Front Cover
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 Bird communities
 The most common Virgin Islands...
 Enjoying and identifying our wild...
 Protecting our wild birds
 Some useful definitions
 Appendix I: Glossary of Virgin...
 Appendix II: Checklist of the birds...
 Back Cover

Group Title: Extension handbook
Title: Virgin Islands birdlife
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00096210/00001
 Material Information
Title: Virgin Islands birdlife getting to know birds and where they live
Alternate Title: Extension handbook - University of the Virgin Islands Cooperative Extension Service ; 3
Physical Description: iv, 35 p. : ill. ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Wauer, Roland H
University of the Virgin Islands -- Cooperative Extension Service
United States -- National Park Service
Donor: unknown ( endowment ) ( endowment ) ( endowment ) ( endowment )
Publisher: UVI Cooperative Extension Service in conjunction with the U.S. National Park Service
Place of Publication: Virgin Islands
Publication Date: 1988
Copyright Date: 1988
Subject: Birds -- Virgin Islands of the United States   ( lcsh )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: United States Virgin Islands
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (p. 35).
Statement of Responsibility: by Roland H. Wauer ; illustrations by Zandy Marie Hillis and Toni Ackerman Thomas ; photos by Tina Henle.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00096210
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of the Virgin Islands
Holding Location: University of the Virgin Islands
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 21975223
lccn - 89136340


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Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover
    Title Page
        Page i
        Page ii
        Page iii
        Page iv
    Table of Contents
        Page v
    Bird communities
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
    The most common Virgin Islands birds
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
    Enjoying and identifying our wild birds
        Page 21
        Page 22
    Protecting our wild birds
        Page 23
        Page 24
    Some useful definitions
        Page 25
        Page 26
    Appendix I: Glossary of Virgin Islands bird names
        Page 27
        Page 28
    Appendix II: Checklist of the birds of the Virgin Islands
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
    Back Cover
        Page 36
Full Text

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Published by the U.V.I. Cooperative Extension Service
in Conjunction with the U.S. National Park Service





Virgin Islands Birdlife

Getting To Know Birds
Where They Live

Roland H. Wauer
U.S. National Park Service

Illustrations by
Zandy Marie Hillis and Toni Ackerman Thomas
Photos by Tina Henle

Published by the UVI Cooperative Extension Service
in conjunction with the U.S. National Park Service
Extension Handbook 3
May 1988


This book, entitled Virgin Islands Bird Life, breaks new ground in the expanding field
of collaboration between the University of the Virgin Islands and the U.S. National Park
Service in the Virgin Islands. Both organizations are committed to complementary
missions of promoting and enhancing our human, cultural and natural resources, thus, to
help improve the quality of life of the Virgin Islands people.
The Virgin Islands Cooperative Extension Service, as a partnership between the Univer-
sity, local and Federal governments and the people of the Virgin Islands, actively develops
a broad range of educational programs addressing local needs. One of Extension's impor-
tant missions is to provide V.I. residents with an educational service on the natural and
living resources of our islands. Environmental education is one of this agency's growing

In a similar vein, an important mission of the National Park Service is to provide oppor-
tunities for the enjoyment of life through outdoor recreation. As the stewards of some of
the nation's most valuable natural resources, the National Park Service has developed
unique expertise in management of these resources.
I am pleased that the Cooperative Extension Service has been able to combine resources
with the National Park Service in a new type of venture to develop an original publication
which will serve both organizations in their respective environmental education missions.

The Cooperative Extension Service has a strong commitment to conserving and
managing natural resources through its educational programs. The use of natural resources for
the benefit of the people can be enhanced through public education, and I hope that this
publication will serve that purpose. Birds are an important part of our environment and,
thus, every effort should be made to increase our awareness about them.
I urge all Virgin Islands residents to make use of this publication.

Darshan S. Padda
Cooperative Extension Service



"Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps the singing bird will come."
-Chinese Proverb

"Birdwatchers are sensitive, caring people well worth knowing!" This pardonable bit of
self-promotion, in a brochure on birdwatching, certainly is consistent with my experience. I
also believe that birdwatching and any comparable nature awareness activity draws
out qualities of alertness and sensitivity in people. Perhaps it is because they learn to "keep
a green tree" in their hearts.

Birds offer a fascinating link with nature. Together with the insects, birds are the most
"available" of our animals, that is, they and their places of living can be readily experienced.
For birders, novice or veteran, time in the field is spent in discovery and awareness. It is the
joy of pursuit which enriches.
In a time when our island world is changing rapidly, its living natural resources being
depleted, it is important to make an effort to keep people in touch with the earth. Virgin
Islands Birdlife is dedicated to the idea that providing rewarding experiences in nature
enriches peoples' lives and increases their awareness of and appreciation for their
environment. Virgin Islands Birdlife is the second (after Island Insects) of a planned series
of contributions by the Natural Resources program of the V.I. Cooperative Extension Ser-
vice, intended to add to the supply of appropriate environmental interpretation tools. With
this series, we hope to assist educators, their students, and other people to become more
aware of important elements of their living environment, and open eyes of understanding.

When I first discussed the possibility of developing this guide with Ro Wauer, he
immediately seized upon the idea with cheerful enthusiasm. This I have come to recognize
as one of his characteristic "field marks." Ro is Resource Management Specialist for the
Southeast Region of the National Park Service, and has been on St. Croix since 1986. He is
an acknowledged bird expert and enthusiast, and a well-rounded biologist with many years
of professional experience in matters of environmental management.

We sincerely hope that this guide will help the "singing bird" to come to you. Have a great
time birding.

Walter 1. Knausenberger, Ph.D.
Program Leader, Natural Resources
V.I. Cooperative Extension Service


There are several people that provided me with either special assistance or support for this
project. First and foremost, I want to thank Walter Knausenberger and Bob Deskins who pro-
vided the idea and incentive for the project. Fred Sladen and Rob Norton supported the project
through their special knowledge of the Virgin Islands birdlife and many suggestions and as co-
authors of the Checklist. Fred also read the manuscript and provided several worthwhile
comments. I also thank Cynthia Hatfield for producing the cover, Tina Henle for providing the
black and white habitat photographs, and Zandy Hillis and Toni Thomas for providing pen and
ink bird sketches. And last but not least, project support was also received from my wife, Betty;
Carrol Fleming for her valuable editorial activities; and Tom Bradley and Houston Holder for
their moral support.
I would like to thank Herbert Raffaele for permission to use illustrations adapted from his
book, A Guide to the Birds of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, 1983, Fondo Educativo Inter-
americano, San Juan. Illustrations prepared by Hillis of Smooth-billed Ani, Bananaquit. Lesser
Antillean Bullfinch, Caribbean Coot. Glossy (Shiny) Cowbird, Mangrove Cuckoo, Common
Gallinule, Antillean Crested Hummingbird, Mockingbird. Brown-throated Parakeet, White-
crowned Pigeon. White-cheeked Pintail (Bahama Duck), Black-necked Stilt. Barn Swallow,
Black-whiskered Vireo were based on the work of Cindy House. Illustrations prepared by Hillis of
the Brown Booby, Magnificent Frigatebird, Helmeted Guineafowl. American Oystercatcher,
Scaly-naped Pigeon, Semipalmated Plover, Spotted Sandpiper, Common Snipe, and White-
tailed Tropicbird were based on the work of John Wiessinger.

Table of Contents

Forew ord ................................................................. ii

Preface ................................................................... iii

Acknowledgements ......................................................... iv

Bird Com m unities ........................................................... 1

Ocean/ Bay Community .................................................... 2

W etland Comm unity ...................................................... 3

Dry Forest Community .................................................... 4

Moist Forest Community .................................................. 5

Developed Areas .......................................................... 6

The Most Common Virgin Islands Birds .

...................................... 7

Enjoying And Identifying Our Wild Birds

The Enjoyment of Birds.............................

How to Identify Birds ...............................

Protecting Our Wild Birds

Bird Conservation..................................

Habitat Protection Amid Change ....................

The Virgin Islands Connection.......................

