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A Report from

Grenada, West Indies, 14-28 February 2008,

Clive Viney

Grenada is the smallest sovereign state in the western hemisphere and has the dubious distinction of having been invaded by the United States of America. President Ronald Regan launched Operation Urgent Fury on 25th October 1983; 12,000 US marines and a token force from other Caribbean countries were involved.

From the air, Grenada looks like many other Caribbean islands – hilly and green and peppered with houses especially around the edges.

Hurricanes rarely hit Grenada, so the islanders were ill-prepared for disaster. On the night of 6th September 2004, Hurricane Ivan headed south towards Barbados – it had been almost 50 years since Grenada had been hit by Hurricane Janet. During 7th September Hurricane Ivan scored a direct hit on the southern parishes of Grenada – the capital, St George’s and the hotels along Grand Anse took the full brunt of the storm. In a few devastating hours Grenada’s tourist and nutmeg industries (the mainstays of the economy) were all but destroyed. Forests everywhere were turned into matchwood. Many hotels were rebuilt and very slowly the nutmeg industry is recovering but sadly the forests remain devastated.

Today Grenada has much to offer visitors – wonderful beaches, friendly people, a crime-free environment, a photogenic capital and an exciting island to explore. It is a great place for a family holiday with a birding element.

For hardened birders there may not be much to excite but every list builder will have to come one day to tick Grenada Dove, currently the island’s only endemic. The near endemics are Hook-billed Kite, Grenada Flycatcher, Lesser Antillean Tanager and to be on the safe side the local races of House Wren and Lesser Antillean Bullfinch should be seen. It would be easy enough to include Grenada on a visit to other Windward Islands and/or Trinidad and Tobago.

Being the southernmost of the Windward Islands, North American migrants are few and far between. Wood warblers, for example, are not often encountered outside the main passage periods. Very few species have crept northwards from Trinidad and Tobago. Some species listed in standard works as occurring on the island either no longer occur or were never there; these include Scarlet Ibis, Purple-throated Carib, Euler’s Flycatcher, Scaly-breasted Thrasher, Brown Trembler and Antillean Euphonia. On the plus side, Hook-billed Kite is more numerous than previously thought and Grenada Dove survived the hurricane but, sadly, is now seriously threatened by habitat destruction.

Trip reports normally include detailed information on access but my strong advice is to engage a good guide and this is especially important with respect to the fluid situation at the key site - Mount Hartman Estate. It would be very difficult to find and see Grenada Dove without a guide and in truth Hook-billed Kite requires knowledgeable separation from the much commoner Broad-winged Hawk. The choice of guide is simple as there is only one worthwhile guide in Grenada and he is Anthony Jeremiah “Jerry” who works for the Forestry Department. Birdwatching is not a Grenadian pastime and it may well be that Jerry is the only serious birder on the island. I found Jerry through and his contact telephone numbers are 1-473-440-0393/2934 and 1-473-416-0191 (cell phone) and email . I found his rates reasonable and he uses his own 4WD vehicle - I was on my own and obviously for a group of birders it would be much cheaper. Bear in mind that taxis and car hire on the island are expensive and that signage and decent maps are almost nonexistent. Jerry is keen and enthusiastic and eager to meet other birders; he is making a stand for Grenada’s birdlife and needs your support.

If you’re visiting Grenada for a family holiday then just one or two days of the break would be enough time to see the island’s birds. I stayed with Barbara, my oft-neglected wife, in the comfortable Coyaba Beach Resort on the spectacular Grand Anse Beach. However, by far the best hotel for birders on a brief stopover is Rex Resorts Grenadian Hotel at Point Salines; very close to the international airport and within easy striking distance of the Mount Hartman Estate. Importantly, in the hotel grounds are two large ponds (small lakes) that are attractive to waterfowl and would get any Grenadian list off to a good start.

Where I watched birds

Bird names (except for anglicised spelling) follow those in Birds of the West Indies by Herbert Raffaele, James Wiley, Orlando Garrido, Allan Keith and Janis Raffaele published by Christopher Helm in 2003.

