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In Full Flight


Alva Viarruel

December 1, 2020

Top image: White-tailed Sabrewing. Photos: Stephen Jay Photography Rufous-tailed Jacamar

Birds, whether it’s the Rufous-vented Chachalaca, the White-tailed Jacamar or the beloved Cocrico, they are certainly attracting a flock of visitors to the island.

Photo: Stephen Jay Photography Rufous-tailed Jacamar

Tobago, with its 220 species of birds, and boast of being the only place in the world where the White-tailed Sabre-wing Hummingbird resides, is in on the action and will soon see an influx of “birders” as the Tobago Tourism Agency (TTAL) ramps up its branding drive.

TTAL’s chief executive Louis Lewis notes the island’s popularity “is actually growing. Birding is a growing trend which presents a unique opportunity to showcase something rare and interesting. The National Audubon Society says Tobago has the fifth highest birding species per capita in the world. Given the size of the island and the number of species that we have it just may very well be that Tobago is the easiest place to see a rare specie of bird in the world. For us it’s a very important market and there are some interesting strong points we have that make it an ideal market for us.”

This was evident in the popularity of Tobago at the annual Birdfair in Rutland Water Nature Reserve in Leicestershire, United Kingdom, in August 2019. The booth was judged second best among exhibitors at the event which is the largest of its kind in the UK, attracting more than 23,000 visitors annually.The team was able to educate birding enthusiasts and experts on the unique aspects of birding in Tobago and highlight the commercial travel packages that are available to birdwatchers considering the destination.

TTAL engaged BBC’s Wildlife Magazine to prominently feature Tobago in the British Birdwatching Fair Guide which allowed the destination to be exposed to 226,000 readers. The partnership with the BBC subsidiary also allowed Tobago exposure on digital platforms, with a “website takeover” and boosted social media posts.

Tobago’s premier bird-watching and natural history guide Newton George, who was with the team in the UK, expressed joy at the experience which he looks forward to every year. Tobago remains a “major birding destination” he said, and as more guides get involved he expects the sector to grow. “There is definitely a brighter future for birding here but the industry needs private sector investment to grow.”