Some Useful Definitions ..............................

Appendix 1: Glossary of Virgin Islands Bird Names .....

Appendix II: Checklist of the Birds of the Virgin Islands.

Useful References ....................................

...... 21

...... 21

............... 23

............... 23

............... 25

............... 25

............... 27

............... 29

............... 35

Bird Communities

Where would you look to find a pelican? A thrushee? A chicken hawk? Each one of these
Virgin Islands birds lives in a different place. The Brown Pelican prefers the ocean and bays
where it dives for fish or sits quietly in the water or on a wharf. The thrushee, or Pearly-eyed
Thrasher, resides in woodlands or landscaped places where it can find the food and shelter it
needs. The chicken hawk, or Red-tailed Hawk, prefers the ridge tops where it can soar high
over the forest and fields in search of its prey. Each of these birds, as well as all of their
neighbors, reside in particular communities that best suit their specific needs.

The Virgin Islands contain five distinct bird communities: Ocean/ Bay, Wetlands, Dry
Forest, Moist Forest, and Developed Areas. Each of these areas contain different sets of
conditions in which certain birds can best survive.

One example of community relations can be made for our common Brown Pelican that
lives in the ocean/bay community that surrounds the Virgin Islands. Pelicans would
literally disappear from our islands if the fish, which they depend upon for their food, were
to disappear. The fish in our bays depend upon the health of the mangroves, seagrass beds,
and coral reefs, on which they depend upon for shelter and food. And the survival of the
Virgin Islands mangroves, seagrass beds and coral reefs depend upon what people do on
the land. Too much silt or pollution can threaten an entire community. Too much poaching
or over-harvesting of certain marine animals can endangerall the others. Every community
consists of numerous living and dead materials that are in one way or another connected to
each other. The loss of only one species may very well threaten all the rest.

Birds and people are the dominant members of all five of the land-based communities.
Therefore, birds are excellent indicators of the natural health of our communities. Learning
birds and their relations with other living things within these communities can be fun and
challenging, as well as important to the long-term survival of humankind.

Ocean/Bay Community
The ocean/bay environment surrounds our islands and therefore dominates our very
existence. The tropical waters provide feeding grounds for fish-eating birds and waders
that hunt small fish and invertebrates in the shallows or on the shorelines. Virgin Islands
waters, like all tropical oceans, are usually crystal clear and allow for amazing visibility as
much as 20 or 35 feet below the surface. More northern waters are not as clear because they
usually contain a proverbial "soup" of tiny creatures that physically restrict visibility and
provide food for many types of animals. In contrast, clear tropical waters contain a more
limited food source and therefore barely provide enough food to maintain the marine
animals and plants on which our ocean/bay birds depend. Virgin Islands' greatest food
sources exist around coral reefs and in the coastal bays and lagoons.

The pelican, boobies, frigatebird, a few herons, gulls and terns, osprey, and a variety of
shorebirds most commonly live in or near the ocean/bay community.


Wetland Community

Wetland communities include both fresh and
saltwater ponds, lagoons and associated mangrove
forests and swamps. The mangrove forests probably
are the Islands' most important habitats. They serve
as natural filters for the various sediments and pollu-
tants that flow off the land into the bays. Mangrove
lagoons produce lots of nutrients that support an
abundance of plant life, fish, oysters, and other
creatures that flourish among mangrove roots and
their muddy surroundings. These animals and plants
serve as the principle food upon which the larger
creatures, including people, depend for their

True freshwater ponds and marshes are rare in the
Virgin Islands and therefore are extremely valuable.
They support a great diversity of animals and plants
and have attracted wildlife since long before people
discovered these islands. They are most important as
a source of drinking water for wildlife. Migrant birds
often frequent these ponds in great numbers.

Saltwater ponds are more numerous than the
freshwater ponds, and support a larger number of
birds than any other island habitat. Virgin Islands'
salt ponds can literally be teeming with birds, par-
ticularly during the fall months, when thousands of
migrant shorebirds stop over to rest and feed before
continuing south toward their wintering grounds in
South America.

The most common birds to be found in the wetlands are grebes, moorhens, a wide variety
of ducks, large waders such as egrets and herons, and numerous shorebirds such as
dowitchers, yellowlegs, plovers, and sandpipers. An amazing variety of migrant and
wintering landbirds, such as flycatchers and warblers, can also be found in the mangrove

Dry Forest Community

The dry forest or "bush" includes the cactus scrub habitat that occurs in the driest parts
of the islands. Its thickets of low to medium-high vegetation are especially common on dry
wind-exposed slopes. Although a quick glance at the dry forest community might suggest a
scarcity of plant species, this environment actually contains a surprisingly large variety of
shrubs and small trees. Most of these plants produce abundant fruits and seeds during
certain periods of the year, thus supporting large bird populations.

The dry forest community is the most extensive terrestrial habitat in the Virgin Islands
because it is able to survive on the open slopes and hilltops that are most exposed to direct
sunlight and wind. This community contains a greater number of bird species than the
more luxuriant moist forest community.

Typical birds to be found in the dry forests include the bananaquit, bullfinch, cuckoos,
doves and pigeons, elaenia, grassquit, hummingbirds, mockingbirds, thrasher, vireo, and

Moist Forest Community

The moist forest occurs only in the guts (canyon-bottoms) and on the higher and wetter
slopes. This is the environment that contains the tallest and grandest trees, with an
abundance of air plants (bromeliads) and vines. Today there are only a few good patches of
moist forest left in the Virgin Islands. Most of this habitat has been destroyed for pasture,
agriculture, lumber and fuel.

Although this habitat is the lushest and most jungle-like, it supports relatively few bird
species. The bananaquit, doves and pigeons, hummingbirds, thrasher, and warblers occur
here. One bird the Bridled Quail-Dove can be found only in moist forest areas.

Developed Areas

Developed areas occur in and around the many towns and villages, as well as the
abundant fields and pastures. These are the sites that have been changed from natural
habitats to those used by people. They can occur anywhere on the islands and often are
dominated by a variety of introduced plants. Many of the introduced flowering plants are
especially attractive to birds, such as hummingbirds and bananaquits. Although individual
sites may be small, their cumulative effects on an island usually are very important.
Common birds of developed areas include the bananaquit, grassquit, doves, thrasher,
cattle egret, kingbird, mockingbird, and swallows. These are the birds that have learned to
adapt to human environments more than the others. They often find good food sources
from the non-native plant species that people have brought into this community.



The Most Common Virgin Islands Birds

The following is a description of only the most common birds, arranged in alphabetical
order, you may find in the Virgin Islands. The names used may vary somewhat from those
commonly used on different islands. (see Appendix 1 in the back of the book for a glossary
of local names) but these are the standardized names used in the most up-to-date field
guides. All the birds known for the Virgin Islands are listed in correct scientific order in the
"Checklist" that is included on the last pages of this booklet (Appendix II). Once you
identify one of the birds in the field, you may wish to check it off the checklist.

Ani, Smooth-Billed This all black, long-tailed bird with a
huge bill is locally known as "Black Witch." Its loud squawky
call, sometimes described as "wei-ik," can be heard almost any
time of day. Anis are most often seen in brushy fields and along
fencerows, sitting atop a bush or tree, or in flocks of 5 to 12
individuals gliding from one high point to another. The Ani is a
member of the Cuckoo family.

Bananaquit "Quits" are beautiful little birds of bright yellow,
black and gray colors. They are best known in the Virgin Islands
as "Yellow Breasts" or "Yellow Bellys" after their bright yellow
breasts and bellys, or "Sugarbirds" after their habit of eating
sugar placed on windowsills and tables. Their long-decurved
bills permit them to sip nectar from flowers. And because they
are so abundant and obvious, Bananaquits have been named the
Virgin Islands' official bird.

Booby, Brown Boobies are large birds, between pelican- and
gull-size, with heavy bills. The Brown Booby is the most
common of the three Caribbean boobies, and usually can be
found in harbors and all along the coastline. Adults have brown
necks and heads, and their white bellies can appear aqua color in
flight when reflecting the beautiful blue waters. The Masked and -
Red-footed Boobies are more sea-going (pelagic) in nature and
occur only rarely on small islets near St. Thomas. All three
boobies feed on fish and squid which they capture by diving
head-first into the sea.

