Dog Island is located approximately 8 miles northwest of the main island of Anguilla. This rocky, uninhabited island is one of Anguilla’s Important Bird Areas (IBA) because it is home to a large colony of nesting seabirds. In fact, nine species of seabirds are known to nest there. It is also an important location for the critically endangered Green Sea Turtle and Leatherback Sea Turtle. Ground Lizards, Island Dwarf Geckos (northern Lesser Antilles endemic) and the Little Dwarf Gecko (Anguilla Bank endemic) are found there as well. The island is surrounded by one of Anguilla’s five marine parks designed to preserve and protect the natural beauty, flora, and fauna of the underwater environment.
Sooty Terns account for the largest number of birds breeding on Dog Island with approximately 113,000 pairs recorded during the seabird count done in May of 2007. This is 45% of the Caribbean population of this species. When these birds are in full breeding season the sky is black with them and the sound of their call is deafening.
On the eastern end of the island you can visit a large breeding colony of Magnificent Frigatebirds. Here you will see adults with chicks and eggs as well as immature birds roosting on the rough island scrub. Parents swoop in to bring fish to their young and otherwise hover overhead protecting the colony from intruders.
Masked Boobies also breed on Dog Island. As you pass the Brown Booby Colony heading east, you will find many pairs with their eggs on the barren ground. A few sticks may be used to comfort the eggs. Both species of Booby lay up to two eggs but only one of the chicks will be raised to adulthood. The weaker chick will be pushed out of the nest and left to perish.
The Least Tern is the smallest tern found on Anguilla. It is 9 inches long with a 22 inch wing span. It has a yellow bill and feet, and a white forehead. Like other terns, these birds nest in colonies. They are considered a threatened species and are found on both the main island and Dog from April until August.
Laughing Gulls breed on the grasses among the Sooty Terns. Visitors must be careful not to step on nests or young chicks as they walk across the island.
You can search for Red-billed Tropicbirds under rock formations along the coastline. Their spectacular ability to plunge from the sky under the rocks without crashing, is just amazing. Follow them from the sky as they search for food for their offspring.
Although Dog Island is locally and regionally important as a seabird breeding location, it was felt that removing invasive species would help increase the overall numbers of existing species and possibly attract others. An eradication program to remove Black Rats was performed successfully in the early months of 2012. During that program, the first sighting of an Audubon’s Shearwater was documented!
It is a privately owned island and access is possible only through permission of the owner. Perhaps the easiest way to access the island is through an arranged tour with Nature Explorers Anguilla. Visit their website for more information at www.natureexplorersanguilla.com.