Grand Anse and Mourne Rouge Bay

All within walking distance of the Coyaba Beach Resort. During a 14-day stay it didn’t take long to get to know the regular players. The common birds in the hotel grounds were Eared Dove, Common Ground Dove, Grey Kingbird, Tropical Mockingbird, Bananaquit (melanistic and normal forms), Black-faced Grassquit, Carib Crackle and Shiny Cowbird. Cattle Egrets and Green Herons occurred just outside and over the sea were Magnificent Frigatebirds and Royal Terns. Less common species in the area were Great Blue Heron, American Kestrel, Sanderling, Scaly-naped Pigeon, Zenaida Dove, Smooth-billed Ani, Antillean Crested Hummingbird, Grenada Flycatcher, Caribbean Martin and Lesser Antillean Bullfinch. Garman’s Ground Lizard (known to Grenadians as zaggada) was everywhere and seemed to come in a range of sizes and colour variations – it ignored people. Piping Frogs called at night. The most obvious butterflies were Monarch, Caribbean Buckeye, White Peacock, Gulf Fritillary and the large yellow sulphurs, some with a touch of orange - three similar species occur in the Windward Islands.

St George’s

The capital is a pretty but ramshackle place and the devastation caused by Hurricane Ivan was still obvious. Birdlife is limited to the usual pigeons and the common birds seen around the hotel. The harbour attracted Magnificent Frigatebirds, a small flock of Laughing Gulls and Royal Terns.

Pelagic to Carricou and Petite Martinique

Grenada includes the southern islands of the Grenadines - Carriacou and Petite Martinique are the two populated islands. The Osprey, a fast catamaran ferry, plies daily to these islands and provides a good opportunity to look for seabirds. Unfortunately on the day I chose a heavy swell on the outward journey made viewing difficult. Many Brown Boobies and Magnificent Frigatebirds, fewer Royal Terns and Laughing Gulls and around Carriacou one or two Brown Pelicans, which are uncommon in Grenada. No cetaceans were seen but lots of flying fish. 

Concord Falls

With Barbara and our non-birding friends, I chartered a minibus to take us around the island for a day. Well worth doing for sightseeing but frustrating for a binocular wielder. Our first stop was Concord Falls well up a lush valley where plenty of cabbages were growing. Here I had my first encounter with the island’s distinctive race of the House Wren but it was not an obviously birdy place.

Levera Pond

Situated in the extreme northeast of the island, Levera Pond is one of Grenada’s few birding sites. Visited briefly on the grand tour and quite difficult to find but eventually I stumbled upon a surprisingly small pond that must have been the site. In the short time available I could find no way of viewing the extensive mangroves. I could sense developers. There were birds: a Pied-billed Grebe graced the pond, Caribbean Martins flew overhead, Grey Kingbirds were obvious, a House Wren showed well and two hawks were carelessly dismissed as Broad-winged Hawks.

Lake Antoine

Not far from Levera Pond, I was much impressed by Lake Antoine, a classic crater lake. The only observation point is on a high and distant road. Around the well-vegetated margins were plenty of waterfowl but I badly needed a telescope. A sizeable duck with ducklings was a whistling duck but which species as both West Indian and Fulvous are rare on Grenada and according to the literature neither breeds on the island? The coots must have been Caribbean Coots, the egrets Great Egrets, the small diving ducks Ruddy Ducks, the grebes a mix of Pied-billed and Least and Common Moorhens moved in and out of the reeds. As we left the area we saw a Burmese Mongoose, an introduced species that has become a pest.

Grand Etang Lake

Our last stop on the island tour was Grand Etang Lake in the mountainous heart of the island – another crater lake. Two smart Mona Monkeys were well seen – they were introduced from West Africa during the time of the slave trade. High in this central region the devastation caused by Hurricane Ivan was still obvious. I believe that it is safe to say that Grenada’s primary forest – rainforest to some – was destroyed. The lake and the secondary growth seemed devoid of birdlife but it was late afternoon and time was short. This would be an area best visited with a guide.

