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  • Merri-Lee M.

Birds of Tobago

Rufous-tailed Jacamar (Female)

The island of Tobago, although small, offers visitors the opportunity to a see a surprising number of lovely birds. During our week on the island, we were treated to views of some stunning avian residents.

We spent the first 4 days at the Mount Irvine Bay Resort, where there was a Bougainvillea patch along the edge of a small forest. I was surprised by all of the activity in the flowers and trees...

A small flock of Green-rumped Parrotlets flew in (noisily) every morning to feed on Lantana seeds and other berries. The male has a blue patch on each wing, and the female has yellow shading on her forehead.

Female and Male:

Parrots of all types wear a perpetual smile, don’t they?

One of the birds I had hoped to see in Tobago was the Barred Antshrike. I was thrilled when a little female Antshrike flew in and landed on a stem not far from where I was standing. She was moving quickly, and I only had a few seconds.....

While walking along the shore, I found another Antshrike hunting for insects in the trees. She looks quite different without her crest raised.

The male was even more difficult to see and photograph. He rarely came out into the open, and zipped around in the underbrush behind leaves and branches. His colouring is totally different from the female’s rusty coat.

Bananaquits were everywhere, enjoying the nectar from the abundance of blooms, and chatting among themselves.

A Rufous-tailed Jacamar appeared on a branch at the edge of the forest in the early morning, and was soon joined by her mate. The pair spent some time diving through the air for insects, always returning to the same perch.

There was a pair of Rufous-tailed Jacamars at the Mt. Irvine Bay Resort; we saw another pair near the entrance to the Rainforest, and others singly around the island. They did not seem to mind the presence of humans. The Jacamar seems to me to be a combination of a Hummingbird and a Kingfisher! The female has a buff-coloured throat, while the male’s throat is pure white.



A pair of White-lined Tanagers was foraging in the garden. (Apparently they are almost always seen in pairs.) The female is rufous-coloured, and I watched her catching insects in midair, in much the same way a Flycatcher would hunt for food.

The male is jet black with a “white line” on the underside of the wings that is very noticeable in flight. This fellow stuck his bill behind a leaf just as I took his picture, then flew off.

The Blue-gray Tanager is a common visitor to banana feeders and open-air restaurants in Tobago.

One morning at breakfast, we watched this lovely blue bird trying to lift the cover off a tray of “people food”!

The Palm Tanager is also a social bird, and joins the Blue-gray Tanager at feeders and buffets! This one was enjoying bananas in a tree at the Georges’ home.

Pairs of Black-faced Grassquits foraged for seeds at the Mt. Irvine Bay Resort, and sang their buzzy songs.

The Pale-vented Pigeon can be seen on the southern part of the island,

as can the Eared Dove.

One evening, a White-tailed Nightjar flew into the open air lobby, and was resting, stunned (perhaps from hitting a window or wall) on the floor. I moved it carefully outside, and set it in a garden away from the building. It was gone in the morning, and I am choosing to believe that it flew off to safety in the night....

Along the shore at Mt. Irvine Bay, Ruddy Turnstones and Sanderlings foraged in the sand all day long.

This Turnstone is wearing a band...

On a boat trip on our way to do some snorkelling, we spotted a pair of Blue-and-white Swallows.

Flycatchers appeared in the early morning and late afternoon on the outskirts of the property, and dove through the air in search of insects. I am hoping that I have identified these birds correctly! Please let me know if you have other ideas....

Yellow-breasted Flycatcher

Brown-crested Flycatcher

Ochre-bellied Flycatcher (into the sun!)

Yellow-bellied Elaenia

When we moved north to the Blue Waters Inn, we saw more Flycatchers:

Yellow-bellied Elaenia (at dusk, and the yellow is faded)

Fuscous Flycatcher

Venezuelan Flycatcher

Brown-crested Flycatcher

We travelled to the Rainforest one morning, and stopped by the side of the road to watch a Yellow-crowned Night Heron wading, then climbing about in a tree over the stream.

A Tricoloured Heron was fishing in the reeds and grasses.

A little further along the road, in a tall tree, a Common Potoo pretended to be a tree branch, with his face hidden.

There was an adult male Collared Trogon, in all of his colourful splendour, in a forest near Speyside.

He was checking the sky for....?

In a different forested area near Speyside, there was another Collared Trogon, this time a juvenile with less patterning on the tail and wings, and less intense colour than the adult.

