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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

More! More! Migratory Birds

By Janice Mathurin-Poleon
Photos © Tseng Chiu-wen Hank

In the last century almost a hundred migratory species have been recorded on this island therefore they represent the majority of our avian diversity. They are seen around home gardens, shorelines or water treatment ponds.  Many of these birds are either fully protected or partially protected under the Wildlife Protection Act (1980) and by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).

Common name: Snowy Egret
Scientific name: Egretta thula brewsteri
Snowy Egret can be found in North America. It is common in the breeding season and occurs in the wetlands at Vigie, Cul de Sac and Vieux Fort.

 Common name: Blue-winged Teal
Scientific name: Anas discors
 They are normally present from October to April, and are seen in the fresh water swamps of Cul de Sac, Grand Anse and Vieux Fort.
 Common name: Lesser Yellowlegs
Scientific name: Tringa flavipes
Local name: Pied Jaune
Their best sites are the Aupicon Pond, Savannes Bay and the end of the airport in Vieux fort, Beausejour Sewage Pond, and Bois D’orange wetlands in Castries.
 Common name: Semipalmated Plover
Scientific name: Charadrius semipalmatus
Local name: Becasse a collier

They are often seen in flocks on the tidal flats of Vieux Fort, Grand Anse and the Gros Islet area.

 Common name: Red-billed Tropicbird
Scientific name: Phaethon aethereus
Local name: Trios woo

They can be seen around sea cliffs at Moule-a-chique and Maria Islands in the south end of the island during the breeding season, November to May.

For Your Information!!
IUCN-International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is the best-known worldwide conservation status listing and ranking system and was founded in 1963.

Aim: to convey the urgency of conservation issues to the public and policy makers, as well as help the international community to try to reduce species extinction.

Conservation Status by risk of extinction.
  • Extinct
  • Extinct in the Wild
  • Critically Endangered
  • Endangered
  • Vulnerable
  • Near Threatened
  • Least Concern

Meet More of our Visiting Friends - Migratory Birds

By Janice Mathurin-Poleon
Photos© Tseng Chiu-wen Hank and Jo Ann Mackenzie

As migratory birds make their journey from North America, through the Caribbean to South America they are faced with many threats on this perilous journey. It is estimated that more than 60 percent of some bird species never complete a full roundtrip migration, often due to threats such as:

  • Inadequate food and subsequent starvation
  • Collisions with windows, buildings and wind farms along migration routes
  • Stopover habitat loss from ongoing development or pollution
  • Predators, including wild animals, feral cats and loose dogs
  • Poor weather and storms that cause injury or disorientation
  • Light pollution in cities that disorients birds navigating by stars
  • Hunting, both legally regulated hunting as well as poaching
Migration is a dangerous but necessary journey for many birds. Fortunately, they are well equipped to survive the task.

Bird migration is a fascinating and inspiring phenomenon. In ancient Greece the bird of Athena represented the renewal of life. A dove, with an olive branch in its beak, returned to Noah's ark to announce the end of the deadly flood. To this day the dove has remained a symbol of peace and hope.

During the era of the Pharaohs in Egypt, the falcon had protective powers and was linked to royalty. For the Native Americans birds had different meanings, but always positive and linked to the concepts of unity, freedom, community, safe return, love and celebration of life. These birds have long affected the culture and thinking of many civilizations.

Common name: Great Egret
Scientific name: Ardea alba egretta
The Great Egret can be seen in wetlands at Vieux Fort and Cul de Sac.

Common name: Greater Yellowlegs
Scientific name: Tringa flavipes
Local name: Pied long
Pied long may be found in Vieux Fort, Cul de Sac and Bois D’orange wetlands.

 Common name: Barn Swallow
Scientific name: Hirundo rustica
Local name: Hirondelle Roux

The Barn Swallow can be seen on the island from September to October, and April to May. Habitat along the south coast over open areas such as fields and swamps, or perched on utility wires.

Common name: Blackpoll Warbler
Scientific name: Dendroica striata
Blackpoll Warbler is an uncommon migrant that occurs on the island during the months of October and November. Habitat includes mangroves, scrub forests, open areas with scattered trees and mixed woodlands.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Janice Mathurin-Poleon

Hey folks, for the past few weeks we have been sharing information with you the public on our endemic birds such as the St.Lucia Oriole and St.Lucia Pewee as well as the endemic sub-species like Black-bird and Lesser Antillean Bullfinch.  This time around we will be educating you on Migratory Birds.

St. Lucia is visited by many birds between July and November on their long journey from as far as North America and travel through the Caribbean to winter in South America.  Those birds are referred to as migratory birds. They travel from the different poles in pursuit of food, suitable breeding sites and or to escape bad weather or other environmental conditions.

They are such amazing creatures to journey thousands of miles and not get lost. I wish I had such a great internal compass.

The Caribbean Islands including St. Lucia form important resting places where the birds can feed up before continuing their long journey south.  From January to April, those birds return home, although many tend to spend less time in the Caribbean during their journey some of the migratory birds remain in the Caribbean throughout the winter rather than going to South America.

