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The Best of Trinidad and Tobago: Birding and Wildlife

An Introduction to Trinidad & Tobago

Widely considered to be the most measured introduction into the world of Neotropical birding, Trinidad and Tobago’s impressive species list of just under 500 boasts representatives in almost all the major families of the Neotropics. Lush tropical jungles, wetlands, and savannas filled with a seemingly unending variety of birds ranging from outlandish to cryptic, the Neotropics awes, inspires, and intimidates simultaneously. Thousands of species are scattered across the vast region spanning Central and South America; the sheer diversity of charismatic and iconic birds attracts birders of all levels. While the Caribbean typically doesn’t come to mind when considering this region and tends to be known more for its expansive, coconut tree-dotted, white-sand beaches with an azure ocean gently lapping at its shores – the twin-island nation of Trinidad & Tobago begs to differ. 

Trinidad & Tobago, the southernmost islands of the archipelago, are geologically distinct and actually belong to South America. Both islands are recently separated from the mainland; Tobago has a longer history as an island than its larger neighbor, having drifted eastward from where Panama is today. Each island has its own unique set of natural attractions, which must be experienced together to fully appreciate how one complements the other. Due to the relatively small size of the islands themselves, one can easily enjoy birding in multiple habitats during a single day. 

Whether it is the glimmer of the Ruby-topaz Hummingbird’s magnificent crown and gorget combination or the miniscule yet ornate Tufted Coquette, hummingbirds in particular, captivate all aspects of the imagination. In addition to these tiny jewels, a host of tanagers, honeycreepers, woodpeckers, manakins, and even a selection of intricately patterned nightjars constitute the cast of resident species. Single members of the toucan, jacamar, motmot, and cotinga family are also resident on the islands. Enigmatic birds such as the secretive Limpkin and otherworldly Oilbird can be seen all year round. 

In the month of April, most resident birds are in the throes of courtship, with fresh plumage and surging hormones even the usually plain white Cattle Egret elicits gasps with its deep pink legs and purple lores. Because birds are so intent on propagating their genes, patient observers have the opportunity to observe males presenting gifts, putting forward their best dance moves, and singing their most perfect melodies. 

Further to this, birding T&T in April straddles two significant nesting periods for pelagic birds that are decidedly difficult to see elsewhere. The northernmost islets off the coast of Tobago are only a short distance away from the edge of the continental shelf as it gives way to the deep water of the Atlantic Ocean. The currents passing through here have already accumulated nutrients from the northbound journey along the eastern coast of South America. This confluence of circumstances makes the waters in this area especially rich, supporting several species of seabirds. At this time of year, Red-billed Tropicbirds are fledging the last of the season’s young while thousands of Laughing Gulls in full breeding regalia jostle for position among the succulents. Sooty Terns, Bridled Terns, and Brown Noddies make use of the precipitous landscape as well until their young fledge. 

April is also a special time for migratory birds, as many are fattening up for the return to their breeding grounds. On the western mudflats, groups of shorebirds begin to swell in number. Red Knots burst into breeding plumage before heading north. At the same time, Large-billed Terns and Yellow-billed Terns begin to appear alongside while thousands of Fork-tailed Flycatchers form an endless stream overhead, all serving to create an odd juxtaposition of birds from different continents. Meanwhile, on the beaches on the opposite side of the island, the nesting season for giant Leatherback Turtles is in full swing.

From the emblematic and unforgettable experience of watching thousands of Scarlet Ibis return to their roost in the Caroni Swamp to catching a glimpse of the critically endangered Trinidad Piping-Guan as it deftly negotiates moss-covered branches to sip water collected in bromeliads, experiences are both authentic and enriching. As a cherry on top of a beautiful trip, the Asa Wright Nature Center will be open again, and we will spend a few nights at this world-renowned birding lodge.

Want to learn more about the bird and wildlife highlights on this trip? Click here to read through the trip’s tentative itinerary.

Register today to travel with us to Trinidad & Tobago!

Join us and local guide, Faraaz Abdool in Trinidad and Tobago where we’ll visit all of the birding hotspots with a special focus on the dizzying array of easy-to-see, gorgeous hummingbirds and other neotropical species. From the unforgettable experience of watching thousands of Scarlet Ibis return to their roost, to catching a glimpse of the critically endangered Trinidad Piping-Guan sipping water from a bromeliad, you are sure to have the trip of a lifetime!

Register!

Trip Details

Trip Leaders: Faraaz Abdool and Brodie Cass Talbott
Fee: $6,495 members / $7,095 non-members
Deposit: $3250
Single supplement: $1050
Includes: All lodging, ground transport and air transportation between islands, all food and beverages, park entrance fees, guide fees, boat fees
Excludes: Airfare to and from Port of Spain, alcoholic beverages
Limited to 14 participants.
Itinerary: Tentative Itinerary and Bird and Wildlife Highlights

Details

Start:
April 1
End:
April 15
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Organizer

Tara Lemezis
Email:
tlemezis@birdallianceoregon.org