Bullfinch, Lesser Antillean This is a plump sparrow-sized
bird; the male is all black with an orange-brown throat and
crissum (under the rump), and the female is drab olive color with
a tawny crissum. It was reported first in the area of Lynn Point.
There also are a few St. Croix sightings. It prefers the dry forest
community, where it is likely to increase in numbers. It is an
abundant resident on some of the Lesser Antillean islands to the

Coot, Caribbean This bird and the look-alike American Coot
are all black except for white patches on the rumps and all-white
bills. The Caribbean Coot has a broad and completely white
frontal shield just above the bill; the white frontal shield is
replaced by a red knob on its American cousin. The presence or
absence of the Caribbean Coot has become a good indicator of
wetland disturbance within the Virgin Islands. Populations have
declined in numbers as island developments, particularly tho.
on or adjacent to ponds, have increased; it is now rarely seen. __ _-
The look-alike American Coot, which is more of a migrant, is
more adaptable and has increased in numbers.

Cowbird, Shiny Males of this species are a glossy violet-black
color; females are a drab gray-brown. Although it is rare in the
Virgin Islands, it may be on the increase. Cowbirds are social
parasites and actually lay their eggs in the nests of other birds.
__ ". The host birds usually are considerably smaller than the

the detriment of their own brood.

Cuckoo, Mangrove Its buffy breast, long black and white
banded tail, and black mask and bill help to separate this resi-
dent bird from the similar Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Yellow-bills
have a rufous patch on each wing that is clearly evident in
flight; this patch is not present on the Mangrove Cuckoo. In
spite of its name, the Mangrove Cuckoo is more common in the
dry forest community than in the mangrove habitats. It is very
secretive in nature and so it is rarely seen, but it can usually be
detected by its distinct guttural call. Once found, this fairly large
bird can often be approached surprisingly closely; it is not shy
and depends upon its subtle colors to hide it from danger.

Dove, Zenaida This is the Caribbean analog to the Mourning
Dove of the States; its mournful calls are very similar. Its tail is
rounded with a white trailing edge. Its wings also possess a white
trailing edge. The Zenaida Dove is locally called "Mountain
Dove" because it is common in the mountainous parts of the
islands, but it can be just as numerous in the lowlands along the
shore or around developed areas.

Watch also for the tiny Common Ground-Dove with its r-eda-
dish wing patches. And there are two introduced doves that are-
rarely encountered, the Ringed Turtle and Spotted Doves. The
two larger "doves" you are likely to see are the Scaly-naped and
White-crowned Pigeons.

Ducks The White-cheeked Pintail is the Virgin Islands' only
resident duck, although several other duck species overwinter or
migrate through the area. Its white-cheeks and red mark on the
back of the bill are the best field marks for this native pintail.
Populations have declined in recent years because of habitat
destruction caused by new developments and disruptive activ-
S itaies that have damaged their nesting, feeding and resting sites.

~ = ei- Several other ducks can be seen in the Virgin Islands during
the winter months. The most common of these is the Blue-
winged Teal, but the Green-winged Teal, Northern Pintail,
Northern Shoveler, American Wigeon, Lesser Scaup and Ruddy
Duck should also be expected. A few other species are accidental

Egret, Cattle The large white birds so abundant in the open
fields or flying across the sky at dawn and dusk are Cattle Egrets.
They often perch on the backs of cattle, a habit from which they \
derive their common name, as well as "Tick Bird,"a more local
name. They also will follow a mower or tractor across the lawn /
or field, picking up insects that are disturbed.

There are two additional white egrets in the Virgin Islands, the
little black-legged, black-billed Snowy Egret, and the much
larger, black-legged, yellow-billed Great Egret. Both of these
prefer wetlands. The Little Blue Heron is all white during its first
year, but the legs are greenish to bluish and the bill is usually blue
or gray.

Elaenia, Caribbean This is a drab little flycatcher with two
whitish wingbars and a seldom-seen yellowish line on the crest of
its head. Although it is shy and not often seen, it is fairly
common in a variety of habitats from the mangrove forests and
adjacent coastal woodlands to the dry forest community on the
hillsides. It can best be detected by its very distinct "che-eup" or
"sweet, sweet, churr" whistles which have given it the local
names of "pee-whistler" or "John Phillip." Elaenias feed on
insects, dashing out from their perches to grab a fly or mosquito
in mid-air, then returning to the same perch to watch for the next

Falcon, Peregrine There is no faster and more powerful bird
in all the Caribbean than this large falcon. It has been clocked at
over 175 miles per hour in a dive, and uses its amazing speed and
agility to capture its prey, often on the wing. It is actually able to
capture flying bats and swifts, as well as pigeons, shorebirds, and
ducks. In fact, in certain areas of North America, Peregrines
capture so many ducks that they are better known as "Duck

In the Virgin Islands, Peregrines are only migrants or winter
birds that go north in spring to nest on cliffs from the Southern
Appalachians to the Arctic. These birds are highly susceptible to /
pesticides, and their populations declined to a very low level
prior to the United States outlawing the sale of the pesticide
DDT and placing the bird on the Federal list of Endangered
Species. It has since then made a remarkable recovery, and the
number of Peregrines is increasing all across North America,
and in the Virgin Islands, as well.

Frigatebird, Magnificent This is the huge black and white
bird (males may show red throat patches) with a scissor-tail
found soaring overhead, especially along the coasts. Its wing-
span may be seven feet across! At dawn, 8 to 20 individuals can
sometimes be found soaring over a hilltop where they float on
thermal drafts. In spite of its size, this bird can be very acrobatic;
watch one pursuing a gull or tern in an attempt to force the other
bird to drop a fish it has just captured. Frigatebirds also fish by
flying low over the water and scooping up fish along the surface.
If this bird accidentally dives into the sea, however, it may
drown. Unlike most birds, particularly other seabirds, the
frigatebird lacks the oily substance to waterproof its plumage to
keep it dry and afloat. Locally, it is known as "weather bird."

Grassquit, Black-faced Its name comes from the male's black
face and throat; the female is a drab olive-brown color. Its short,
conical bill is used to feed on seeds. And its very distinct loud
buzzy songs are hard to miss. This plump, little bird can be found
almost anywhere on the islands where there are grassy patches
for it to find seeds and other edibles. In fact, it also frequents a
few outdoor restaurants where it has learned to feed on crubs in
and around the tables. A local name is "Sin Bird."

Grebe, Pied-billed You must look carefully for this little
waterbird. It often can be seen in the middle of a pond, half
submerged with only its pied bill and head out of the water. It has
the ability to sink straight down, although it also can dive
forward. It feeds on small fish, frogs and insects. Grebes build
floating nests among dense shoreline vegetation, so ponds that
are kept cleared of edge vegetation will not support this fasci-
nating species.

Ground-Dove, Common This is the tiny little dove so
common in more arid habitats. It is tan to light brown in color
with reddish wing patches that are evident in flight. It usually is
found walking along the roads and trails and around residential
areas, but also perches on powerlines, antenneas and the like. Its
single-note call may be repeated over and over and can become
quite monotonous.

Guineafowl, Helmeted This is the large "guineabird" com-
monly found in farmyards and adjacent fields. It is easy to
recognize by its large size, spotted body, and naked head. Intro-
duced from Africa, it has been used as a good "watchdog"
because of its extremely loud cackling calls and aversion to
strangers. In some pasture areas of the islands, it may be the
dominant animal species.

Gull, Laughing Its name comes from its laugh-like calls, but
its all black head in summer is its most obvious marking. This is
the common summertime gull in the Virgin Islands where it
frequents the harbors and coastlines. It nests only on a few of the
small rocky islets near St. Thomas. In winter, the Ring-billed
Gull is present in small numbers, and one may also find the
Herring Gull or one of the black-backed gulls if watching very
S- carefully.

