Cayman Islands

Taylor's (Cuban) Bullfinch Melopyrrha nigra taylori ©Geddes Hislop Website
Birding the Cayman Islands

The Cayman Islands is a British Overseas Territory in the western Caribbean Sea. The 264-square-kilometre (102-square-mile) territory comprises the three islands of Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman located south of Cuba, northeast of Costa Rica, north of Panama, east of Mexico and northwest of Jamaica. Its population is approximately 60,000, and its capital is George Town. The Cayman Islands are considered to be part of the geographic Western Caribbean Zone as well as the Greater Antilles. The territory is often considered a major world offshore financial haven for many wealthy individuals.The islands are in the western Caribbean Sea and are the peaks of a massive underwater ridge, known as the Cayman Ridge (or Cayman Rise). The islands lie in the northwest of the Caribbean Sea, east of Quintana Roo, Mexico and Yucatán State, Mexico, northeast of Costa Rica, north of Panama, south of Cuba and west of Jamaica. They are situated about 430 miles south of Miami, 470 miles east of Mexico, 227 miles south of Cuba, and about 310 miles northwest of Jamaica. Grand Cayman is by far the largest, with an area of 76 square miles. Its two ‘sister’ islands, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, are about 75 miles east northeast of Grand Cayman and have areas of 314.7 and 11.0 square miles respectively. All three islands were formed by large coral heads covering submerged ice age peaks of western extensions of the Cuban Sierra Maestra range and are mostly flat. Terrain is mostly a low-lying limestone base surrounded by coral reefs.Birdwatching On Grand Cayman IslandSightings of the peculiar variety of Cayman’s bird life depend on weather, accessibility, bird movements and the birders preference. Local species exhibit a blend of Cuban, Central American and Greater Antillean (West Indian) influence. The top local bird sightings are: Grand Cayman Amazon Parrot, West Indian Whistling Duck, La Sagra’s Flycatcher, West Indian Woodpecker, Vitelline Warbler, Stripe-headed Tanager & Cuban Bullfinch. These should make any birdwatcher’s day!

Breeding season for local species is late May through July. The vast majority of resident breeding species nest during this time frame. The local Bananaquits are an exception, appearing to nest throughout the year.

Mid to late October into November is the migratory season, coinciding with the onset of the Dry Season in the Caribbean. This is when the greatest volume of migratory species pass through the Cayman Islands. Many are from the Eastern Flyway of the North American migration routes. This is also the only time of year we have raptors on island in numbers, apart from resident Barn Owls and the occasional Screech Owl or Turkey Vulture from Cuba or Jamaica.

Top Sites
  • Barkers National Park

    WebpageSatellite View
    The Barkers peninsular is a sand spit protrusion on the North West corner of Grand Cayman. Strips of low elevation dry woodland border a combination of salt-water mangrove marshland, expanses of mud flats and numerous channels with direct access to the sea. These all produce an abundance of feed for local waterfowl, and makes this is an important stopover area for migratory birds. Numerous egrets, herons, woodpeckers, wintering ducks and warblers frequent the area. With ready access via a grid of dyke roads made by the local Mosquito Control Unit, this area is designated to be Cayman's first National Park.
  • Mastic Reserve

    WebpageSatellite View
    Approximately 500 acres of Dry Evergreen Woodlands in the North Side district of Grand Cayman comprises the famous Mastic Reserve, one of the last stands of virgin woodland left on the island. The reserve is named for the rare, magnificent Mastic trees that can be found only in this woodland. The Mastic Reserve is a refuge for rare species of plants and wildlife. Wild Banana Orchids cloak the trees along with a variety of other epiphytes. Along with Grand Cayman Parrots, Woodpeckers, Warblers, Flycatchers and shy Caribbean Doves, miniature Tree Boas, soldier crabs, agoutis Cuban Bullfrogs, large Geckos and their smaller and more abundant cousins, the Anole lizards, are also very common.
  • Meagre Bay Pond

