BARBUDA FRIGATE BIRD NESTING COLONY
Probably the most valued asset to Barbuda's tourism, second only to the white sand beaches over 10 miles long, is the Frigate Bird Colony. This is towards the north end of the lagoon in a mangrove locality, a significant nesting colony of the gracefully flying Frigate Bird (Fregata magnificans) may be visited. It is said to be the largest Frigate Bird gathering in the world, with an estimated 2,500, (1971). There may be no more than 25 nesting sites in the Caribbean today.
FRIGATE BIRD FACTS :
* They are relatives of pelicans, cormorants and boobies.
* Males are glossy black, females have white breasts, the immature have white heads and necks.
* Males blow up a scarlet throat sac the size of a balloon, taking about 25 minutes, to attract a female mate. When one appears, the wings are trembled showing the under surface, flashing in the sunlight and drumming sounds are emitted.
* The wing span is 8 ft. and a body weight of 3 lb. Flight speed, 22 mph.
* A 2,000 ft. altitude is common.
* Frigates cannot take off from the sea or from the ground.
* They feed on fish from Barbuda's lagoons and interior ponds. Also flying fish, jelly fish and small turtles taken from the ocean.
* Adults chase other sea birds to grab their catch, hence the names, Frigate Bird and Man-o-War Bird.
* In a colony there are three twig nests average, in an area 9x12 ft.
* The colony is a contentious place where birds argue over landing rights, perch ownership or who owns each nest twig!
* One male and three females produce two young every two years.
* One white egg is laid sometime between mid-September to late March. Incubation is seven weeks.
* The young are fed by regurgitation. They fly about 25 weeks after hatching. Six years before first breeding.
* The oldest known age is 34 years.
Darby’s Cave is perhaps the most interesting natural feature of Barbuda. It is not a true cavern but a vertical sided sink hole formed by solution below ground and subsequent collapse. One side of the sink hole is undercut by a full 30 ft. hence the name “cave”. The cliffs are about 70 ft high and the hole is about 350 ft in diameter.
The cave possesses very lush vegetation, full of tall trees, the commonest of which is the palmetto palm once used by Barbudans for many purposes. Over the cliff’s rim descend hawser thick roots of mighty lianas. The lianas interlace the trees, ferns cluster on the damp soil and birds are abundant; the scene is reminiscent of a tropical rain forest. This is uch a contrast to the surrounding dry bush land.
From the overhang of the cliff there is an intermittent drip of water, which, in time, has created stalagmites of calcium, There is a startlingly large flat-topped stalagmite eight feet high and not less than two feet in diameter. This greenish white, almost translucent, mass of limestone is so smooth and solid that it would be difficult to find its counterpart in any other part of the world. A fossilised part of an upper shark's tooth of a Pliocene (2-4 million years ago) species (Carcharodon megalodon) was been found in the limestone of the cave in May 1997.
By far the most interesting prehistoric site in Barbuda is the cave at Two Foot Bay, a wild windswept part of northeast Barbuda. The entrance to this cave is close to a roofless stone ruin near the shore. It was probably a house associated with the phosphate mining operation undertaken at Gun Shop Cliff in the 1890’s.