May 10 - 17, 2011
Chris Gibson



My partner Sandra and I visited this beautiful island in May. We chose Aruba as it seemed an

ideal Caribbean island for a relaxing break and in addition some very good birding to be had.

We were not dissapointed as the island proved to meet both criteria and was exactly how

we had hoped it would be. We are from the UK and this was my first serious attempt at birding

in the New World. Although the island did not have an extensive list of birds it did hold an

interesting mix of both North and South American species as well as plenty of Caribbean birds,

too. As a previous report had stated, the island is indeed very "birdy."


We opted to stay at the Riu Palace, which is very close to the Bubali nature reserve and is in

fact the perfect location for birding the whole island as it is very central, with the Bubali on

its doorstep, the Arikok natural park to the East and the Californian Lighthouse to the North.

Behind the main road opposite the Riu Palace hotel was a small lake plus an untouched wild

area of dried out lake bed and vegetation that was literally teeming with birds. It was here

plus Bubali where I did most of my birding and almost all of the species on my trip list were

spotted within a mile of the Riu Palace hotel.


Around the hotel and in fact all along the coast there were Magnificent Frigatebirds and Brown

Pelicans to be seen. You can't miss them, just look up. Common birds that we saw in most

places without trying hard were Laughing Gull, Bare-eyed Pigeon, Eared Dove, Tropical,

Mockingbird, Bananaquit, Black-faced Grassquit, Carribean Grackle, and House Sparrow. One

bird that I thought would be a lot harder to find was a Troupial, which we spotted within a

100 yards of leaving the hotel although for the rest of the holiday we only really got them in

more rural areas such as the Californian Lighthouse and Arikok National Park.

                                                                                                              Troupial by Chris Gibson                     

The Bubali nature reserve is a fantastic place. A huge area untouched by any development set

aside for the large amount of waterbirds that use it. However, there was a large building site 

between the main road and the opposite side of the lake from the observation tower so how

much impact this will have remains to be seen. The building site was very close to where the

birds roost so if it is to be another large resort hotel, that could affect whether those birds

choose to remain where they are. The observation tower had clearly been rebuilt as it was

not in the least bit hazardous and was very effective for views across the whole reserve.

However, I did feel it was a long way from the "action" and good views of the roosting birds

were unobtainable unless you had a scope (I didn't). However, birds in flight were easier to

spot and there was always stuff coming in a bit closer now and then to keep you busy.

Highlights were Great Egret, White-cheeked Pintail, an Osprey that roosted everyday and was

also seen hovering over the lake, Yellow Warbler, Brown-throated Parakeet, Common

Yellowthroat, and a Purple Gallinule that popped out of the reeds among the moorhens.

Groove-billed Anis were also spotted on the edge of the reserve close to the main road.

                                                                                                          Brown-throated Parakeet by Chris Gibson


It was on the building site that I had previously mentioned that I had cracking views of an adult

Crested Caracara.

                                                                                                                  Crested Caracara by Chris Gibson

This was a real thrill as it was a bird that was top of my list and I didn't want to miss out on seeing

one. Also along the main road is the butterfly farm. This was a great place to spot the Blue-tailed

Emerald hummingbird as there were lots of bushes and small trees around in full bloom.


The lake across the main road from the Riu Palace was a really great find and a place that I'm

not sure had been mentioned before in a report. Forgive me if I'm wrong. The place was teeming

with birds. Herons, egrets, cormorants, pelicans, and waders. The biggest surprise was the flock

of 16 Black Skimmers that were resident everyday. Just to see one or two would have been great

but there they were in all their glory mainly roosting but occasionally two or three would go off

feeding providing a great spectacle.

                                                                                                                          Black Skimmers by Chris Gibson

Green Herons were everywhere as were Black-necked Stilts. They were the noisiest birds around by far as

one or two pairs had chicks around them and they didn't take too kindly to me or the large Great Blue Heron

that was bothering them. Black-crowned Night-herons and Snowy Egrets were also numerous as were

Neotropic Cormorants. Several Southern Lapwings were also a great surprise as I wasn't expecting those.

They proved that with Aruba being so close to the South American mainland the type of birds seen here

could be very different from those farther north in the Caribbean.

                                                                                                                       Green Heron by Chris Gibson


On our second day we took a trip up to the Californian Lighthouse. From the cafe we attempted to

get closer to the golf course as I thought this could be a good spot. As we edged closer a 

medium-sized brown bird flew up from the ground and across to the other side of a small bush. We

both froze and soon realized we were walking toward a family of three Burrowing Owls.