    Satellite View
    Located just off-road immediately East of Bodden Town, Grand Cayman, Pease Bay Pond is an extension of the Central Mangrove Wetland ecosystem. This fairly shallow, 10-15 acre saltwater pond is a haven for estuarine and marine fish breeding in the surrounding mangroves. Tarpon, Mangrove Snappers, and hundreds of Mosquito Fish lurk in the murky waters. At low tide the exposed mud and shallow water attract flocks of Snowy and Great Egrets. Pied-billed Grebes, Gallinules, Coots, Ducks, Black-necked Stilts, Least Terns and even swooping Magnificent Frigatebirds also converge to take advantage of the harvest.
  • Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Located less than a mile from the famous Mastic Trail in the North Side district of Grand Cayman, the 60 acre Botanic Park Reserve boasts a variety of habitats including wetland, woodland and of course flower gardens. Wild orchids and bromeliads abound in the trees. A good selection of bird life including Flycatchers, Woodpeckers, Cayman Parrots, ducks, egrets and herons can be found. The Park also houses the Grand Cayman Blue Iguana repatriation project and is the only place on the planet where this magnificent reptile can be readily seen in the wild.
  • Willie Ebanks Farm

    Satellite View
    Located at the end of Hutland Road in the North Side district of Grand Cayman, farmer Mr Willie Ebanks has dedicated an area of his land abutting the Malportas Pond mangrove wetland on the North coast as a sanctuary for the endangered West Indian Whistling Duck. At this pond, within sight of both the Malportas Pond and Mr Willie`s pig pens, birders can be guaranteed to see Whistlers at any time, along with Blue-winged Teals, Coots, Grebes and the occasional Osprey or Peregrine Falcon hovering high overhead in the Winter months.
Contributors
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 179

    National Bird: Cayman Parrot Amazona leucocephala caymanensis
Endemics
  • There are no endemic species of bird (any more) although the Islands do hold most of the world's Viteline Warber Setophaga vitellina with the few others being found on the Swan Islands off Honduras. However, there are 17 endemic subspecies belonging to 14 different species of bird.
Checklist

  • iGoTerra Checklist

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

  • A Birdwatcher’s Guide to Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico & the Caymans

    By Guy Kirwan, Arturo Kirkconnell & Mike Flieg | Prion | 2010 | Paperback | 198 pages, Line illustrations, maps | ISBN: 9781871104127 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • A Photographic Guide to the Birds of the Cayman Islands

    By Patricia E Bradley Illustrated by Yves-Jacques Rey-Millet | 288 pages | colour photos | 4 b/w illustrations | 8 colour maps | Christopher Helm | Hardback | Feb 2013 | ISBN: 9781408123645 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Birds of the Cayman Islands

    by Patricia Bradley | BOC | 2000 | 250 pages, col plates ISBN: 090744623X Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • The Birds of the Cayman Islands

    by P. Bradley. ISBN: 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
  • National Trust for the Cayman Islands

    Website
    The National Trust for the Cayman Islands Law of 1987 created this non-profit, statutory body which is responsible for the preservation of Cayman`s historic, natural and maritime heritage; the conservation of lands, natural features and submarine areas of beauty, historic or environmental importance, and the protection of our native flora and fauna.
Reserves

Abbreviations Key

  • Blue Iguana Nature Reserve

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Almost 200 acres of government-owned prime dry shrubland habitat in the east interior of the Grand Cayman is being protected, to provide an area for restoration of the Grand Cayman Blue Iguana, Cyclura lewisi.
  • NT Booby Pond Nature Reserve

    WebpageSatellite View
    LITTLE CAYMAN, BWI - Last year, one of the Cayman Islands most important wildlife habitats, the Booby Pond Nature Reserve on Little Cayman, moved closer to achieving permanent protection from development when two-thirds of the area came under ownership by the National Trust for the Cayman Islands. National Trust ownership insures the area cannot be disturbed or threatened by commercial development as Little Cayman grows.
  • NT Cayman Brac Parrot Reserve

    WebpageSatellite View
    Established in 1990, the 180 acre National Trust Brac Parrot Reserve protects the nesting area of the endemic, endangered Cayman Brac parrot, Amazona leucocephala hesterna. The latest census estimates about 400 of these lovely, iridescent emerald green parrots on the Brac. This endangered subspecies of the Cuban Amazon parrot nests here from February through May but can be seen, not only atop the Bluff but also in the lowlands, especially around Stake Bay.
  • NT Central Mangrove Wetland

