Amazing Animals of Trinidad & Tobago

Trinidad & Tobago is full of wonderful wildlife - it's one of the richest places in the world for flora and fauna. Our guide shows just a small sample of the natural wonders that we have here on these islands, but if you'd like to see more then arrange to visit the centre or even better, grab your camera and get out into our rainforests and coral reefs and see it in the wild where it belongs.

Tufted coquette. Hummingbird. Fauna and flora. Trinidad and Tobago. Birdwatching.

Tufted Coquette

(Lophornis ornatus)


Class: Aves
Order: Trochiliformes
Family: Trochilidae
Genus: Lophornis
Species: L. ornatus





photo: © Kevin Sammy

The tufted coquette (Lophornis ornatus) is a tiny hummingbird that breeds in eastern Venezuela, Trinidad, Guiana, and northern Brazil. It is an uncommon, but widespread species, which appears to be a local or seasonal migrant, although its movements are not well understood. It is listed as  the second smallest bird in the world.

Their food is nectar, taken from a variety of flowers, along with some small invertebrates for protein. With their small size and steady flight, these birds often resemble a large bee as it moves from flower to flower. The female tufted coquette lays two eggs in a small cup nest made of plant down and placed on a branch.

Scarlet ibis in flight. National bird. Trinidad and Tobago. Protected species. Wildlife.

Scarlet Ibis

(Eudocimus ruber)


Class: Aves
Order: Pelecaniformes
Family: Threskiornithidae
Subfamily: Threskionithinae
Genus: Eudocimus
Species: E. ruber




photo: © Quentin Questel

The scarlet ibis is a sociable and gregarious bird, and very communally-minded regarding the search for food and the protection of the young. They live in flocks of thirty or more. Members stay close, and mating pairs arrange their nests in close proximity to other pairs in the same tree. For protection, flocks often congregate in large colonies of several thousand individuals. They also regularly share time among other avian creatures, gaining additional safety through numbers: storks, spoonbills, egrets, herons and ducks are all common companions during feedings and flights

Their distinctive long, thin bills are used to probe for crustaceans and insects in soft mud or under plants. The large quantity of shrimp and other red shellfish they consume produces a surfeit of astaxanthin, a carotenoid which is the key component of the birds' distinctive red pigmentation. The range of the scarlet ibis is very large, and colonies are found throughout vast areas of South America and the Caribbean islands. It is the national bird of Trinidad & Tobago.

Ocelot. Wildlife conservation. Endangered species in Trinidad and Tobago.


(Leopardus pardalis melanurus)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Leopardus
Species: L. pardalis





photo: © Quentin Questel

The ocelot is mostly nocturnal and territorial. It will fight fiercely, sometimes to the death, in territorial disputes. Like most felines, it is solitary, usually meeting only to mate. However, during the day it rests in trees or other dense foliage, and occasionally shares its spot with another ocelot of the same sex.


Their fur resembles that of a clouded leopard or jaguar and was once regarded as particularly valuable. As a result, hundreds of thousands of ocelots were killed for their fur and they were classified as a vulnerable species from 1972 until 1996. Ocelots mate at any time of year, but have litters only once every other year. Gestation lasts 79 to 82 days, and usually results in the birth of a single kitten. The small litter size and relative infrequency of breeding make the ocelot particularly vulnerable to population loss.

Yellow-rumped cacique. Birdlife. Habitat conservation.

Yellow-rumped Cacique

(Cacicus cela)

Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Icteridae
Genus: Cacicus
Species: C. cela





photo: © Kevin Sammy

This gregarious bird associated with open woodland or cultivation with large trees and breeds in much of northern South America from Panama and Trinidad south to Peru, Bolivia and central Brazil.

It is a colonial breeder, with up to 100 bag-shaped nests in a tree, which usually also contains an active wasp nest. The females build the nests, incubate, and care for the young. Each nest is 30–45 cm long and widens at the base, and is suspended from the end of a branch. Females compete for the best sites near the protection of the wasp nest.

The song of the male yellow-rumped cacique is a brilliant mixture of fluting notes with cackles, wheezes and sometimes mimicry. There are also many varied calls, and an active colony can be heard from a considerable distance.

Red howler monkey. Wildlife rescue. Trinidad and Tobago. Howler conservation.