Hawk, Red-tailed This is the Virgin Islands' only resident
broad-winged hawk; it commonly can be seen soaring over the
ridges and valleys. That is when its reddish tail and broad wings
are most evident. Although it is sometimes called "chicken
hawk" by Virgin Islands residents, that is not a fitting name
because it rarely preys on chickens. Red-tails more often feed on
rats, lizards and large insects. The only other resident hawk is the
American Kestrel. All of the other raptors (birds of prey)
reported for the islands Osprey, Northern Harrier, Merlin
and Peregrine are found only during migration or winter.

Heron, Green-backed This little heron is easy to identify
because of its relatively small size, dark color, and reddish legs.
Watch for this heron among the shoreline vegetation at fresh-
water ponds and mangrove swamps. When feeding, it will sit
\/ very still over the water and wait for a passing fish, frog or other
aquatic creature to come close enough to spear with its large,
..sharp bill. Unlike all the other herons and egrets, this bird is less
of a wader, but prefers skulking along the bank or shoreline

Hummingbird, Antillean Crested This is the smallest of the
two resident Virgin Islands hummingbirds, and the only one
with a prominent crest. The larger, non-crested hummer is the
Green-throated Carib. Both birds are fairly common nectar-
feeders in gardens and at flowering trees and shrubs in all the
islands' plant habitats. They are important pollinators of the
flowering plants that they visit.

Kestrel, American This little falcon (previously known as
Sparrow Hawk) is a fairly common resident throughout the
islands. It is best known locally as "killy-killy." The American
Kestrel is one of three falcons that are found here. The other two
- Merlin and Peregrine occur only in winter or as a migrant.
All three have dark caps, pointed wings, and long tails. Kestrels
have a reddish tail and back; the Merlin has a streaked breast
and barred tail; the Peregrine is much larger and shows black
sidebars on the head. Kestrels feeds on insects, small lizards and
frogs, and occasionally small birds.

Killdeer This is a brown and white plover with two black
chest-bands It may be quite common at some times of the year
and completely absent at other times. It prefers freshwater
wetlands or grasslands rather than seashores. Its "kill-dee" call,
that is heard whenever it is disturbed, is what has given it its

Kingbird, Gray This the most common bird of the Virgin
Islands. This gray, white and black flycatcher can be found ,
almost anywhere and perches on treetops, shrubs, fenceposts,
buildings and powerlines. It is locally called "chi-chery" after its
persistent and loud call. Do not confuse this bird with the longer-
tailed Mockingbird. Another flycatcher, the Puerto Rican
Flycatcher, is a rare resident on St. John.

Kingfisher, Belted Watch for this fairly large, gray to green-
backed bird with a white collar, a crest and striped breast at
anytime but mid-summer. It prefers quiet bays or ponds where it
feeds on small fish and other aquatic fauna. If you watch
carefully you may see it dive into the water and come up with a
fish or frog neatly speared by its large, sharp bill.

Martin, Caribbean Its white breast and belly help to separate
it from the all-dark Purple Martin that also occurs here. Martins
are efficient insect-eaters and often spend hours flycatching
overhead. Their aerial manuevering is a joy to behold. Although
the Caribbean Martin can be found anytime of the year, it is
most numerous in spring and summer when it nests.

Mockingbird, Northern Mckers look at first somewhat like
Gray Kingbirds, but have longer tails and do not perch so up-
right. Both species live on the edges of fields and urban environ-
ments. During their spring breeding season, they sing a huge
variety of songs and oftentimes long into the night. At these
times, the Mocker is likely to repeat phrases whistled to it.

Moorhen, Common This bird closely resembles the coots, but
adult moorhens possess bright red bills and shields, while coots
have white bills. Almost every fresh and salt water pond in the
Virgin Islands has one or a few of these birds. It can usually be
found skulking along the weedy shoreline vegetation, but may
be seen swimming across open water as well.

Nighthawk, Antillean This is one of the few Virgin Islands
birds that is resident only during the summer months; it winters
in South America. However, during spring and fall, this species
and the related Common Nighthawk move through the area as
migrants. Nighthawks are most active at dusk and dawn and on
cloudy days. They feed on insects which they capture in flight
over fields and wetlands. They are ground-nesters that appar-
ently have discovered suitable nesting sites that are not used by
the abundant and predatory mongoose.

Night-Herons Both the Black-crowned and Yellow-crowned
Night-Herons reside in the islands. Although juvenile birds are
difficult to separate, adults are fairly easily identified by either
their black-cap, in the case of the Black-crowned species, or
white and black cap of the Yellow-crowned bird. Both are
nocturnal in their habits and so are not often seen during the
daylight hours. During the daytime, they can be found among
the heavy vegetation along the edges of ponds or swamps where -
they quietly perch.

-A ^Osprey This large black and white hawk is also known as
IV "Fish Hawk" because of its habit of catching fish. It actually
dives into the water after its catch, and then flies off with its prey
grasped tightly in a claw. It occurs in the Virgin Islands from
early September through March, and nests from Florida to
Canada. It is most often seen over harbors and wetlands, but
may occasionally be found soaring over the upland forests.

Oystercatcher, American This is one of the largest of the
shorebirds, and is easy to identify because of its black hood and
prominent orange-red bill. It is a resident bird that prefers the
rocky shorelines over the sandy beaches. Its name is derived ,- '.."
from its habit of catching and eating oysters and whelks. It is
locally called "Whelkcracker."

Parakeet, Brown-throated This bird is included only because
it can be found consistently in the Red Hook area on Stt
Thomas. It prefers the mangrove vegetation along the bay across
from the ferry boat landing. All of the native parrots were long
ago eliminated from the Virgin Islands. The Brown-throated
Parakeet was introduced to St. Thomas from Central America
many years ago, and has adjusted to this new environment.

|^ Pelican, Brown This is one of the most easily identified birds
in the Caribbean. Its huge pouched bill, designed to catch and
hold fish, and its long, broad wings are good characteristics. It is
common in the harbors and along the shorelines. Nesting birds
like the more isolated islands, such as Buck Island, St. Croix,
where they construct stick nests on the trees and stronger shrubs.

Pigeon, Scaly-naped This is the largest of the Caribbean
pigeons and doves, and can be fairly common, especially during
the nesting season and afterwards when young birds are flying
with adults. This bird is commonly known as "Red-necked
Pigeon" because in the right light the neck appears very reddish
in color. In general, the Scaly-naped Pigeon is a bird of the
upland forests and wooded residential areas; the similar White-
crowned Pigeon prefers the mangroves and other wetland "

Pigeon, White-crowned Its white crown, sometimes pearly
white in the right light, and slate-gray body give this beautiful
bird a most distinctive appearance. It is sometimes called "Blue
Pigeon." Although White-crown populations are still high in a
few more isolated areas, development in and around our
wetlands has caused serious population declines in general. The
species is now listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as

Plover, Black-bellied This is a fairly large shorebird that canll
be quite numerous during migration. It prefers wetlands,
although occasionally it is found in open fields and pastures, an
area much preferred by the similar Lesser Golden Plover. The
latter bird is a fall migrant only. Watch for the black "wing-pit"
of the Black-bellied Plover, a marking that is not present on the __ .
Golden Plover.

Plover, Semipalmated This bird is much smaller than the
Black-bellied Plover, and can be quite common on the sandy
beaches and less so around saltponds. It is easy to identify by its
bright yellow-orange legs and base of its small bill, black breast
band, and white forehead. The Wilson's Plover is similar in size
but lacks the yellow legs and has a much heavier, dark bill.

Quail-Dove, Bridled The distinct broad white line below each
eye and rusty breast are its best field marks. It is found only in the
moist forest community on St. John and St. Croix, where it
spends most of its time feeding on the ground. It is fairly
common but quite secretive; its very low-pitched and mournful
one-note call is easy to miss. This bird cannot withstand too
much habitat change, and, therefore, is an excellent indicator of
the condition of the forest.

