Antigua's Great Bird Island: 10 Tropical Species to Spot

by Nina Peacock

Imagine wandering through the tropical Great Bird Island, surrounded by the bright sounds and beautiful sights of tropicbirds, terns, and gulls. Located northwest of the shores of mainland Antigua, this Caribbean island is a bird lover's paradise, with over 182 species of birds to observe. Stroll along the pristine shores of Bird Island and take in the marine life and native flora before you hike to the top of Great Bird, where you can see both the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, as well as a host of exotic birds native to the island.

Make this your checklist: 10 tropical birds to find on Great Bird Island. Some species are abundant, while spotting others will prove to be more challenging, but every discovery you make will unearth secrets of Antigua's vibrant wildlife.

  • West Indian Whistling Duck Identify this lovely, earth-toned fowl by the black spots that cover its brown neck and white belly, and its shrill voice. It's easiest to spot this bird in the early morning or late evening.
  • Lesser Antillean Bullfinch The males of this neotropical species are small and black, bearing an auburn spot beneath a dark gray beak. Females are a softer gray, with auburn wings, tails, and undertail covert feathers. It can be spotted at all elevations.
  • Brown Pelican Find huge brown pelicans gliding over the water, and plunging in to feed on schools of small fish. Look for a splash, then wait as the pelican emerges with its meal.
  • Red-Billed Tropicbird A prized sighting of many birdwatchers, you can distinguish this bird by its black-tipped wings, black eyeliner, and bright red bill.
  • Laughing Gull Go to the beach to find this white-bellied, gray bird with a black head and wingtips. Recognize them by their sound: piercing cries in quick succession that sound like raucous laughter.
  • Antillean Crested Hummingbird Also known as "Doctor Brushy," these common island hummingbirds are most likely to be found on flowering Dagger trees, but you can look for them on any flowering plants, as their high metabolic rates require them to feed all day.
  • Caribbean Coot This large waterbird can be found on freshwater lakes, ponds, and marshes. It resembles a duck in its size and shape, but its body is dark gray and black, and it has a distinctive white stripe that cover the front of its face and bill.
  • Royal Tern Likely to be found along a shore, this bird is tougher to find than the Least Tern on Great Bird Island — which can make spotting it incredibly worthwhile. Look for its white and gray body, black crown, and orange beak.
  • Red-Footed Booby The red-footed booby's feathers can vary in color; however, you can spot this large marine bird by its namesake characteristic: bright red feet. Look for these birds where they nest, in coastal trees and shrubs.
  • Magnificent Frigatebird Antigua has a population of 6,000 Magnificent Frigatebirds, making them members of the most populous key species on the island. The birds are aptly named: the males' red chests puff out from black feathers, and their piercing black eyes give them a dramatic appearance. Females, too, are black, but can be distinguished from males by their white breasts and lower neck sides, the brown wrap around their wings, and the blue rings around their eyes.

Consider an excursion to Great Bird Island, where you'll have ample time to search for Antigua's abundant avian treasures as you kayak, snorkel, and hike, or if you prefer, relax. To plan your journey to Antigua, explore Caribbean cruises.

Find an abundance of gulls, terns, egrets and ducks among the tropical isles of Antigua, especially on Great Bird Island, northwest of the mainland.
Find an abundance of gulls, terns, egrets and ducks among the tropical isles of Antigua, especially on Great Bird Island, northwest of the mainland.