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9 - 17 April 1999

by Francis Toldi & Peter Metropulos

This is a trip report on a birding trip to Trinidad and Tobago by Francis Toldi and Peter Metropulos from April 9 through the 17, 1999.  The first part of this report is a narrative account of the trip, the second is a summary of resources, and the third is an annotated species list.  Latin names only appear in the annotated species list.  This narrative only mentions bird highlights.

I had heard before that Trinidad is a wonderful destination for the first-time tropical birder.  While that is undoubtedly true, it is also a great destination for the more experienced.  We have traveled and birded extensively in the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, and various other countries around the world (but never in South America), but we were still drawn to this legendary place.  A trip to Trinidad and Tobago will result in a shorter list than many other tropical destinations, but with such a high quality of birds in such pleasant circumstances that it hardly matters.  Add to that friendly people (for the most part), good food and, in the right season, terrific music, and you have a very nice combination.

Friday April 9

This was a travel day, from San Francisco to Miami, then on to Port of Spain.  We arrived late at night at the Asa Wright Nature Centre.  Walking from the gate toward Immigration are a series of big billboards displaying the natural wonders of Trinidad.  Our favorite: "Motmot, King of the Forest" under a 4 foot high picture of a Jacamar.  We met our driver without incident.  As we unwound in the comfortable room, we enjoyed the typical night sounds of the tropics, with frogs, insects and FERRUGINOUS PYGMY OWLS singing into the night.

Saturday April 10.

Despite only a few hours of sleep we hopped out of bed at first light eager to start our first day of birding.  A LITTLE TINAMOU, GREAT KISKADEE and various thrushes joined the ubiquitous Pygmy Owls in the morning serenade.  We wandered around the excellent trail system near the Centre until the breakfast bell rang at 7:30 a.m.  It always feels so good to be back in the tropics after a year away.  We easily found a couple of dozen species before breakfast, including stunning lifers such as CHANNEL-BILLED TOUCAN, WHITE-BEARDED MANAKIN (on the lek), TURQUOISE TANAGER, PURPLE HONEYCREEPER and SILVER-BEAKED TANAGER.  We were struck by how many species were conspicuously nesting, something that would hold true for the entire trip—carrying food, feeding young, nest-building, sitting on nest.  So much activity!

After a pleasant breakfast we checked in at the office to confirm our excursion schedule, and set off on a guided walk to Dunston Cave, a grotto right on the Centre grounds.  Our guide, Joel, gave an informative and interesting talk along the way.  Walking the last few dozen yards barefoot in the stream was very refreshing.  The OILBIRDS were easily viewable (and audible!) on their ledge, including two fluffy chick-balls.  We were surprised how large the birds are, not at all the size of a nightjar as I expected.  After a delicious lunch featuring local fare we again hit the trails, and spent a while on the famous verandah.  At the feeders just off the verandah a number of beautiful birds come within a few feet of the observer, including the stunning CHESTNUT WOOKPECKER, at least 5 species of hummingbird, PURPLE and GREEN HONEYCREEPER, YELLOW ORIOLE and CRESTED OROPENDOLA.  There is always one bully species of hummer at these feeder assemblages; here it was the WHITE-NECKED JACOBIN, a very beautiful bully indeed!  We saw and heard some 65+ species today just around Asa Wright.

We opted for an excursion late in the day, to the Agricultural Research Station for an evening picnic dinner (preceded by the tasty rum punch that would be a fixture of our stay at Asa Wright), then after dark a night birding session at Wallerfield.  The Ag Research Station gave us a little taste of what was to come tomorrow.  Wallerfield yielded good looks at TROPICAL SCREECH OWL, WHITE-TAILED NIGHTJAR, PARAUQUE, COMMON POTOO, and heard only SPECTACLED OWL and LIMPKIN.  We also made the acquaintance of two guides that we would spend quite a bit of time with over the next few days, Dave and Ramdas.  Those two have it all: expert birders, with a keen knowledge of where the hard to find birds are, with terrific personalities.  By the end of our stay we felt like old friends.

Sunday, April 11.

Ever eager, we took a short walk around the grounds from first light until breakfast, then left for our full day excursion.  Our first stop was at the Agricultural Research Station, an area of open grassland, ponds, and scrub woodland.  The area yielded a long list of interesting species, including PINNATED BITTERN, PEARL KITE, SAVANAH HAWK, WATTLED JACANA, SOUTHERN LAPWING, GREEN-RUMPED PARROTLET, a BLACK-THROATED MANGO sitting on a nest, YELLOW-THROATED SPINETAIL, PIED WATER TYRANT, WHITE-HEADED MARSH TYRANT, FORK-TAILED PALM SWIFT, an early group of the always beautiful FORK-TAILED FLYCATCHERS, WHITE-WINGED SWALLOW, RUFOUS-BROWED PEPPERSHRIKE, an unexpected SAFFRON FINCH pair, and the incomparable RED-BREASTED BLACKBIRD.  A Spectacled Caiman glared at us from a roadside pond.

From there we headed out to the Atlantic coast to Manzanilla Beach for lunch, a swim and a little break.  Since it was Sunday the place was packed with happy beach visitors, arriving by the busload.  An impromptu steel pan and drum group formed in the parking lot.  In due course we headed on to Nariva Swamp.

Nariva was a place where the knowledge of the guides really came in handy.  At the Ag Research Station we felt as if we could have found most of the birds on our own without too much trouble (in fact we did find a lot of them first!).  In Nariva we would have missed quite a few.  Many of the species are very local, but we managed pretty good looks at such species as WHITE-TAILED GOLDENTHROAT, BLACK-CRESTED ANTSHRIKE and BICOLORED CONEBILL.

Over rum punch we enjoyed the spectacle of close to a hundred RED-BELLIED MACAWS coming in to roost on the Royal Palms as the sun set.  We made it back in time for a late dinner at the Centre.  Total for the day, around 95 species!

Monday, April 12, 1999.

We decided to squeeze in one more trip, so we made an early departure for a half day trip up Blanchisseuse Road.  This lovely, twisting road through superb rainforest deserves a full day, but with the early start we were able to get in some first-rate birding on the upper part of the road.  Thanks to Ramdas's expert spotting we got terrific looks at two different pairs of SWALLOW TANAGERS, one of those "the field guide doesn't do it justice" species.  Nesting RUFOUS-BREASTED HERMIT, WHITE-TAILED TROGON, STRIPE-BREASTED SPINETAIL and BLACK-FACED ANTTHRUSH also topped the list for the morning.

