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Commonwealth of Dominica

15 - 29 August 1990

by Ian Broadbent


This report is based on my notes from a trip to Dominica in 1990, so some of the information (and taxonomy!) may well be out of date by now (July 2002), but I hope that it serves as a taster of what can be expected. There are more recent trip reports available at The main birder on the island is Bertrand Jno.-Baptiste, he can be contacted by email at (note the underline after dr), he is probably the best person to show you the two endemic Amazon parrots. Peter Evans "Birds of the Eastern Caribbean" is worth getting hold of before you go. Please feel free to contact me about any aspect of the trip (


I spent 2 weeks in the Commonwealth of Dominica, Windward Is., as part of a group of 14 students plus 2 staff from King Edward VI College, Stourbridge Biology Department. During the 2 weeks we spent a few days clearing streams, drainage channels and the Emerald Pool in the Morne Trois Pitons National Park, but I was able to do a fair amount of birding during our stay. One of the staff, WJ Indge, is an experienced birdwatcher so we were able to discuss and confirm most of our sightings. The only bird guide I found that covers the birds of the island is James Bond's "Birds of the West Indies", which leaves a lot to be desired but is better than nothing. I would also recommend taking a good North American field guide if you are unfamiliar with the birds of the region. We had a thoroughly marvellous time in Dominica. It was sometimes difficult to do as much birding as I would have liked, as I had to fit in with the activities of the rest of the group, but most of them came with me on the parrot hunts and were surprisingly patient! Although the species list wasn't too long I saw more than enough to keep me happy and would have no hesitation in recommending Dominica as a birding destination.


15/8/90 Gatwick-VC Bird International Airport, Antigua. Night at Skyline Motel.
16/8/90 Antigua-Dominica Canefield Airport. Night at LaPlaine Agricultural Centre.
17/8/90 LaPlaine
18/8/90 LaPlaine.
19/8/90 LaPlaine-Cabrits Nat. Park (Fort Shirley)
20/8/90 LaPlaine-Emerald Pool (Morne Trois Pitons NP)
21/8/90 Emerald Pool
22/8/90 Emerald Pool
23/8/90 Portsmouth Swamp, Indian River, Cabrits NP, Picard Valley.
24/8/90 Roseau, Scott's Head, Sulphur Springs nr Roseau.
25/8/90 LaPlaine
26/8/90 Picard Valley, Coconut Beach.
27/8/90 Emerald Pool
28/8/90 Springfield Guest House and Crop Research Centre nr. Roseau.
29/8/90 LaPlaine-Melville Hall Airport, Dominica-VC Bird Intl Airport, Antigua.

Travel and Accommodation

We flew from Gatwick to Antigua (BA) and onto Dominica via Guadeloupe on the LIAT island hopper. LIAT managed to leave my luggage behind in Antigua (it was returned to me 3 days later) and had also omitted seven of our party from the passenger list (we had all bought tickets at the same time!) and so our party was split into two groups, the lucky ones flying direct to Melville Hall Airport, my group landing at Canefield Airport, listed recently in a Sunday newspaper as the most dangerous airport in the world. But please don't let that disturb you!

Canefield is only a few minutes drive from Roseau, the capital of Dominica, and probably the best place to base yourself as it is easier to hire a vehicle from here and the only banks, shops or services of any size are situated here. However there are a few upmarket hotels further up the west coast, notably at Coconut Beach just south of Portsmouth and the Layou River Hotel.

The commonest form of transport on the island is the Mitsubishi "ute", and if there is a large enough group of you it may be worth trying to hire one from the locals; we got a local driver to take us around the island. Dominican roads are generally very good, but are very steep and winding in places, so what may look like a short journey on the map may take longer than expected. Dominicans usually drive on the left.

Dominicans are extremely friendly and courteous, and the island is relatively crime-free. There are few large white-sand beaches, although the best we found was Coconut Beach, just south of Portsmouth. Dominica is not the island for you if you are looking for a beach and nightlife holiday!

We were extremely lucky with our accommodation, as it was arranged for us by the Minister for Education and Sports in exchange for the work we did at the Emerald Pool, with all meals provided for a minimal charge. LaPlaine itself was a little out of the way but there was a small recently-opened supermarket where we could exchange travellers cheques and a Post Office. Dominican currency is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar, but its best to take only a small amount in EC's and the rest in US$ travellers cheques.

