Endless Caribbean - Birding in Trinidad

Birding in Trinidad & Tobago: Explore a Tropical Birdwatcher’s Paradise

With over 450 recorded species of birds, Trinidad and Tobago’s tropical landscape makes the islands two of the best places for birding in the Caribbean. The islands are relatively small, but they have one of the highest concentrations of birds. Many of the bird species in the islands are rare and generate interest. One example of a bird that attracts attention is the scarlet ibis. This is the islands’ national bird which is resident in coastal areas and mangrove swamps such as the Caroni Swamp.

The reason why birding in Trinidad and Tobago is so popular is because the islands have habitats that are perfect birdwatcher’s paradises which never disappoint. As a result, you can spend time checking off your birding lists, visiting the best birding spots or partaking in revealing birdwatching tours.

Birds in Trinidad and Tobago

Although you may not see all of the birds in the islands in one trip, there are a few species that you can look out for. According to the Trinidad and Tobago Field Naturalists’ Club, the common birds that you may spot in urban and residential areas in Trinidad are:

Great Kiskadee: Small bird with black face and white stripe, yellow belly and underparts and brown back
Tropical Kingbird: Small bird with grey head, yellow belly and underparts and soft grey-green back
Blue-Grey Tanager: Small bird light blue bird, with darker blue wings
Palm Tanager: Small bird that has spotted in various shades of green ranging from olive green to dark green
Silver-Beaked Tanager: Male birds are crimson red with a large lower beak that is pale blue. Female birds are a less vibrant shade of red and do not have the blue beak
White-Lined Tanager: Male birds are black with a white feather patch under the wing. Female birds are brown and do not have the white patch
Tropical Mockingbird: Aggressive grey bird that if often spotted running on the ground and spreading its wings
Bananaquit: Tiny bird with yellow undersides, black back, and grey throat
Yellow Oriole: Golden yellow bird with black neck, wings, and tail
Carib Grackle: Black bird with white iris. Males are glossy black while females are a duller black or dark brown
Shiny Cowbird: Black bird with shiny iridescent feathers and black iris
Spectacled Thrush: Small brown bird with orange-yellow eye-ring
House Wren: Small, brown songbird
Ruddy Ground-Dove: Nervous ground feeder with reddish brown body and light grey head.
Smooth-Billed Ani: Black bird with a raised keel of the bill
Yellow-Bellied Elaenia: Flycatcher with bushy crest, yellow-olive under-parts and olive brown upper-parts
Grayish Saltator: Adult birds are grayish brown with a white streak above the eye whilst younger birds are mossy green
Yellow Warbler: Small yellow bird with darker yellow wings
Saffron Finch: Small yellow bird with orange forehead
Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl: Small owl with grey-brown feathers and white streaks on the head and underparts

Endemic Bird Species in Trinidad and Tobago

Of the 450+ species of birds in Trinidad, there are two endemic species – the Trinidad Piping Guan and the Trinidad Motmot. Just 250 species are resident throughout the year and approximately 55 species migrate regularly. Many of these birds can be found in specific areas roosting, breeding, hunting and just enjoying the warmth of Trinidad. Comparatively, there are approximately 200 bird species in Tobago.

To find a list of all the birds in Trinidad and Tobago you can purchase the Helm Guides publication, Birds of Trinidad and Tobago. A bird checklist of all the birds in Trinidad & Tobago is also available on AviBase.

Best Spots for Birding in Trinidad and Tobago

To find the rare bird species in Trinidad & Tobago, birders trek to specific locations around the island. Birding experts recommend that visiting birdwatchers spend at least two weeks on the island, which is enough time to explore the top birdwatching locations in Trinidad & Tobago.

Aripo Savanna

The Aripo Savanna is a protected area which is a natural savannah in Trinidad. Because of vast acres of dry and wet grasslands, there are many species of grassland birds. Birders should be able to check anis, cattel egrets, herons, jacanas, grassquits, spine tails, flycatchers, tyrants, martins, swallows, pigeons, doves, hawks, parrotlets, macaws, swifts and black birds.

Waller Field (Night Birding)

If you are interested in night birding in Trinidad, Waller Field is one of the recommendations. Located close to the Aripo Savannah and Arima on an abandoned airbase, Waller Field is where you will see and hear the night birds in action. Birders have records of several birds including owls, nightjars, pauraques, potoos, and the very hard to find moriche oriole.