At lunch we shared a table with Richard ffrench, the genial and intelligent author of the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago.  After lunch we headed out to Caroni Swamp, but with a stop first at the Trincity Sewage Ponds.  What would a birding trip be without a stop at the sewage ponds?  Of course these ponds have caiman and PURPLE GALLINULES, unlike the ones at home.  We also happened upon the first YELLOW-BILLED TERNS of the season (the terns were all late this year), an unexpected bonus.  Among the SNOWY EGRETS was a strange bird that may have been a hybrid LITTLE BLUE HERON and SNOWY EGRET.  Add it to the list of field guide-defying sightings!  Squeaking up a late migrant CAPE MAY WARBLER was a bit of a kick.

It would be ridiculous to complain about a boat trip into a lovely mangrove swamp that produced close-up views of hundreds of SCARLET IBIS flying overhead, not to mention a couple of Tree Boas.  Suffice it to say that our boat guide knew that his primary constituency on the trip were not birders, and chose to spend his time concentrating on the ibis, rather than digging up cuckoos, Greater Ani, Red-capped Cardinal, or any of the other birds we missed on that trip.  The ibis were an unforgettable sight, worth the whole trip there.  A little perspective is in order here!

Tuesday, April 13, 1999.

We took one last morning walk around the Centre.  In addition to more looks at all the lovely birds at the feeder and on the trails, we found some of the most spectacular birds of the trip: an ORNATE HAWK-EAGLE perched two feet above its nest, a brief but stunning view of a male TUFTED COQUETTE, and an early morning glimpse of a BLACK-FACED ANTHTHRUSH singing and walking across the trail just a few feet away.  We checked out of the Centre after loading up on T-shirts, books and other gifts, bidding farewell to the guides and the many pleasant fellow-guests we had gotten to know during our brief stay, and were driven east to our last destination on Trinidad.

The road out to Grande Riviere on the north-eastern tip of Trinidad is very scenic and slow.  With each little town you leave behind more and more people, congestion, and concrete.  Grande Riviere is a small town, second from the end of the road.  There is one hotel in town, the Mt.  Plaisir Estate Hotel, situated right on the beach.  This is no golf- course-color-TV kind of resort.  It is a place of simple comfort, peace and healing.  It is also the best place to find the scarce TRINIDAD PIPING GUAN, locally known as the Pawi.  For a modest fee local guides take you to their night roost.  We saw up to four of them, once in the evening and once in the early morning.  At this time of year the beach is also closed off from 6 p.m.  to 6 a.m.  For those who are interested, including us, local beach patrollers knock on your hotel door in the evening, and quietly take you out to see the indescribable spectacle of 6-9 foot long Leatherback Turtles laying their eggs on the beach.  The whole operation is community-based and operated by Grande Riviere residents.  It is a wonderful example of environmentally sensitive, locally supported economic activity.

Mt.  Plaisir hotel is not for everyone.  The windows have no screens, although nets are provided for the buggy season.  It is a quiet place, with a great deal of interaction with the residents, including skilled artisans who sell their wares on the beach in front of the hotel.  Leaning on the balcony rail, I enjoyed watching the local kids play an impromptu game of cricket on the beach in front of me.  Palm Tanagers fly into the rooms and gaze at themselves in the bathroom mirrors.  Open minds and cultural sensitivity are important qualities in every guest.  It is possible to come in to view the Pawi on a single day excursion from elsewhere in Trinidad, though it would certainly feel like a lot of driving for a single (albeit spectacular) bird.  We didn't concentrate on other birds, but there were many birds in the area, including WHITE-WINGED SWALLOW, SHORT-TAILED SWIFT, semi-tame ORANGE-WINGED PARROT, COMMON BLACK-HAWK, SEMI-COLLARED (SHORT-TAILED) NIGHTHAWK and TROPICAL SCREECH OWL.

Wednesday, April 14, 1999.

Alas, we only stayed at this fine place for one night.  A car took us off to the airport in the late morning, where we flew without any incident to Tobago.  We took a cab up the east coast to our home for the next few days, the Blue Waters Inn in Speyside.  People in Tobago are even more friendly than in Trinidad, for the most part.  They also seem to be very well tuned in to their environment.  We were constantly surprised at how many regular service providers knew about birds and where to find them, from our cab driver (not a special bird guide) who pointed out the location of a Blue-backed Manakin lek to the ladies selling snacks at a scenic overlook who mentioned that a Great Black Hawk had been by just two minutes before we got there, but it would surely return soon (it did).  When was the last time a San Francisco cabby gave me hints on where to locate nesting Marbled Murrelets in my area?

Blue Waters Inn is in a spectacular location, and is every bit as gorgeous as other trip reports have indicated.  It is also expensive, very isolated from the charming town of Speyside, and the food was not particularly inspiring.  The service was excellent, the rooms very comfortable.  Nevertheless, next time I come I think I will skip Blue Waters and stay in town.  We found ourselves walking back into town with some frequency, even skipping our prepaid dinner one night to eat at a good restaurant in town.

We didn't do much that afternoon but relax, swim, and rent some snorkel gear for a quick look at the nearby coral reef.  A short walk up a dirt road just above the final turn into the Blue Waters gate turned up some birds, including a couple of lifers.  Notable were RUFOUS-VENTED CHACHALACA, YELLOW-BREASTED FLYCATCHER, RUFOUS-TAILED JACAMAR, BLACK-FACED GRASSQUIT, and the usual common species.  A BLUE-CROWNED MOTMOT roosted on the lamp of our balcony all night.

Thursday, April 15, 1999.

