Great and Little Abaco lie on the east side of the Little Bahama Bank, sharing the shallow area with Grand Bahama that lies on the south edge of the bank. From the northwest tip of Abaco to the east tip of Grand Bahama lie a chain of small cays. A small ferry runs between the two larger islands and there is also a small airline running a service twice a day between Freeport and Marsh Harbour.
Marsh Harbour, roughly in the middle of Abaco, is known as the “hub of Abaco” and a good place to stay. The Queen’s Highway runs the entire length of Little and Great Abaco. From Marsh Harbour there is an excellent ferry service to the off-lying islands nearby. It has an international airport and two domestic airlines fly several times daily from Nassau.
Abaco has many of the species that are particular to the Bahamas. Visit the Bahamas National Trust office in Marsh Harbour for more information.
Endemics: Four of the six endemics, the Bahama Woodstar, Bahama Swallow, Bahama Yellowthroat and Bahama Warbler, can be found here.
Bahamian specialties: Other than San Salvador, this is the only island where the West Indian Woodpecker can be found. There are two populations of Cuban Parrots, Bahama race, found only on Abaco and Great Inagua. Other birds include: White-cheeked Pintail, Zenaida Dove, Key West Quail Dove, Cuban Emerald, Cuban Pewee, La Sagra’s Flycatcher, Loggerhead Kingbird, Bahama Mockingbird, Red-legged Thrush, Thick-billed Vireo, Olive-capped Warbler, Bananaquit, Western Spindalis, Black-faced Grassquit, Greater Antillean Bullfinch.
Marsh Harbour is a popular yachting stop as well as a good birding locale, especially on the grounds of the Great Abaco Beach Hotel and walking on the road towards the Albury’s Ferry Landing. Look for the West Indian Woodpecker on telephone poles.
Going south from Marsh Harbour:
Abaco National Park
Location: 32 square miles of pine forest at the southeast corner of Great Abaco.
The Abaco National Park was created to protect the habitat of the Bahamas race of the Cuban Parrot. Driving south, the park begins at the Bahamas National Park sign (see photo) at “Road 9” where there is a good chance of finding the Bahama Warbler and other specialty birds. A little further south, the Great Abaco Highway splits, the eastern fork leading through the park to the Hole in the Wall lighthouse. The road south of the split is very rough but you should be able to find the parrots without going very far. Early morning or before dusk are the best times to see these noisy birds. This parrot nests in cavities in the ground among the oddly sculpted limestone formations, making it vulnerable to feral cats and introduced raccoons. A program is in place to eradicate these invasive species.
As you drive south towards the park, stop from time to time in the pine forest where it is safe to pull off or where you see a track going into the forest . Anywhere in the pine forest can be found the two woodland endemics, the Bahama Yellowthroat and the Bahama Warbler. Also look for the Olive-capped Warbler. The Bahama Woodstar and the Cuban Emerald are often in the pine forest, as well as the Bahama Mockingbird. Keep a lookout for Bahama Swallows flying overhead or perched on the wires, particularly in the south part of the island.
Bahama Palm Shores
Bahama Palm Shores is a residential area about 20 miles south of Marsh Harbour on the way to the Abaco National Park and is a good place to view many woodland birds, including the Greater Antillean Bullfinch and the West Indian Woodpecker. Parrots are also often in this area.
Sandy Point at the south west corner of Abaco is worth a visit for shorebirds and landbirds. Try to visit near low tide.
Going north from Marsh Harbour:
Treasure Cay is approximately 20 miles north of Marsh Harbour. There is also an airport here. Stop from time to time to bird the roadside. North of the turnoff to Treasure Cay and south of the Treasure Cay airport, are a couple of good birding spots. An abandoned nursery known as Tom Roberts Nursery is on the east side of the road opposite Sunset Ridge. A road leading to a small blue hole also offers good birding. North of the Treasure Cay turnoff and before reaching the ferry for New Plymouth, take a small dirt road off to the west, go about 4km to a left turn which is a muddy short trail to the blue hole. Look for the endemics here. You can also take a dip in the blue hole.
Treasure Cay Hotel and Golf Course offers good birding but is private so seek permission before entering.
For the best shorebird habitat in all of Abaco, and maybe even the Bahamas, visit the sand flats at Gillam Bay on the southeast corner of Green Turtle Cay. These are always good at low tide, and during migration you can expect to see large numbers of Red Knots and hundreds of Plovers, Dunlin, Short-billed Dowitchers and more.
Take the ferry from Treasure Cay across to New Plymouth on Green Turtle Cay and walk or hire a golf cart.
Birds of Abaco:
The bird observation list of Abaco stands at roughly 213 species. To showcase the rich and varied bird life of Abaco, Bahamas a new guide book is available from The Delphi Club called “Guide to the Birds of Abaco.” The book features both resident and migratory species including rarities and unusual sightings. It is available for sale now. Click here to find out more.
A copy of the book is being presented to every school on Abaco and to educational departments! Find out how to purchase your copy by emailing Keith Salvesen at firstname.lastname@example.org.