                                                                                                                       Burrowing Owl by Chris Gibson

We kept our distance, and thankfully the owls stayed put to give us some great views and pics. After

that we didn't really bother with the golf course, we just explored the other side of the lighthouse toward

the sea. Highlights were a Peregrine Falcon, an American Kestrel and a small flock of Least Terns fishing.  


Farther along the main road from the Riu Palace heading north, I found another small lake that was on

the opposite side to the Marriot complex just a bit farther up. There were several species of waterbirds

that I got here that I didn't see at Bubali or the lake opposite the Riu Palace. These included Tri-colored

Heron, Reddish Egret, Sandwich Tern, Whimbrel, and Greater and Lesser yellowlegs. 


Another trip we took was to the Arikok National Park, which was a super place to explore but

unfortunatly the midday sun got the better of us. Probably best to visit early in the morning. I spotted

a pair of Crested Caracaras soaring in the distance, and there were hummers, Troupials, and Mockingbirds

around but nothing that we hadn't seen closer to the hotel. 


The following day we drove to Roger's Beach and Baby Beach. Here just offshore from the old oil refinery

is a small islet that was clearly packed out with breeding Terns. Unfortunately without hiring a boat we

couldn't get close views so I had to console myself with standing as close as I could to the sea at Roger's

Beach so as I could just make out the many Sooty Terns and Brown Noddys that were flying to and from

the islet. Another highlight here was a close view of a resting juvenile Crested Caracara and a Shiny Cowbird. 


The last place we visited was the capital Orangestaad, where I enjoyed watching the Common Terns and

Brown Pelicans fishing in the harbour and also managed to find a Royal Tern.


All in all it was a very enjoyable holiday with many birding highlights, and I would thoroughly recommend

Aruba as a birding destination if you wanted to try somewhere that wasnt too challenging but provides a

good mix of Caribbean birds with a few surprises thrown in.


Date: __10/5/11 to 17/5/11_________________________

Time: ___________________________

Locality: _____Bubali, lake and wild area behind riu palace, Lake near Marriot, Californian lighthouse, Arikok, Roger;s beach, Baby Beach________________________________

_____________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________

Observers:___Chris Gibson________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Abbreviations: Status in appropriate habitat is indicated in parentheses by single letter code.  C = common, U = uncommon, R = rare, V = vagrant. An asterisk (*) indicates that the species is known to have bred on the island.