Today was mostly a swim and relax kind of day.  We took a short walk up the road mentioned above, which gave us what turned out to be the only WHITE-FRINGED ANTWREN for the trip.  We took the glass bottomed boat trip out to Little Tobago Island.  On the way one of the boatmen gave a nice overview of the coral and fish, clearly visible through the glass plates.  It wasn't at all like the funky glass bottom boats I remember from my youth in Monterey!  Those too young or otherwise disinclined to snorkel have a chance to get excellent looks at some of the beautiful fish and coral.  At Little Tobago we walked up to the seabird overlook for excellent views of dozens of RED-BILLED TROPICBIRDS streaming about, sometimes pursued by the MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRDS.  BROWN and RED-FOOTED BOOBIES were visible in the distance.  Unfortunately the terns weren't in yet.  The forest on Little Tobago was surprisingly moist and lush.  I had expected it to be dry, for some reason.  There were many birds in the forest, including a female RUBY-TOPAZ HUMMINGBIRD, BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER (no Venezuela Flycatcher, too bad!), and CHIVI (Red-eyed) VIREO.  I suppose a longer stay on the island would have yielded a few more birds including the missed flycatcher, but, frankly, I was more anxious to get on with the snorkeling.

On the way back we stopped at Goat Island Reef, where, with Ian Flemming's old island mansion in the background, we snorkeled along the reef.  The coral formations were just incredible, with more varieties than I have ever seen before, including Sea Fan, Staghorn, Brain (we saw one of the largest specimens of Giant Brain Coral ever found), Star, and many others.  The fish were also pretty amazing, from the schools of silverside that would part to allow us to pass, then close behind us, to the Blue Tang, Queen Angelfish, Blue-headed Wrasse, Foureye Butterflyfish, Trumpetfish, and others.  We also saw from the boat some flying fish and a Leatherback Turtle.

Lunch was at the Blue Waters.  I couldn't resist having the flying fish and chips, which wasn't bad.  The RUDDY TURNSTONES ran up from the beach into the restaurant and gobbled up table scraps.  Can't say as I've seen that before!  The BANANAQUITS landed on the tables in search of sugar and jam.  We had had such a great time that morning that we went out in the afternoon for another snorkeling trip to the same area, but while some passengers walked on Little Tobago we snorkeled off the Little Tobago reef.  One word to the wise—if you get seasick don't spend too much time looking at the fish below the glass bottom!

For dinner we skipped the Blue Waters and went in to town to Jemma's, reported by many to be one of the best restaurants on the island.  Our experience is limited on Tobago, but I can't imagine how dinner could be better.  We had an enormous lobster with all the fixings.  It wasn't particularly cheap, but there was a lot of tasty food for the money.

Friday, April 16, 1999.

We took a cab to Roxborough where we met up with Adolphus James, who was guiding a trio of Brits into the upland rainforests.  Later, a local forest guide who taxied us to our hotel described Adolphus as the "Big Mon" among all of the "Little Mon" nature guides in the area.  I wouldn't argue.  Friendly and courteous, he took us through the Gilpin Trace and made sure we all had good looks at a number of species, including some of the prettiest birds of the trip.  This is another area you could do on your own, but it sure was nice having him show the way.  Bird highlights included WHITE-TAILED SABREWING (including one on the nest), COLLARED TROGON, OCHRACEOUS WREN, FUSCOUS FLYCATCHER, BLUE-BACKED MANAKIN, YELLOW-LEGGED THRUSH (one of the nicest looking and best singing birds on the trip).  The forest at Gilpin Trace is particularly handsome, very wet and lush.

We also walked back through the lower elevation areas on the way back to Roxborough, which turned up a few additional species including RED-CROWNED WOODPECKER, and a terrific look at a GREAT BLACK HAWK.  The Scrub Greenlet eluded us, singing and briefly showing itself, but not convincingly.  At this point in a great birding trip I usually stop being too worried about the Scrub Greenlets of the world, and leave them for another trip, however common they are.  Total species for the day was around 50.

We had a quiet evening packing and relaxing at Blue Waters, talking to the friendly guests and staff.

Saturday, April 17, 1999.

Up at 4 a.m. (no kidding) for the drive to the airport.  Why don't they schedule these flights at a better time!  After we checked in and had some time to kill we watched a pretty sunrise at Crown Point Airport, and saw BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER, CARRIBEAN MARTIN, BARRED ANTSHRIKE, BLUE-BLACK GRASSQUIT, BLACK-FACED GRASSQUIT, EARED DOVE, TROPICAL MOCKINGBIRD, BARE-EYED THRUSH, SHINY COWBIRD and CARIB GRACKLE all within about 100 yards of the airport!

Our route took us through San Juan, Puerto Rico, where on a short layover I managed to see a couple of lifers, GREATER ANTILLEAN GRACKLE and ZENAIDA DOVE, along with the now-familiar CARRIBEAN MARTIN.  After more delays we finally made it home after almost 21 hours traveling.  Nothing like a brutal reminder that the trip was over!  Our bird species list was around 200 (plus or minus a few, depending on how you count heard-only birds and the resolution of some taxonomic disputes), of which 85 were lifers for me (about 10 fewer lifers for Peter due to earlier trips to Jamaica and Panama).


Francis Toldi and Peter Metropulos took a birding trip to Trinidad and Tobago on April 9-17, 1999.  Accompanying these notes on references and resources is a general narrative and annotated species list.

Tour vs.  Solo Trip.

We usually prefer to travel on our own, rather than go on organized tours.  It would be very possible to arrange your own trip to Trinidad and Tobago.  American drivers need to adjust to the right-hand drive, but otherwise it seemed like a fairly easy country to get around in.  See notes on budget below.  On this trip we splurged a bit from our usual standards and went on a compromise, the "Birding Ventures" tour by Caligo Ventures (914-273-6333).  Caligo made the bookings and provided airport transfers, but we were otherwise on our own.  You can set up the trip however you like, adding additional days and locations to the base itinerary (for additional cost, of course).

We also chose to utilize the guides associated with Asa Wright Nature Centre in Trinidad and Blue Waters Inn in Tobago.  These can be arranged and paid for in advance, or done right there.  By going semi-solo we found that the "famous" guides mentioned in the books and trip reports were often not available.  At Asa Wright at least this wasn't a problem at all, since the other guides were equally expert and proficient.  If you decide to do it the easy way and hire guides, do your best to stay active and avoid falling in to the passive "find me the bird" attitude.  It is a lot more fun and you see many more birds if you maintain the same birdfinding vigilance that you do when you are alone.  It also leads to an even better interaction with the guide, who doesn't have to spend endless hours getting you on simple birds, but instead can concentrate on the real toughies.

If you don't mind a shorter list you could have a very enjoyable and much easier paced trip by spending more time at Asa on their extensive trail system.  See the annotated list for which species that would probably mean you would have to forego.


