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Commonwealth of The Bahamas

Yellowthroat
Bahama Yellowthroat Gerlinde Taurer ©Anthony Hepburn Website

Birding The Bahamas

The Bahamas is an archipelago of some 700 islands (9 main islands) and over 2,000 rocks and cays (pronounced keys). It lies 50 miles east of Florida, and extends some 600 miles southeastward, covering roughly 100,000 square miles of land and sea. There was no volcanic activity involved in the formation of the Bahamas; the islands are composed of sedimentary, marine limestone rock in the form of oolitic limestone and coralgal deposits. The Bahamas' primary stages of formation as sandbanks, separated by deep canyons occurred as early as 170 million years ago; however, the islands that exist today are relatively young, in the ballpark of 100,000 years old.

Owing to its vast geographic coverage, including large expanses of deep-water ocean, the Bahamas chain is comprised of many vegetative zones – pine forest, arid coastal scrub, tropical hammock (or coppice); and mangrove estuary. Long known for endless ribbons of pink sand beaches, vast coral reef systems, and relaxed, island atmosphere – the Bahamas hosts a wide variety of migratory and resident bird species.

Bahamas Endemics and Specialty Species
Over 300 species have been recorded in the Bahamas - 109 breed in the islands and are either summer visitors or residents, 169 are migrants that pass through as transients and some stay on as winter residents - 45 are vagrants that have only occurred a few times. Included in these are three endemic species – Bahama Woodstar, Bahama Yellowthroat, and Bahama Swallow.

Other species of note in the Bahamas are Western Spindalis, Bahama Mockingbird, Key west Quail-Dove and White-cheeked Pintail. Its thousands of square miles of deep-water ocean - situated relatively close to small, uninhabited rocks and islets - makes much of the Bahamas prime nesting grounds for passing pelagics. One could expect to see in Spring and Summer, White-tailed Tropicbird, Brown Booby, Brown Noddy, Magnificent Frigatebird and various species of tern, including Bridled, Sooty, and Roseate. Although the Bahamas is not known for it's shorebirding, due to the absence of fresh water lakes and streams, it hosts significant numbers of wintering Piping Plover.

Migration Highlights

It's orientation to continental North America puts the Bahamas within the primary movements of both northbound and southbound migration routes to and from the eastern United States. Warblers, shorebirds, and gulls make up the bulk of the migratory species list. The most noteworthy of these is the endangered Kirtland's Warbler. In 2001, on the island of Eleuthera in the Northern/Central Bahamas, local bird expert, Paul Dean of Nassau, sighted 4 Kirtland's warblers. Long suspected to winter in Bahamian pine forest similar to it's breeding habitat in Michigan, this discovery suggests that they prefer arid scrub coppice common to the region.

Top Sites

Abaco National Park

Webpage

Satellite View

The Abaco National Park is a 25,000 acre preserve protecting the valuable breeding grounds of Amazonis leucocephala bahamensis, an endemic race of the Rose-throated Parrot (formerly Cuban Parrot), which exists on two Islands of the Bahamas – Abaco in the north and Great Inagua in the south. Interestingly enough, the parrots on Abaco nest in holes in the limestone, making them one of two species of ground-nesting parrots in the world (The other is the flightless kakapo of New Zealand – Thanks FatBirder for setting me straight!).

Lake Rosa

Information

Satellite View

Greater Flamingo is the national bird of the Bahamas, and is readily seen in great numbers on Lake Windsor on Great Inagua.

Long Island

Satellite View

Long Island is home to one of the largest regional populations of the endangered West Indian Whistling Duck. They are reported exist in smaller numbers on Andros, Abaco, Cat Island and New Providence]. West Indian Whistling Ducks inhabit remote mangrove wetlands areas, and are difficult to see due to the fact that they are nocturnal, virtually silent, and naturally secretive.

Northern Islands

Two endemic sub-species of woodland warblers – Pine Warbler and Yellow-throated Warbler – inhabit the pine covered Islands of the northern Bahamas, as does the Olive-capped Warbler. The Black-cowled Oriole occurs only on Andros Island in the Northern Bahamas; it has more yellow and a stouter bill than other races of Black-cowled Oriole.

