Important Bird Areas: Montserrat

Published on 16 February 2015 in Main articles

By Steffen Oppel, Gerard Gray, James Daley, Stephen Mendes, Calvin Fenton, Gemma Galbraith, Shawn Daniel and James Millett

Abstract Montserrat is a small jewel of an island in the eastern Caribbean. After a major volcanic eruption in 1995, two-thirds of the island became uninhabitable, and today Montserrat is off the beaten track for most tourists. The island is easily accessible, however, and a range of habitats supports a variety of interesting native biodiversity. Three hill ranges exist on the island, the southernmost being an active volcano and mostly devoid of vegetation. The Centre Hills, an area of semi-natural forest, is home to endemic species such as the Montserrat Oriole Icterus oberi, the Montserrat Galliwasp Diploglossus montisserrati (a skink), and the ‘Mountain Chicken’ Leptodactylus fallax (a frog). Besides the Centre Hills forest, there are dry scrublands in the northern hill range, coastal cliffs, and some unspoilt beaches with scenic reefs suitable for snorkelling and diving. The island’s habitats suffer from the effects of multiple non-native species such as feral pigs, goats, cattle, rats and cats. Efforts to control these are under way, and the Centre Hills forest is protected. Protecting the forest on Montserrat is the most critical target both for native biodiversity and for water supply on the island.

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The islands in the Caribbean host nine New World orioles of the genus Icterus, of which four are endemic to single islands (Garrido et al. 2005; Price & Hayes 2009). The Montserrat Oriole is Montserrat's endemic national bird and was formerly found throughout the island's hill forests. The species has a typical sexual plumage dimorphism, with males having a glossy black head and back and yellow-orange belly, while females are more uniformly greenish-yellow. Pic by Jurgen & Christine Sohns/FLPA

The islands in the Caribbean host nine New World orioles of the genus Icterus, of which four are endemic to single islands. The Montserrat Oriole is Montserrat’s endemic national bird and was formerly found throughout the island’s hill forests. The species has a typical sexual plumage dimorphism, with males having a glossy black head and back and yellow-orange belly, while females are more uniformly greenish-yellow. Jurgen & Christine Sohns/FLPA