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Cruising: Meet Dominica’s “Dr. Birdy”…

Bird expert Bertrand Jno Baptiste helps visitors to Dominica discover the island’s abundant winged wildlife.

Bird expert Bertrand Jno Baptiste helps visitors to Dominica discover the island’s abundant winged wildlife. (Lisa Freeman/)

Think of it as a naturalist’s version of “Name that Tune.” Give Bertrand Jno Baptiste one note, one click, one tweet from the 64 resident species of birds on Dominica, and he’ll identify the bird every time.

“It took me five years to learn,” he says. “I love the challenge and the pleasure of it.”

Known across the island and among birders worldwide as “Dr. Birdy,” Jno Baptiste takes great pleasure and pride in bringing visitors up close with Dominica’s bountiful flora and winged fauna. He co-wrote the book on the subject, Dominica’s Birds, and still marvels at the island’s abundant bird life after four decades with the country’s Forestry, Wildlife and Parks Division and as a guide.

“It would be hell for me to be in a place with no birds,” he says.

He first honed his skills in the aftermath of Hurricane David in 1979, surveying Dominica’s endemic jaco (red-necked) parrot and sisserou (imperial) parrot, the bird that appears on the national flag. “I realized there were so many other amazing birds and started studying them closer,” he says.

The parrots remain top draws for visitors, but he relishes helping avid birders check off other life-list entries too, such as the plumbeous warbler and blue-headed hummingbird.

“I love it when my guests have shopping lists to find difficult birds,” he says. “It brings me a lot of fulfillment and reward.”

What surprises people about Dominica? Its nickname is the “Nature Island,” and it’s no joke. You step off the plane and you’re surrounded by amazing nature everywhere. It’s so lush; we have some of the best rainforests in the Caribbean. Where is your favorite area for bird-watching? The Syndicate area, where Morne Diablotin National Park is. You can find all the special birds, including our two endemic parrots, and it’s easier to find them because we have such good habitat for them.

Dr. Birdy’s Must-Do Dominica

Middleham Falls (Roseau): It’s a great place for birding. It’s a nice hike, not too difficult, with lovely scenery.

Zing Zing (Portsmouth): The chef at this upscale restaurant in Secret Bay is very creative. I had a lobster dish that was so delicious I didn’t want to brush my teeth when I got home.

Purple Turtle (Portsmouth): It’s an inexpensive place on the beach with a nice view, good local dishes and fresh catch of the day.

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