Contributor

Ron Pagliaro

Abaco Outback Certified Birding Tour Guide

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 377

(As of September 2018)

National Bird: Caribbean Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber

Endemics

Number of endemics: 3

Bahama Woodstar Calliphlox evelynae Bahama Yellowthroat Geothlypis rostrata Bahama Swallow Tachycineta cyaneoviridis

Checklist

iGoTerra Checklist

iGoTerra Checklist

Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web

Useful Reading

A Birder's Guide to the Bahama Islands

(Including Turks and Caicos) | By Anthony W White | ABA | 1998 | Spiralbound | 302 pages, Colour and b/w photos, illustrations, maps |

ISBN: 1878788167

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Bahemian and Caribbean Birds

LMH Publishing | 1995 | Hardback |

ISBN: 9766250766

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Birds of the Bahamas and the Turks & Caicos Islands

By Bruce Hallett | Macmillan Caribbean | 2006 | Paperback | 245 pages, colour photos, b/w illustrations, 1 colour & 1 b/w map |

ISBN: 0333937449

Buy this book from NHBS.com

The Birds of the Southern Bahamas

By Donald W Buden | BOU | 1987 | Paperback | 119 pages, figs, tabs, maps |

ISBN: 0907446078

Buy this book from NHBS.com

The Birds of the West Indies

By Herbert Raffaele, James Wiley, Orlando Garrido, Allan Keith & Janis Raffaele | Christopher Helm | 2003 Paperback | 216 pages, 92 colour plates, 181 colour distribution maps |

ISBN: 0713654198

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Organisations

Andros Conservancy and Trust

Facebook Page

To protect, preserve, enhance, and restore the natural resources of Andros Island and its marine environment through education, conservation, and management. ANCAT envisions a future for Andros that embraces and secures our natural environment for the benefit of present and future generations.

Bahamas National Trust

Website

The Bahamas National Trust is a non-profit organisation in The Bahamas that manages the country’s national parks.

Bahamas Protected Area Fund (BPAF)

Website

The Bahamas Protected Area Fund (BPAF) is a national conservation trust fund devoted to helping ensure that Bahamian marine parks will have a dedicated, sustainable source of revenue to employ staff, galvanize local community support, purchase equipment, build visitor facilities and monitor ecosystem health.

West End Eco-Fishing Camp Association

Website

WEEFCA P.O. Box F-44585 - Freeport/West End, Grand Bahama Island - Some of the most important lessons children are taught in life were from caring parents, teachers and mentors who passed their knowledge and wisdom on to the next generation...

Reserves

Abbreviations Key

NP Abaco

Webpage

Satellite View

This was a significant addition (1994) to the Bahamian national park system, which protected enough natural habitat to ensure the survival of the endangered Bahama parrot. The park is located on the southeastern portion of Abaco, between Hole-in-the-Wall and Crossing Rocks. It encompasses 5,000 acres of pine forest.

NP Conception Island

Information

Satellite View

The Conception Island National Park lies between Cat Cays to the north and Rum Cay to the south. The vegetation consists of mangrove communities, with typical strand vegetation, and the island is visited by green turtles, sea birds and migrating birds.

NP IBA Inagua

Information

Satellite View

nagua National Park is a national park on the island of Great Inagua in The Bahamas. It was established in 1965 and has an area of 220,000 acres (890 km2). The park encloses all of Lake Rosa, the largest salt-water lake in the Bahamas where world's largest breeding colony of West Indian flamingoes can be found. The park has contributed to increasing bird populations in nearby islands such as Mayaguana, Acklins, Crooked Island, Cuba, and Andros.

NP Lucayan

Webpage

Satellite View

The Lucayan National Park was established in March 1982. It is located between Freeport and Freetown at Gold Rock Creek and consists of 40 acres of land. The Park contains one of the longest charted underwater cave systems in the world; a unique system of elevated walkways through the last intact mangrove wetland on the southern shore of Grand Bahama, a magnificently wide unspoiled beach showcasing the tallest sand dunes on the island and a wealth of flora and fauna.

