The Bahamas covers a huge area in the western Caribbean and the archipelago has over 700 islands and thousands of small cays. There are three stellar locations for bird watching in the Bahamas; Grand Bahama, Andros Island, and the Abacos. I only mention these three because they are easily accessible. Cruisers who sail or motor through the islands will see places that most tourists will never get to see. Sightings of more than 300 species have been reported, and of those 45 are endemic, 169 spend the winter, and 109 breed in the islands. Two species of bird have only been seen on a couple of the islands, the Greater Flamingo, and the Bahama race of the Cuban Parrot.
Grand Bahama is probably one of the easiest of the three to reach. Only 60 miles east of West Palm Beach, FL, there are direct flights from several US cities. This island is said to have the second highest number of native bird species. Here you can find 18 of the 28 species of Bahamian birds that are not found in the US.
Visit the Rand Nature Centre, a hundred acre sanctuary, which is part of the Bahamas National Trust.Here, you’ll see West Indian flamingos, Red-legged Thrushes, Antillean Peewee birds, Stripe-headed Tanagers, and the endangered Bahama Parrot.
Get a jeep rental, and go out exploring and you will find many bird habitats. Some are accessible by boardwalks through the mangroves, others by kayak. You’ll find trails to walk through forests of Caribbean pine, which is the most common tree on the island. Even the water features on the golf courses are a good place to see wading and water birds.
Look for fall migrants in late September through October. Some of the migrants do stay and spend the winter in the Bahamas. March through May are the best months to see those birds that migrate north in springtime.
There is great birding near Small Hope Bay Lodge, and around Central Andros Island. In the winter, you’ll see waders, rails, bitterns, ibis, and ducks around the mangroves, and many land birds at the Lighthouse Club and Androsia. Check out the pond at the airport for migrant ducks, Sora, Purple Gallinule, grebes, warblers, sparrows, Bahama Swallows, and Limpkins.
Ask for directions to the Nature Trail to see the Great Lizard Cuckoo, the Key West Quail Dove, the Bahamas Yellowthroat, and the Greater Antillean Bullfinch.
Reputedly the best place for birding in the Bahamas is Staniard Creek. There you’ll see Black-cowled Orioles, Bahama Swallows, Bahama Woodstar Humminbird, Bahama Mockingbirds, and Bahama Yellowthroats. The nearby mangrove flats are home to some Roseate Spoonbills.
A visit to Abaco National Park, at the south end of Great Abaco offers the chance to see the endangered Bahama Parrot. The park, established in 1994, covers 20,500 acres, including 5,000 acres of pine forest. This is a favorite nesting area for the Bahama Parrot and is home to about 1000 of them. They feed on the seeds from the pine trees and find limestone cavities on the ground to nest in.
Others species you can see in the Abacos are the Bahama Mockingbird, Cuban Emerald, Western Spindalis, Bananaquit, Bahama Woodstar, Black-faced Grassquit, Antillean Nighthawk, Loggerhead Kingbird, and La Sagra’s Flycatcher. Along the coastline, you’ll find White-tailed Tropicbirds, Storm-petrels, Shearwaters, and Black-capped Petrels, to name just a few.
About the author: Ellen Ballantine is a travel enthusiast and writer who enjoys writing about all the things she experiences on her various trips. She recently wrote an article detailing a stay at a luxury resort in Mexico.