Systematic List

1. Magnificent Frigatebird Fregata magnificens. 3 on the 16th over VC Bird Airport, Antigua, then 2 or 3 on most days subsequently. Common nr. Fort Shirley.
2. Great Egret Egretta alba. Fairly common on Antigua around the airport, also 1 at Portsmouth swamp on the 23rd.
3. Green Heron Butorides striatus. Very common, esp. at Roseau Botanical Gardens.
4. Little Blue Heron Egretta caerulea. 1 at LaPlaine on the 16th, 2 there on the 17th.
5. Broad-winged Hawk Buteo platypterus. Seen in small no's on most days, the only hawk species on the island.
6. Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus hudsonicus. 1 nr Roseau on the 24th, 1 nr Melville Hall Airport on the 29th.
7. Spotted Sandpiper Actitis macularia. Common along the coast and stream banks.
8. Lesser Yellowlegs Tringa flavipes. 1 found dead by WJI and 1 at LaPlaine on the 18th.
9. Western Sandpiper Calidris mauri. 3 on a roadside puddle nr Portsmouth on the 23rd.
10. Laughing Gull Larus atricilla. Common on Antigua but on Dominica only one at LaPlaine on the 18th and a few around Roseau on the 24th.
11. Sooty Tern Sterna fuscata. 3 offshore at LaPlaine on the 25th.
12. Least Tern Sterna antillarum. Several offshore nr Melville Hall airport on the 29th.
13. Royal Tern Sterna maxima. 1 at LaPlaine on the 18th.
14. Brown Noddy Anous stolidus. Large numbers seen offshore at LaPlaine and Coconut Beach.
15. Red-necked Pigeon Columba squamosa. Common in the north of the island around Portsmouth.
16. Zenaida Dove Zenaida aurita. Very common.
17. Common Ground Dove Columbina passerina. Very common.
18. Ruddy Quail-Dove Geotrygon montana. 1 at the Emerald Pool on the 21st.
19. Imperial Amazon Amazona imperialis. 2 heard, 1 seen briefly in the treetops in the Picard Valley on the 26th.
20. Red-necked Amazon Amazona arausiaca. 1+6 in the Picard Valley on the 23rd, and one heard there on the 26th.
21. Mangrove Cuckoo Coccyzus minor. 1 at the Douglas Bay battery, Fort Shirley on the 23rd.
22. Smooth-billed Ani Crotophaga ani. Seen daily on Dominica as they nested in a tree in the middle of the LaPlaine training college. Fairly common elsewhere throughout the island.
23. Lesser Antillean Swift Chaetura martinica. Seen daily in small numbers.
24. Black Swift Cypseloides niger. Common.
25. Blue-headed Hummingbird Cyanophaia bicolor. 2 on the Emerald Pool trail on the 21st.
26. Purple-throated Carib Eulampis jugularis. Fairly common in forest areas, particularly around the Emerald Pool.
27. Green-throated Carib Sericotes holosericeus. Fairly common, seen on most days particularly around LaPlaine.
28. Antillean Crested Hummingbird Orthorhyncus cristatus. Common at Fort Shirley Commandants Quarters, and 1 seen at LaPlaine on the 25th.
29. Ringed Kingfisher Ceryle torquata. 1 at LaPlaine on the 20th, and 1 in the Picard Valley on the 23rd (WJI).
30. Grey Kingbird Tyrannus dominicensis. Seen every day, a common roadside bird.
31. Lesser Antillean Flycatcher Myiarchus obeii. 1 nr. Rosalie on the 21st.
32. Caribbean Elaenia Elaenia martinica. Common nr. Fort Shirley.
33. Purple Martin Progne subis. Seen along the west coast road south of Portsmouth on the 19th, and above Roseau on the 24th.
34. Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica. 1 at LaPlaine on the 16th and 17th.
35. House Wren Troglodytes aedon. Common around the Emerald Pool.
36. Tropical Mockingbird Mimus gilvus. 1 around VC Bird Airport, Antigua on the 15th, and 3 at the Botanical Gardens in Roseau on the 24th.
37. Scaly-breasted Thrasher Margarops fuscus. 1 nr. LaPlaine on the 16th.
38. Brown Trembler Cinclocerthia ruficauda. 1 nr. the Springfield Guest House on the 28th.
39. Red-legged Thrush Mimocichla plumbea. Singles in the Picard Valley on the 23rd and 26th.
40. Rufous-throated Solitaire Myadestes genibarbis. 1 on the Emerald Pool trail on the 21st.
41. Black-whiskered Vireo Vireo altiloquus. 2 on the 16th nr. LaPlaine.
42. Yellow Warbler Dendroica petechia. Common.
43. Plumbeous Warbler Dendroica plumbea. Common around the Emerald Pool.
44. Bananaquit Coereba flaveola. Very common.
45. Carib Grackle Quiscalus lugubris. Common on the western side of the island and also in Antigua.
46. Lesser Antillean Bullfinch Loxigilla loctis. Common.
47. Black-faced Grassquit Tiaris bicolor. Very common in secondary vegetation and open grassland.
48. Streaked Saltator Saltator albicollis. Common around Fort Shirley and LaPlaine.