NR Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park

Information

Satellite View

Though this park is mostly water, the land is a vital refuge for a small mammal called the hutia, several rare and endangered iguana species and marine birds that nest high in the bluffs. They include Audubon's shearwater, white-tailed tropicbird, brown noddy and six species of terns (bridled, least, roseate, royal, sandwich and sooty).

NR Rand Nature Centre

Webpage

Satellite View

The 100-acre sanctuary was the first education nature center to be established in The Islands of The Bahamas and its goal is to preserve the natural Grand Bahamian habitat as a heritage for future generations. Located only minutes from downtown Freeport, the Rand Nature center is by far Grand Bahama's most accessible nature park…

Parks of the Bahamas

Information

The Bahamas boasts a massive twelve ecological state-supported national parks in addition to privately owned ecological Meccas. The Bahamian nerve centre for studying ecology and mapping plans for the total enjoyment of nature`s wonders is The Bahamas National Trust first established in 1959. Its headquarters is now an 11-acre garden of rare palms and native Bahamian coppice: one of the largest private collections in the world. His Royal Highness The Prince Philip officially opened The Retreat in October 1985 and the 150-year old house in the gardens now acts as the headquarters.

Wetland of International Importance

Webpage

Bahamas presently has just one site designated as a Wetland of International Importance, with a surface area of 32,600 hectares.

Guides & Tour Operators

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Local Birding Guides

Webpage

A number of expert guides can be found throughout our islands, including Certified Bahamas Birding Tour Guides with decades of experience. They can lead you to the best birdwatching areas on half-day or full-day birding tours, giving you the opportunity to add some new unique species to your life list.

Trip Reports

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

CloudBirders

Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

2011 [06 June] - Gary & Marlene Babic

Report

We took a several day trip to The Bahamas and, while there, set aside three days exclusively for birding. We hired Carolyn Wardle of Bahamas Outdoors to be our guide for one day on New Providence (Nassau) and a one day trip over to Andros, and hired a car for a third day to bird on our own. We ended up seeing every endemic, endemic sub-species, and specialty, except the Cuban Parrot. We were especially pleased to see the elusive Key West Quail-Dove…

2012 [02 February] - Barry Cooper & Gail Mackiernan

PDF Report

We decided to take advantage of an inexpensive package deal from Expedia and re-visit this Caribbean island. The package included direct flights (only 2 hours and 20 minutes) on Vision Airlines from Baltimore to Freeport, and 4 nights at the Radisson Grand Lucayan Hotel. We arrived late afternoon of February 5th and departed early morning on February 9th. This gave us just over three days of birding…

2012 [11 November] - Carl T Ball

Report

On Nov 15, 2012, we went on a 3-night cruise on the Carnival Glory to the Bahamas with stops in Nassau & Freeport. We had a balcony room but didn’t see any birds from the balcony we would not have seen touring the islands. We couldn’t stay very long on the balcony because of the cigarette, cigar, & marijuana smoke. At least we didn’t smell any smoke in our room. We should have got an inside room for this trip…

2013 [03 March] - Jesse Fagan

Report

One of my favorite tours combining warm weather, pink sand beaches, plenty of delicious seafood (conch this, conch that), and, of course, a very unique set of birds. We did exceptionally well this year, seeing four Bahamian endemics, one a recent split (Bahama Warbler), and count 'em, EIGHT Kirtland's Warblers. We had some highlights including those Kirtland's, but I don't think we will soon forget the Great Lizard-Cuckoos hunting in the tall coppice, parrots that we could nearly reach out and touch, and that small plane ride to Eleuthera!…

2014 [02 February] - Petri Hottola

PDF Report

…In regard to birds, there were four target species which needed to be seen, two of them relatively difficult in mid-winter: Bahama Woodstar, Bahama Swallow, the recently split Bahama Warbler and Bahama Yellowthroat…

2014 [03 March] - Jesse Fagan

Report

This short tour was again very successful. We saw all the potential Bahamian endemics well, plus another fifteen or so regional (i.e. Caribbean) endemics, as well as the very special Kirtland's Warbler (four individuals this year!). Group highlights included the endemic Bahama Woodstar, a bird we struggled to see on Abaco but found to be very obliging on Eleuthera; the colorful Cuban (Rose-throated) Parrots which were happily feeding on the fruiting gumbo limbo trees; and finding new wintering territories for the Kirtland's Warbler (a hit!). But the Great Lizard-Cuckoo cackling away in the tall coppice was the big winner -- he is just too awesome...

