Birds? Great Tobago

Great Tobago

This large unpopulated island is home to the 3rd largest nesting seabird population in the whole Caribbean!!! The virgin coral reefs are also some of the best in the territory! Observe Magnificent Frigate Birds,Long-tailed Tropic Birds, Pelicans, Terns, all the varieties of Boobies, and many other species when visiting this island with BVI Eco-tours. This rugged island is the bird’s country above and the fish and coral’s world below. Adventurous hikers wanting a million dollar view of an island that hardly anyone ever sees will be greatly rewarded!!!It is illegal to anchor in Great Tobago due to there being no sand patches and all potential anchoring areas are virgin coral reefs and would be destroyed immediately by even one anchor!  Large fines and even confiscation of boats can be associated with violating this ‘No-Anchor Zone’! We have placed dive buoys just a few feet below the surface of the water on all of our unmarked dive sites in the area.  These are secretly marked around Tobago because of poachers.  This is another reason Tobago is highly patrolled by Marine Police.  Nonetheless, snorkelers and divers are seeing some of the most exciting marine life in the BVI with us as we know this area like the back of our hands!  Great Tobago is the last BVI island going West… next stop Puerto Rico. It is so off the beaten path of BVI boaters, that we never even see one boat there except marine authorities.  Tobago can be visited on a SCUBA trip or on an Eco-tour. The island is 4 miles West of Jost Van Dyke. The sister islands of Little Tobago and Watson Rock are nearby and ‘wild-wild west’ for snorkeling too!!!

Interesting info for birdwatchers…

Magnificent Frigate Bird: The apex-predator and ruler of the seashore sky, this splendid flier glides effortlessly on the trade winds with its 7-8′ long, pointed wings and deeply forked movable tails, earning it the nickname “scissor tails“.  It is also widely known in many islands of the Caribbean as the “Man Of War” and resembles what we imagine a ‘pterodactyl’ to look like as it cruises high above the sea.  The Frigate Bird is one of the only known seabirds that does not land on the water.  The reason for that is due to the fact that it cannot take off with wet feathers from the sea as it’s wings are too long and heavy; therefore, this large bird has also become a pirate, using its long hooked beak and flying skills to cause other birds to drop their catch, which the frigate bird catches in midair.

They also have keen eyesight and incredible fast and acrobatic flying skills.  They are known to drop straight down, at amazing speeds, hundreds of feet to almost effortlessly spread their wings and perfectly pick up an unsuspecting fish that is cruising too close to the surface!  These creatures truly amaze as they hover, quarrel and otherwise put on magnificent air shows.  The male’s solid black adult plumage contrasts dramatically with the bright red throat sacs. The female is black also, with a white breast, while all the young have white heads and breasts.  Nesting in colonies, the species is well represented in the BVI on Great Tobago and Anegada. They can sometimes be seen where fishermen regularly clean their catch or even following a fishing boat returning from a trip, picking up the scraps immediately as they are thrown on the water.

Long-tailed Tropic Bird: Also known as Red-Billed Tropic Birds, these beauties are identified by their long streaming white tail feathers and ‘fire engine red’ bill.  Their spectacularly attractive tails are twice the size of their bodies.   Tropic birds feed at sea without seeing land for months during the summer and fall, before returning to nest from December until June on rocky cliffs.  They are also known to mate for life, so are typically seen flying in pairs outside of nesting season.  During the nesting months, it is routine for one of the birds to catch prey and return to the nest to feed the other.  Poor walkers, they like to jump right into the air from their cliff-side nests, and then dive into the water to feed on squid and flying fish.

Brown Pelican: Rebounding from near extinction in 1960, the brown pelican has a number of breeding colonies scattered throughout the BVI. Often seen diving headfirst from considerable heights to feed on schools of sprats and fry (aka silversides), the brown pelican scoops fish up in its distinctive elastic pouch. Superb flyers with wingspans of up to seven feet, pelicans fly together in single file, wing beats in unison.  They live an average of thirty years and usually die due to failing eyesight from diving into the water with their eyes open all their lives… one day they’ll just dive into too shallow water or hit a rock… sad but true.

Laughing Gull: The gull commonly found in the islands is the exquisite laughing gull, which is smaller at 16″ long than the 24″ Herring Gull, well known from other areas of the World.  Migrating from the Greater and Lesser Antilles to Venezuela each year, the laughing gull is named for its excited “ha, ha, ha, ha” call. With its strong bill adapted to its omnivorous scavenging, this seabird feeds on seafood such as fish and crabs as well as “scraps” opportunistically taken from everything from fishing boats to pelican operations–in the latter case sitting on the bigger bird’s head and pulling small fish out of the sides of the pelican’s pouch as it is draining out the seawater!

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