By our standards this was not a cheap trip.  You could save quite a bit by staying at budget accommodations, but for the most part they are located far from the best birding areas and require some transportation logistics.  If you have enough time you could probably get around with public transport, but on a quick trip there is no way you could cover all of the areas we did in a limited period of time.  Once at Asa Wright, the cost of the guides (who drove us in their own cars) was close to what the base car rental would have been for that day.  We felt that Asa Wright was money well spent, although many report that Pax Guesthouse is cheaper and still very birdy.  Still, waking up in the middle of that forest every morning was very special.

You could save quite a bit of money by finding alternative accommodations on Tobago.  The island is so small that the transportation problem isn't as acute.  Even staying at a less expensive location in Speyside, with perhaps a night or two at Crown Point could greatly reduce the cost.  As I mention in the narrative, we greatly enjoyed being guided by Mr. James in the rainforest, but you could manage it on your own with cabs or a one day car rental.

Books and other materials.


--Richard ffrench, A Guide to the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago.  Essential.  A nice field guide, very useful in the field.  Some of the illustrations seem a bit faded.

--de Schauensee & Phelps, The Birds of Venezuela.  Not critical, but a nice supplement.  The plates are big and bold, with some species illustrated much more clearly.

--William Murphy, A Birder's Guide to Trinidad and Tobago.  Also essential, even if you are on a tour.  It will help get your oriented and help with the preparation.  The location descriptions all seemed accurate.  Nice style to the book as well.  Some of the bar graphs seemed off, perhaps typos.

--Other critters.  There are many other books with information on other animals and plants.  Louise Emmons, Neotropical Rainforest Mammals covers the area, but there are so few mammals that it seems like a waste of pack space to bring it along.  A book on coral reef fishes is appropriate, and there are a number that do the job, including Charles Chaplin's Fishwatcher's Guide to West Atlantic Coral Reefs, Richard Laydoo's A Guide to the Coral Reefs of Tobago, and National Audubon's Field Guide to Tropical Marine Fishes of the Caribbean etc.  There are many other more comprehensive guides for the more serious divers or snorkelers.  There are various titles on butterflies, insects and plants available at Asa Wright.  Bill Murphy lists a number of additional titles on his website (see below).

--The Rough Guide, Trinidad and Tobago.  This is the best of the small number of general purpose travel guides to the country.  It is fairly new and superb, one of the best guides I've seen.  I recommend it even if you are on a tour.  It has a wealth of information—all pretty accurate from what I can tell—on the region, including history and contemporary politics.  Some of the bird notes are a bit off, but that is fairly standard, and besides, that isn't the book you will be consulting for bird information.  There is also a book on T & T in the Insight Guides series—lots of pretty pictures, some good background info, but less useful while there.


--William Murphy, Birds of Trinidad and Tobago (1997) - not too many species, but good recordings of species not available elsewhere.

--Terry White, Birds of Trinidad and Tobago (1977) - Probably out of print; like Murphy, not too many species, but a few not available elsewhere

--Other tapes.  The various collections are useful (New World Nightbirds, etc.).  Make a compilation of the ones applicable to Trinidad so you don't have to lug them all around.


--Maps are hard to find, especially in advance.  I found a decent map on Trinidad (but with few of the specific birding locales indicated on it) for sale in the newsstand at the airport, but couldn't find anything in advance in the USA.  The maps in the Rough Guide are very good.  I saw an excellent Tobago map on a wall in Tobago, but I'm not sure where it could be purchased.

Web resources:

People with access to the World Wide Web can get a wealth of good information.  Remember, these sites come and go, so depending on when you read this these might not work.  Here are my favorites:

--Blake Maybank's trip reports site has several entries on Trinidad.  URL is

--Be sure to check William Murphy's entertaining and informative page, with trip reports, a list of resources, and links to other sites.  The URL is

--Caligo Ventures can be found at

--If you are doing it yourself there is good information on lodgings at

--Asa Wright's page is

--A fantastic site, with many links on related areas in Trinidad, is "Where do you want to go birding today" at

 A Word on International Calls:

International calls are easy, but only if you follow the right procedure.  In Trinidad buy an international phone card, known as a "Companion Card." They are widely available.  You can use it to call overseas from most touch-tone phones.  I tried to use a so-called international phone card purchased in Miami, but I couldn't get it to work in Trinidad.  Some of the fancier hotels surely can arrange longer calls for a hefty price.  Note that Asa Wright does not have a phone available for guests.  The nearest phone is in Arima, quite some distance away.


List sequence follows Bill Murphy's Checklist of Birds of Trinidad and
Tobago (1994), but with names updated to current forms.