Podicipedidae - Grebes

__4__  Pied-billed Grebe* (C ) Bubali

____  Least Grebe (U)


Procellariidae - Petrels and Shearwaters

____  Black-capped Petrel (R) 

____  Audubon's Shearwater (U)


Hydrobatidae - Storm-Petrels

____  Wilson's Storm-Petrel (R)

____  Leach's Storm-Petrel (V)


Sulidae – Boobies and Gannets

____  Masked Booby (V)

__1_ Brown Booby (C) offshore near lighthouse

____  Red-footed Booby (U)


Pelecanidae - Pelicans

___30 -40_  Brown Pelican* (C) all along coast


Phalacrocoracidae – Cormorants

__40-50__  Neotropic Cormorant* (C) Bubali  and other lakes


Fregatidae - Frigatebirds

___30-40_ Magnificent Frigatebird (C) all along coast


Ardeidae – Herons and Egrets

____ Pinnated Bittern (V)

__3__ Great Blue Heron (U) Bubali

__30__ Great Egret (C) Bubali and lake behind Riu palace

__30_ Snowy Egret* (C) Bubali and lake behind Riu palace

____ Little Blue Heron (C)

___4_ Tricolored Heron* (C) Lake near marriot

_1 ___ Reddish Egret (R) Lake near marriot

___5_ Cattle Egret* (C) Bubali and lake behind riu palace

___30+_ Green Heron* (C) Bubali and other lakes

_25+___ Black-crowned Night-Heron* (C) Bubali and lake behind riu palace

____ Yellow-crowned Night-Heron* (U)


Threskiornithidae - Ibises

____ White Ibis (R)

____ Scarlet Ibis (R)

____ Glossy Ibis (R)

____ White-faced Ibis (V)

____ Roseate Spoonbill (V)


Ciconiidae - Storks

____ Wood Stork (V)


Phoenicopteridae – Flamingos

____ Greater Flamingo (V)


Anatidae – Ducks, Geese, and Swans

____ White-faced Whistling-Duck (V)

____ Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (V)

____ Fulvous-Whistling Duck (V)

____ Greater White-fronted Goose (V)

____ Comb Duck (V)

____ American Wigeon (R)

____ Blue-winged Teal (C)

____ Northern Shoveler (V)

_25+___ White-cheeked Pintail* (C) Bubali and lake behind riu palace

____ Northern Pintail (V)

____ Lesser Scaup (U)


Accipitridae – Eagles, Hawks, and allies

__1__ Osprey (C) Bubali

____ White-tailed Kite (V)

____ White-tailed Hawk* (R)


Falconidae – Falcons

__4__ Crested Caracara* (U) Bubali, Arikok and Baby Beach

__2__ American Kestrel* (C) Californian lighthouse and lake near marriot

____ Merlin (U)

__1__ Peregrine Falcon (U) Californian lighthouse


Odontophoridae - Quail

__6__ Crested Bobwhite* (C) Californian Lighthouse


Rallidae – Rails, Gallinules, and Coots

____ Sora (U)

_1___ Purple Gallinule (R)

__10+__ Common Moorhen (C) Bubali and other lakes

__25+__ Caribbean Coot (C) Bubali and other lakes


Aramidae – Limpkins

____ Limpkin (V)


Charadriidae – Plovers

__5__ Southern Lapwing (V) Lake behind Riu Palace and Californian Lighthouse

__1__ Black-bellied Plover (C) Edge of Arikok park by the coast

____ American Golden-Plover (U)

____ Collared Plover (R)

____ Snowy Plover (R)

____ Wilson's Plover (R)

____ Semipalmated Plover (C)

_6___ Killdeer (C) Bubali and Baby Beach


Haematopodidae - Oystercatchers

____ American Oystercatcher (U)


Recurvirostridae - Stilts

_10___ Black-necked Stilt (C) Lake behind Riu palace and near Marriot


Scolopacidae – Sandpipers and allies

_15___ Greater Yellowlegs (C) Lake behind Riu palace and near marriot

___1_ Lesser Yellowlegs (C) Lake near marriot

____ Solitary Sandpiper (U)

____ Willet (U)

____ Spotted Sandpiper (C)

____ Upland Sandpiper (V)

__3__ Whimbrel (C) Lake near marriot and baby beach

____ Hudsonian Godwit (R)

__6__ Ruddy Turnstone (C) beach opposite bubali

____ Red Knot (R)

_1___ Sanderling (C) edge of arikok park near the coast

____ Semipalmated Sandpiper (C)

____ Western Sandpiper (U)

__1__ Least Sandpiper (C) Lake behind riu palace

__3__ White-rumped Sandpiper (R) Lake near marriot

____ Baird's Sandpiper (R)

____ Pectoral Sandpiper (R)

____ Stilt Sandpiper (U)

____ Short-billed Dowitcher (U)

____ Long-billed Dowitcher (R)

____ Common Snipe (C)


Laridae – Jaegers, Gulls, and Terns

____ Pomarine Jaeger (R)

____ Parasitic Jaeger (R)

__50+__ Laughing Gull* (C) numerous along the coast

____ Franklin’s Gull (V)

____ Ring-billed Gull (V)

____ Herring Gull (V)

____ Lesser Black-backed Gull (V)

____ Great Black-backed Gull (V)

____ Gull-billed Tern (R)

____ Caspian Tern (R)

__1__ Royal Tern (C) Orangestaad harbour

__10+__ Sandwich “Cayenne” Tern* (C) lake near marriot

____ Sandwich Tern (U)

____ Roseate Tern* (U)

__6_ Common Tern* (C) Orangestaad harbour

__8__ Least Tern* (C) Californian lighthouse

____ Bridled Tern* (U)

_100+___ Sooty Tern* (C) Rogers beach

____ Large-billed Tern (V)

____ Black Tern (R)

_100+___ Brown Noddy* (C) Rogers beach

____ Black Noddy* (U)


Columbidae – Pigeons and Doves

__25+__ Rock Dove (C) orangestaad


_100+___ Bare-eyed Pigeon (C) All over the island

__100+__ Eared Dove (C) All over the island

_50+___ Common Ground-Dove (C) All over the island

____ White-tipped Dove (U)


Psittacidae - Parrots

_25+___ Brown-throated Parakeet (C) Mainly around bubali but common elsewhere too


