The Samaan Grove Wetland System

Wetlands Inhabitants
Waterfowl 3
by Kevin Kenny - Click images to enlarge

Great white egret, Casmerodius albus. This was one of the first egrets to inhabit the estate. They are usually solitary birds and can be seen in the rushes feeding on small fish. Also known as the great egret, white heron, or common egret, this is a wading bird, found in most of the tropical and warmer temperate parts of the world. The great white egret is a large bird with all white plumage, is as much as 101 centimetres (40 inches) long and weighs up to 950 grams (2.1 pounds). It is only slightly smaller than the great blue or grey heron. Apart from size, the great white egret can be distinguished from other white egrets by its yellow bill and black legs and feet.  
     

Great blue heron, Ardea herodias, is a wading bird of the family Ardeidae, common all over North and Central America and the Caribbean. This is the largest of the North American herons.
This species usually breeds in colonies in trees close to lakes or other wetlands, often with other species of herons. In Tobago it is almost always seen alone. It builds a bulky stick nest. The female lays three to five pale blue eggs. Both parents feed the young at the nest by regurgitating food. So far we have not noticed any nesting sites on the estate.
 

It feeds in the shallow water at the water's edge and spears fish and frogs with its long, sharp bill. Its varied diet can also include insects, snakes, rodents and small birds.

The great blue heron stands 130 centimetres (4 feet) tall, has a 210 centimetres (5.5 foot) wingspan and weighs 2.5 kilograms (5.5 pounds). It has a long yellow bill. Adults have blue-grey wings and back and a white head with a black cap and a long black plume. In flight, the head is held close to and aligned with the body in a downward bend in the long neck, very similar to the great white egret shown on P-156. The long black legs trail behind. This bird flies with strong deliberate wing beats. The call of this bird is a harsh croak. 


Southern lapwing, Vanellus chilensis. This is a very common resident at Samaan Grove. These birds are normally found in large flocks of over 10 individuals and have a very loud call that distinguishes them from most other birds. We often hear them flying at night which may indicate that they forage for food in the dark. When they are not dive-bombing you, they are a very attractive bird to look at. They have become a nuisance at the golf course at Tobago Plantations, as many a golfer has been seen fleeing the course as the kamikazes fly in to protect what they think is their egg.

 
   

Osprey, Pandion haliaetus. One solitary osprey has been on the estate almost from the first day the lakes filled with water. The photograph at the right, taken in October 2004, shows the osprey holding a fairly large tilapia in his talons which it caught in Lake 2. They can often be seen hovering above the lakes waiting on their chance to catch one of the abundant fish now present. At Tobago Plantations there is a number of pairs that fish both in the fresh water lakes and in salt water lagoon at Petit Trou.
One of the largest birds of prey in Trinidad and Tobago, the osprey eats fish almost exclusively, although on one occasion we did see one catch a small rodent. It is also one of the most widespread birds in the world. Size is 54-58 centimetres (21-23 inches) long with a wingspan of 150-180 centimetres (59-71 inches).  

Yellow-crowned (or black-crowned) night heron, Nyctanassa violacea. This is a very common resident found all over the island of Tobago. The local residents call it "Crab-e-a" because its favourite food is the local blue crab, which it usually hunts at night. It is also found hunting during the day. Growing to 40 centimetres (16 inches) in length with a 1-metre (3.3-foot) wingspan, both sexes have a blue-gray neck, chest, belly and back feathers with dark centers. They have red eyes and long legs varying in colour with age (black in adults).  

 
     

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