Know your islands
Many birds have common names based on the sounds they make. One well known bird named for its song is the Ching Ching, or Greater Antillean Grackle. Many people learn these calls as the main identification of the bird. Cayman has other birds unique to these islands that are named for their recognizable song. The following information was sourced from Birds of the Cayman Islands, written by Patricia Bradley and the accompanying photographs by Frank Roulstone.
The Vitelline Warbler or Chip Chip
Vitelline Warblers, also known as a Chip Chip, are found on the Cayman Islands and Swan Island. They are found in dry bushland and woodlands as well as disturbed habitats including urban areas. They are not usually found in the mangroves and coastal habitats although they occasionally nest in mixed Logwood and Buttonwood areas. It is a breeding resident on all three Islands. There are two endemic sub-species: D. v. vitellina common to Grand Cayman and D. v. crawfordi common to Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.
Dendroica is a genus of birds of the New World Warbler family Parulidae. It contains 29 species. The males in breeding plumage are often highly colourful. The Dendroica warblers consist of various species using different feeding techniques and often feeding in different parts of the same tree.
Vitelline warblers are curious and tame birds. They are very active while foraging for insects moving from the ground to the canopy of tall trees, but it also likes fruits and nectar. This bird gets its name Chip Chip from its distinctive slightly grating song; call: chip, repeated over and over. The male has a lemon yellow forehead and long stripe over the eye. It has a greyish olive eye-line and malar stripe (area to the side of the chin) which curves below the eye to the olive grey ear coverts. This encloses a yellow area below the eye. The upperparts of this warbler are greenish yellow with two lemon yellow wing-bars. It may have an olive grey patch on its lower neck with white spots on the outer part of the tail. The wing and tail feathers are yellowish green or olive. The female is duller with an olive head, yellow ear coverts, and streaking is very faint or nonexistent. The female Vitelline warbler lays a clutch of 2, from April to August.
The Yucatan Vireo or Sweet Bridget
Yucatan Vireos, also known as Sweet Bridget, are found on Grand Cayman and coastal Central America. They are often seen in the local mangroves, but are also found in the woodlands especially in the winter. It is a fairly common breeding resident on Grand Cayman only. It is also unique to this island as it is an endemic sub-species: V. m. caymanensis.
Yucatan Vireos are shy birds that blend perfectly with its surrounding and move quietly among the leaves. It also feeds on fruits. The Yucatan Vireo is best located by its distinctive song, the three syllable whistle sweet brid-get. These birds have olive grey upperparts and a brownish olive crown in the breeding season. The wings have a dull brown edge with olive with a bright olive upper tail. A line runs through its eye and buffy cheeks. The non-breeding birds become dull and nondescript with a grey eye-line and pinkish underneath. Female Yucatan Vireos lay a clutch of 2, from April to August.
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. The Trust can be contacted at 949-0121 or via email at [email protected]