The Crested Oropendola has a shiny black coat, bright blue eyes, and a yellow bill and tail feathers.

Oropendolas and Orioles are related, and build the same long, hanging nests. Newton found one on the ground.

In his yard, an Oropendola fed on bananas.

In the Rainforest, and along the roadsides, we saw some real treasures. Orange-winged Parrots flew overhead, squawking loudly, and stopping to feed high in the trees.

A Rufous-breasted Wren treated us to a song. (And moved too quickly for me to get a clear shot!)

The striking White-fringed Antwren is another fast-moving little fellow.

The male has a jet black band from throat to tail.

A White-necked Thrush scuttled through leaves on the forest floor.

A little male Blue-backed Manakin made us work very hard in order to see him deep in the undergrowth. It was all worthwhile when he popped into view briefly in the morning sunlight. What a thrill to see this guy!

On the roadside once more, we were lucky enough to see several gorgeous Golden-olive Woodpeckers.

The other Woodpeckers that we saw were Red-crowned Woodpeckers, cleaning out a hole in preparation for their nursery, on the grounds at the Blue Waters Inn.

The female worked for quite some time,

and then the male showed up to take a turn

(and mess up his hair).

A flock of Smooth-billed Anis dropped in along the roadside near Speyside. Their sweet faces are like no others!

We visited a wetland on the Tobago Plantation on our way back from the Rainforest. The plants in the pond are works of art in their own right!

There was a Mama Wattled Jacana wandering through the water jungle with her 2 little ones. They had inherited her oversized feet, and had no trouble walking on the large leaves.

A Purple Gallinule was feeding in the same pond. These birds seem to share a Hummingbird’s iridescence -- so shimmery in the sunlight.

A female Anhinga rested in a tree at the side of the pond,

and a flock of Southern Lapwings watched the action from the shore. This large, crested Plover has become very common on Tobago. (They make our Piping Plovers look pretty tiny!)

On the day that we were visiting, the Lapwings were very talkative.

Back at the resorts, we saw plenty of Chachalacas (the National Bird of Tobago -- not sure they would be my choice given all the options, but nobody asked me!). There was a large flock of Chachalacas outside the open air restaurant at the Blue Waters Inn, in the trees, and they were the “resident roosters” : every morning, their not-to-be-ignored sound was our wakeup call.

They love bananas too.

A young Yellow-headed Caracara landed high in a tree and preened for a few minutes before heading out for more hunting adventures.

The Spectacled Thrush, with its unmistakable yellow eye ring, could be seen on the grounds at the Blue Waters Inn,

and in palm trees.

While I was watching, a Spectacled Thrush flew into a tree where a Red-crowned Woodpecker was feeding, hoping to share....

but theWoodpecker wasn’t so sure about sharing.

The Trinidad Motmot is one of the most spectacular birds in Tobago. Motmots, while beautiful, are one of the main predators of Hummingbirds' (and other Birds') eggs and young. But they sure are lovely....

I am guessing that this Motmot has not yet lost the barbs on its tail feathers that create the “racquets”. (Or has it lost its racquets to a predator?) He/she often appeared, and hunted for insects, while I was standing out behind the tennis courts at the Blue Waters Inn looking for Antshrikes and Antwrens.

A very relaxed Motmot was sunning (anting?) by the side of the road.


I was completely thrilled with all of the beautiful creatures that we saw in Tobago. Although I had "read up” before leaving, I wasn’t prepared for the diversity and numbers of birds that we were able to find. There were many sightings right around Mt. Irvine Bay Resort and Blue Waters Inn (in spite of the presence of a couple of “hotel cats”-- I guess they are well fed).

Once we hooked up with our excellent guide, Newton George, we discovered all sorts of “secret spots” that we would never have found on our own.

As I look out my window at the snow and freezing rain this morning, I think back to a warm, colourful week in idyllic Tobago. It was truly an awe-inspiring experience.

And now I will go outside and spread some corn for the hungry Horned Larks that appeared this morning.....


*I used Richard ffrench’s book, “A Guide to the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago” to help with identification and information. I also had the help of several experts in Tobago (thanks to Randy at Blue Waters Inn, Newton George, and other birders...) Birds are ID’d to the best of my ability, but I appreciate your comments/corrections. Click on the “Contact” page, and let me know if you have suggestions or opinions!

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