Point Salines

On my morning’s birding with Jerry, he first took me to Rex Resorts Grenadian Hotel at Point Salines close to the airport. The pools in the hotel grounds were easy to walk round and held a good variety of birds including Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret (uncommon on the island), Green Heron, Yellow-crowned Night Heron and Spotted Sandpiper. Jerry said that the birding was always worthwhile there.

Mount Hartman Estate

Entering the area we forsook tarmac for deeply rutted tracks, which in places would have been impassable in a saloon car. We parked close to a fenced and locked interpretation centre (it was a Saturday). The hillsides were a mass of flowering Gliricidia Trees that are a major component of the dry, thorny forest in this south-western corner of the island, which is vital for the endemic Grenada Dove. Quickly Jerry locked onto calling Grenada Doves – a sort of double-note depressed hoot repeated rhythmically. We scrambled through thick thorn scrub, sometimes on all fours, to the source of the calling. Evidently we were lucky as early morning rain had encouraged the doves to call. Jerry soon found one on a tree branch in dense woodland with strong secondary growth but I just could not get on to the bird. Another flew to the ground and was immediately lost in the tangled field layer. We waited for a few more minutes and the dove on the branch moved and I had a good view albeit in bits – back, underparts and then the head. Then another flew down to the ground less than ten metres away and walked into a beam of sunlight. For several minutes it provided perfect poster views (it’s on posters all over the island). The picture in Raffaele’s Birds of the West Indies does not do the bird justice. In sunlight it’s much brighter and a subtly more colourful bird – especially obvious and not depicted is the white edge to the bend of the folded wing. Without Jerry’s intimate knowledge of the bird I would have had little hope of seeing it.

Our next target in the Mount Hartman Estate was Hook-billed Kite. Jerry explained that although the kite is more widespread than originally thought, this area remained the best place to find them. He led me up a steep and slippery trail that tunnelled through thorny secondary growth. It was hard work but every now and again we stopped to scour visible trees as often these snail-eating kites are seen perched or hunting their quarry on the trees. We found a perched Osprey but no kites. Spishing brought in melanistic Bananaquits, Lesser Antillean Bullfinches, a Bare-eyed Robin and a very obliging Yellow-bellied Elaenia. I was surprised by the dearth of hummingbirds especially with flowering trees all around– we saw just two Antillean Crested Hummingbirds. Jerry explained that following Hurricane Ivan the hummingbird population had crashed – the once common Green-throated Carib is now rare. In the hills Rufous-breasted Hermit survives but is far less common than formerly.

We drove down to a saltpond in the mangroves but it was dry. Fortunately two Hook-billed Kites flew over and Jerry took me through the distinguishing field marks that separate this species from the much commoner Broad-winged Hawk: blunt almost square wings, fluttery flight and heavily barred underwings. Now I had Grenada’s big two under my belt and could relax.

Jerry loves the Mount Hartman Estate, which theoretically remains a nature reserve - he explained that it was the last easily accessible wilderness area in Grenada. He took me to a viewpoint overlooking Hog Island, not far from Mount Hartman Point, and calmly produced an approved developer’s plan for the destruction of the area. In brief, the coastal lowlands would become a golf course and a web of estate roads including a bridge to Hog Island would trail ribbon developments of villas and apartments all over the area. Part of Jerry’s brief in the Forestry Department is to save what he can of the unspoiled natural environment but on an island where tourism is the buzz word and money talks he has an uphill battle. The first plan totally destroyed the habitat of the Grenada Dove but a compromise plan left some hillsides untouched and perhaps the faintest glimmer of hope. During the morning I saw much of southern Grenada and noted that everywhere else was given over to small settlements or, along the coast, tourist development and luxury estates. Surely the Mount Hartman Estate could have been left as a nature reserve?