Cuculidae – Cuckoos and Anis

____ Yellow-billed Cuckoo (U to C)

____ Mangrove Cuckoo (U)

__6__ Groove-billed Ani (U) Bubali


Strigidae – Typical Owls

_3___ Burrowing Owl (R) Californian lighthouse


Steatornithidae – Oilbirds

____ Oilbird (V)


Caprimulgidae - Goatsuckers

____ Common Nighthawk (R)

____ Chuck-will’s Widow (R)

____ White-tailed Nightjar* (R)


Apodidae - Swifts

____ Chimney Swift (V)


Trochilidae - Hummingbirds

____ White-necked Jacobin (V)

____ Ruby-topaz Hummingbird (U)  

_8___ Blue-tailed Emerald (C) Bubali, arikok and californian lighthouse


Alcedinidae - Kingfishers

____ Amazon Kingfisher (V)

____ Ringed Kingfisher (V)

____ Belted Kingfisher (U)


Picidae – Woodpeckers

____ Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (R)


Tyrannidae – Tyrant Flycatchers

____ Caribbean Elaenia (R?)

____ Small-billed Elaenia (V)

____ Scrub Flycatcher* (U)

____ Eastern Wood Pewee (R)

____ Vermilion Flycatcher (V)

____ Cattle Tyrant (V)

____ Brown-crested Flycatcher* (U)

____ Tropical Kingbird* (R)

____ Gray Kingbird (U)

____ Eastern Kingbird (R)

____ Fork-tailed Flycatcher (U)


Vireonidae - Vireos

____ Philadelphia Vireo (V)

____ Red-eyed Vireo (R)

____ Black-whiskered Vireo (R)


Hirundinidae – Martins and Swallows

____ Brown-chested Martin (R)

____ Purple Martin (R)

____ Caribbean Martin (R)

____ Bank Swallow (C)

____ Cliff Swallow (R)

__20+__ Barn Swallow (C) Bubali


Mimidae – Mockingbirds and  Thrashers

__50+__ Tropical Mockingbird* (C) numerouse across the island


Sturnidae – Starlings

____ European Starling (V)


Bombycillidae - Waxwings

____ Cedar Waxwing (V)


Parulidae – Wood Warblers

____ Northern Parula (R)

___20+_ Yellow Warbler* (C) Bubali

____ Chestnut-sided Warbler (R)

____ Magnolia Warbler (V)

____ Cape May Warbler (R)

____ Black-throated Blue Warbler (V)

____ Yellow-rumped Warbler (V)

____ Black-throated Green Warbler (V)

____ Blackburnian Warbler (R)

____ Prairie Warbler (V)

____ Palm Warbler (V)

____ Bay-breasted Warbler (R)

____ Blackpoll Warbler (C)

____ Black-and-white Warbler (U)

____ American Redstart (U)

____ Prothonotary Warbler (U)

____ Ovenbird (R)

____ Northern Waterthrush (C)

____ Louisiana Waterthrush (R)

____ Kentucky Warbler (R)

____ Connecticut Warbler (R)

__1__ Common Yellowthroat (R) Bubali

____ Hooded Warbler (U)

____ Canada Warbler (V)


Coeribidae - Bananaquit

__50+__ Bananaquit* (C) numerous across the island


Thraupidae - Tanagers

____ Scarlet Tanager (U)


Emberizidae – Seedeaters and allies

_50+___ Black-faced Grassquit* (C) numerous across the island

____ Saffron Finch* (C)

____ White-throated Sparrow (V)

____ Rufous-collared Sparrow* (U)


Cardinalidae – Grosbeaks and Buntings

____ Rose-breasted Grosbeak (U)

____ Indigo Bunting (R)

____ Dickcissel (U to C)


Icteridae - Blackbirds

____ Bobolink (C to U)

__50+__ Carib Grackle* (C) numerous across the island

___1_ Shiny Cowbird (U)  rogers beach

____ Baltimore Oriole (R)

__6__ Troupial* (C) Bubali, arikok and Californian lighthouse

____ Yellow Oriole* (U)


Passeridae – Old World Sparrows

_50+___ House Sparrow* (U) numerous across the island



Other species

Northern Scrub Flycatcher 1 seen at Bubali________________________________Black Skimmer  A flock of 16 seen at the lake behind the riu palace____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


Total Species: _60__________