Location Codes:
Asa = Asa Wright Nature Centre (including portions of Blanchisseuse Road immediately adjacent, Trinidad (4/10-13/99)
AgR = Agricultural Research Station, Trinidad (4/10-11/99)
Waller = Wallerfield, Trinidad (night only, 4/10/99)
Nariva = Nariva swamp and environs, Trinidad (4/11/99)
Blanch = Blanchisseuse Road (except near Asa), Trinidad (4/12/99)
Trincity - Trincity Sewage Ponds, Trinidad (4/12/99)
Caroni = Caroni Swamp, Trinidad (4/12/99)
GR = Grande Riviere (Mt. Plaisir), Trinidad (4/13-14/99)
BWI = Blue Waters Inn, Speyside and environs, Tobago (4/14-16/99)
LTob = Little Tobago Island and boat trip, Tobago (4/15/99)
Gilpin = Gilpin Trace and forest reserve environs, Tobago (4/16/99)
Crown = Crown Point Airport, Tobago (4/17/99)
Little Tinamou  Crypturellus soui heard only, Asa, most mornings
Least Grebe  Tachybaptus dominicus 10 at Trincity
Red-billed Tropicbird  Phaethon aethereus many at LTob, some probably visible with scope from BWI
Brown Booby  Sula leucogaster many at LTob, a few flying by at BWI
Red-footed Booby  Sula sula 2 light phase, 1 dark phase at LTob
Brown Pelican  Pelecanus occidentalis many at GR, BWI, LTob
Neotropic (Olivaceous) Cormorant  Phalacrocorax brasilianus 5 at Caroni
Anhinga  Anhinga anhinga 1 at Caroni
Magnificent Frigatebird  Fregata magnificens 1 at Nariva, many at BWI, LTob
Pinnated Bittern  Botaurus pinnatus 1 at AgR, 1 at Nariva
Great Blue Heron  Ardea herodias 1 at Caroni; honesty in reporting wouldn't allow us to turn it into a White-necked Heron!
Great Egret  Ardea alba a few at AgR, Nariva, Trincity, Caroni
Snowy Egret  Egretta thula a few at Caroni, 4 at Trincity (including a likely Little Blue Heron/Snowy Egret hybrid, with long sharp dark bill, no yellow around eye, yellowish-green legs with only slightly contrasting dull orange feet, no nuchal plumes, basic Snowy build; a birder with more experience with Little Egret suggested to me that this might actually be a Little Egret/Little Blue Heron hybrid, certainly seems plausible; a weird looking bird, in any case)
Little Blue Heron  Egretta caerulea a few at Caroni
Tricolored Heron  Egretta tricolor 3 at Caroni
Cattle Egret  Bubulcus ibis common throughout in all grassy areas
Green Heron  Butorides virescens 1 at Caroni (rare anywhere on Trinidad)
Striated Heron  Butorides striatus Single birds at AgR, Nariva, Trincity
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron  Nycanassa violacea Caroni
Scarlet Ibis  Eudocimus ruber 300+ flying overhead at Caroni, a few feeding in the mudflats on the return trip; local guides say that this species is now increasing on Trinidad and beginning to breed again
Black Vulture  Coragyps atratus Common throughout
Turkey Vulture  Cathartes aura Common in various locations
American Swallow-tailed Kite  Elanoides forficatus a single individual on the first day at Asa was the only one seen the entire trip
Pearl Kite  Gampsonyx swainsonii 1 studied for some time near the entrance to AgR; not an easy bird to find, very local and seasonal
Plumbeous Kite  Ictinia plumbia 1 seen between Asa and Arima perched on a tree; 2 more on road to Grande Riviere, in vicinity of Valencia
White Hawk  Leucopternis albicollis several well-seen along Blanch
Common Black-Hawk  Buteogallus anthracinus single birds and pairs at Asa, along Blanch, at Nariva and GR
Great Black-Hawk  Buteogallus urubitinga 1 high overhead at Asa, 1 closer in at the scenic overlook above Gilpin, 1 very close along the East/West Road east of Gilpin
Savanna Hawk Buteogallus meridionalis copulating pair at AgR, several individuals at Nariva
Gray Hawk  Buteo nitidus 1 at Nariva
Broad-winged Hawk  Buteo platypterus 3 along East/West Road in vicinity of Gilpin
Short-tailed Hawk  Buteo brachyurus 1 pair along Blanch
Ornate Hawk-Eagle  Spizaetus ornatus 1 perched above nest at Asa an unforgetable sight; solo travelers--don't let pride keep you from asking the guides where to find this gorgeous bird!
Yellow-headed Caracara  Milvago chimachima AgR, Nariva, Caroni
Merlin  Falco columbarius 1 at AgR, 1 near BWI
Peregrine Falcon  Falco peregrinus 1 at AgR
Rufous-vented Chachalaca  Ortalis ruficauda common at all Tobago locations, especially easy on grounds of BWI
Trinidad (Common) Piping-Guan  Aburria (Pipile?) pipile 4 at GR; local name is "Pawi"; hire local guide to show you the night roost; findable on your own, but best to support local efforts to protect this scarce bird; not sure of precise taxonomic status--some consider it conspecific with Blue-throated Piping Guan of Venezuela
Gray Breasted Crake  Laterallus exilis one heard only in the morning at AgR, but heard well, calling at least twice in wetland area not far from Water Buffalo pens
Purple Gallinule  Porphyrula martinica Trincity
Common Moorhen  Gallinula chloropus A few at Trincity were the only ones seen
Limpkin  Aramus guarauna one heard at night at Waller
Southern Lapwing  Vanellus chilensis dozens at Waller, AgR; 2 at Trincity; the AgR birds showed bright red spurs on the breast near the wing joint, apparently not frequently seen
Black-bellied Plover  Pluvialis squatarola only at Caroni, on the mudflats exposed by the falling tide
Semipalmated Plover  Charadrius semipalmatus Caroni, along banks at high tide, on mudflats at lower tide
Wattled Jacana  Jacana jacana abundant at Nariva, Trincity, a few at AgR
Greater Yellowlegs  Tringa melanoleuca 1 at AgR, common at Trincity, Caroni
Lesser Yellowlegs  Tringa flavipes 1 at AgR, Trincity, common at Caroni
Solitary Sandpiper  Tringa solitaria 1 at Trincity
Willet  Catoptrophorus semipalmatus 10+ at Caroni on low tide mudflats
Spotted Sandpiper  Actitis macularia Trincity, Caroni, GR, BWI
Ruddy Turnstone  Arenaria interpres 1 at Caroni, GR, common at BWI; seeing them run up the beach and into the bar, eagerly gobbling up food morsels from the tables was a new one on me
Sanderling  Calidris alba A few at Caroni on low tide mudflats
Least Sandpiper  Calidris minutilla 3 at AgR, Common at Trincity, Caroni
Short-billed Dowatcher  Limnodromus griseus common at Caroni on mudflats
Laughing Gull  Larus atricilla BWI, LTob
Royal Tern  Sterna maxima a few near Roxborough, Tobago, on the drive to BWI were the only ones seen; reportedly common on the west side of Tobago
Yellow-billed Tern  Sterna superciliaris 8 at Trincity may have been the first arrivals of the season
Rock Dove  Columba livia noticed some on the drive to Nariva, on the drive to BWI; may have been elsewhere, too
Pale-vented Pigeon  Columba cayennensis 2 AgR; more common on Tobago, with various individuals noted (by sight and ear) at BWI, LTob, Gilpin
Scaled Pigeon  Columba speciosa heard many at Asa, Blanch; at least 1 seen at Asa
Eared Dove  Zenaida auriculata 5+ at Caroni, common at Crown; apparently rare or absent from BWI and Gilpin areas of Tobago
Ruddy Ground Dove  Columbina talpacoti common throughout Trindidad at all locations; less common on Tobago, with a few birds noted at BWI, on Cross Island Rd east of Gilpin
White-tipped Dove  Leptotila verreauxi Seen well at AgR; decidedly more common on Tobago, seen at all locations
Gray-fronted Dove  Leptotila rufaxilla Asa, Blanch; the common Leptotila in Trinidad
Ruddy Quail-Dove  Geotrygon montana 2 heard only at Asa
Red-bellied Macaw  Ara manilata 75+ coming in to roost in Royal Palms at Nariva at 5:45 p.m. Come early and they won't be there yet; come too late (even by a few minutes) and they will have already slid into the palms and be audible, but not visible.
Green-rumped Parrotlet  Forpus passerinus surprisingly good looks at AgR, Nariva
Lilac-tailed Parrotlet  Touit batavica brief glimpses on a few occasions at Asa; very frustrating, better view desired
Blue-headed Parrot  Pionus menstruus brief views of distant flying birds on Blanch qualify it for the trip list (Peter has seen it previously); not sufficient view for me to count as a lifer
Orange-winged Parrot  Amazona amazonica Common and widespread, with many close-up views; seen in all locations except Trincity, Caroni, LTob
Striped Cuckoo  Tapera naevia heard only, but commonly, at AgR; only not seen because we had both seen it previously and didn't feel like pushing into the chigger-infested field to get a clear view!
Smooth-billed Ani  Crotophaga ani Common in most locations
Tropical Screech Owl  Otus choliba pair seen at Waller; heard others at Waller, GR, and what I believe was a brief call at Asa (not repeated)
Spectacled Owl  Pulsatrix perspicillata distinctly heard a distant bird at Waller
Ferruginous Pygmy Owl  Glaucidium brasilianum very common at Asa calling well into the morning; also heard along Blanch and at GR
Common Pauraque  Nyctidromus albicollis several seen at Waller, many others calling at the same locale
Common Potoo  Nyctibius griseus 1 awake at night at Waller, 1 sleeping at Caroni
Oilbird  Steatornis caripensis approximately 15 at Dunston Cave at Asa, including 2 fluffy chicks
Chestnut-collared Swift  Streptoprocne rutila Some overhead at Asa on the first day only; swifts can be tough at Asa because they are typically far overhead against a bright sky, with many species of a similar size and shape
Short-tailed Swift  Chaetura brachyura common at GR, LTob
Band-rumped Swift  Chaetura spinicauda Finally a good look at some on Blanch, after many possible views on earlier days at Asa
Gray-rumped Swift  Chaetura cinereiventris good looks at Nariva, Trincity, and finally at Asa on the last day; also on Cross Island Road east of Gilpin
Fork-tailed Palm-Swift  Tachornis squamata One bird on successive days at AgR were the only birds noted. I thought this one would be much more common in proper habitat
Rufous-breasted Hermit  Glaucis hirsuta several, including 1 on nest along Blanch, easier to find on Tobago where seen at BWI, Gilpin, and below Gilpin. Never seen at Asa, but undoubtedly around somewhere (but I don't think it comes to the feeders)
Little Hermit  Phaethornis longuermareus one seen near Dunston Cave at Asa
White-tailed Sabrewing  Campylopterus ensipennis 5 seen well along Gilpin, with 1 sitting on a nest
White-necked Jacobin  Florisuga mellivora common around the feeders at Asa
Black-throated Mango  Anthracothorax nigricollis 1 on nest at AgR, others at Blanch, Trincity, BWI
Ruby-topaz Hummingbird  Chrysolampis mosquitus 1 female at LTob was the only one noted; a big disappointment not seeing the male; reportedly more common at Aripo, where we didn't go
Tufted Coquette  Lophornis ornata females at Asa, including occasionally at the feeders; the only male was also at Asa, but in the Blue Vervain above the upper cabins (#16 and 17), takes patience to see
Blue-chinned Sapphire  Chlorestes notatus Common at the feeders and in the nearby forest at Asa; also at Blanch, BWI
