Birds of Trinidad: Marshland and Waterways 2

This is the second Quick Guide highlighting Trinidad and Tobago’s common wetland bird species. Like the first guide, it will deal with those species that frequent open marsh and river environments. Mangrove dwelling species will be dealt with separately. The species listed below can also be found in habitats that mimic their traditional wetland habitat such as temporarily flooded fields and artificial ponds (including rice fields).

Masked Yellowthroat (Local Name: Manicou Bird)

Masked Yellowthroat (Geothlypis aequinoctialis)

The Masked Yellowthroat is a small active bird that frequents grass fields and marshlands. It is one of our three resident Wood Warblers. Both the male and female are yellowish-green in colour but male birds have a black mask. They spend most of their time skulking in the vegetation but males will occasionally appear on an exposed perch to sing. The song of the Masked Yellowthroat is a musical series of notes. It is not found on Tobago.

Black-bellied Whistling Duck (Local names: Wi-chi-chi)

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis)

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks are our commonest resident duck species and are found in marshes on both islands. They can be identified by their black bellies and brown upperparts and their bright red bills. Black-bellied Whistling Ducks are partially nocturnal and can often be heard calling as they fly overhead at night. These ducks are frequently hunted but have been the subject of breeding and reintroduction programmes at the Pointe a Pierre Wildfowl Trust.

Blue-winged Teal

Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors) – Photograph by Tarran Maharaj

The Blue-winged Teal is by far the commonest of Trinidad and Tobago’s migrant ducks. They breed in considerable numbers in North America but migrate south during the northern winter and are present between September and May. At this time, the drakes are in their drabber non-breeding plumage but they can be distinguished from the females by a faint white crescent between its eye and beak. They have light blue patches on their wings that are visible when in flight. Blue-winged Teal are found in mangrove swamps, marshes and even on the coast. They are commonly hunted during the open season.

Pinnated Bittern

Pinnated Bittern (Botaurus pinnatus)

The Pinnated Bittern is a large cryptically coloured bird that favours reed beds and wet pastures in Trinidad. It is not found on Tobago. It will often raise its neck with its bill pointed towards the sky when alarmed (as seen in the photograph above). This offers the bittern some protection from predators as this posture helps the bird to blend in with the reed and grass environment. As a result, the Pinnated Bittern is easily overlooked or mistaken for a stick or clump of dry leaves.

Limpkin (Local name: Craow)

Limpkin (Aramus guarauna) – Photograph © Dave Smith

The Limpkin is a resident of freshwater marshes in Trinidad. It is generally dark brown with white markings on its neck. In shape, it resembles an Ibis but has a relatively straight bill which is used to crack open the snails on which it feeds. When feeding, a Limpkin will pick-up a snail and take it somewhere nearby where the ground is firm. Placing the snail on the ground, it will strike the snail’s shell repeatedly until it is able to extract the flesh inside. The loud mournful call of this bird is often heard at night and gives rise to its local name of Craow.

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)

The Cattle Egret is Trinidad and Tobago’s commonest egret. They are usually seen in pastures and savannas but less often in water like other egrets. Cattle Egrets frequently follow cattle and other large animals in order to feed on the insects that are disturb by the animals. They will also follow ploughs and lawnmowers for the same reason. Cattle Egrets were originally found only in Africa and Asia but some managed to make the journey across the Atlantic Ocean to the New World and were first reported in Guiana and Suriname in 1877. By 1951 they had spread to Trinidad and by the 1960’s they had arrived in Tobago.

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret (Egretta thula)

The Snowy Egret is a beautiful resident of Trinidad and Tobago wetlands. They have prominent yellow toes that contrast prominently with their black legs. Similarly, they have a contrasting yellow patch of skin (lore) around their eyes and at the base of their black bill. While feeding, snowy egrets will shuffle one foot in the water in order to disturb the small fish and invertebrates that it feeds on.

Great Egret

Great Egret (Ardea alba)

The Great Egret is the largest of our white egrets. It frequents the same area as the smaller Snowy Egret and both will sometimes associate in mixed flocks when feeding. Great Egrets are easily distinguishable by their size. They have yellow bills and black legs.

Tricoloured Heron

Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor)

The Tricoloured Heron is an attractive member of the Heron and Egret family. They are most commonly seen in brackish water wetlands but will feed in freshwater marshes as well. They are also commonly seen feeding along the coast. Birds are slate blue with a contrasting white underside. Tricoloured Herons are very active when feeding, frantically chasing prey in shallow water.

Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea)

The Little Blue Heron was already mentioned in our previous guide on wetland birds, but it should be noted that immature birds can be mistaken for one of the mentioned white egrets. Immature Little Blue Herons can be identified by their dark heavy bill which is tipped with black. Depending on the age of the bird there can be varying amounts of slate blue appearing in the immature bird’s plumage.

See also:

Birds of Trinidad: Home and Garden 1

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



#1 tony maharaj on 04.17.12 at 12:22 pm

the masked (yellowthroat) has a melodious song

#2 lisa on 07.13.12 at 11:41 pm

Nice to put a name to the birds i see

#3 Andre on 07.11.15 at 12:05 pm

Thanks for the local guide, it was helpful in identifying a limpkin or craow whose nocturnal cries are being heard at the Fairfield Housing Estate in Princes Town.

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