Cindy and I spent 7 days in Bonaire in October 2005. I was lecturing at a conference so most days were at least partly spent inside at the conference. Cindy and I, however, had enough free time and a completely free day to go out and search for birds. The island’s primary areas for birding are in the northern and southern tips. There are no endemics to the island, but it is the best of the three Netherland Antilles islands for birding and since it is considered part of South America, it is the best location to add several Caribbean species to your South America list. It is also reportedly easier to find Yellow-shouldered Parrot in Bonaire than in Venezuela (although, I found this species quite easy near Coro, Venezuela).
There is little information, however, either on the internet or in print for birding on this island. Wheatley’s “Where to Watch Birds in South America” provides some information, but it is limited. I found three prior trip reports on the internet (listed below). We have tried to provide information for those planning trips on their own (i.e. a non bird tour company trip, although I am aware of no birding tour companies that currently run trips to this island). Most people come to this island for diving (it is considered one of the top 3 diving locations in the world). We saw 84 species on our trip. Our timing resulted in several migrants that would otherwise not be expected.
Prior Trip Reports
http://jpmaist.club.fr/Voyages/Bonaire/Bonaire.htm (in French)
Checklist for the Birds for Bonaire
Please see this site for a list of birds in Bonaire with comments on status:
Primary Sites Visited:
1) Washington-Slagbaai National Park: This is the best place to bird on the island and the best place for Yellow-shouldered Parrot. It is located at the north end of the island. A 4-Wheel drive vehicle may be necessary if there has been frequent rain. There are several fresh water ponds and these, not surprisingly, were the best locations for passerines. Try the areas known as Put Bronswinkel and Pos Mangel as this was the best place for passerines. Salina Slagbaai had flamingos, other waders and a few shorebirds. The Juwa Pass had the Yellow-shouldered Parrots and some other migrants. The map given at the entrance to the headquarters should provide sufficient details to get to these places. Plan to spend at least half the day to bird this area.
2) Salt Works/Southern Tip of the Island: The southern tip of the island is composed of salt ponds for a salt works. This is the best location for Flamingo and had some shorebirds. This area is simply reached by going south past the airport and keep going south.
3) Sorobon: Sorobon is a small spot located on the southeastern section of the Island. It is on the southern side of Lac Bay. You can reach it by 1) going to the southern tip of the island and then heading north along the east side (Eeg Boulevard) or 2) going south out of Kralendijk towards the airport, just past the airport go southeast (left) on Kaya IR Randolf Statuuis Van Eps and this will take you to Sorobon. There is access to mangroves, a bay, and some beach at this spot. A prior trip report suggested that this was a spot for Ruby-topaz Hummingbird. The location has an open-air bar, a nudist colony, and an area for renting beach/watercraft (windsurfers, etc). The best spot for the hummingbird is likely the nudist colony but it has a high fence and you obviously can not walk in there with your binoculars around your neck. I was fortunate to see one Ruby-topaz Hummingbird feeding on flowers at the bar (next to the nudist colony) just as I had given up and was getting ready to leave. The bartender informed me that he occasionally sees hummingbirds come to the flowers.
4) Freshwater pond between Rincon and entrance to the Washington-Slagbaai National Park: This pond is located on the road from Rincon to Washington-Slagbaai National Park on the west side of the road). There is only one road from Rincon to the National Park so you should not miss the pond. There were signs in Rincon for the National Park. It was good for ducks, some migrants, and flamingos.
5) Inlet north of Kralendijk: As we were heading north (on Kaya GOB N. Debrot) from the developed area along the coast (main road) from Kralendijk, we crossed a bridge with a tidal area on the east side of the road. It was low tide at this time of the day, and there was plenty of exposed mud and many shorebirds. A stop later in the afternoon was useless as the tide was high and most of the birds were gone.
Traveling on this island is relatively easy. Many speak English (although Dutch is the official language). There is little traffic and roads are in general adequately marked.
1) Birds of Venezuela by Steve Hilty (2nd edition, 2002)
2) Where to Watch Birds in South America, Mexico, and the Caribbean by Nigel Wheatley & David Brewer.
You can use US$ which will be exchanged into Netherlands Antilles Guilders once you purchase something. Departure tax was $20.
We rented a car (for only one day) from Budget rental car agency. The budget office is at the airport (actually a 2 minute walk to the southeast of the airport; other rental car agencies are also located here). There is a gas station about 2 miles north of the airport that you can fill it up prior to returning the car. We rented a small two-wheel drive vehicle as this is the cheapest, but to travel in Washington-Slagbaai National Park you may need a 4 wheel drive. We were informed some people tried to go into the park with a 4 wheel drive two days prior to our trip and were turned away as the roads were too wet. It did not rain the day we went but there were several sites that we were glad we had a 4 wheel drive. We actually rented a two wheel drive and then told them that we were going to the National Park and they gave us a 4 wheel drive for that time period (at no additional charge).
We had printed off a map from the internet prior to departure (http://www.skyviews.com/bonaire/map.html). Budget also provided us with a simple map which was adequate. Make sure you get a map for the National Park as you enter. This is important for locating the best birding sites.
We stayed at the Plaza Resort Bonaire. It is nice. There are numerous options in Bonaire and most cater to divers.
Weather & Clothing:
It was warm during our stay with occasional rain. There was heavy rain on one day and this apparently resulted in some individuals having trouble getting into the National Park.
October 12, 2005: This was our primary birding day as we had the entire day off from the conference. Most birds were seen on this day (essentially a big day). This was also the only day that we had a rental car.