Migratory birds are of great ecological and economic value to our country. They contribute to biological diversity and bring tremendous enjoyment to St. Lucians as well as tourists who study and watch them. They add an interesting and mysterious element to our wildlife since they are only here for part of the year.

Some of the breeding sites for the migrant birds in St. Lucia are Grande Anse Ponds, Esperance mangrove, Bois D’orange swamp, Auberge Seraphine swamp in the north, Praslin mangrove, Fregate Islands on the east and Maria Islands and Point Sable in the south.

Migratory birds should not be considered as a foreign element but as an indigenous part of our wildlife. Birds such as the masked duck (Nomonyx dominica), tricoloured heron (Egretta tricolour ruficollis) and many others visit our shores annually.

We hope you look forward to meeting more of our migratory friends in our successive articles!

Enjoy nature, go bird watching today!!

Rufous-throated Solitaire and Yellow Warbler Chit Chatting!!

Janice Mathurin-Poleon

Rufous-throated solitaire: Hey! You there yellow bird, what is your name?

Yellow warbler: Why do you want to know my name?

Rufous-throated solitaire: Because I’ve never seen you around here.

Yellow warbler: In that case then, I’m Yellow warbler. I am an endemic subspecies of many Caribbean islands; Bahamas, Cuba, Martinique, Dominica, St. Lucia and others. I am known scientifically as dendroica petechia babad a mouthful I know. Just call me sucrier mang as the locals do. It’s much easier.

Rufous-throated solitaire: Why are you here in the rainforest? Where do you live?

Yellow warbler: I got distracted and found myself here. My home is confined to mangroves such as Makote, Vieux Fort and coastal scrub forests areas like Praslin. I eat mainly insects although sometimes I’ll eat small berries too. I build a neat cup-shaped nest low down in a bush or low tree.

Rufous-throated solitaire: Are you male or female?

Yellow warbler: I am male. I am 11.5-13.5cm (4.5-5.25 in). As you can see I am mostly all yellow, including patches on my outer tail feathers. My upperparts are greenish-yellow though with reddish streaks at my breast and sides. My head is yellow but with this cool, distinct reddish-brown cap.
My wife is similar to me, but she has faintly reddish streaks below with no reddish brown crown. She lays 2-3 spotted, greenish-white eggs mainly between February and June. I have told you so much about me would you mind telling me about yourself?

Rufous-throated solitaire: I am Rufous-throated solitaire, endemic subspecies of St Vincent, Jamaica, Hispaniola, Dominica, Martinique but specifically the myadestes genibarbis sanctaelucia is unique only to St Lucia. Commonly I am known here as siffleur morne.

Yellow warbler: Hey, we’re found on some of the same islands! Is this all?

Rufous-throated solitaire: I grow to a length of 19cm (7.5in). I am mostly grey above, with white chin; reddish brown throat, neck and undertail coverts; light grey breast; yellow feet; and a tail with white outer feathers. I live in the dense mountain forest of Quillesse, Micoud and Edmund Forest Reserve, Soufriere. I build my nest cup-shaped in a crevice, center of a tree fern or bromeliad. My lady love lays two eggs, bluish-white or blue with white spots during the months April to August.

Yellow warbler: I bet you love living in this tranquil environment.  It is cool and private.

Rufous-throated solitaire: Yes I do. I feel quite at peace.  The mangrove sounds like a good place but as far as I have heard, people do not understand let alone appreciate the value of your habitat. Maybe we should educate these humans on the importance of protecting and conserving the mangroves of our island.
You know they think they know everything and they just keep destroying our environment but what they don’t know is that they are destroying themselves also.

Yellow warbler: It was sure nice meeting you. Hope to see you around some time if I get distracted. Have a pleasant day.

Pere Noir (male) et Maisson (female)

 I often wonder how many of us actually take note of our environment and the different species of animals and plants that are all around us.  We often see plants and animals but do not know them by their local name let alone their scientific name.  Let’s see how well we observe them by solving the common name of this bird.

The scientific name of this bird is Loxigilla noctis sclateri and is also one of the endemic subspecies of our island. The local name is Pere Noir for male and Maisson for female.  Can you guess the Common name?

This bird is seen everywhere, they fly in your homes and business places feeding on food scrapes.  The male is black with a reddish-brown patch to the chest area unlike the female that has dark olive-grey upperparts, some brown on the wings and grayish under parts. 

It builds a round nest with a side entrance in a bush or low tree.  It usually lays two or three spotted eggs during the months of February to August.  It feeds mainly on seeds but also thrives on buds and petals of flowers as well as fruits. Pere Noir has a sharp shrill or a sharp tseep-tseep as its call. 

Have you guessed what bird I have just described or do you want to solve this simple puzzle to find out the common name?

Solve:  The numbers provided corresponds to the letters in the alphabet.

              B   I     R   D
Example:  2 – 9 – 18 - 4  

 _    _  _   _ _   _        _  _   _  _  _   _  _  _  _       _  _    _   _ _  _  _  _ _
12 -5-19-19-5-18       1-14-20-9-12-12-5-1-14               2 -21-12-12-6-9-14-3-8

Say Hi to the Lesser Antillean Flycatcher (Myiarchus oberi sanctaeluciae) Pipirite Gros Tête

By: Nicole La Force (Forestry Department)

For the past weeks we have been writing about our endemic and sub-endemic birds. We hope that it has been an eye opener and that your appreciation for the beautiful birds found here is growing.