Sandpiper, Spotted Most "Spottys" seen in the Virgin Islands
lack the spotted breasts that are present during the nesting
season. Although it may at first look like other shorebirds, its
habit of verticle tipping as it walks, and flying with short rapid
wingbeats, are good characteristics to help identify this bird.
Virgin Islands birds only winter here or are migrants that may
occur as early as mid-August to as late as May.

Snipe, Common The snipe commonly rests and feeds in wet
grassy places in fields and along the edge of ponds. Its blackish-
brown plumage and striped back provide excellent camouflage
and it is often difficult to see; it may not fly until practically
stepped on. Thep it rapidly flies off with quick wingbeats and
gutteral squawks. A careful search in wet areas during the winter
months can usually uncover one of these plump, long-billed
birds. It uses its long bill to probe in mud for worms and insects.
Its long toes allow it to walk across soft muddy areas without
sinking in.

Sora This is a little plump rail with a yellow bill and legs, that
can be quite common during migration and winter. It prefers
wetland edges and, unlike most rails, can be fairly easy to find. It
is hard to believe that the Sora, a bird without a streamlined
body and with such small wings, could annually migrate across
the open ocean between the Virgin Islands and North America.
It is closely related to the resident coots and moorhens.

Stilt, Black-necked This is the large, black and white shore-
bird with long pink legs, usually standing upright in the center of
a pond. They are not difficult to find because they constantly call
to one another, especially when they are disturbed. They serve as
good "watchdogs" for the other pond residents. Unlike most
Virgin Islands' waterbirds, this species is resident all year long.

Swallow, Barn This is the most common of the several species
of swallows that pass over the islands as migrants or overwinter
there. Barn Swallows possess dark backs and forked tails. They
feed on-the-wing on insects over grassy fields and ponds. Flocks
of a few to several dozen swallows are not uncommon from late
August through mid-April. Watch also for the less common
Tree, Northern Rough-winged, Bank and Cliff Swallows.

Tern, Royal This is the reasonably large gull-like bird of the
harbors and coastlines that has a large yellow bill and black top-
notch. At times it can be quite numerous, but usually it occurs in
small numbers. Watch it dive into the water for fish, which it
stabs with its sharp bill. Even in flight, it can maneuver its catch
around to swallow headfirst. During the summer months, the
smaller Least Tern is also common around the islands.


Thrasher, Pearly-eyed This bird competes with the Gray
Kingbird as the most numerous bird in all the Virgin Islands,
although it is not as visible as the kingbird. It is a robin-sized bird
with a streaked breast, light bill and eye, and tail with white
markings. It is locally called "Thrushee," and although it is a
skulker that frequents the deep forest, it can be expected any-
where there is even the minimal amount of vegetation. It is often - 06.
abundant in towns and around residences. The Thrushee is a
very gregarious species that dominates the moist forest com-
munity where its loud constant calls and songs can be heard
throughout the day and night.

Tropicbirds Both the White-tailed and Red-billed Tropic-
birds are snowy white in color, have long streaming tails, and
yellow to orange bills which make these seabirds the most spec-
tacular birds of the Caribbean. The White-tailed Tropicbird has
black markings on the mantle, while the Red-billed bird has an
all white mantle. They frequent rock islets near St. Thomas
during the nesting season, and are rarely seen elsewhere,
although white-tailed birds are occasionally recorded off-shore
the larger islands.

Turnstone, Ruddy This is one of the Virgin Islands' larger
shorebirds. It has a ruddy-colored back, black breast, and a -
short upturned bill which makes it is easy to identify. Its name
comes from its habit of turning over rocks and debris in search of
food. This is another of the winter-only birds and one that .
usually can be found on the beaches and rocky shorelines.

Vireo, Black-Whiskered Look for the black lines (whiskers)
below the eyes and the white lines above the eyes, which are
S markings that separate this bird from the rarely seen Red-eyed
Vireo. Starting each year in February and lasting until mid-July,
the two-note whistles ("John Chewit" or "John Phillip," from
whence it gets its local name) can be heard throughout the day-
light hours. After mid-summer it is less obvious, but a few indivi-
duals can be found all year around. The majority of birds go to
South America for the winter.

Warbler, Yellow This little yellow "canary" is a year-long
resident of the islands. The chestnut-colored streaks on the
yellow breast of the male are its best field markings. Some birds
Shave chestnut caps. Yellow Warblers use a wide range of habitats
and can be expected anywhere in the islands. All the other Virgin
Islands warblers are only migrants and/or winter residents.

Look over the checklist of birds (see Appendix II) to see how
many warblers frequent the Virgin Islands during migration
and/or wintertime. Some of the more common winter resident
warblers include the Prairie, Cape May, Black-and-white,
Hooded, Worm-eating, Northern Waterthrush, and American
Redstart. These are lively and colorful species.

Yellowlegs, Greater This is the rather large shorebird with
long, bright yellow legs and a slightly upturned bill. It prefers
shallow fresh and saltwater ponds throughout the islands, and ,
although a migrant, is sometimes present all year long. It is most
common in winter. The smaller version of this bird with the
straight finer bill is the Lesser Yellowlegs.

FIELD MARKS? LrV? pattern, wing shape,
FIELD MARKS?cal, special

Enjoying and Identifying Our Wild Birds

The Enjoyment Of Birds No other group of wild animals gives so much pleasure to so
many people. Our feathered friends can be enjoyed any time and place. No other animal is
so representative of wild nature, probably because of birds' ability to fly freely from place to
place. Yet birds can easily be attracted to feeding stations and to trees and shrubs that we
can plant around our homes. In fact, birds often can be attracted so close that they can be
studied with the naked eye.

However, to appreciate birds most fully, binoculars and a field guide are essential.
Binoculars can enlarge a bird's apparent size by as many as 7 to 10 times or more. The use of
binoculars to identify birds at a distance is easy to learn. First look directly at the subject
and then, still watching the bird, simply bring the binoculars up into position without
changing your position or looking elsewhere. A few trys should produce immediate

Birding in the Virgin Islands can be greatly enhanced with an easy-to-use field guide. Two
very fine field guides are available on the Virgin Islands birdlife: James Bond's Birds of the
West Indies, and Herbert Raffaele's A Guide to the Birds of Puerto Rico and the Virgin
Islands are both helpful. Both field guides are available in most bookstores. These books
include the majority of the approximately 300 Caribbean birds, and most of these species
are illustrated in color or black and white. The few birds that are not illustrated are those
accidental species reported only once or a very few times. In addition, because many of the
birds found in the Virgin Islands are common North American species, it is always useful to
have one of the many North American bird field guides available as well.

You will soon discover that finding and identifying birds can be a most enjoyable hobby.
And it is a hobby that costs very little and can be done with little or no special training. It
can be done alone or in a group, and at any time of the day or night.

At the start, you probably will be surprised at how many birds you already know. However,
you may discover that you know many of the birds by local names rather than those used in
the field guides. Birds, like plants, have local names that may vary greatly from island to
island. You should become familiar with the standardized common names, used
consistently in the field guides. You will then be better able to use the field guides and
communicate more easily with other people interested in birds.

How To Identify Birds It is a true joy to discover that the birds seen in books are in fact
real creatures that live around you. Often, the bright colors of birds are much more
spectacular in real life than in the books. As a starter in bird identification, a few clues will
help you identify birds more readily. Remember that all birds vary in size, shape, markings,
voice, and behavior. Placing these characteristics into perspective is a good first step in bird

Sizes of the Virgin Islands birds may vary from the tiny Antillean Crested Hummingbird
(only a couple inches tall) to the Magnificent Frigatebird or Brown Pelican; the latter two
birds have a wing-span of over six feet. Make size comparisons when trying to identify
birds: is it Bananaquit-size? Thrasher-size? or larger?

Shapes of birds' bodies, wings and bills vary a great deal, as well. Long-legged birds, such as
herons and egrets, usually are waders and occur in wetlands. The Red-tailed Hawk is a
large, broad-winged bird that most often is found soaring over ridges and pastures.
Bananaquits are small and quick, and possess a relatively long bill which they use to probe
for nectar and insects in flowers. The tiny but chunky Black-faced Grassquit has a small
conical-shaped bill which it uses to eat seeds.