White-chested Emerald  Amazilia chionopectus Another common bird at Asa, with others noted at GR
White-tailed Goldenthroat  Polytmus guainumbi only one seen, at Nariva, a bird quietly sitting on a bit of marsh grass; pointed out by the guides--we would not have found this one on our own
Copper-rumped Hummingbird  Amazilia tobaci Yet another of the common feeder birds at Asa; also common along Blanch at at GR
Long-billed Starthroat  Heliomaster longirostris 1 noted at Asa away from the feeders, along the Discovery Trail below the Centre
White-tailed Trogon  Trogon viridis Seen at Blanch, heard frequently at Asa
Violaceous Trogon  Trogon violaceus Seen at Asa, heard at Asa and GR
Collared Trogon  Trogon collaris heard at Asa and Blanch, but not seen well until Gilpin and Cross Island Road below Gilpin, where seen well
Blue-crowned Motmot  Momotus momota heard and seen commonly at Asa, Blanch, and all Tobago locations except Crown; nest burrows at Gilpin; one night roosting on our porch lamp at BWI
Ringed Kingfisher  Ceryle torquata 1 seen at Nariva 
Belted Kingfisher  Ceryle alcyon 1 perched on wire on the road to GR
American Pygmy Kingfisher  Chloroceryle aenea 1 briefly seen at Caroni, wouldn't have been a good enough view for a lifer
Rufous-tailed Jacamar  Galbula ruficauda easy to see and hear on Tobago, at BWI, Gilpin, and even once driving along the road near Roxborough
Channel-billed Toucan  Ramphastos vitellnius unfortunately only 1 seen at Asa (on Discovery Trail just below the Centre) and 2 seen poorly at Blanch; I never get tired of Toucans!
Red-crowned Woodpecker  Melanerpes rubricapillus a pair seen at a nest hole along the Cross Island Road east of Gilpin
Red-rumped Woodpecker  Veniliornis kirkii 2 at Asa, 2 at Nariva
Golden-olive Woodpecker  Piculus rubiginosus 2 at Blanch, also at Gilpin and environs
Chestnut Woodpecker  Celeus elegans only 1 of this stunner, at the Asa feeders
Lineated Woodpecker  Dryocopus lineatus a few heard at Asa, Blanch
Pale-breasted Spinetail  Synallaxis albescens Blanch, Gilpin
Stripe-breasted Spinetail  Synallaxis cinnamomea seen well at Blanch, Gilpin
Yellow-chinned (throated) Spinetail Certhiaxis cinnamomea 2 at AgR, 1 at Trincity
Plain-brown Woodcreeper  Dendrocincla fuliginosa Seen well along Blanch
Olivaceous Woodcreeper  sittasomus griseicapillus heard repeatedly at Gilpin and along Cross Island Road, but only fleeting glimpse
Buff-throated Woodcreeper  Xiphorhynchus guttatus well seen and heard at Asa, Blanch, BWI, Gilpin; one of the marvelous, prominent, voices of the forest
Streak-headed Woodcreeper  Lepidocolaptes souleyetii 1 seen along Discovery Trail at Asa near White-ruffed Manakin lek
Great Antshrike  Taraba major More common ehre than anywhere else I've birded; well seen, frequently heard at Asa, Blanch, AgR, Nariva, GR, BWI, Cross Island Road below Gilpin
Black-crested Antshrike  Sakesphorus canadensis 3 well seen at Nariva; very local bird; having a guide or very good directions important
Barred Antshrike  Thamnophilus doliatus Asa, AgR, GR, Gilpin, Crown
Plain Antvireo  Dysithamnus mentalis 1 well seen along the Bellbird Trail at Asa, 1 seen along Gilpin
White-fringed Antwren  Formicivora grisea only one was one seen along the dirt road above BWI
Silvered Antbird  Sclateria naevia one heard only, calling from deep within the forest at Nariva
Black-faced Antthrush  Formicarius analis 1 seen with considerable tape coaxing along Blanch, 1 seen without any taping at all early in the morning at Asa, near the big Mango Tree along the Discovery Trail; heard commonly at Asa
Southern Beardless Tyrannulet  Camptostoma obsoletum heard only, Asa
Forest Elaenia  Myiopagis gaimardii 2 at Asa
Yellow-bellied Elaenia  Elaenia flavogaster Asa, Blanch, AgR, BWI, LTob, Gilpin vicincity
Ochre-bellied Flycatcher  Mionectes oleagineus several along Gilpin, including one nest-building
Yellow-breasted Flycatcher  Tolmomyias flaviventris 1 on dirt road above BWI
Olive-sided Flycatcher  Contopus borealis 1 at Blanch, on the way north
Tropical Pewee  Contopus cinereus Asa, Blanch, BWI
Euler's Flycatcher  Empidonax euleri 1 well-seen along Blanch, just over the summit
Fuscous Flycatcher  Cnemotriccus fuscatus 1 well seen along Gilpin
Pied Water-Tyrant  Fluvicola pica Easy at AgR, Nariva, Trincity
White-headed Marsh-Tyrant  Arundinicola leucocephala easy at AgR, Nariva, Trincity
Dusky-capped Flycatcher  Myiarchus tuberculifer Asa
Brown-crested Flycatcher  Myiarchus tyrannulus Nariva, LTob, Cross Island Road below Gilpin
Great Kiskadee  Pitangus sulphuratus common throughout; one of the first to call in the early morning
Streaked Flycatcher  Myiodynastes maculatus Asa
Piratic Flycatcher  Legatus leucophaius heard repeatedly at Asa, Blanch, AgR, finally well seen at Blanch
Tropical Kingbird  Tyrannus melancholicus Common throughout on Trinidad; also near Gilpin
Gray Kingbird  Tyrannus dominicensis 1 at AgR, Caroni, BWI, but never common
Fork-tailed Flycatcher  Tyrannus savana 10 early migrants at AgR
Black-tailed Tityra  Tityra cayana 2 birds on one day at Asa were the only ones noted
Bearded Bellbird  Procnias averano Heard repeatedly at Asa, Blanch; seeing one took quite a bit of persistence, but when found admired for a long time at close range; best place to see them is at the end of the Discovery Trail at Asa
White-bearded Manakin  Manacus manacus On the lek at Asa
Blue-backed Manakin  Chiroxiphia pareola Individuals in the forest and lekking, all at Gilpin
Golden-headed Manakin  Pipra erythrocephala not lekking while we were there, but more widely distributed than the others; seen well vrious places at Asa, Blanch
Carribean Martin  Progne dominicensis common at Crown, but scarce on eastern part of Tobago, with only 3 at Roxborough noted
Gray-breasted Martin  Progne chalybea AgR, Blanch, GR
White-winged Swallow  Tachycineta albiventer Common at AgR, Trincity; 3 birds at GR were not in a location indicated in ffrench, also those birds had little white in the wing. At first we thought we might have some other species, but ruled out everything else (Blue-and-White wrong color, doesn't have white rump; Mangrove way out of range, has white over the eye). Also, Sick, Birds of Brazil states that worn birds may show less white in the wing
Southern Rough-winged Swallow  Stelgidopteryx ruficollis AgR
Barn Swallow  Hirundo rustica 1 at Trincity
Rufous-breasted Wren  Thryothorus rutilus Common Asa, Blanch, GR
Tropical House Wren  Troglogytes aedon Common throughout both islands
Long-billed Gnatwren  Ramphocaenus melanurus heard Asa, seen Blanch
Yellow-legged Thrush  Platycichla flavipes surprisingly easy to see (and hear) this lovely bird at Gilpin
Cocoa Thrush  Turdus fumigatus the common "robin" on both islands
Bare-eyed Thrush  Turdus nudigenis less common than the last species, but still easy to find at most locations on both islands
White-necked Thrush  Turdus albicollis much more secretive, but present in good numbers at Asa, Blanch, Gilpin; AOU says separate species from White-throated Robin of Central America
Tropical Mockingbird  Mimus gilvus common most locations on Trinidad, abundant on Tobago
Chivi (Red-eyed?) Vireo  Vireo (olivaceus?) chivi common at LTob, Gilpin, Cross Island Road; taxonomic status not entirely clear, with ffrench calling it a full species, but the AOU a subspecies of Red-eyed Vireo
Golden-fronted Greenlet  Hylophilus aurantiifrons Asa, Blanch; easy to forget about this one with all of the other beautiful birds about
Rufous-browed Peppershrike  Cyclarhis gujanensis heard and often well seen at AgR, Blanch, Caroni
Yellow Warbler  Dendroica petechia 1 at AgR
Cape May Warbler  Dendroica tigrina 1 in the ornamental pines at Trincity
Northern Waterthrush  Seiurus noveboracensis a few at most Trinidad locations
Golden-crowned Warbler  Basileuterus culicivorus Asa, Blanch, a nesting pair at Asa
Bananaquit  Coereba flaveola Adorable little sugar thiefs common in all locations
Bicolored Conebill  Conirostrum bicolor 5 at Nariva, 2 at Caroni; very poorly illustrated in the ffrench guide
Turquoise Tanager  Tangara mexicana Common at Asa, but mostly away from the feeders
Bay-headed Tanager  Tangara gyrola Common at Asa, Blanch; hard to get tired of that one!
Green Honeycreeper  Chlorophanes spiza Common at Asa, Blanch, especially around the feeders
Purple Honeycreeper  Cyanerpes caeruleus common at the Asa feeders, a few along Blanch
Red-legged Honeycreeper  Cyanerpes cyaneus A pair at Gilpin
Violaceous Euphonia  Euphonia violocea the common euphonia at Asa, Blanch, also one at Gilpin
Blue-gray Tanager  Thraupis episcopus common throughout
Palm Tanager  Thraupis palmarum common throughout; pair nesting inside the verandah at Asa, inside the restaurant at BWI
Silver-beaked Tanager  Ramphocelus carbo Common at feeders at Asa, also nesting along Blanch, GR
White-shouldered Tanager  Tachyphonus luctuosus mostly away from the feeders at Asa, also along Blanch, GR
White-lined Tanager  Tachyphonus rufus Common at the feeders and in the forest at Asa; also Blanch, Gilpin and environs
Red-crowned Ant-Tanager  Habia rubica for all the time I've spent creeping around after this bird in other countries, it was amazing to see it at the feeders at Asa; also Blanch
Summer Tanager  Piranga rubra 1 female along Blanch
Swallow Tanager  Tersina viridis 2 pairs just over the summit along Blanch, found by eagle-eyed Ramdas; one of the highlights of the trip
Grayish Saltator  Saltator coerulescens 3 at AgR; probably the same species as the ones we have seen in Mexico, but some authorities (not ffrench or the AOU) call it distinct
Blue-black Grassquit  Volatinia jacarina AgR, Nariva, Trincity, GR, BWI, nesting at Crown
Ruddy-breasted Seedeater  Sporophila minuta a few at AgR; not a common bird
Black-faced Grassquit  Tiaris bicolor easy at BWI, Crown, along the roads in Tobago
Saffron Finch  Sicalis flaveola 2 at AgR were a welcome surprise
Red-breasted Blackbird  Sturnella (Leistes) militaris common and gorgeous at AgR, Nariva
Yellow-hooded Blackbird  Agelaius icterocephalus AgR, Nariva, Trincity
Carib Grackle  Quiscalus lugubris AgR, Trincity, Caroni, GR, Crown
Shiny Cowbird  Molothrus bonariensis might as well get some practice on the ID; common inmost locations, including at the feeder at Asa
Giant Cowbird  Scaphidura oryzivora Nariva, Cross Island Road east of Gilpin
Yellow Oriole  Icterus nigrogularis Common at the Asa feeder, AgR, Caroni, active nest along Blanch
Yellow-rumped Cacique  Cacicus cela nice look at a nesting colony in Sangre Grande on the way to Nariva; most restricted range of all the common icterids in Trinidad; would have been easy to overlook
Crested Oropendola  Psarocolius decumanus Common throughout, with nesting colonies noted at Asa, Blanch

