Birdwatching on Aruba
Text by Tina Causey-Bislick / Photography by Damilice Mansur
Soothing, relaxing, and connecting us with nature, birdwatching certainly has its merits. It’s no wonder it’s a growing hobby worldwide, and here in Aruba—with some 236 registered species of birds—locals and visitors to our island are captivated with “birding” opportunities.
Aruba—with its semiarid climate, diverse flora and fauna, and unique landscapes of beaches, reefs, mangroves, marshes, rolling countryside, and lushly landscaped resorts—is a haven for species that take up permanent residence, as well as those species just passing through for rest and refueling before journeying on to North or South America.
Visitors to our island can easily access the Bubali Plas Bird Sanctuary—with a birdwatching tower overlooking marsh areas—located adjacent to The Mill Resort & Suites in the high-rise hotel area of Palm Beach. Other notable areas to observe a variety of bird species include Arikok National Park, Spaans Lagoen, Tierra del Sol, and the Arashi/California Lighthouse area.
Arubans are perhaps most proud of the local burrowing owl, known as the Shoko (pictured above). Only found here on the island, the Shoko is an official national symbol of Aruba. It’s quite shy, but with some patience, you can see this marvelous species in person and capture it on camera. Other birds that regularly grace the island’s landscapes include:
- Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)
- Neotropic Cormorant (Phalacocrorax brasilianus)
- Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens)
- White-cheeked Pintail (Anas bahamensis)
- Crested Caracara (Caracara plancus)
- Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres)
- Sanderling (Calidris alba)
- Royal Tern (Sterna maxima)
- Bare-eyed Pigeon (Columba corensis)
- Eared Dove (Zenaida auriculata)
- Common Ground-Dove (Colombigallina passerina)
- Brown-throated or Caribbean Parakeet (Aratinga pertinax)
- Ruby-topaz Hummingbird (Chrysolampis mosquitus)
- Blue-tailed Emerald (Chlorostilbon mellisugus)
- Tropical Mockingbird (Mimus gilvus)
- Yellow Warbler (Dendroica petechia)
- Bananaquit (Coereba flaveola)
- Black-faced Grassquit (Tiaris bicolor)
- Rufous-collared Sparrow (Zonotrichia capensis)
- Carib Grackle (Quiscalus lugubris)
- Troupial (Icterus icterus)
An impressive list of migratory birds flock to Aruba every year (particularly in September/October) to escape the chill back home and indulge in our warm sunshine for a few days, weeks, or months. Some migratory birds use Aruba as a nesting ground, producing and nurturing their offspring here. Birdwatchers can spy several varieties of herons, osprey, spoonbills, kites, hawks, falcons, coots, egrets, flamingos, and hundreds of other species.
About Our Photographer, Damilice Mansur
Mindlessly scrolling through my Facebook news feed one day, images of colorful, exotic birds jumped off the page. I was very surprised to see that not only did these striking images capture birds found practically right at my back door, but they were also photographed by a local acquaintance, Damilice Mansur. I knew that Damilice has her roots firmly entrenched in the family business—the island’s most widely read newspaper, the Diario—and that she is an organizer of such notable events as Aruba In Style Fashion Week, but I had no idea that for several years Damilice has been quietly honing her skills photographing wildlife and landscapes as well.
Her passion for wildlife photography was born not here in Aruba, but in the wilds of Alaska, one of her favorite vacation destinations. With so much natural beauty and wildlife at every turn, Damilice spent most of the vacation soaking up Alaska through her lens. Friends and family were impressed with her images, and she was also interested in learning more about wildlife photography.
The budding photographer was further intrigued by Aruba’s flora and fauna—birds in particular. So many of us go about our day-to-day activities, never even noticing the extraordinary birds living around us. Some are in plain sight; others require patience and a keen eye. For Damilice, seeking these birds out has become her Zen time—a calming retreat. She and her companion, a Nikon D4S with a 600 mm F4 lens, can spend hours amongst the cacti or hidden behind a dune near the seaside just waiting for that one perfect shot. Other times she captures an image right in her own backyard. One of her all-time favorite shots was taken in her parent’s yard: a hummingbird sipping on the nectar of a hibiscus bloom. One of Damilice’s favorite birds to shoot is our local burrowing owl, the Shoko, and the photographer also looks forward to Aruba’s autumn months, when flocks of migrating birds arrive on the island.