ABOUT WEST INDIES BIRDING
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The West Indies is a region rather than a country, but it's convenient to treat it's various constituent islands together. The region can be subdivided into three subregions, the Greater Antilles, Lesser Antilles, and the Lucayan Archipelago. The Antilles islands are in the Carribbean while the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos islands are in the western North Atlantic. The region is largely subtropical. Birding tours to the region are rather expensive as flights between islands on typical itineraries add to the costs. We provide checklists for most of the individual islands in the West Indies but also provide combined checklists for the Greater Antilles excluding Cuba to reflect typical tour itineraries to the region. The geography of the region is complicated and summarized below.
The Greater Antilles chain consists mostly of larger islands in the northern Carribbean. It includes the islands of Cuba, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, the tiny uninhabited island of Navassa, and the Cayman Islands. Most of the islands are independent countries, with the exceptions being Puerto Rico as a territory of the US and the Cayman Islands as a territory of Great Britain. The island of Hispaniola is comprised of two countries, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Travel to Cuba is currently restricted for US citizens, while Haiti is too dangerous for people to visit safely. The Cayman Islands only features a single endemic bird speciers, the Grand Cayman Bullfinch. For these reasons, typical birding tours to the Greater Antilles are either to single islands or to a combination of Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica.
The Lesser Antilles is a chain of small volcanic islands stretching from Puerto Rico to the northern coast of South America. The islands are on the South American continent. Typical birding tours cover the islands of Barbados, Grenada, Saint Vincent, Saint Lucia, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Dominica, Antingua, Barbuda, and Montserrat. These islands support all the endemics of the Lesser Antilles except the 3 species endemic to Trinidad/Tobago. There are few endemics on the islands of Aruba, Bonaire, or Curacao (the ABC islands), both located well west of Trinidad/Tobago and the remaining islands of the Lesser Antillies. The near endemic Yellow-shouldered Parrot does occur on Curacao in addition to Venezuela. Thus, our Lesser Antilles checklist is solely for the islands listed above that are included on typical tours.
The Lucayan Archipelago is a group of islands to the north of the Greater Antilles on the North American continent. It includes all the islands of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos. The main birding is in the Bahamas as the Turks and Caicos has no endemics. Typical birding tours are solely to Abaco Island or to a combination of Abaco,New Providence, and Andros Islands.