SUPPLEMENTAL LIST (a.k.a. the ones that got away).

My personal criterea for listing is that for a lifer I have to see the bird EXCEPT that I allow heard-only records for night birds, rails, and occasionally other furtive species that will require a high level of disturbance to lure into the open (but in any case only if the call or song is very distinctive). For non-lifers I put heard-only on the main list as long as the call or song is distinctive. The birds that follow are either heard-only birds that fail the above tests, or birds that we just didn't get a convincing enough look at to count.
Audubon's Shearwater  Puffinus iherminieri fresh burrows on LTob, but no birds visible.
Streaked Xenops  Xenops rutilans brief view of what was probably this species at Asa, near the big Mango tree along the Discovery Trail
Gray-throated Leaftosser  Sclerurus albigularis probably heard at Asa (in a location where seen by others), but not 100% sure
Scrub Greenlet  Hylophilus flavipes heard and brief view on Cross Island Road below Gilpin, but not sufficient for this common, nondescript bird; if this was the beginning, rather than the end of the trip we would have probably diligently tracked it down!
Tropical Parula  Parula pitiayumi a singing bird, heard by all, seen by the guide but not by us, was undoubtedly this species
Trinidad Euphonia  Euphonia trinitatis heard only at Asa and Blanch; although the song is distinctive, this is too pretty of a bird to count as a lifer without seeing it!

