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ARUBA  -  (Netherlands Antilles)

August 1997

by Tony White

I just returned from the Society of Caribbean Ornithology meeting in Aruba.  While most days were spent listening to papers in a conference room, I did get in some interesting birding.  Aruba is a fascinating island.  It is dry and windy.  The predominant plants were prickly pear, organ-pipe cactus and other desert plants.  The wind blew all day every day at fifteen knots or better.  The beaches on the leeward side were wonderful and full of tourists.  The island is prosperous and multilingual so it is not hard to get around.  August is the quiet time of the year both bird- and tourist-wise.  There were few migrants, so we had to concentrate on the breeders.  Here is a list of what I saw.  This was an ornithological convention not a birding tour so there was no consolidated checklist.

The best birding spots were:

Bubali a large fresh water lake created from the treated sewage of the hotels.  There is an observation platform directly across from the old Dutch windmill.

Arikok National Park in the south central part of the island.  This magnificent patch of rocks and cactus had the most interesting birding.  Loaded with birds.

Spanish Lagoon - A refuge on the west shore opposite Arikok.  Mangrove swamp, salt flats (dry in August), and thick scrub.  Good birding in summer, should be even better in winter.

Salt flats inland from Route 1 north of the hotels had nesting Least Terns and numerous roosting terns.  Shorebirds were beginning to show up as well.  San Nicolas Islands off the oil refinery - I did not get here, but there are reports of large tern colonies on the islands.  You would probably have to rent a boat to get near.  Do not land on these islands.

Field Guides:

Voous: 1983, Birds of the Netherlands Antilles;

de Schaunesee and Phelps: 1978, Birds of Venezuela.

There is also a photograpic "Nature Guide to the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba" by Karl Beylevelt sold in local shops.  It is published in Dutch and in English.

They aren't birds, but the blausana lizards are well worth seeing.  The males are a brilliant cobalt blue, and the females are brown blue spots.

Species list:
Pied-billed Grebe  Common at Bubali.
Brown Booby  Seen once flying by the beach.
Brown Pelican  Common along beaches and at Bubali.
Neotropic Cormorant  Common at Bubali, uncommon along beaches. 
Magnificent Frigatebird  Very common. There were almost always a few in view.
Great Blue Heron  Seen once at Bubali. 
Tricolored Heron  Fairly common at Bubali. 
Great Egret Common at Bubali.
Snowy Egret  Less common than previous species. 
Striated Heron  Common at Bubali and Spanish Lagoon. 
Black-crowned Night-Heron  Common at Bubali. 
White-cheeked Pintail Common at Bubali.
Blue-winged Teal  One in female plumage at Bubali. 
Osprey  Seen twice well inland.
Crested Caracara  Fairly common. Often seen over Bubali. 
American Kestrel  Fairly common.
Crested Bobwhite.  Pair seen at Seroe Colorado. Said to be common there. 
Common Moorhen  Fairly common at Bubali.
Caribbean Coot  Fairly common at Bubali. 
American Oystercatcher  One pair seen on beach.
Collared Plover  Seen on salt flats north of hotel. 
Semipalmated Plover.  One seen on beach.
Killdeer  Fairly common on salt flats north of hotel. 
Lesser Yellowlegs  Seen daily at Bubali.
Ruddy Turnstone  Fairly common.
Semipalmated Sandpiper  A few seen at Bubali and on salt flats. 
Least Sandpiper  More common than Semipalmateds.
Stilt Sandpiper  One seen on salt flats. 
Short-billed Dowitcher  One seen at Bubali. 
Laughing Gull  Common along beaches.
Gull-billed Tern  Uncommon. Three at Spanish Lagoon.
Sandwich/Cayenne Tern  Common, along beaches, roosting on rocks and salt flats.
Royal Tern  Fairly common along beaches and on salt flats. 
Common Tern  Common at Bubali and along beaches.
Least Tern  Fairly common, nesting on salt flats north of hotels. 
Bare-eyed Pigeon  Common, has wing markings like a White-winged dove. 
Eared Dove  Abundant seen everywhere.
White-tipped Dove  Fairly common at Spanish Lagoon and Arikok. 
Common Ground-Dove  Abundant, seen everywhere.
Caribbean Parakeet  Common around hotels, very common at Arikok and Spanish Lagoon. Endemic race.
Groove-billed Ani  Fairly common, usually ssen at Bubali.
Burrowing Owl  Fairly common. Pairs near hotel and at Spanish Lagoon. Endemic race.
Ruby-Topaz Hummingbird  Uncommon. Several seen at Spanish Lagoon, one at Arikok.
Common Emerald  Fairly common. More widespread than the previous species. 
Smooth (Scrub) Flycatcher  Uncommon at Arikok and Spanish Lagoon.
Brown-crested Flycatcher  Uncommon at Arikok and Spanish Lagoon.
Gray Kingbird  Very uncommon. Only seen at Spanish Lagoon. 
Barn Swallow.  Several flying along beach.
Tropical Mockingbird  Abundant seen everywhere.
Yellow Warbler  Common, Bubali, Spanish Lagoon and Arikok. Not confined to mangroves.
Bananaquit  Common especially around hotels. 
Black-faced Grassquit  Common.
Carib Grackle  Seen only in cities and towns. 
Shiny Cowbird  One seen at Bubali.
Troupial  Common at Arikok, fairly common elswhere. 
Yellow Oriole  Threatened. Seen only at Arikok. 

Tony White
Bethesda, MD