    WebpageSatellite View
    Approximately 1,500 acres of the Central Mangrove Wetland is protected through the Marine Parks Law, forming part of the Environmental Zone which has been in effect for Little Sound and its fringing mangroves since 1986. Efforts are now underway to increase the area of the Wetland under protection, through conservation land purchase. The Trust has, to date, purchased 765 acres as part of its Central Mangrove Wetland Reserve…
  • NT Mastic Reserve & Trail

    WebpageSatellite View
    The Mastic Reserve on Grand Cayman protects part of the largest contiguous area of untouched, old growth dry forest remaining on the island. This area and other similar expanses of forest in Cayman are of international significance representing some of the last remaining examples of the Caribbean`s dry, subtropical, semi deciduous dry forest, which have been the target of particularly intense deforestation throughout the West Indies. The area is home to a wide variety of animals and plants unique to the Cayman Islands, and also to large populations of trees which have vanished from more accessible places through logging in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
  • NT Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park

    WebsiteSatellite View
    …Orchids and bromeliads thrive near a pool fed by buttonwood swamp and Bullthatch bend is a majestically wooded area. Red Birch trees, along with local fruit trees, provide a habitat for the Grand Cayman parrot in Parrot's Paradise. Other birds commonly sighted are Vitelline Warblers, Zenaida Doves and Bananaquit, while a variety of anole lizards, tree frogs and harmless snakes can also be seen…
  • NT Salina Reserve

    InformationSatellite View
    The "Salina" is the traditional place name for a large fresh water wetland in the southern part of the Reserve…
Guides & Tour Operators


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  • Focus on Nature

    Tour Operator
    Focus on Nature Tours has been conducting birding tours on islands in the West Indies in the Caribbean for over a decade
  • Geddes Hislop

    Information
    Since I also work full-time at the Cayman Turtle Farm, I usually run my private excursions on weekends and select weekdays (with sufficient notice). My Birding tours usually take place in the mornings and last about 4
  • Silver Thatch Excursions

    Tour Operator
    Geddes Hislop and his wife Janet are the founders of locally owned and operated Silver Thatch Excursions. This ecotourism award-winning business grew from a passionate love of nature and the outdoors. Their realisation of the need for a professional interpretative service to enrich a visitor's exposure to Cayman's natural and historic heritage led them to develop these unique excursions. Geddes Hislop has a degree in Wildlife Biology from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada and brings along his years of experience in wildlife research and environmental education in Trinidad & Tobago, WI, and as the former Public Education Manager of the National Trust for the Cayman Islands. Geddes was also involved in the interpretative development of the Q.E II Botanic Park and the famous Mastic Trail. For information contact P.O. Box 344WB, Grand Cayman. Phone or fax: (345) 945-6588
Trip Reports


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  • 2011 [07 July] - Frank Rheindt

    Report
    All birds of interest on Grand Cayman can be seen at the Queen Elizabeth Botanic Park (Vitelline Warbler, Thick-billed and Yucatán Vireo, Cuban Bullfinch, the Amazon etc), and we found this area more rewarding than the Mastic Trail. They open quite late (9am), but all the endemics could be seen at the gate area at dawn, with easy views of Caribbean Doves walking on pavement (early visit recommended)...
  • 2015 [04 April] - Max Berlijn

    Report PDF
    Annotated list
  • 2015 [11 November] - Greg Roberts - Greater Antilles

    Report
    We did very well with the endemics and regional endemics on the four islands...
  • 2016 [07 July] - Peter Shepherd

    PDF Report
    This was a very quick visit of one day (20th July) while on a short cruise which called in at Grand Cayman and Key West
  • 2016 [07 July] - Petri Hottola

    PDF Report
    he plan was to look for the near endemic Vitelline Warbler in a promising spot next to the airport.
  • 2017 [06 June] - Clive Green

    PDF Report
Places to Stay


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  • Where to Stay in Cayman

    Accommodation
    An up-to-date listing of all Cayman accommodations, all locations and types, sorted alphabetically.
Other Links
  • Nature Cayman

    Website
    Welcome to naturecayman.com, your guide to the ecology of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, including birds, reptiles, animals, fish, vegetation and geology. This site also contains information on island history, culture, events and accommodations

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