Least Grebe: a single on a pond between Rincon and the National Park entrance
Pied-billed Grebe: one in the same pond as the Least Grebe
Brown Pelican: seen from both the resort (multiple sightings) and the National Park
Brown Booby: common, seen from the resort beach, beach south of the airport, and north end of the National Park
Magnificent Frigatebird: common
Great Blue Heron
Reddish Egret: three at the National Park and also at Sorobon
Tricolored Heron: five at the National Park and also at Sorobon
Little Blue Heron: at the National Park and at Sorobon
Cattle Egret: 2 birds at the National Park
Green Heron: at the National Park and the resort
Caribbean Flamingo: large numbers (>1000) at the salt works on the south end of the island. Also, there were several smaller flocks on the drive through the National Park, a small group at the tidal area north of Kralendijk, and another small group at the pond between Ricon and the entrance to the National Park.
White-cheeked Pintail: one on pond between Rincon and the National Park.
Blue-winged Teal: one on pond between Rincon and the national Park.
Osprey: common, seen frequently from the resort and several on drive around island on Oct. 12.
Peregrine Falcon: one on rocky shore at north end of the National Park
Sora: one walked across road just south of the airport
Black-necked Stilt: common at the National Park.
Black-bellied Plover: four along south end of the island (Salt Works area)
Semipalmated Plover: one at the inlet north of Kralendijk
Wilson's Plover: several at the inlet north of Kralendijk
Killdeer: one in a fresh water rain pool near the airport
Collared Plover: one at the inlet north of Kralendijk
Snowy Plover: one at Sorobon
Short-billed Dowitcher: two in rain pool along road south of National Park
Whimbrel: inlet north of Kralendijk
Greater Yellowlegs: several at salina Slagbaai
Lesser Yellowlegs: at the National Park
Solitary Sandpiper: one in a rain pool along the main road southeast of Rincon
Spotted Sandpiper: two at salina Slagbaai
Willet: one along the Salt Works
Ruddy Turnstone: abundant along the beach
Semipalmated Sandpiper: group of birds at the inlet north of Kralendijk
Western Sandpiper: group of birds at the inlet north of Kralendijk
Least Sandpiper: one south end of island, near the Salt Works
White-rumped Sandpiper: one with the other shorebirds at the inlet north of Kralendijk
Stilt Sandpiper: one in the same pool as the Solitary Sandpiper
Laughing Gull: five along the beach near the Salt Works
Royal Tern: several during the week along the beach
Common Tern: three at the National park
Scaly-naped Pigeon: Seen at the National Park and at our resort.
Bare-eyed Pigeon: Seen at the National Park and at our resort.
Eared Dove: Seen at the National Park and at our resort.
Common Ground-Dove: common, seen at multiple locations.
White-tipped Dove: Seen at the National Park and at our resort.
Brown-throated Parakeet: Common, seen at the National Park and at our resort, subspecies xanthogenius.
Yellow-shouldered Parrot: We located a group of 12 at Juwa Pass at the National Park. This area of the park was apparently the best spot for this species. However, I am aware that they have roosted in Kralendijk and people report seeing them in town.
Yellow-billed Cuckoo: Seen at the National Park and at our resort.
Groove-billed Ani: only one bird seen at the National Park
Common Nighthawk: 5-7 flying over the resort at dusk on several nights (presumably all were this species as the single voice that we heard was this species). However, by sight, at least one bird appeared to be a Lesser Nighthawk.
White-tailed Nightjar: near Rincon along the side of the road at dark. The road to the microwave towers on the hill above Rincon is reportedly the best. We had one before we got to the towers so we never made it to this spot.
Ruby-topaz Hummingbird: one bird at Sorobon and then another bird at our resort, feeding on flowers on our last full day
Blue-tailed Emerald: Two at the national Park (Put Bronswinkel)
Belted Kingfisher: south end of the island
Caribbean Elaenia: pair in the scrub near Montana
Northern Scrub-Flycatcher: multiple birds at the National Park. It was common. I believe this is subspecies glaber.
Brown-crested Flycatcher: multiple birds at the National Park
Gray Kingbird: common at the National Park as well as other locations around the island
Fork-tailed Flycatcher: three birds at the pond between Rincon and the entrance to the National Park
Caribbean Martin: There were four flying over an inlet at our resort. The birds were there for about 15 minutes and well studied.
Bank Swallow: several sitting on wires at Kralendijk
Barn Swallow: several in the town of Kralendijk, also feeding along the shoreline in other parts of the island
Tropical Mockingbird: common
Pearly-eyed Thrasher: two at the National Park
Veery: one seen well at the National Park near Juwa Pass
Gray-cheeked Thrush: one at the National Park
House Sparrow: common around the airport
Black-whiskered Vireo: three at the National park
Yellow Warbler: most common bird in the National Park, also seen at multiple sites on the island
Blackpoll Warbler: four at the National Park
American Redstart: one at the National Park
Prothonotary Warbler: one male at the National Park
Northern Waterthrush: six at the National Park
Bananaquit: abundant at multiple sites around the island
Saffron Finch: one bird seen at our resort on one morning.
Black-faced Grassquit: most common Grassquit on the island, seen at multiple sites around the island
Bobolink: four groups of 3-4 birds seen at the National Park (area of Seru Mei Mei)
Carib Grackle: multiple spots around the island
Yellow Oriole: six at the National Park
Venezuelan Troupial: ten at the National Park, also seen at the resort
Hope this helps. Feel free to contact me with any questions