One of just two national parks outside the 50 states, the core of the Virgin Islands National Park is 5,000 acres donated to the Park Service by Laurance S. Rockefeller in 1956. The park now covers approximately two-thirds of the island.
Situated at the convergence of the Greater and Lesser Antilles, St. John has birds from both regions. Despite its small size (20 square miles), it has many habitats, from moist to dry subtropical forest to mangrove forests to salt ponds. The most productive trails for birding are the Francis Bay, Reef Bay, and Salt Pond Trails. Bridled Quail-Doves may be found foraging in the leaf litter, Smooth-billed Ani feeds in noisy groups in trees, and Bananaquits are everywhere.
Even the most popular attraction is good for birding: The beach at Trunk Bay is considered one of the most beautiful in the world, and Magnificent Frigatebirds soar overhead. An American Flamingo showed up last summer.
For mainlanders, many birds will likely be new, as they were for me. A few Caribbean birds have strayed to Florida, but many others simply cannot be found outside the West Indies — a perfect reason to pay this park a visit. — Jason A. Crotty
Jason A. Crotty is an attorney from Portland, Oregon. He also wrote about El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico, Hotspot Near You No. 247. For BirdWatchingDaily.com, he has written about warblers that winter in Puerto Rico, the designation of Elfin-woods Warbler as endangered, bird populations in western Great Lakes forests, and what the greatly expanded Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument means for birds.