Birding sites Guiana Island

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Guiana Island

Guiana Island, is the largest of the North Shore Islands of Antigua. It is still undeveloped and is home to many species of wildlife. Other smaller islands are scattered in the calm clear waters of the area, with picturesque names such as Maiden Island, Great Bird Island, Galley, Redhead, Rabbit, Lobster, Exchange, London Bridge and Hell's Gate Islands.

Guiana Island is only about three hundred feet from the main island of Antigua, so it is possible to attach cables which enable a barge to be pulled back and forth for access. It is a low island, with its highest point approximately fifty feet. It is almost two and a half miles long and about half a mile across. It was named by English settlers from Guiana (now known as Guyana) in about 1667. They emigrated to it when their country was surrendered to the Dutch by the Treaty of Breda in 1667.
Fallow Deer (Dama dama dama) Antigua and Barbuda’s National Animal, were introduced into Guiana Island, as well as Barbuda, in the second quarter of the 18th century by the Codringtons. In 1740, deer meat was sold in Antigua for 2/6d per lb. In 1980 there were about 40 free roaming deer on Guiana Island.

The once large flock (60 to 100 in 1980) of wild Tree Ducks (Dendrocygna arborea) is considered to be endangered in parts of its range. "Such a congregation of free-ranging Tree Ducks almost surely cannot be found anywhere else in the world" (all are quotes from a Smithsonian letter dated 29 Sept, 1980). Also on Guiana Island in 1980 was a thriving population of the Tropical Mockingbird (Mimus gilvus), which is rare elsewhere.

"Guiana Island is of outstanding interest and is worthy of preservation". Taffy and Bonny Bufton were at that time the only human inhabitants on the island, and had created a sanctuary on Guiana that is unique in the Antilles" (Smithsonian quotes). They tamed and fed the deer that roamed the island, as well as the rare West Indian Tree Duck. Continued wise management of the island, combined with some programme of limited access to the island, could probably render Guiana Island into one of the major natural attractions of Antigua'', so important in this age of eco-tourism.

Mangroves and swamps support a rich fauna and flora and fringe parts of the coast of Guiana Island, but most of the island consists of xerophytic trees and scrub, an example being the attractive Dagger or Agave, Antigua’s national flower.

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