ST JOHN’S – The majority of Barbuda’s magnificent frigatebird population is still unaccounted for in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
Residents and environmental enthusiasts’ concern about the survival of the country’s national bird is at an all-time high when news that its breeding ground, including the mangroves, were uprooted and filled with debris.
Shanna Challenger, local ecologist and conservationist who works along with Environmental Awareness Group (EAG) and the Department of Environment (DOE), says the “weather birds’” animal instincts would have kicked-in causing the birds to flee before the catastrophic storm.
But where are they?
It’s been 28 days since the storm made landfall in Barbuda, but the ecologist says the EAG and the DOE have counted only 300 frigatebirds, a figure that is alarming to birdwatchers across the globe.
Barbuda is home to the second largest frigatebird colony in the Western Hemisphere. During the peak breeding season in February, there are typically 5,000 nesting pairs, which equates to 10,000 birds.
“It was September, so you don’t expect the numbers to be so high. But there was a significant decline from what the numbers usually are,“ Challenger said.
One factor she attributes to the decline is that the birds may have not returned to their normal nesting area from where they weathered the hurricane force winds and rains. She added that some bird species may have migrated to other spots in Barbuda.