Antigua and its neighboring island Barbuda are total opposites—while Antigua is rugged, mountainous and populated, Barbuda is low-lying, non-descript and practically deserted, except for the frigate birds and many other species that flock to Barbuda’s lagoons. The Frigate Bird Sanctuary can be found in the lagoons at the northwest of the island and is home to more than 5,000 frigate birds, as well as members from about 170 other bird species. Birdwatchers can visit during the fall to watch the frigate birds’ mating displays, and hatching occurs around the end of the year. To see the frigate birds at their best, look for them in the sky. They are known for their large wingspans and light frames that let them soar for long periods time. They got their nickname “man-o-war birds” because they use their superior flight ability to pester other birds into dropping whatever food they’ve hunted, and stealing it like pirates.
To visit Barbuda, you can take a 20-minute flight from Antigua or catch the high-speed ferry from St. John’s for a 90-minute boat ride to the island. Once on island, you’ll need a boat to reach the frigate bird sanctuary, and trips can be arranged with local operators in Codrington.