Westerhall Point

Amid the luxury villas at Westerhall Point Jerry and I watched an obliging Grenada Flycatcher and not far away two more Hook-billed Kites and for good measure and useful comparison Broad-winged Hawks. A huge bright green Iguana was spotted on a tree trunk. We stopped by rank grassland next to a cricket ground and found Blue-black Grassquits and a party of Smooth-billed Anis. The local House Wrens were noisy and put on another good show – a bird that I will never tire of - to encourage ecotourism it should be made a full species (Birdquest regard it as such) and thereby Grenada’s second endemic.

La Sagesse

I’d heard much about La Sagesse Bay and it did not disappoint and like all beaches this beautiful bay is a public beach – straight out of a Bacardi Rum advert. The small hotel boasts a nature reserve – nonsense, the saltponds hidden behind the mangroves are nothing to do with the hotel. Nobody in the hotel knows anything about birds! Without Jerry I would have missed the ponds. Breeding Caribbean Coots were easy to see and I was surprised to again see a Least Grebe as until recently this species was unknown in the Lesser Antilles. Also on these wetlands were Common Moorhen, Wilson’s Snipe, Greater Yellowlegs and we heard Mangrove Cuckoo. In a small wood inland from the ponds Jerry spished up a pair of smart Antillean Tanagers and the good views of these birds brought the morning’s birding to a close. Jerry would have been happy to go on up into the mountains to make up the list but I was there the day before. It was midday and getting hot so we settled for a couple of icy beers in the hotel’s beachfront bar. We chatted about birding in Grenada. Imagine being the only birder in a country? If I ever returned to Grenada for another family holiday I would stay at La Sagesse – just twelve comfortable rooms in an old plantation house, a great restaurant and bar, a beach to die for and birding on tap. What more could anyone ask for?   

Least Grebe

Lake Antoine & La Sagesse

Pied-billed Grebe

Levera Pond & Lake Antoine

Brown Booby

common offshore

Brown Pelican

uncommon offshore

Magnificent Frigatebird

common offshore 

Great Blue Heron

found in suitable habitat

Great Egret

found in suitable habitat

Snowy Egret

Point Salines

Little Blue Heron

found in suitable habitat

Cattle Egret


Green Heron

found in suitable habitat

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

found in suitable habitat

whistling-duck sp

Lake Antoine (breeding)

Ruddy Duck

Lake Antoine


Mt Hartman & La Sagesse -3

Hook-billed Kite

Mt Hartman & Westerhall Bay – 2 pairs

Broad-winged Hawk


American Kestrel

Grand Anse

Common Moorhen

found in suitable habitat

Caribbean Coot

Lake Antoine & La Sagesse (breeding)

Greater Yellowlegs

La Sagesse - 2


Grand Anse

Wilson's Snipe

La Sagesse

Spotted Sandpiper

found in suitable habitat

Laughing Gull

St George’s -10+

Royal Tern

fairly common offshore

Rock Dove

St George’s (usual town pigeons)

Scaly-naped Pigeon

uncommon but widespread

Zenaida Dove

Grande Anse & environs - uncommon

Eared Dove


Common Ground Dove


Grenada Dove

Mt Hartman – 5+

Mangrove Cuckoo

La Sagesse

Smooth-billed Ani

fairly common

Antillean Crested Hummingbird

Grand Anse, Mourne Rouge Bay & Mt Hartman

Yellow-bellied Elaenia

Mt Hartman

Grenada Flycatcher

Westerall Bay & Mourne Rouge

Grey Kingbird


Caribbean Martin

fairly common

House Wren

fairly common

Bare-eyed Robin

Mount Hartman

Tropical Mockingbird



common – melanistic & normal forms

Lesser Antillean Tanager

La Sagesse - pair

Blue-black Grassquit

Near La Sagesse

Black-faced Grassquit


Lesser Antillean Bullfinch


Carib Grackle


Shiny Cowbird

Grand Anse


49 species


Clive Viney, Tavira, Portugal, 3rd April 2008


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