Birds of Trinidad: Home and Garden 1

People in Trinidad routinely come into contact with several of our common birds but few actually take the time to learn more about them. The birds listed here are all well suited to life in residential and urban areas in addition to their natural habitat. Many are generalists, meaning that they can survive on a variety of foods (their diet) and live in a range of habitats, which allows them to thrive despite our modifications to the environment. This close association with humans has also led to these birds having common or vernacular names (NOTE: Tobago’s common birds will be treated with separately).

Great Kiskadee (Local names: Kiskadee)

Great Kiskadee Garden Birds Trinidad

Great Kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus)

While it is probably the best known bird in Trinidad, it is perhaps surprising that the Kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus) is not normally found in Tobago. It is easily identified thanks to its black and white streaked face, bold yellow under-parts and brown back. They are also well known thanks to their loud vocalizations and fearless behaviour. The Kiskadee’s diet is extremely varied and includes large insects, fish, small reptiles, fruit and cooked foods. They are not fond of mangoes but will readily accept ripe bananas at birdfeeders. Additionally they are very aggressive and these two factors (diet and behaviour) are largely responsible for their widespread distribution in cultivated lands and residential areas. They are less common in heavily forested areas.

Tropical Kingbird (Local name: Kiskadee)

Tropical Kingbird Garden Birds Trinidad

Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus)

Often mistaken for a Kiskadee because of its yellow belly, the Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus) can easily be distinguished by the lack of black and white facial markings as found on the Kiskadee. Primarily an insect eater, it is often seen perched on suitable vantage points (like electricity wires or branches) from which it chases after flying insects. They regularly chase after and attack hawks and other large birds which wander too close to its territory. Its call is an excited trill, usually accompanied by rapid wing flapping

Blue-grey Tanager and Palm Tanager (Local names: Blue Jean and Palmiste)

Blue grey Tanager Garden Birds Trinidad

Blue-grey Tanager (Thraupis episcopus)

Both of these tanagers (tan-a-jers) are very closely related and shall be dealt with as a group. The Blue-grey Tanager (Thraupis episcopus) or Blue Jean is a lovely shade of light blue with darker blue wings. There is a patch of violet on the wing which is visible when seen in good light conditions.

The other tanager is the Palm Tanager (Thraupis palmarum) or Palmiste.

Palm Tanager (Thraupis palmarum)

Palm Tanager (Thraupis palmarum)

This bird is a combination of different shades of olive/dark green, very beautiful on its own when viewed up close. The name of ‘Palmiste’ comes from their habit of frequenting palm trees as they search for insects. It is also often seen around houses as they favour nesting under roof eaves. Both birds have similar diets of fruit and some insects and are found in forests, swamp and scrubland. They also have identical voices consisting of a series of twittering and chirps and live in identical habitats. So similar are the two that the birds may sometimes hybridize. They will accept any ripe soft fruit.

Tropical Mockingbird (Local name: Day clean)

Tropical Mockingbird (Mimus gilvus)

Tropical Mockingbird (Mimus gilvus)

The Tropical Mockingbird (Mimus gilvus)is a relatively recent arrival to Trinidad and Tobago. It was first seen in the early 1900’s in north Trinidad but has since spread throughout the island. It is grey in colour and is often seen running along the ground where it regularly stops and briefly spreads its wings. It has been suggested that this flashing helps to flush its insects prey. They also feed on fruit and will accept ripe bananas at birdfeeders. They are very aggressive.

Bananaquit (Local name: Sucrier (often mispronounced as sik-ee-aye))

Bananaquit (Coereba flaveola)

Bananaquit (Coereba flaveola)

The Bananaquit (Coereba flaveola) is an active little bird, frequently seen amongst flowers in a garden feeding on nectar. Because they have short bills they will often resort to piercing the base of flowers to access their otherwise unreachable nectaries. They have yellow undersides, a black back and a gray throat. Like some other birds, Bananaquits that live at higher altitudes are more brightly coloured than their lowland kin. Their call is a musical warble and there is much variation between the sounds of birds from different areas of the country. They are known to build a second nest for sleeping. Bananaquits will come to feed on any ripe fruit, sugar or even a shallow bowl of water to bathe in.

Yellow Oriole (Local name: Plantain bird)

Yellow Oriole (Icterus nigrogularis)

Yellow Oriole (Icterus nigrogularis)

The yellow oriole (Icterus nigrogularis) is handsome golden-yellow and black bird that is hard to miss. They feed on a range of soft fruits, insects and kitchen scraps (I have even seen a pair eating leftovers from a discarded KFC box) and are very fond of over-ripe bananas and mangoes at the birdfeeder. They inhabit a range of environments and like to build their hanging nests near water.

Carib Grackle (Local names: Blackbird or Boat-tail)

Carib Grackle (Quiscalus lugubris)

Carib Grackle (Quiscalus lugubris)

The well known Blackbird (Quiscalus lugubris) is often seen in small groups feeding near houses where they eat household scraps or feed on insects. The males are glossy black while females are a duller brown. In courtship, males raise their tails and sing, trying to attract the attention of a female. Their other local name of “Boat tail” comes from their habit of holding their tail in a deep “V” shape, when flying. Bread or rice will attract them.

