Curacao (Netherlands Antilles), '90-s
Birding sites   -   John van der Woude

We have been to Curacao several times in the '90-s, and always did some birding there besides visiting our relatives. Compared to nearby Venezuela, Curacao is not so rich in bird species. However, for whatever reason you are there, you will have nice birding as well, with several very typical species. This short report gives some sites for that, but is far from complete.

Northern part of Christoffel National Park, with Christoffel mountain (300 m, highest point of the island) on the background.

As Voous (Birds of the Netherlands Antilles) points out, most of the species occur in most of the habitats. So already in the gardens of Willemstad and definitely so in the green quarter called Zuikertuintje/Rooi Catochi (where we lodged), we saw several of the species of Curacao: Magnificent Frigatebird (from the nearby Schottegat Bay), Cattle Egret, Crested Caracara, Bare-eyed Pigeon (photo right - the eyering is much more conspicuous and blacker here than in Venezuela; there is a large night roost at Rooi Catochi, with often a Peregrine feeding on them), White-tipped Dove, Common Ground Dove, Yellow-shouldered Parrot (escapes; more recently, Orange-winged is reported), Caribbean Parakeet, White-tailed Nightjar, Common Emerald (Chlorostilbon mellisugus), Yellow Oriole, Troupial, Tropical Mockingbird, Shiny Cowbird (a recent intruder, but numbers vary over the years), Bananaquit, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Black-faced Grassquit, Saffron Finch.

At the North side of Piscadera Bay (West of Willemstad) there is a nice mangrove forest and a marshy area around a water purification installation. To find this site, take the most western highway running North-South on the outskirts of Willemstad, and take the small road nearly opposite the Veeris road. Drive on to the Piscadera Bay, follow its northern edge up to a T-junction. To the left is mangrove forest, to the right the road ends at the installation with interesting ponds. Maybe it is safer to take the road that goes directly to the water purification plant from the highway at a point a bit further North than the point across the Veeris road. Species here included Pied-billed Grebe, Neotropic Cormorant, American Coot, Common Gallinule, Green Heron, Little Blue Heron, Cattle Egret, Great White Egret, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Blue-winged Teal, Glossy Ibis, Least Grebe, White-cheeked Pintail, American Kestrel, Black-winged Stilt, Sanderling, Common Snipe, Greater and Lesser Yelllowlegs, Groove-billed Ani, House Sparrow, Northern Waterthrush, Eared Dove. Many of the birds listed for the gardens were here too, so this area would be one of the best of Curacao. This area would deserve protection, but I think there is none.
Leaving Willemstad for trips to the West of the island, you cross the Grote Berg. Here we saw White-tailed Hawk a few times.

Willibrordus Bay is well-known for its Greater Flamingos in the salt pans (photo above). You can easily see them from the road 1 km East of the village of St. Willibrordus. More birds can be seen if you walk East along the salt pan area towards the sea. There was a territory of Osprey, and one of American Kestrel. We also noted a.o. Spotted and Semipalmated Sandpiper, and a Belted Kingfisher. Also Common Emerald, Grey Kingbird, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Yellow Warbler.
San Juan is one of those quiet scrubby hill areas with an entrance road to a small bay/beach. It is located almost halfway the southern road to Westpunt (West Point). There is a nice lagoon too. Here we saw Spotted Sandpiper, Ruby-Topaz Hummingbird, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Smooth Flycatcher, Red-necked (Scaly-naped) Pigeon. Another area like San Juan and near to it (but hard to find) is called Santa Pretu Bay. Further species here were: Brown Booby, Brown Pelican, Peregrine Falcon, Eared Dove, Grey Kingbird, Caribbean Elaenia.
A bit further to the West than San Juan is Santa Marta Bay with nice mangroves (Snowy Egret, waders).

In the Christoffel National Park (along the northern road to Westpunt) we valued especially the first 300 m of the track from the parking lot at the foot of the Christoffel Mountain to the top (photo above). Some water trickles here (not always) through the bushes, with several Yellow Warbler. Crested Caracara and White-tailed Hawk can often been seen here. Crested Bobwhite breeds near the parking lot mentioned.

At Westpunt (the West point of the island) we saw Barn Swallow hanging around, and in the village is (was?) a famous feeding place for numerous Troupials.

Quite different from the rest of Curacao is the barren North coast. One area we visited here is San Pedro (West of the airport, in the so-called Hato plain). Crested Bobwhite and Red-necked Pigeons and several smaller birds were on the inland cliff bordering the plain, just along the short and quiet road to the San Pedro farm.

Another North coast area is Noordkant (straight to the North of Willemstad/Brievengat), where you come close to the trade-wind beaten shore with some bays. Great Blue Heron, American Oystercatcher, Ruddy Turnstone, American Kestrel. A similar area is West of the National Park, with Peregrine in Jan. 1998.

Photos above and below are from these areas at the North Coast.

Yellow Warbler and Rufous-collared Sparrow (local name 'Chonchorogai', meaning 'dandy')


Species observed by us in the nineties:
Least Grebe
Pied-billed Grebe
Bulwer's Petrel ?
Brown Booby
Neotropic (Olivaceous) Cormorant
Brown Pelican
Magnificent Frigatebird
Reddish Egret
Tricolored Heron
Little Blue Heron
Snowy Egret
Great Blue Heron
Great White Egret
Cattle Egret
Striated (Green) Heron
Glossy Ibis
Greater Flamingo
White-faced Whistling-duck
Black-bellied Whistling-duck
White-cheeked Pintail
Blue-winged Teal
White-tailed Hawk
Crested Caracara
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
Crested Bobwhite
Common Moorhen
Caribbean Coot
American Oystercatcher
Black-necked Stilt
Fantail Snipe (Common Snipe)
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Solitary Sandpiper
Spotted Sandpiper
Ruddy Turnstone
Sanderling Semipalmated
Sandpiper Brown
Scaly-naped Pigeon
Bare-eyed Pigeon
Eared Dove
Common Ground-dove
White-tipped Dove
Brown-throated Parakeet
Yellow-shouldered Parrot (escapes)
Groove-billed Ani
White-tailed Nightjar
Ruby-topaz Hummingbird
Blue-tailed (Common) Emerald
Belted Kingfisher
Southern (Short-billed) Scrub-flycatcher
Carribean Elaenia
Brown-crested Flycatcher
Tropical Kingbird
Grey Kingbird
Barn Swallow
Tropical Mockingbird
House Sparrow
Yellow Warbler
Rufous-collared Sparrow
Saffron Finch
Black-faced Grassquit
Yellow Oriole
Shiny Cowbird