2015 [03 March] - Michael R Greenwald

PDF Report

For the first time, I decided to visit a West Indian island in pursuit of a single bird. In 2000, the Black-cowled Oriole (Icterus dominicensis) was split into Black-cowled Oriole (I. prosthemelas) of the mainland and Greater Antillean Oriole (I. dominicensis) of the Greater Antilles. In 2010, the latter was further split into Hispaniolan Oriole (I. dominicensis), Cuban Oriole (I. melanopsis), Puerto Rican Oriole (I. portoricensis), and Bahama Oriole (I. northropi). I had seen all of them except I. northropi, which, since its extirpation on Abaco in the 1990s, is restricted to Andros Island and reduced to a declining population of about 250 birds. Having a very limited period during spring break, it was time to look for the Bahama Oriole.

2015 [04 April] - Eustace Barnes

PDF Report

A glorious mix of blue skies, verdant rainforests, thorny woodlands, lush marshes, red sandstone cliffs, mangroves and azure seas greeted us on each and every day as we toured through the Greater Antilles and Bahamas seeing all but one endemic on our way.

2015 [04 April] - Jesse Fagan - Abaco, Eleuthera, Andros and the Kirtland's Warbler

Report

...It all started on the island of Abaco with a visit to Abaco Island National Park and our first Cuban Parrots perched in the pine trees and a Bahama Yellowthroat skulking in the understory. Bahama Palm Shores was also very good for parrots and West Indian Woodpecker, but lunch at Pete's Pub and "sittin' on the dock of the bay" in Cherokee Sound were also memorable.

2015 [04 April] - Max Berlijn

PDF Report

Annotated list

2016 [04 April] - Jesse Fagin

Report

This was a very successful tour to the Bahamas. It was the first time we included Andros as part of the main tour, and it went as well as expected. We saw five Bahama endemics (the five possible on our tour route), plus a host of Caribbean regional endemics...

Places to Stay

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Grand Bahama Birders' B&B

Accommodation

Grand Bahama Birders' Bed and Breakfast offers visiting Birders to Grand Bahama a unique experience. We offer the "Garden Apartment" with two twin bedrooms and bath with shower each, a sitting room with kitchenette, coffee machine, refrigerator, microwave, and a private patio where a healthy extensive continental breakfast is being served. This is a perfect option for a couple or a family of four. ..

Small Hope Bay Lodge

Accommodation

An all-inclusive 21 room resort with cottages right on the beach. The perfect place for bird watching, scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing, exploring, rest, relaxation, and rediscovery. More than 300 species of birds have been recorded in the Bahamas. One hundred and nine species breed in the Bahamas, 169 species are migrants or winter here, and 45 species are vagrants. Some, like the Greater Flamingo and the Bahama race of the Cuban Parrot, can only be found in the wild on one or two of the islands…

Tiamo Resort

Accommodation

Flash

Other Links

Bahamas wildlife

Website

Some pictures etc…

Bird Watching

Website

Out of all the 700 islands and cays that make up The Islands of The Bahamas, Grand Bahama Island has the distinction of hosting the second highest number of native bird species. For birdwatchers and nature lovers, the island is a true mecca, a place where they can see 18 of the 28 species of Bahamian birds that are not seen in the U.S., Canada, or Europe…

Eco-adventures

Website

The Bahamas has allocated an additional 58 sites for future development as National Parks, in particular the Andros Barrier Reef, third largest living coral reef in the world, and the Athol Island/Rose Island marine environment