Spectacled Thrush – formerly Bare-eyed Thrush (Local names: Big eye grieve)

Spectacled Thrush (Turdus nudigenis) - formerly Bare-eyed Thrush

Spectacled Thrush (Turdus nudigenis) – formerly Bare-eyed Thrush

The Spectacled Trush (Turdus nudigenis) is a drab brown bird with a bright orange eye-ring. Individual birds have a lot of character and can become rather tame. A bird in my yard would religiously bathe every evening before going to its nest. They are quite interesting to observe and are often seen feeding on soft dirt where they hop about and then suddenly dive to the ground, usually emerging with an earthworm. They have a cat like call, often made in the late evening from a favourite perch. Will take fruit from feeders.

House Wren (Local names: House Bird or God Bird)

House Wren (Troglodytes musculus)

House Wren (Troglodytes musculus) – Photography by Tarran Maharaj

The House Wren (Troglodytes musculus) gets its name from its habit of nesting in buildngs. It is also known by the local name of “God bird” by some because it may be seen in old churches. An insect eater, it dutifully searches gardens and fields for food, often in pairs, with the two birds calling regularly to maintain contact. Its nest is frequently parasitized by the Shiny Cowbird and it is not uncommon for one to see a house wren feeding a much larger cowbird fledgling. Its call is a lovely musical warble.

Ruddy Ground-Dove

Ruddy Ground-Dove (Columbina talpacoti)

Ruddy Ground-Dove (Columbina talpacoti) – Photography by Tarran Maharaj

This is the common brown dove often seen nervously feeding on the ground. Males have a rich reddish brown colour with a lighter grey head. The smaller females are duller in colour. Birds commonly fall prey to cats and other predators while on the ground and when not feeding may often perch in small trees and call. Their voice is a soft cooing. Ruddy Ground-Doves (Columbina talpacoti) build very fragile nests in dense vegetation throughout the year. They may visit birdfeeders to feed on grains and bread.

Smooth-billed Ani (Local names: Merle Corbeau)

Smooth-billed Ani (Crotophaga ani)

Smooth-billed Ani (Crotophaga ani)

While they are locally know as “Merle Corbeau”, these birds have no relation to the New World Vultures and are in fact a member if the New World Cuckoo family. Smooth-billed Anis (Crotophaga ani) are black birds are almost always found in groups and these family birds even nest in a single large communal nest. Their most striking feature is the unusual raised keel of their bills as well as a “mew”ing call. Feeding on insects and other invertebrates the feeding groups will slowly work their way through the vegetation searching for prey.

See also:

Birds of Trinidad: Home and Garden 2

Birds of Trinidad: Savanna & Grassland 1

Birds of Trinidad: Marshland and Waterways 1

Birds of Trinidad: Marshland and Waterways 2

14 comments ↓

#1 Andrew Bhimsingh on 01.18.12 at 9:34 pm

Nice article which help me learn a lot about the common birds around

#2 Dale on 03.11.12 at 8:51 am

Wow thanks for the info all of these birds apear outside my window

#3 caroline on 04.06.12 at 9:25 pm

lovely article! thanks

#4 Nicole on 05.17.12 at 11:15 am

This is a great article! I have a pair of house wrens nesting in my water heater and I could not figure out what type of birds they were. This helped alot Thanks 🙂

#5 Neisha on 07.01.12 at 6:14 pm

I have always called the Spectacled thrush ‘the big eye bird’ and wondered what its real or local name was

#6 lisa on 07.13.12 at 11:46 pm

Someone once told my brother-in-law that he looked like a big eye grieve. I now understand why.

#7 Richard on 03.17.13 at 1:39 pm

Grateful for the information, I am now able to identify most of the birds I see from my hotel balcony.

#8 troy on 06.26.13 at 10:12 am

have you ever seen white doves the size of ruddy doves
i have two!

#9 Rajesh on 07.24.13 at 8:55 am

Thank you for the information shared, I hope that you continue to add more birds to your list. Your site was very helpful to me!

#10 celina on 08.19.13 at 6:58 am

thanks a lot, my yard ls filled with birds some are regular visitors,others pass through now and then. i’ve observed the plantain bird when it comes and food is available it stands on the fence and calls and every other fruit eating bird within its sound range converges in my yard. BEAUTIFUL SIGHT!!! i sell fruits and must feed them or they’ll feed on my goods. In the 70s nestle used to have pictures of local birds on the back of condense milk labels to place in a bird album with info on local birds, i long to get one again.

#11 aj maraj on 10.11.13 at 11:39 pm

Would have loved to see some photos of our local corn bird.Thes photos were beautiful though.

#12 Noel on 10.16.13 at 5:19 pm

I grew up in San Juan and the house wren is known as the ‘Coco Rachette.’

#13 Administrator on 10.23.13 at 7:28 am

That’s a very interesting name. I never heard it before. Thank you.

#14 Richie on 06.08.15 at 6:22 pm

Great website on the birds of Trinidad. I see many of them up here on the hills in POS. We have a lot of Tanagers and parrots.

Leave a Comment

Please answer the question below in order to post your comment (Anti-spam measure) *