Other Wildlife

The only mammals present on the island are Wild Pig (scarce), Agouti (common at the Emerald Pool and the Picard valley; I saw 3 in total), Black and Brown Rat, House Mouse, opossum and 12 spp. of bat. The island is full of lizards (c.10 spp.) and there are 5 species of snake, all non-poisonous (including a boa constrictor). We saw 2 snakes, 1 at East Cabrits and 1 on the Morne Diablotin trail, which our companions referred to as "Grove Snakes". Butterflies weren't quite as spectacular as I had expected although I did find an enormous owl butterfly at the Emerald Pool. We also found an enormous stick insect and several katydids in our dormitories, and some of the cockroaches were quite horrendous, but surprisingly we weren't bothered by mosquitoes, or anything else for that matter. The plant life is rich and varied, as you would expect from an island with the highest percentage of rainforest cover in the Caribbean, and would certainly keep any botanist enthralled. There are several coral reefs around the island and it is listed in the top 5 diving destinations in the world.

Site Guide

Cabrits National Park: This area has just been designated as a National Park, and consists of a small peninsula to the north of Portsmouth. Fort Shirley is situated on the peninsula and can be found by taking the road out of Portsmouth that runs north along the edge of the bay, past the "Purple Turtle" Beach Club until the road peters out at a new pier development. Park here and walk up the hill towards the fort and explore the various trails. Mangrove Cuckoo can be found fairly easily at the Douglas Bay Battery, the Commandants Quarters produced Antillean Crested Hummingbird and the area around the car park is very good for Streaked Saltator and Caribbean Elaenia. Frigatebirds also patrol the skies. Indian River trips can be arranged through locals at the main road bridge over the river in Portsmouth. This may be worthwhile as I am told that Belted and Ringed Kingfishers are present, and there is a considerable amount of mangrove swamp in the area. We only spent a short time here, but I would have liked to explore further.

Parrots: The rainforests of Dominica contain two endemic Amazon parrots; the Imperial (Sisserou) and Red-necked (Jacquot). Of the two, the Jacquot is the more numerous. Sisserou is very difficult (there are only about 60 left in the wild) and don't be disappointed if you see neither species. The main areas I visited were around the Picard Valley in the Syndicate Estate near Morne Diablotin; take the western coast road and turn right 4-5 miles north of Colihaut, just north of the hamlet of Dublanc. The track is marked "Morne Diablotin 4-5 miles" but is very bumpy and a 4WD may be necessary. Follow the track along; after a couple of miles a track joins in from the left. Both parrot species can be seen from the road in this area; we were also taken to an observation platform that overlooks the Picard Valley although only 1 Jacquot was heard and another seen briefly from this platform. It was only as we were driving away that we saw 2 fly into one of the large trees in the estate behind us, and as we stopped another 4 flew in. We heard 2 Sisserou and saw one briefly in the same area on the 26th. Early morning and late afternoon is best for both species, but be prepared to make a few visits in order to see both.

Emerald Pool: This place really is a must even if you don't pick up many new birds here. We spent a few days here assisting the Forestry Dept. in the maintenance of the trail and clearing the stream channel and the pool itself of rocks and silt brought down from a quarry upstream. Take the eastern coast road north of LaPlaine and inland from Rosalie. After 15-20 minutes past Rosalie, the Emerald Pool and Carib Territory are signposted on the right. Take this road and the entrance to the pool is a few hundred yards on your left. Walk along the trail to the Emerald Pool (a circular ½ mile trail); the pool itself is incredible but the general area held Blue-headed Hummingbird, Purple-throated Carib, Rufous-throated Solitaire, Plumbeous Warbler, and I saw my only Ruddy Quail-Dove of the trip here as it flew across the road at the trail entrance. House Wrens are also fairly common here.

Other sites: The Botanical Gardens in Roseau are well worth a visit as Green Herons patrol the lawns, Smooth-billed Anis are common and it should give a good introduction to the birds of the island e.g. Black-faced Grassquit, Bananaquit, Lesser Antillean Bullfinch, both Caribs. I also saw some of my few Tropical Mockingbirds here, and Purple Martin.

Three sites I didn't have time to visit were the Boiling Lake, the Freshwater Lake and Trafalgar Falls, all popular with the few tourists that visit the island - we were due to visit Trafalgar Falls but heavy rainfall the day before our visit had made the trails unsafe. After returning, I was told that Layou River Mouth, Canefield and Pointe Michel are good for White-tailed Tropicbirds. They are reported to nest on cliffs near Roseau - late afternoon may be best.

Many thanks to Dr. Peter G.H. Evans for his help and comments on an early draft of this report.