Birding and wildlife watching View All
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Aquamarine water and more than a mile of white sand make this the most visited beach in all of the U.S. Virgin Islands. This 319-acre (130-hectare) preserve is 1.5 percent of St. Thomas' land. The preserve is jointly managed by the Conservancy, the Virgin Islands Government and Magens Bay Authority.
This horseshoe-shaped bay on St. Thomas' north shore borders the Atlantic Ocean.
New houses, as well as restaurants, hotels and other businesses that attract tourists not only displace native plants and animals, but their construction causes erosion that sends soils, pollutants and excess nutrients into the sea. This kills coral reefs. Careless divers and boaters also harm the reefs, and over fishing of certain species such as grouper, snapper and parrot fish upsets the sea's natural balance.
To guide future conservation work, the Conservancy is working with the Virgin Islands Government and the Magens Bay Authority to develop a management plan for the bay and the entire preserve.
About two-thirds of the 171 bird species that are native to the U.S. Virgin Islands and occur regularly are migratory. This is a general pattern for islands in this region because of their position between North and South America. Birds make temporary homes or nesting grounds in dry forests of the hilltops, moist forests of ravines and mangrove wetlands bordering salt water.
Of the 25 warbler species living in the U.S. Virgin Islands, only one, the yellow "golden" warbler, is a year-round resident. Migratory birds include the stilt sandpiper, worm-eating warbler, prairie warbler, northern parula, northern waterthrush, peregrine falcon and piping plover.
The U.S. Virgin Islands have the highest diversity of nesting seabirds in all of the West Indies. Some 17 species of part-time and year-round residents include shearwaters, tropicbirds, boobies, pelicans, frigate birds, gulls and terns. These birds are conservation priorities because they need wetland habitats, 70 percent of which have been destroyed in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Antillean nighthawks, bridled quail-doves, Antillean-crested hummingbirds and green-throated caribs are four of the nine species of breeding birds endemic to the Caribbean.
Some of the other native species, which are not endemic, include pearly-eyed thrashers, Caribbean coots, white-crowned pigeons and bananaquits.
Coral reefs scattered across the bay are critical habitat for conch, sea turtles, fish such as grouper, snapper, sharks, barracudas, parrot fish, doctor fish, surgeon fish and other marine species such as humpback whales and dolphins.
Yellow cedar, red-barked turpentine, tyre palm, guava berry, fiddlewood and silk cotton trees grow on slopes in the Magens Bay watershed reaching elevations of more than 700 feet (213 meters). These mixed-dry- and moist-tropical forests taper into mangrove wetlands at the edge of the ocean.
Bring a pair of binoculars for birding and spot one of the many birds that migrate through the area.