Bird field markings (patterns or plumage characteristics) usually contain bright colors or
sharp contrasts and so are one of the best clues in bird identification. Consider the vast
array of markings on warblers. They may vary from almost totally one color, such as the
yellow of the Yellow Warbler, to the yellow, black, reddish and white pattern of the
wintering Cape May Warbler. The black and white of the Black-necked Stilt and the all
black of the Smooth-billed Ani are additional examples.

The voices of many bird species are often their most obvious and distinct characteristic,
especially during their nesting season, when they are most vocal. Singing in birds is closely
related to territorial defense. Every species possesses a very distinct song or series of songs.
such as the Mockingbird and Thrasher. Every species also possesses very distinct calls or
chirps. Bird recordings arc available to help identify or to learn the abundant bird voices.

Bird behavior varies with the different families and species. The behavior of raptors differs
from that of waders and divers. Seedeaters behave considerably different than the
flycatchers and gleaners. And there are less dramatic behavioral differences within each
family group.

Much of the knowledge necessary to make quick bird identification must come from field
experience, and spending time with an experienced birder can help a great deal. That
person can pass on many tidbits of information that otherwise might take years to acquire.

FILL THE BILL (a, wer, r ,n page 24)
12 3 4
5 6 7 8




Protecting Our Wild Birds

Bird Conservation Bird populations can change or disappear due to a variety of natural
or human-caused occurrences. Natural causes are usually linked to events that may be
either very fast in nature, such as volcanic eruptions or tidal waves, or very slow in nature,
such as an evolutionary process. There is not very much one can do to change or greatly
influence the natural processes. However, changes in bird populations due to human
influences can be controlled. All living things are connected, and the loss of one population
can have serious affects on others.

At least seven bird species are known to have totally disappeared from the Virgin Islands in
recent years. These birds include the West Indian Whistling-Duck, Black-bellied
Whistling-Duck, Masked Duck, Snowy Plover, Puerto Rican Screech-Owl, White-necked
Crow, and Lesser Puerto Rican Crow. Several other species, such as the Least Grebe,
American and Least Bitterns, Ruddy Duck, and Clapper Rail are just barely hanging on
somewhere in the region. Although they still occasionally are recorded, they no longer are
considered a member of the Virgin Islands breeding fauna. In other words, they probably
are on their way out.

In most instances, the changes in bird populations result from habitat changes caused by
human developments of one kind or another. The filling in and development of a major
wetland is the most serious of these. But even small incremental changes to an area can
create serious impacts, many of which are hardly noticeable at first. Then suddenly a bird
population disappears as a result of a seemingly minor change that could only have made a
difference if it had been part of a series of changes. It is like the proverbial straw that finally
breaks the camel's back.

Habitat Protection Amid Change The Virgin Islands' Ocean/ Bay Community, often the
subject of postcards and TV commercials, is reasonably stable, although it is subject to
siltation, abuse and overuse by land developers, fishermen, and careless boaters. Some of
the Caribbean's marine habitats, particularly the coral reefs and seagrass beds, have been
degraded in recent years. And the increasing number of proposed developments to be
located on the major beaches and adjacent hillsides suggest continuing degradation of these
significant areas.

Freshwater habitats are extremely important as a water source for all land creatures,
including people who also use the freshwater for irrigation and other purposes. The use of
these waters often results in direct conflicts between people and wildlife. Unless certain
freshwater ponds are given special protection they often are filled in or drained and used for
other purposes.

Saltwater pond habitats are less fragile because they usually are influenced by sea tides and
surges and do not provide water for drinking and irrigation as do the freshwater ponds.
But they do become nearly as stressed due to pollution, sedimentation, and other physical
impacts. Many of the Virgin Islands most productive saltwater ponds have been seriously
damaged by adjacent developments and inadequate protection of the watersheds.

Virgin Islands wetland communities are often filled in or drained, cut off from the natural
drainage, and used for other purposes. They also may be sprayed with pesticides to control
potential pests that provide the essential foodbase for many native birds. These losses
usually affect both humans and wildlife.

The Dry Forest Community provides some of the best sites for peoples' homes and other
developments by virtue of the extent of the community and the open character of the
surrounding topography. On our steep slopes, inadequate care of the soils during and after
construction can cause serious erosion that can become a serious problem in the entire
watershed and severely damage the valuable marine habitats.

The Moist Forest Community is most appealing to visitors and other people who seek
tropical tranquility; it is the closest thing to a "jungle" experience in the Virgin Islands. The
protection of the moist forest habitat should therefore be of major importance to the Virgin
Islands Government and the tourist industry.

Mongoose Several of the Virgin Islands bird populations have declined due to the
influence of the introduced mongoose. These daytime predators were brought to the
islands to help rid the fields of rats, which are introduced, not native. Mongooses found
many of the ground-nesting birds easier prey than the rats which were either tree nesters or
adapted to a nightime schedule. This is a classic case where a well-meant introduction of an
exotic species had unexpected disastrous impacts.

Monitoring Monitoring of the various Virgin Islands communities is absolutely
essential to detect many of the more subtle changes, and to understand the meaning of
those changes. Monitoring projects can and should be undertaken within all the Virgin
Islands communities. Although the most useful monitoring should be scientifically
designed, the weekly, monthly or annual field monitoring can be undertaken by any person
who can correctly identify the birds. It is indeed ironic that many of the new facilities being
planned to accommodate visitors, who come to the islands to enjoy the unique resources,
may in the process of development, upset the very resources which attract our visitors here
in the first place.


* Hummingbirds have long hollow beaks
that they use to probe flowers for nectar.
The beak protects the tongue which
slurps up the nectar.
* Curlews, godwits, kiwis, and snipes
have very long beaks that they use to
probe for worms, crustaceans, and other
small creatures in mud and water.
* Cardinals, sparrows, grosbeaks, and
other finchlike birds have very short,
conical beaks. These beaks are very
strong and can break open tough seeds.
* Spoonbills and pelicans have long,
flattened or pouchlike beaks that they
use to scoop up fish and other aquatic

L answerss for page 22)
* Flamingos and some ducks have bills
that act like strainers to filter tiny plants
and animals from the water. (Only certain
kinds of ducks are filter feeders.)
* Nighthawks, whip-poor-wigs, swifts,
and swallows have large, gaping mouths
that act like nets to trap insects. These
birds catch insects on the wing.
* Warblers have small, sharp, pointed
beaks for picking insects from leaves,
logs, and twigs.
* Toucans have very long, thick beaks for
reaching out and plucking fruit from

The Virgin Islands Connection

More than one-half of all birds that spend their summers in the northern latitudes fly south
fir the winter months. The largest group of these are the warblers, of which more than two
dozen species use the Caribbean islands. The survival of these and many other bird groups
are dependent upon how well we maintain the natural conditions of the mangroves and
other forest habitats.

Biologists have only recently begun to understand that most birds are more dependent
upon their wintering grounds where they spend as much as six to seven months each year
- than they are on their breeding grounds, where they may only spend three or four
months annually. The destruction of birds' wintering habitats often has more impact on a
population than does the destruction of one segment of the nesting habitat. This places
considerable importance on those very special tropical habitats where many North
American birds spend their winters. The mangrove and upland forests of the Virgin Islands
and other Caribbean islands serve a much more important function in the survival of many
bird species than was ever before realized. Our Caribbean habitats are essential in the life
cycle of a large number of waterbirds, shorebirds and perching birds. The Virgin Islands
connection to the continued existence of millions of North American birds must not be

Some Useful Definitions

Community A group of animals and plants that live together and interact with one
another, forming a distinct living system with its own composition, structure and

Ecosystem Any area that is composed of living and non-living materials, combined
together to form a specific environment.

Glean A method a bird uses in searching foliage for food, usually relating to small birds
that "glean" the vegetation for insects.

Habitat Place where certain animals and plants live within a community, often charac-
terized by dominant plants or physical characteristics; e.g., mangroves, freshwater
pond, etc.

