The Birds of Independence Square

Get an inside look at science as it happens in the Caribbean. This week we find plenty of life in a busy urban park.

A Scaly-naped Pigeon gathers nest material.

Nature and civilization are two ideas that seem like opposites. There is a lot of difference between the wildest parts of the world and the most urban. Remote mountaintops are quite different from crowded subways. On the other hand, the natural world is all around us, even in the middle of our cities.

In the Caribbean, the relationship between human spaces and natural spaces is fluid. The beach and the sea are social spaces. The distance between downtown and the forest is walkable. We live with the wind, the sun, the waves, the trees and all sorts of living creatures.

The wildlife of St. Kitts is everywhere we look. The Central Forest Reserve is certainly a wild and magical place. The surprisingly lush forests on Monkey Hill are surrounded by urban development. There’s even a lot to see in Independence Square Park, right in the center of Basseterre.

The Scaly-naped Pigeon is often rather shy. A popular bird for hunting, shyness has probably served it well. Still, on a recent visit to the park there it was. Although usually seen in the treetops, this one was on the ground gathering material for a nest.

The Scaly-breasted Thrasher is another bird that is often timid around people. Yet there it was in the bustle of the park. Lunchtime crowds walked back and forth while it looked down from a tree with curiosity.

A Scaly-breasted Thrasher looks down on the crowd.

Cattle Egrets, Zenaida Doves, Gray Kingbirds and a host of other species can be seen in Independence Square every day. They’re a testament to the vibrance of Caribbean nature. Open space and a few trees can sustain a community. That magic is of vital importance to the future of nature in the Caribbean.

Access to nature is a great gift. Being familiar with these birds inspires us to protect them and their habitat. In these city birds we also see the resilience of nature. We see the ability to adapt—from forest to farm to backyard. Between their ability to survive and our willingness to set aside a place for nature, there is hope.

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