Caroni Swamp

The Caroni Swamp is the most popular birding habitat in Trinidad. Located on the west coast, it is the second largest mangrove wetland in the island. The protected swamp is a diverse area with mangrove forests, marshes, lagoons, mudflats and is of significant ecological importance. It is home to the fish, mammals, reptiles, birds such as the scarlet ibis, herons, egrets, hawks, cardinals, flamingoes, and more than 100 other bird species.

Nariva Swamp

The largest freshwater wetland in Trinidad, the Nariva Swamp, is another popular birding spot. Home to mammals, monkeys and reptiles, the swamp is a sure place to see a few of Trinidad’s bird species. Birdwatchers should keep their eyes peeled for macaws, flycatchers, orioles, herons, crakes, bitterns, rails, and waterfowls. Over the years, there have been sightings of at least 175 bird species in the Nariva Swamp.

Gilpin Trace

Gilpin Trace is the most popular birding trail in Tobago. It is located in the UNESCO-listed Tobago Main Ridge Forest Reserve, which is the oldest nature reserve in the western hemisphere. The Gilpin Trace trail is an accurate representation of the precious biodiversity on the island. Birdwatchers will be pleased to see rare hummingbirds, flycatchers, manakins, and jacobins.

Birdwatching Tours in Trinidad and Tobago

Although it is possible for birders to visit Trinidad & Tobago on their own, beginner birders or those who are not familiar with the islands should book a birdwatching tour. There are many tours available, ranging from a few hours to two weeks. Here are a few suggestions:

Trinidad and Tobago Nature Vacation (Responsible Travel)

This two-week birdwatching excursion takes birders through Trinidad and Tobago in a quest to discover birdlife and stunning scenery of the islands. The tour available for booking via Responsible Travel includes accommodation, meals, transportation, and a private guide on specific days. Birding points of interest that will be explored in Trinidad are Point-a-Pierre Wild Fowl Trust; Caroni Swamp; Nariva Swamp; Bush Bush Nature Reserve; Asa Wright Nature Centre; and Grande Riviere. In Tobago, you will visit Cuffie River Nature Retreat and Gilpin Trace Trail.

Duration: 15 days
Price: GBP 2595 – 2995
Time of Year: Varies
Contact: Responsible Travel

Caroni Bird Sanctuary Boat Tour (Winston Nanan)

This is the signature tour offered by Winston Nanan, is a thrilling two-hour boat tour ride through the waterways of the Caroni Swamp. Guests will cruise through the peaceful wetlands of the sanctuary on a quest to spot the scarlet ibis. Bonus experiences include spotting reptiles, mammals, marine organisms and other species of birds resident in the swamp. You are encouraged to wear jeans, tee-shirt, enclosed sneakers, a hat and shades and bring insect repellent, a camera and binoculars.

Duration: 2.5 hours
Price: USD 65
Time of Year: Year Round
Contact: Winston Nanan 

Ultimate 12-Day, 2-Island Tour to Trinidad & Tobago (Naturalist Journeys)

For birders visiting Trinidad and Tobago for the first time, this tour is a rewarding introduction to tropical birding in the Caribbean. The week and a half tour explores birding locations in Trinidad and Tobago and introduces guests to unforgettable island experiences. The tour includes accommodation, meals, airport transfers, professional guides, park entrance fees and miscellaneous expenses. Itinerary highlights include birding in Trinidad’s northern range, coastal birding, Nariva Swamp, Aripo Agricultural Station and Cuffie River Trails & Adventure Farm.

Duration: 12 days
Price: USD 4,990
Time of Year: June 2023
Contact: Naturalist Journeys

Asa Wright Bird and Wildlife Experience

The half day tour to the Asa Wright Nature Centre takes visitors to Trinidad’s norther range. This tour is all about connecting with nature and enjoying all the elements of the tropical forest. The nature sanctuary is home to butterflies, amphibians, mammals, reptiles and birds. Additionally, over 160 species have been seen at Asa Wright. The list includes toucans, crested oropendolas, manakins, bellbirds, hawks, vultures, tails, cuckoos, kingfishers, motmots and jacamars. The tour also includes time to relax in a refreshing pool of mountain water.

Duration: 6 hours
Price: USD 110
Time of Year: Year Round
Contact: Destination TNT

Further Reading

Destination TNT: Birdwatching
Responsible Vacation: Birdwatching Highlights in Trinidad & Tobago
Tropical Birding: Trinidad & Tobago – Neotropic Birding & Scarlet Ibis – Birding Tour
Fat Birder: Birding Trinidad & Tobago
C. Guillaumme: Bird Watching
Oiseaux Birds: Trinidad and Tobago’s Endemic Bird Species

Image: Shaueel Persadee via Unsplash

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