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Located at the southern end of the Lesser Antilles chain of islands, Grenada is a tri-island state comprised of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique. Grenada is considered the mainland as it is the biggest geographically of the three islands and holds the largest population of around 90,000. It is 312 sq km and has 121 km of coastline.
Unlike Trinidad and Tobago, islands once connected to South America by a land bridge, Grenada developed isolated from the mainland. Here volcanic thrusts lifted land out of a shallow sea. Islands formed, and plants and animals (including people), those that could make the hop or float from the mainland and adjacent islands, took root.
Grenada supports a wide diversity of forest types, including rainforest, deciduous forest and dry woodlands, and mangrove forest. Like many Caribbean islands, Grenada was cleared of most of its forests to make way for sugarcane cultivation. Other crops were introduced in 1782, like nutmeg and cacao, encouraging the development of smaller landholdings and giving rise to Grenada’s current identity as the “Spice Island.”
In Grenada the symbol of national patrimony and of prospective change is the Grenada Dove. This Leptotila is the national bird of Grenada and is also one of the most endangered birds in the Caribbean with a total population of around 180 individuals.
The Grenada Dove has always been limited by land. There are similar birds in the Caribbean, such as the Barbuda warbler. The bird’s current challenge is to survive changes that plague most of the Caribbean islands. According to BirdLife International:
…the birds suffer from chronic and continuing habitat loss for residential housing, roads and other development. Population declines are likely to be compounded by introduced mongooses, cats, rats and manicous predating eggs and fledglings, of which rats were found to be the most widespread, followed by mongooses and manicous…following strong opposition to initial proposals, which would have proved disastrous for the species, modified plans for the development of a Four Seasons resort and golf course at Mt Hartman are now predicted to result in the displacement or loss of four pairs, or 6% of the total population.
The species is limited to two isolated patches of secondary seasonal dry forest in the southwest and west of the island. With so few individuals, the dove is the focus of a range of conservation efforts by Caribbean Birding Trail partners like the Grenada Fund for Conservation, the Grenada Dove Conservation Program, and the Forestry and National Parks Department.
Over 160 species of birds have been recorded from Grenada, with resident landbirds represented by just 35 species. The remainder is comprised of Neotropical migrants, waterbirds and seabirds. There are seven Lesser Antilles endemic bird area restricted-range species, which include the Grenada Dove and the Grenada Hook-billed Kite, both endemic to Grenada. Others include the Grenada Flycatcher, the Lesser Antillean Tanager and the Lesser Antillean Bullfinch.
Little has been documented concerning the status and distribution of Grenada’s breeding and non-breeding seabirds (or waterbirds and migrants). However, some of the unpopulated islets between Grenada and Carriacou are important areas for breeding seabirds, particularly the Red-footed Booby and the Brown Booby. Also observed are the Roseate Tern, Bridled tern and Sooty Tern.
Grenada’s small size makes it possible to explore the entire island in one visit, although there are definitely some places where you will want to stop and stay a while.