 
Common Waxbill
Golden-olive Woodpecker
Red-rumped Woodpecker
Lineated Woodpecker
Red-crowned Woodpecker
Lilac-tailed Parrotlet
Green-rumped Parrotlet
Orange-winged Parrot
Blue-headed Parrot
Red-bellied Macaw
Bearded Bellbird
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
White-cheeked Pintail
Tropical Mockingbird
White-necked Jacobin
Rufous-breasted Hermit
Green Hermit
Little Hermit
Copper-rumped Hummingbird
White-chested Emerald
Ruby-topaz Hummingbird
Black-throated Mango
Blue-chinned Sapphire
Green-throated Mango
White-tailed Goldenthroat
Gray-breasted Martin
Caribbean Martin
Southern Rough-winged Swallow
White-winged Swallow
Barn Swallow
Bank Swallow
Cliff Swallow 
Fork-tailed Palm-Swift
Band-rumped Swift
Gray-rumped Swift
Short-tailed Swift
Masked Yellowthroat
Rufous-browed Peppershrike
Golden-fronted Greenlet
Scrub Greenlet
Chivi Vireo
Tropical Parula
Golden-crowned Warbler
American Redstart
Yellow Warbler
Long-billed Gnatwren
House Wren
Rufous-breasted Wren
Grayish Saltator
Olivaceous/Blue-gray Saltator
Plain Antvireo
White-bellied Antbird
Black-faced Antthrush
Black-crested Antshrike
Barred Antshrike
White-fringed Antwren
Plain-brown Woodcreeper
Cocoa Woodcreeper
Olivaceous Woodcreeper
Streak-headed Woodcreeper
Channel-billed Toucan
Least Grebe
Anhinga
Limpkin
Pinnated Bittern
Least Bittern
Blue-and-yellow Macaw
Tropical Mockingbird
Cocoa Thrush
White-necked Thrush
Spectacled Thrush
Northern Waterthrush
Yellow-chinned Spinetail
Pale-breasted Spinetail
Striped-breasted Spinetail
Streaked Xenops
Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl
Barn Owl
Sora 
Grey-necked Wood Rail
Yellow-breasted Crake
Red-breasted Meadowlark
Yellow-rumped Cacique
Yellow Oriole
Giant Cowbird
Carib Grackle
Yellow-hooded Blackbird
Shiny Cowbird
Crested Oropendola


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