BIRDS SEEN AT SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO (April 17, 1999) 2 hour layover on the plane flight home
Cattle Egret  Bubulcus ibis common along runways
Zenaida Dove  Zenaida aurita a single bird on the tarmac while transferring to customs/immigration
Carribean Martin  Progne dominicensis many flying overhead
House Sparrow  Passer domesticus no comment
Greater Antillean Grackle  Quiscalus niger very common in front of the terminal

Red-tailed Squirrel - in the forests throughout
Red-rumped Agouti  Dasyprocta agouti a few around Asa feeders, stealthy but not hard to find
bat sp. - -

REPTILES AND AMPHIBIANS: names, ID's not reliable--consider them my best guess!
Tegu  Tupinambis teguixin the big monitor-like lizard around Asa
Garden Lizard - Not sure of proper name or latin, but it is the medium-sized lizard with the greenish head and contrasting brown body common around the gardens at Asa, given this name by the guides
Common Iguana  Iguana iguana a whole family at BWI
Spectacled Caiman  Caiman crocodilus AgR, Trincity, Caroni
Cook's Tree Boa  Corallus ___? 2 at Caroni
Leatherback Turtle  Dermochelys coriacea laying eggs and swimming beyond the surf at GR, in the sea near Ltob

various small brown leaf frogs (poison arrow relatives, say the guides), night frog sounds of unknown species

Francis Toldi
Burlingame, CA

Francis Toldi

701 Walnut Avenue

Burlingame, CA 94010

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