Shore Birds

 

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SHOREBIRDS

 

This section comprises the herons, the waders, Common Gallinule and Belted Kingfisher.

These birds are generally found around the coast, near water.

 

Considering the scarcity of suitable habitats, it is remarkable that seven species of heron can be seen on Nevis, at least five of which are resident. (All herons are known locally as ‘Gaulins’.) Most of the waders are passage migrants or winter visitors - in September in particular large numbers of these birds can be seen around the coast. This is one of the most interesting times to watch birds here, as you are never sure what is going to turn up next! However, It should be added that it requires some practice to differentiate between a lot of these species, especially if they are in their drab­ber winter plumage.

The Belted Kingfisher is the only member of its family which can be seen on Nevis, and is a very attractive and distinctive bird.

(Click here for a Check List of Nevis Birds :97Kb PDF)

 

(Click on the photos to enlarge)

 

GREEN- BACKED HERON (Butorides virescens)

Status: Resident on Nevis in small numbers.

Description: 16-19”. A small heron. Body mostly green; neck, sides of head and breast chestnut brown. There is a white streak on the underside of the neck. The legs are orange in the breeding season, greenish-yellow at other times. Voice: A variety of squawking sounds. When alarmed, it flies off with a very loud, raucous ‘kaa-kaa-kew-kew-kaa’. Behaviour: Usually seen flying off noisily when disturbed, or standing among reeds. Sometimes perches openly on an exposed branch.

Where to find it: It is always found near water, espe­cially fresh water. Good places are at Nelson Spring and the Bogs.

LITTLE BLUE HERON (Florida caerulea)

Status: Resident on Nevis in small numbers.

Description: 22-28”. Body dark blue-grey, head and neck dark brown. The bill is pale blue-grey, with a black tip, and the legs are greenish. The immature is white, and can be distinguished from other white herons by its bill and legs, which are like those of the adult. Older immatures have an irregular mixture of white and blue-grey feathers. Behaviour: Usually seen alone or with other herons.

Where to find it: In or near fresh water. The best place to look on Nevis is at the Bogs.

CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis)
Local names: White Bird, Tick Bird.
Status: A very common resident . It was not recorded in the West Indies until 1948, and probably did not reach Nevis until some time in the 1970s. One of the most abundant birds, on the island.
Description: 21-25”. A fairly small, short-necked heron, with orange-brown patches on the crown, neck and back, especially prominent in the breeding season. The bill and legs are yellow (bill reddish in the breed­ing season). The immature is completely white, with a yellow bill and blackish legs. Behaviour: Usually found among cattle, feeding on insects disturbed by the animals. In the late afternoon can be seen in groups fly­ing towards the coast, where they roost in large, noisy flocks.
Where to find it: Two major roosting and nesting sites are at the mouth of the Bath Stream, and near the mouth of the Camp River.

SNOWY EGRET (Egretta thula)
Status: Resident on Nevis in small numbers.
Description: 21-27”. An elegant white heron, with a black dagger-like bill, yellow at the base. The legs are black, and the feet bright yellow. Young birds have legs with yellow-green backs. Behaviour: Wades in shallow water, usually alone. Occasionally seen perched in a tree with Cattle Egrets.
Where to find it: Usually in or near fresh water, sometimes on rocks by the sea. The mouth of the Bath Stream and the Bogs are good places.

YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT HERON (Nyctanassa violacea)

Local name: Night Gaulin.
Status: A fairly common resident of Nevis.
Description: 22-28”. A very heavily-built heron. The body is grey, the head black, with the crown and a patch on the cheek pale yellow. The legs are yellow, and the very heavy bill is black. Immature birds are brown. Voice: A loud ‘wok’, usually heard after sunset.
Behaviour: Most birds rest in trees by day, although some are active. They feed mostly on crabs.
Where to find it: By day, usually found in trees near fresh water. Sometimes seen on beaches. Good places include the trees behind the North end of White Bay, Nelson Spring, and around the small lake behind Hur­ricane Hill beach.

COMMON MOORHEN (Gallinula chloropus)

(formerly Common Gallinule)

Local name: Red-seal coot.
Status: A fairly common resident .
Description: 13”. Mainly black, with a dark brown back, and a white line along the flanks. The undertail is also white. The base of the bill and the frontal shield (a bony extension of the bill) are bright red; the tip of the bill is greenish-yellow. The legs are also greenish-yellow, with a red band near the top. Immature birds are brown, with a dull yellow bill. Voice: A variety of calls, some of which are loud and harsh. One call is a fast clucking ‘krek-krek-krek, krek-krek-krek’.
Behaviour: A wary bird, which will make for cover at the first sign of danger. Usually seen swimming.
Where to find it: Usually seen swimming along most of the beaches.

SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (Charadrius semipalmatus)
Status: A fairly common winter visitor and passage migrant, from September to April. Most numerous in autumn.Description: 7.25”. A small plover, brown above and white below, with a black band across the upper breast, black markings on the head, and a white collar. The bill is short and dark, with an orange base. The legs are orange or dull yellow. Immature birds have a black bill, and less black on the face and breast.
Behaviour: Usually seen in small groups. Flies more readily than the Thick-billed Plover.
Where to find it: On or around beaches. The north end of White Bay is a good place.

THICK-BILLED PLOVER (Charadrius wilsonia)
Other name: Wilson’s Plover.
Status: Fairly common throughout the year. Probably breeds here. Description: 7.75”. A little larger than the previous species, it is also paler brown above, has a longer, thicker black bill, and has dull pinkish legs. The black breast band only occurs on males in breeding plumage. At this time males also have a chestnut patch on the nape. Voice: A single musical ‘wheet’.
Behaviour: Runs away when approached, flying only reluctantly. Usually seen in small groups.
Where to find it: On or around beaches. Usually found further from the sea than the previous species, often in vegetation behind the beach itself. White Bay is a good place to look.

BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (Squatarola squatarola)
Status: Occurs in small numbers as a passage migrant in spring and autumn; occasionally seen in winter.
Description: 12”. A large, stoutly-built plover. Normal­ly seen in winter plumage, when it is a spotted grey, with black bill and legs. In flight it shows its white rump and wing-patches, and black ‘armpits’. In sum­mer plumage, which some birds still have in Septem­ber, the underparts are black, bordered with white.
Voice: A loud ‘kyew-ee’, especially in flight.
Behaviour: Seen singly, or sometimes in a small group. Less active than the smaller plovers.
Where to find it: On or around beaches, for example at White Bay.

RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres)
Status: Occurs throughout the year, common in winter. Does not breed here. Description: 8.5”. A medium-sized wader, usually seen in winter plumage, when it is mostly brown above and white below, with bright orange legs. In summer plumage the upper parts are reddish-brown, the breast black, and the head black and white. In flight it shows distinctive white mark­ings on the back and wings. Behaviour: Usually seen in small groups with other waders, feeding among washed-up seaweed.
Where to find it: On or around beaches, or sometimes rocky coastal areas.

SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER (Calidris pusilla)
Status: A fairly common autumn passage migrant.
Description: 6.25”. A very small sandpiper, greyish-brown above, white below, with black bill and legs. There is a pale stripe above the eye. Behaviour: Usually found in small groups, often with other waders.
Where to find it: On beaches, for example White Bay and Gallows Bay.

SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularin)
Status: A common winter visitor and passage migrant, from August to May. Does not breed here.
Description: 7.5”. A small sandpiper, nearly always seen in winter plumage, when it is brown above and white below, with dull yellow legs and a dull pink bill with a black tip. In summer plumage, the under parts are covered with large black spots. Behaviour: Usually seen singly. Continuously bobs the rear part of the body up and down. Also characteristic is its flight, with rapid shallow wing beats interspersed with short glides on rigid, downward-slanting wings.
Where to find it: Anywhere near water, salt or fresh. For example White Bay, Pinneys beach.

BELTED KINGFISHER (Ceryle alcyon)
Status: Visits Nevis in small numbers in the winter, ar­riving around September.
Description: 12-13”. Unmistakeable. A fairly large kingfisher, with a prominent crest. The upper parts and a band across the chest are blue-grey, and the under­parts white. The female has a second rich brown chest­band. The bill is fairly long, heavy and sharp.
Voice: Very distinctive - a loud, harsh rattle.
Behaviour: Normally seen in flight, occasionally on a prominent perch. Hovers above water, into which it dives for fish.
Where to find it: Around the coast, particularly at Fort Ashby, the Bogs, Fort Charles and Red Cliff.

SANDERLING (Crocethia alba)
Status: A fairly common winter visitor, found from September to March.Description: 8”. A small sandpi­per, distinguished by its very pale grey upperparts. The underparts are pure white, and the bill and legs black. There is a dark patch on the ‘shoulder’, and in flight the white wingbars can be seen. Behaviour: Usually seen in flocks, which may contain as many as 20 birds. Specializes in feeding by dashing to and fro between the breaking waves on a beach.
Where to find it: On beaches, usually near the water - for example White Bay and Pinneys.



OTHER SHOREBIRDS
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)
Great Egret (Egretta alba)
Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus)
Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)
Common Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus
Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago)
Pied-bill Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)
Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus)
American Wigeon (Anas americana)
Purple Gallinule (Porphyrula martinica)
Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria)
Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca)
Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes)
Willet (Elquemido semipalmatus)
Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris semipalmatus)
White-rumped Sandpiper (Calidris fuscicollis)
Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla)
Short-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus griseus)

 


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