Birds serve many wonderful functions which enrich our ecosystems and our lives. Birds are great pollinators as well as seed dispersers ensuring the continuity of our plant species; not only locally but also regionally. Regional ecosystems develop diversity as this process continues. It can be seen as a mutual relationship, as well, because the migratory birds will help to build and maintain an area where they can feed and nest.

Birds also play a role in the predator/prey relationship in forest ecosystems. Though the majority of bird species eat only fruit, some eat insects and larger birds kill live prey to eat. These omnivorous and carnivorous species play an important role in maintaining healthy populations of small mammals and reptiles. In forest ecosystems that lack adequate bird populations, these smaller animals begin to overtake the area, causing disturbance in the food chain and overall ecosystem.

Today we are going to meet the Lesser Antillean Flycatcher or Pipirite Gros Tête as it is locally called. It is a beautiful bird which is a bit elusive. It grows to a length of 19–22cm (7.5–8.5 in) with mostly yellow underparts from the upper belly to the undertail coverts. The tail feathers have reddish inner webs. It has a loud voice with a mournful whistle peeu-wheeet and also a short whistles oo-ee, oo-ee, or e-oo-ee. Its head is relatively larger in proportion to its body hence the name Pipirite Gros Tête.

Locally it is found in the transition forest at medium elevation and in the rainforest in the interior of the Castries Water Works Reserve, Quilesse, Edmund Forest and Millet areas.

The breeding season is from March to July.  The nest is made of loose plant fibers, feathers and is built in a tree cavity, where the female lays 3 to 4 creamy buff eggs, heavily spotted and scrawled with purplish-brown and violet-grey. 
Flycatchers are agile fliers who catch their prey while flying. They feed extensively on true flies caterpillars, other winged insects and also beetles. These birds are premiere pest insect controllers.
So go out in nature and enjoy the beautiful birds and appreciate their wondrous song!!

Beauty Queens Scaly-breasted Thrasher & Carib Grackle.

By: Jeannette Victor & Khervelle Pamphile

It’s here once again the most anticipated show of the year; The National Bird Beauty Pageant. Come one come all, this show will be an exciting and extravagant one. Miss it and you miss out on all the excitement!!!!!!

Carib Grackle:  My girl, you eh see the poster for the Beauty Pageant yet?

Scaly- breasted Thrasher: What poster? What Beauty Pageant? What you talking about  deh girl?
Carib Grackle: The Annual Beauty Pageant that will be held next Saturday. You know, the show most people look forward to every year.

Scaly-breasted Thrasher: Oh!  You mean the show that full of excitement and various beauties put their all to capture the crown.

Carib Grackle: Yes pal, “that show”.  This year I want to take part so I will need some help to practice my intro, will you be kind enough to do so?

Scaly-breasted Thrasher : Hmmm, you are not the only one who wants that title. I’m entering too. So we work as a team and help each other with our weak areas.                                 
Carib Grackle: What a brilliant idea! If either of us wins we could bask in the ambience of winning and as friends celebrate together.

Scaly-breasted Thrasher: Well let’s not waste any more time. Let’s work on our intro You go first.

Carib Grackle:  Good evening distinguished guest, ladies and gentlemen of the Animal Kingdom, I am known scientifically as Quiscalus lugubris inflexirostris, locally as Blackbird or Carib Grackle or Merle.  I am quite handsome with my jet black feathers and a violet, green or steel-blue gloss. To compliment my appearance I have a yellowish-white iris and a long V shaped tail. My chaperon who is also my companion is smaller and dark- grey overall.  I must say that I cherish her for she lays three to four greenish-blue eggs with black scrawls in our home, a bulky structure made of grass, plant fibers and leaves with a deep central cup that sits on a tree.  We thrive on insects and could be seen almost everywhere in St. Lucia.  Thanks for coming out to support me and will be sure not to disappoint you my fans.

Scaly-breasted ThrasherShort, sweet and straight to the point. Wonderfully said.  Let me see if I could do    better .  Protocol established I will forge ahead.  Though I may be considered a shy individual I will wow you the audience this evening.  Margarops     fuscus     schwartzi is the name those scientists refer to me as but  you know me as Scaly-breasted Thrasher and your elders as Grieve. I belong to the Thrasher family which consists of three of us. My under-part is white and heavily   scaled  with grayish-brown from my Throat to my belly. I have one white wing-bar, yellow-brown eye and a   Black bill with white tail tips. I live comfortably in a rough cup-shape nest built in a tree in which my wife lays two or three greenish-  blue eggs. I may not have the looks but I sure have the talent to walk away with this Crown tonight.  So sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.
Carib Grackle:  Looks like the competition will be tight so I am off to put some finishing touches on my costume and evening wear.  Good luck and see you after the pageant.

Scaly-breasted Thrasher:  Thanks. Good luck to you too and may the best bird win!