Avid and novice bird watchers alike will enjoy the aviary experience St. Croix offers. There are seasonal appearances by certain species, as well as resident birds who make St. Croix their home year round. While you will see some of our feathered friends as you drive through the rainforest, visit the beaches, or go about your daily activities, Southgate Coastal Reserve is an especially great place to go birding here on the island. The diversity of the reserve makes it home to a large variety of birds including shorebirds, seabirds, waterfowl, birds of prey, wading birds, and perching birds.
Southgate Coastal Reserve is located a little over 3 miles east of Christiansted, between Green Cay Marina and Chenay Bay Beach Resort and can be reached via the beach access road east of Green Cay Marina. The reserve totals 100 acres and includes a coastal salt pond, mangrove forest, beach forest and upland grassland. The pond and surrounding wetlands provide a habitat for many resident and migrant birds, including several threatened or endangered species (and one very lost Flamingo). The St. Croix Environmental Association (or ‘SEA’) has carefully assessed Southgate’s habitats and is gathering community support for development of the site for bird watching, education and recreation activities. In fact, SEA recently completed a trail with a bird blind overlooking Southgate Pond, which you can read more about here.
For those interested in learning more about the birds you see here on the island, SEA leads bird watching tours. On these birding tours, SEA provides an expert guide to take you into the reserve with minimal disruption to the birds’ activities, that way you can see these winged beauties in their natural environment. Some of the more commonly seen birds that make the reserve their home include: Pelicans, Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, Blue Herons, Least Terns, Wilson’s Plovers, White-cheeked Pintails, and Stilt Sandpipers. Keep an eye out for Scaly-necked Pigeons, Bananaquits, Green-throated Caribs, and Ospreys as well. If you are lucky, you may also spot St. Croix’s ‘resident’ American Flamingo. This lovely pink bird first was seen on St. Croix feeding in Mannings Bay on the island’s south shore after Hurricane Otto in October 2010. Since flamingos are not typically migratory birds, local birders believe the storm may have pushed the flamingo into the territory.
According to vibirdhabitat.com: ‘The USVI is home to a rich Caribbean culture and hosts visitors from around the world, including birds! Declines in bird counts and damage to coastal wetlands over the past few decades highlight the need to restore the habitats used by our feathered friends. Scientists are spearheading an effort to evaluate the condition of wetlands across the territory and develop restoration plans for sites that need the help.’ To find out how you can help, visit vibirdhabitat.com.
Whether you are a first time bird watcher or a novice, please remember to be respectful and enjoy watching these creatures acting and interacting in their natural environment. Here are some important things to remember while bird watching:
- Avoid chasing or flushing the birds.
- Walk slowly and quietly, and stay concealed.
- Observe and photograph birds without disturbing them (cars work great as blinds).
- Avoid using recordings to attract birds.
- Stay on existing roads and trails to avoid trampling fragile habitats.
- Do not disturb nesting birds, or tamper with an exposed nest, regardless of whether there are visible eggs.
- Leave all habitats as you find them and do not litter, some birds might mistake garbage for food.
- In general, act in ways that do not endanger the welfare of wildlife and that do not harm the environment.
If you would like to know what birds you may see here on St. Croix, you can download a copy of the USGS Birding Checklist to take with you. To make sure you have the best experience possible, make sure to wear sturdy shoes that you don’t mind getting muddy, and protect yourself from the sun and the bugs by wearing a hat and covering your exposed skin with waterproof sunblock and bug repellent. If you have them, you will also want to bring binoculars so you can get a closer view and a field guide for bird identification. As with any activity here on St. Croix, you will also want to bring plenty of drinking water, and maybe a snack or lunch. Enjoy your time watching the feathered residents of St. Croix!
– Jennie Ogden, Editor
Conservation, Education & Advocacy! A non-profit, membership driven organization, SEA is committed to protecting and conserving the beautiful island environment of St. Croix. By creating innovative environmental education programs for…
- St. Croix Now a National Heritage Area
- Jewelry Collections for a Cause
- Chasing Coral on St. Croix
- Respect the Leatherback Sea Turtles
- Hawksbill Turtle Watch
- Birding at Southgate Coastal Reserve
- Volunteer or Donate!
- A Hike through Canaan Gut