Watch the little birdie

Know your islands

There are 226 species of birds listed for the three Cayman Islands, of which 50 breed and 170 are non-breeding migrants.

Caribbean Dove

Seventeen endemic sub-species also call Cayman their home.

Two of the land birds are listed internationally as threatened – the Cayman Parrot and the Vitelline Warbler.

Several endemics have are no longer present in western Grand Cayman, and bird numbers, generally, fell sharply as a result of Hurricane Ivan in 2004.

The following information was sourced from Birds of the Cayman Islands, written by Patricia Bradley.

Caribbean Dove

(Leptotila jamaicansis collaris)

A beautiful dove occurring in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands introduced and now established on New Providence in the Bahamas and also on the coast and islands of Mexico and San Andres. The endemic race collaris is confined to Grand Cayman where it is mainly terrestrial, foraging on the forest floor or under shade in the central, northern and eastern areas.

(Melopyrrha nigra taylori)

A restricted range species, the only member of the genus, confined to Cuba and the Cayman Islands, although fossil bullfinch have been identified on Cayman Brac. The endemic Cayman race taylori occurs only on Grand Cayman where it has become increasingly scarce, disappearing from almost the entire western half of the island. The male and female share the construction of the large bulky nest with a single entrance and use it to raise young and also as a roost.

Loggerhead Kingbird (Tyrannus caudifasciatus caymanensis)

A tyrannid flycatcher found throughout the Greater Antilles, northern Bahamas and Cayman Islands. The endemic Cayman race caymanensis breeds on Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac. It ceased breeding on Little Cayman in the 1930s although it is seen occasionally and may recolonise. Although it shares its breeding range with the migrant Gray Kingbird T. dominicensis in summer, there is ecological and geographic separation. The Loggerhead breeds in closed dry and mangrove forest habitats and is common on Grand Cayman; the Gray breeds mainly on Cayman Brac and Little Cayman and prefers open habitats.

You can support native and migratory birds by keeping a natural yard. Plant a variety of native trees (Wild Fig attracts many species) and shrubs. They offer both food and protection for birds. Please control introduced animals – rats, cats and dogs! You could also get involved with the Wildlife Rescue Unit and help care for injured birds and other wildlife. Please contact [email protected] or 949-0121. The weekly column from the National Trust is submitted by Marnie Laing, Education Programs Manager at the Trust.

Last week’s answer: Cayman’s National Flower is the Wild Banana Orchid.

Trivia question: What three defensive mechanisms are typical of octopuses?

Look for the answer in next week’s feature!

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