Invertebrate An animal without a backbone, such as insects, spiders, crabs and snails.

Migrant An animal that annually moves from one area to anotherand then back again as
part of its normal life cycle. Many bird migrants nest in North America and migrate
south into the Caribbean to spend their winters.

Nutrients Material required by any animal or plant for normal growth and maintenance.
Much of the debris that flows through the mangroves is broken down into energy-
ianimals and plants.u 3 v dN a a wde 'abaes o ocad
animals and plants.

Predator An animal that captures and teeds upon another animal as part of its natural life

Pollution Harmful substances deposited in the air, water or land, leading to a state of
dirtiness, impurity or unhealthiness. Pollution affects the native flora and fauna as
well as people.

Raptor A bird of prey, such as hawks and owls.

Shorebird A bird that feeds in very shallow water, usually by wading in standing water or
along the shoreline.

Terrestrial Land as opposed to water; a terrestrial species is one that lives on the island.

Watershed An entire drainage area of a particular topographic feature, including slope,
gut, and floodplain.

Help each bird find the safest path to its winter home.




Glossary of Virgin Islands Bird Names

compiled by
Walter I. Knausenberger

This list combines several sources, oral and published. Many local native speakers have
contributed to this list. Virgin Islands common names, as those of any geographic and
ethnic area, result from a mixture of influences, and may be inconsistent. This is why you
will often find several names in the standardized list, at the right, apply to a single local
common name, and vice versa. Also, the usage tends to differ between St. Thomas, St. John
and St. Croix. Not all the Virgin Islands names listed will be found in this book, but all the
birds in the "standardized list" are discussed. Some local names apply to a group of birds,
not a specific one. For example, "gaulin" applies to perhaps a half-dozen herons and egrets
at one time or another. There are asterisks (*) by these birds.

The well-known variability of common names is exactly the reason why the American
Ornithological Union (A.O.U.) has promoted the use of "standardized names". This allows
people of different origins to communicate more effectively with each other about birds.
World-wide, of course, the only and universal standard is the scientific "binomial" name.

Virgin Islands Common Name

Bahama Duck

Barbee Dove, Barmee Dove

Black Witch

Blue Gaulin

Blue Pigeon

Standardized Common Name

White-cheeked Pintail

Bridled Quail Dove

Smooth-billed Ani

Great Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron

Scaly-naped Pigeon, White-crowned Pigeon

Brass Wing, Brass Wing Duck

Cattle Bird, Cow Bird


Chi-Cheree, Chicherri, Chinchery

Chicken Hawk


Doctor Bird, Dacta Bird

White-cheeked Pintail


* Hummingbird

Gray Kingbird

Red-tailed Hawk

Laughing Gull

* Hummingbird

Fish Hawk


Royal Tern

* Herons, Egrets



Grass Sparrow

Granny, Groung Dove

Gray Gaulin

Half Bird

John Chewit

John Phillip

Kiddy-Kiddy, Killy-Killy

Little Doctor Bird, Lil' Dacta Bird

Man-O-War Bird

Marmee Dove

Mountain Dove


Quail Dove

Pilikin Bird, Pilinki Bird

Red-necked Pigeon

Sin Bird, Sin-Sin



Sugar Bird

Thrushee, Thrush, Trush, Trushee

Tick Bird

Weather Bird


White-headed Pigeon

Yellow Belly, Yellowbreast, Yellow

Black-faced Grassquit

Ground Dove

Great Blue Heron

Laughing Gull

Black-whiskered Vireo

Caribbean Elaenia, Black-whiskered Vireo

American Kestrel

Antillean Crested Hummingbird

Magnificent Frigatebird

Bridled Quail Dove

Zenaida Dove

Caribbean Elaenia

Bridled Quail Dove

Brown Pelican

Scaly-naped Pigeon

Black-faced Grassquit


*Generalized name for all Shorebirds


Pearly-eyed Thrasher

Cattle Egret, Smooth-billed Ani

Magnificent Frigatebird

American Oystercatcher

White-crowned Pigeon



Checklist of the Birds of the Virgin Islands

Roland H. Wauer, Fred W. Sladen, and Robert L. Norton

Common and Scientific Family Names Status *

GREBES Podicipedidae
Least Grebe acc.
Pied-billed Grebe Unc.I

Greater Shearwater acc.3
Audubon's Shearwater Unc.4

STORM-PETRELS Hydrobatidae
Wilson's Storm-Petrel VRare.3
Leach's Storm-Petrel Rare.3

TROPICBIRDS Phaethontidae
White-tailed Tropicbird Unc.5
Red-billed Tropicbird Com.4 (T)

Masked Booby Rare.4 (T)
Brown Booby FCom.l
Red-footed Booby Rare.4 (T)

PELICANS Pelecanidae
Brown Pelican Com.I

CORMORANTS Phalacrocoracidae
Double-crested Cormorant acc.3

Magnificent Frigatebird Com.l

American Bittern acc.3
Least Bittern acc.3
Great Blue Heron UCom.2
Great Egret FCom.l
Snowy Egret UCom.I
Little Blue Heron Com.1
Tricolored Heron UCom.l
Reddish Egret acc.3

Cattle Egret Abun.
Green-backed Heron FCom.
Black-crowned Night-Heron UCom.
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron FCom.

IBISES Threskiornithidae
Glossy Ibis acc.3

FLAMINGOS Phoenicopteridae
Greater Flamingo acc.

DUCKS Anatidae
Fulvous Whistling-Duck acc.3
West Indian Whistling-Duck acc.
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck acc.
Green-winged Teal Rare2
Mallard int.
White-cheeked Pintail UCom. I
Northern Pintail Rare2
Blue-winged Teal FCom.3
Cinnamon Teal acc.3
Northern Shoveler Rare2
Northern Wigeon Rare2
Ring-necked Duck Rare2
Greater Scaup acc.2
Lesser Scaup Rare2
Hooded Merganser acc.2
Ruddy Duck Rare2

OSPREY Pandionidae
Osprey FCom.2

HARRIERS & HAWKS Accipitridae
Northern Harrier Rare3
Red-tailed Hawk Com. I

FALCONS Falconidae
American Kestrel Com.I
Merlin UCom.2
Peregrine Falcon UCom.2

QUAILS Phasianidae
Helmeted Guineafowl int.

Clapper Rail Rare
Sora UCom.2
Purple Gallinule acc.2
Common Moorhen Com. I
American Coot UCom.2
Caribbean Coot Rare2

PLOVERS Charadriidae
Black-bellied Plover FCom.2
Lesser Golden Plover Rare3
Wilson's Plover UCom.1

Semipalmated Plover UCom.2
Piping Plover acc.3
Killdeer FCom. 1

American Oystercatcher UCom.l

STILTS & AVOCETS Recurvirostridae
Black-necked Stilt Com. I
American Avocet acc.2

Greater Yellowlegs FCom.2
Lesser Yellowlegs Com.2
Solitary Sandpiper UCom.
Willet UCom.2
Spotted Sandpiper Com.2
Upland Sandpiper acc.3
Whimbrel Rare2
Long-billed Curlew acc.3
Hudsonian Godwit acc.3
Marbled Godwit acc.3
Bar-tailed Godwit acc.3
Ruddy Turnstone FCom.2
Red Knot Rare3
Sanderling UCom.3
Semipalmated Sandpiper Com.2
Western Sandpiper FCom.2
Least Sandpiper Com.2
White-rumped Sandpiper Rare2
Baird's Sandpiper acc.3
Pectoral Sandpiper FCom.2
Dunlin acc.3
Stilt Sandpiper UCom.2
Buff-breasted Sandpiper acc.3
Ruff acc.3
Short-billed Dowitcher FCom.2
Long-billed Dowitcher acc.3
Common Snipe UCom.2

PHALAROPES Phalaropodidae
Wilson's Phalarope Rare3

JAEGERS Stercorariidae
Pomarine Jaeger Rare3

Laughing Gull Com.4
Common Black-backed Gull acc.3
Ring-billed Gull UCom.2
Herring Gull Rare2
Lesser Black-backed Gull acc.3
Gull-billed Tern UCom.4
Caspian Tern acc.3

