The first question we get from birders coming to the island is: ‘Can you recommend locations to visit to spot birds?’ And of course, it is a question with many possible answers. Curaçao might be relative small in surface, but has incredible variety of both native birds, migratory birds and new introductions whether by natural forces, or mankind, non-problematic of invasive. It all depends on what species you want to see exactly and how much time you have to spend searching for birds. In this series we introduce you to a variety of areas depending on the type of bird you want to see. With some tips and tricks and do’s and don’ts. This is the first article in a series of 10!
Caribbean flamingo – public’s favourite #1
There are 4 birds types which are usually on the wish list of nature lovers and birders alike; parakeets, hummingbirds, troupials and of course the public’s #1 pink bird, the Caribbean flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber ruber). Of course our sister island Bonaire is well known as the flamingo island, as a very large colony of these birds nest here every year and large flocks can be spotted all over the island. But in the last couple of decennia, the population of Caribbean flamingo’s on Curaçao is growing, probably due to disturbances to their habitats in the coastal zone of Venezuela as well as the breeding success of the population in Bonaire. Despite some, largely unsuccessful, breeding attempts, flamingo’s are not considered to be breeding birds for Curaçao but they can be seen year round. Their numbers fluctuate heavily varying from less than 50 individuals on the entire island to sometimes over a 1500 individuals spread out over several areas. And of course their presence is related to food resources in their favourite habitats, former salt pans and inner bays.
Where to spot Caribbean flamingo’s?
Caribbean flamingo’s can be spotted in several areas on the island. These are the most easily accessible areas:
- Salt pans of Jan Thiel
Hike from Den Dunki national park towards the back of the salt pans of Jan Thiel (if the trail is not inundated by rainwater or high tide) and walk around the salt pans to observe the flamingo’s. Sometimes you can spot up to 250 individuals here)
- Salt pans of Jan Kok
The most popular location in Curaçao now called the Flamingo sanctuary is accessible by car and can not be missed if you are driving towards the beaches of Daaibooi or Porto Marie. However be aware that the number of flamingo’s in this area are often low due to visitor disturbance, unallowed drone- flying and the presence of feral dogs.
- Salt pans of St. Michiel
The least known of the flamingo-areas. In the very early morning hours flamingo’s are often standing close to the road and will roam towards the back as the day progresses. You will pass these saltpans when driving to the beach of Vaersenbaai (Kokomo beach).
To protect flamingo’s and other bird species in the mentioned areas as well as the historical salt pans which are historical monuments on the island there are a few thing all visitors need to take into account:
- Never walk on the salt pan structures. These constructions are very fragile and can be easily destroyed!
- All mentioned areas are NO-FLYING ZONES. Either because of the bird fauna, the presence of the local prison and/or the fact that the area is in the direct flying zone of the airport flying with drones in these areas is NOT ALLOWED. We have had several incidents with people who want to take flight shots of flamingo’s, stressing the birds and even killing them in the process because of their irresponsible behaviour. We can not stress this enough! Do Not Fly With Drones in these areas!
- Do not try to scare the birds to make them fly so you can get a flight shot. This is very unethical and can cause injury and or death in these birds.
- Keep to designated trails and/or watch towers
We always warn visitors to be careful where they park their cars. Do not ever leave your belongings in your car when you are spotting flamingo’s. Even in locations where there is a security guard, theft is a possibility as he doesn’t have eyes on everything at the same time. Always be aware of your surroundings!
And of course have fun!