Bird watching in Saint Lucia

Think of wildlife experiences in Saint Lucia, and you’ll likely imagine the diverse underwater life that thrives in the reefs and waters surrounding the island; but the country is one of the greenest in the Caribbean and its thick forests and wetlands burst with beauties of the winged variety. Some 170 species are found here, including at least six endemics, one of which is the Saint Lucia parrot, brought back from the brink of extinction in the 1980s following island wide campaigns and a breeding programme.

Located in the Windward Islands, between the cooler climes of North and South America, this petite island nation attract birds from both continents, with North American species here from October to March and visitors from South America arriving from May to September. Saint Lucia’s small size means that getting around is straightforward, so you can take in the county’s varied landscapes and tick off an impressive array of bird species in just a few days. Read on to find out more about bird watching in Saint Lucia.

What do Saint Lucia bird watching vacations entail?

We offer both tailor made and small group bird watching vacations in Saint Lucia. On a small group vacation, you’ll be traveling with a handful of fellow birding enthusiasts (usually no more than 10 people), and the tours run on set dates. A tailor made birding vacation will be just you and your traveling companions, so you’ll be able to design your departure according to your schedule, budget and interests, whether that’s to grab the best weather or to tie in with breeding, nesting or migratory seasons, so do talk with the vacation company if there is a particular bird you want to see.
Along the way you’ll be accompanied by expert local guides who’ll tell you all you could possibly want to know about the local birdlife, as well as bringing the other wildlife, flora and landscapes to life, too. Some tours also offer the chance to extend your trip with a few days in Trinidad & Tobago, another Caribbean birding hotspot.
Spotting the birds may involve hiking into rainforest, sometimes with steep ascents required, so you should be reasonably fit and you’ll definitely need a good pair of walking shoes. Depending on the trip there may be other activities included, such as whale and dolphin watching, or visiting the Soufriere Volcano, and there’s usually time to swim and relax on the beach, too. If it is turtle nesting time, an additional tour to the northeast of the island to see this natural spectacle can also be included.
All our birding breaks in Saint Lucia are based on the east coast, for the most part at a hillside boutique hotel surrounded by banana and coconut plantations and close to the best bird watching on the island. Birding vacations typically last between nine days and two weeks, but a tailor made vacation can be extended or trimmed to suit you.

Where to go bird watching in Saint Lucia

There are a good number of birding spots in Saint Lucia, with a variety of landscapes to match, from beaches to mountains to rainforest. However, you don't have to hike into the middle of nowhere to get your fix of colorful birdlife. Wherever you’re staying you’re likely to see hummingbirds taking nectar from the bushes and doves, finches and pigeons fluttering around the grounds, while overhead you could see hawks, kestrels and magnificent frigate birds.

Central Rainforest belt

The Central Rainforest belt is a prime location for spotting the Saint Lucia parrot, as well as some of the island’s other rare birds. Your binoculars will take in the black finches, mockingbirds and Saint Lucia orioles, for example, who often drop in at the feeding stations that line the verdant walking trails. The Soufriere Des Bott Trail takes you to over 300m above sea level, with plenty of opportunity to stop and appreciate outstanding views of the Pitons to the north and the Soufriere mountain range to the west.

Mamiku Botanical Gardens and Estate

Originally acquired in 1766 by the Baron de Micoud, once governor of St Lucia, the Mamiku Botanical Gardens and Estate today has over 200 varieties of plants, and is still a busy banana and fruit plantation. It offers regular bird watching tours and is a fantastic place to spot hummingbirds, golden orioles and the endangered white-breasted thrasher. It also has an impressive 247 plant species including some stunning tropical orchids, not to mention the on-site historical ruins and hiking trails.

Millet bird sanctuary and nature trail

Set some 10km inland from the west coast highway, this sanctuary is home to over 30 species of birds, five of which, including the Saint Lucia parrot and the Saint Lucia warbler, are endemic. There are plenty of knowledgeable forest rangers here who can take you on a tour of the sanctuary, which includes a scenic 3km loop hiking trail through thick forests and open hilltops, providing a breathtaking view of the John Compton Dam, the largest in the Eastern Caribbean.

Northeast coast

Saint Lucia’s northeast coast is wild, beautiful and packed full of birdlife, especially water birds. Grand Anse beach, a peaceful sweep of white sand, is a favoured nesting ground for leatherback turtles but is also one of the only places on the island where you can regularly see nightjars and mask ducks and, if you’re lucky, the house wren and the elusive bridal quail dove. Other highlights include the beachside town of Gros Islet, where you can spot royal, sandwich and other terns; and Pigeon Island, joined to the mainland by a sandy causeway and scattered with historic sites as well as being home to brown, mask and red-footed boobies roosting on a cliffside perch 300m above the ocean.

Quilesse Forest

The lush canopies of the Quilesse Forest Reserve are the habitat of the Saint Lucia parrot. Several walking trails pass through the reserve, winding through giant ferns, towering philodendrons, orchids and anthuriums. These include the breathtakingly beautiful Descartiers Trail, a 4km loop through little-visited terrain, where almost all the Saint Lucia endemics can also be found. Birding tours here are often combined with the Vieux Fort Wetlands, too, which attracts many species of duck, heron, sandpiper, plover, egret, rails and other shore birds and waterfowl.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Saint Lucia or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

Best time to go bird watching in Saint Lucia

In Saint Lucia, you can see colourful birds year round, including the island’s brilliant endemics, though migratory birds from South America visit from May to September, while North American species are more likely to be seen from October to March. The main breeding season is from January to April.

In terms of the weather, birds will be easier to see – and noisier – outside of the June to November rainy season, with walking trails more accessible, too. Remember to factor in hurricane season, alongside the possibility of bird sightings, when choosing when to go.
Written by Nana Luckham
Photo credits: [Page banner: Charles Sharp] [Entails (Lesser Antillean Bullfinch) and Mamiku Botanical Gardens (Hummingbird): Both images taken by Tim Russon on MotMot Travel trip to St Lucia] [Quilesse Forest (Yellow-crowned night heron): Addy Cameron-Huff]