Royal Tern
Sandwich Tern
Roseate Tern
Common Tern
Arctic Tern
Forster's Tern
Least Tern
Bridled Tern
Sooty Tern
White-winged Tern
Black Tern
Brown Noddy

PIGEONS & DOVES Columbidae
Rock Dove
Scaly-naped Pigeon
White-crowned Pigeon
Ringed Turtle-Dove
Spotted Dove
White-winged Dove
Zenaida Dove
Common Ground-Dove
Bridled Quail-Dove

PARROTS Psittacidae
Monk Parakeet
Black-hooded Parakeet
Brown-throated Parakeet
Mitred Parakeet
Canary-winged Parakeet
Hispaniolan Parrot
Lilac-crowned Parrot
Oranged-winged Parrot

CUCKOOS & ANIS Cuculidae
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Mangrove Cuckoo
Smooth-billed Ani

OWLS Strigidae
Puerto Rican Screech-Owl
Short-eared Owl

Common Nighthawk
Antillean Nighthawk

SWIFTS Apodidae
Black Swift
Chimney Swift
Short-tailed Swift

Com.4 (T)
Com.4 (T)

Com. I



acc. (T)



Green-throated Carib Com. I
Purple-throated Carib acc.
Antillean Crested Hummingbird Com.I
Antillean Mango acc.

KINGFISHERS Alcedinoidae
Belted Kingfisher FCom.2

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Spor.2

Puerto Rican Flycatcher Rare I (J)
Caribbean Elaenia FCom.l
Eastern Wood-Pewee acc.3
Gray Kingbird Abun. I

SWALLOWS Hirundinidae
Purple Martin Rare3
Caribbean Martin FCom.4
Tree Swallow Rare3
Northern Rough-winged Swallow Rare3
Bank Swallow UCom.3
Cliff Swallow UCom.3
Cave Swallow acc.3
Barn Swallow Com.2

Gray-cheeked Thrush acc.3
Veery acc.3

Northern Mockingbird FCom.I
Pearly-eyed Thrasher Abun. I

European Starling acc.

VIREOS Vireonidae
Yellow-throated Vireo Rare2
Red-eyed Vireo acc.3
Black-whiskered Vireo FCom.4; Rare2 (C)
White-eyed Vireo acc.2

WARBLERS Parulidae
Golden-winged Warbler acc.2
Blue-winged Warbler Rare2
Northern Parula Com.2
Yellow Warbler Com. l
Chestnut-sided Warbler Rare3
Magnolia Warbler Rare2
Cape May Warbler FCom.2
Black-throated Blue Warbler UCom.2
Yellow-rumped Warbler UCom.2

Black-throated Green Warbler acc.3
Blackburnian Warbler acc.3
Golden-cheeked Warbler acc.3
Yellow-throated Warbler Rare2
Prairie Warbler UCom.2
Palm Warbler Rare2
Bay-breasted Warbler acc.3
Blackpoll Warbler FCom.3
Black-and-white Warbler Com.2
American Redstart Com.2
Prothonotary Warbler UCom.2
Worm-eating Warbler UCom.2
Swainson's Warbler acc.2
Ovenbird UCom.2
Northern Waterthrush Com.2
Louisiana Waterthrush UCom.3
Kentucky Warbler Rare3
Common Yellowthroat Rare2
Hooded Warbler UCom.2
Canada Warbler acc.3

Bananaquit Rare3

TANAGERS Thraupidae
Scarlet Tanager Abun.I

FINCHES Fringillidae
Rose-breasted Grosbeak Rare3
Blue Grosbeak Rare2
Indigo Bunting UCom.3 (T)
Black-faced Grassquit Com. I
Lesser Antillean Bullfinch FCom. (J):
Bobolink Spor.3
Nutmeg Mannikin int. (C)

Shiny Cowbird Rare I
Northern Oriole Rare3
Troupial int. (T)

* STATUS KEY: Abun. = Abundant; Com. = Common; FCom. = Fairly Common;
UCom. = Uncommon; Rare = Rare; VRare = Very Rare;
Spor. = Sporadic; acc. = accidental; int. = introduced

1 = Permanent Resident (breeds); 2 = Migrant & Winter Resident:
2 = Migrant only (transient); 4 = Summer Resident only

Sites (when exclusive); (C) = St. Croix; (J) = St. John; (T) = St. Thomas

The above checklist is partly derived from two earlier checklists: Birds of St. John,
USVI A National Park Checklist, by Robert L. Norton, 2nd printing, 1986; and Checklist
of Birds of St. Croix. U.S. Virgin Islands, by Fred W. Sladen. 1987.

Useful References


Bacon, Peter R. R. 1978. Flora & Fauna of the Caribbean. Key Caribbean Publ., Trinidad. Broad introduc-
tion to Caribbean environments and the common animals and plants within each.

Bond, James. 1960. Birds of the West Indies. Houghton-Mifflin Co., Boston, MA. Good field guide for the
entire Caribbean. It includes bird illustrations for all West Indies species.

Campbell and Lack (Eds.) 1985. A Dictionary of Birds. Buteo Books, Vermillion, SD. Provides excellent up-
to-date reviews of almost every ornithological subject.

Cronin, Edward W., Jr. 1986. Getting Started in Bird Watching. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston. Good basic
guide for the beginner that offers information on bird identification using easy to grasp principles of
habitat, size, behavior, song, etc.

Hayman, Peter, John Marchant & Tony Prater. 1986. Shorebirds An Identification Guide. Houghton-
Mifflin Co., Boston, MA. Best up-to-date identification guide on shorebirds available: includes all
species and covers all plumages.

Pettingill, Olin Sewall, Jr. 1975. A Laboratory and Field Manual of Ornithology. Burgess Publ. Co., Minn.,
MN. A popular teaching manual for field and laboratory. It deals with all phases of bird biology and

Raffaele, Herbert A. 1983. A Guide to the Birds of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Fondo Educativo
Interamericano, San Juan, PR. Most up-to-date field guide to the Virgin Islands available. It includes
illustrations of all Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico bird species. It also includes sections on bird decline
and biogeography, and conservation in general.

Robbins, Chandler S., Bertel Brunn, and Herbert S. Zim. Birds of North America. 1983. Golden Press/
Western Publ. Co., NY. Excellent field guide to all North American species that may occur in the Virgin
Islands in migration and in winter. Excellent illustrations.

Terres, John K. 1980. The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds. Alfred A. Knopf, NY.
Complete compendulum of information on birds and bird identification.

Welty, Joel Carl. 1963. The Life of Birds. Alfred A. Knopf, NY. Most thorough textbook on birds available.
Includes all phases of bird biology and ecology.

Conservation Societies and Magazines

Audubon. National Audubon Society, 950 Third Ave., New York, NY 10022. Beautiful magazine published
six times each year, containing articles on all topics of conservation.

Birding. American Birding Association, Sonoita, AZ. Magazine published six times each year and contains
articles on bird identification and where to go to find birds.

National Wildlife & International Wildlife. National Wildlife Federation, 8925 Leesburg Pike, Vienna, VA.
Two beautiful magazines published every other month, and dedicated to public education about
wildlife and habitat protection.

Ranger Rick s NatureScope: Birds, Birds. Birds! National Wildlife Federation. 1412 16th St. NW, Washing-
ton, DC 20036-2266. Information on pages 20, 22, 24. and 26 is from this publication.

University of the Virgin Islands
Cooperative Extension Service
Handbook 3. 1988
Carrol B. Fleming, Editor

Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension Works, Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914 (as amended), In
cooperation with U.S. Department of Agriculture. The University of the Virgin Islands Cooperative Extension Service is an
Equal Opportunity Affirmative Action Organization, providing educational services in the fields of agriculture, home
economics, rural development, 4-Hi youth development and related subjects to all persons regardless of color, national
origin, or sex. Dr. D.S. Padda. Director

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