While protecting seabird nesting islands is of utmost importance, and a goal of EPIC programs in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, we also need to understand where the birds find food and protect those areas. With this in mind, in March 2023 an EPIC team outfitted GPS data loggers on 28 adult Red-footed Boobies nesting on Battowia island, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, which is a globally recognized Important Bird Area (IBA) and a Wildlife Reserve.
Battowia was previously highlighted in EPIC’s “Seabird Breeding Atlas of the Lesser Antilles” as the most important island in the region because it hosts two globally important seabird colonies – Red-footed Booby and Red-billed Tropicbird – and it’s one of the most threatened.
The results from the 17 GPS data loggers retrieved yielded the first seabird movement data originating from research of this type conducted in the Grenadines. Researchers found that while many trips were generally eastward, some individual birds traveled far into the exclusive economic zone waters of neighboring nations, such as Barbados, Saint Lucia and Martinique. One individual completed two full circumnavigations around the Saint Vincent mainland, while others approached important seabird nesting islands further south in the Grenadines, such as Petit Canouan and Sail Rock. This indicates that some birds are far-ranging.
For example, one bird went north of Barbados on an overnight trip, covering about 500 kilometers (300 miles), and was recaptured at the same nest where it was initially caught. This data is an important tool for advocating for the protection of marine habitats and can be included in management plans. Field efforts were led by Juliana Coffey and Dr. Louise Soanes, with field support and local expertise provided by fisherfolk and seafarers from Bequia (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) and Carriacou (Grenada).
This project was funded by the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Environment Fund. The overall results will be collated into a report to be released at a later date.