Guyanan Red Howler

(Alouatta macconnelli)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Family: Atelidae
Genus: Alouatta
Species: A. macconnelli





photo: © Quentin Questel

The Guyanan red howler (Alouatta macconnelli) is a species of New World monkey, native to Suriname, Guyana, Trinidad, French Guiana, Venezuela and Brazil. They live in groups of three to 9 individuals (usually five to seven). The groups are polygynous, with only one or two males and the rest females and their offspring. One male is the usually dominant monkey of the group, the alpha male, and he is responsible for leading them to new food sites and defending them. The females of the group are in charge of the offspring.

These howlers are famous for their “dawn chorus”. These roaring and howling calls are performed mostly by the males in the group. The roars can be heard up to 5 km away in the forest. Because of their low-sugar diets, conservation of energy is key, and the calls avoid fighting and competition for food. They are folivores, which means their diets mainly consist of leaves, but they also rely on nuts, small animals, fruits, seeds, and flowers for important nutrients. These foods provide sugar necessary for growth and energy.

Ruby topaz hummingbird. Trinidad. Bird conservation project.

Ruby Topaz Hummingbird

(Chrysolampis mosquitus)


Class: Aves
Order: Apodiformes
Family: Trochilidae
Subfamily: Trochilinae
Genus: Chrysolampis
Species: C. mosquitus




photo: © Kevin Sammy

The ruby-topaz hummingbird, commonly referred to simply as the ruby topaz, is a small bird that breeds in the Lesser Antilles and tropical northern South America, from Panama to central Brazil. This hummingbird inhabits open country, gardens and cultivation. It is 8.1 cm long and weighs 3.5 g. Compared to most other hummingbirds, the almost straight, black bill is relatively short. The food of this species is nectar, taken from a wide variety of flowers, and some small insects.

The spectacular male often perches conspicuously and defends his territory aggressively. He has green-glossed dark brown upperparts. The crown and nape are glossy red, and the throat and breast are brilliant golden-orange. The rest of the underparts are brown, and the chestnut tail is tipped black. The male often looks very dark, until he turns and the brilliant colours flash in the sunlight. The female ruby-topaz hummingbird has bronze-green upperparts and pale grey underparts. The tail is chestnut with a dark subterminal band and a white tip. Females from Trinidad typically have a greenish throat-streak, but this is not common elsewhere in its range. She lays two eggs in a tiny cup nest in the fork of a low branch. Incubation takes 16 days, and fledging another 18 or 19.

Laetherback sea turtle. Critically endangered species. Turtle conservation. Trinidad.

Leatherback Sea Turtle

(Dermochelys coriacea)


Class: Reptilia

Order: Testudines

Suborder: Cryptodira

Family: Dermochelyidae

Genus: Dermochelys

Species: D. coriacea




photo: © Quentin Questel

The leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), sometimes called the lute turtle or leathery turtle, is the largest of all living turtles and is the fourth-heaviest modern reptile behind three crocodilians. They have the most hydrodynamic body design of any sea turtle, with a large, teardrop-shaped body. Leatherback turtles are one of the deepest-diving marine animals. Individuals have been recorded diving to depths as great as 1,280 m (4,200 ft). Typical dive durations are between 3 and 8 minutes, with dives of 30–70 minutes occurring infrequently.

Relatives of modern leatherback turtles have existed in some form since the first true sea turtles evolved over 110 million years ago during the Cretaceous period. Leatherback diet is almost exclusively jellyfish. For this reason they as well as other turtle species commonly ingest plastics mistaking bags for their prey, resulting in a slow death. Other threats include trawler nets and chemical pollution. They are now critically endangered in most oceans and listed as 'vulnerable' under IUCN.

Green iguana. Vulnerable to poaching and illegal hunting. Trinidad.

Green Iguana

(Iguana iguana)


Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Family: Iguanidae
Genus: Iguana
Species: I. iguana





photo: © Kevin Sammy

This is a large, arboreal, herbivorous species of lizard native to Central, South America, and the Caribbean. Despite their name, green iguanas can come in different colours. In southern countries of their range, such as Peru, green iguanas appear bluish in colour with bold blue markings. On islands such as Bonaire, Curaçao, Aruba, and Grenada, a green iguana's colour may range from green to lavender, black, and even pink. Green iguanas from the western region of Costa Rica are red and animals of the northern ranges, such as Mexico, appear orange.

Green iguanas use "head bobs" and dewlaps in a variety of ways in social interactions, such as greeting another iguana or to court a possible mate. The frequency and number of head bobs have particular meanings to other iguanas. In South and Central America, where the green iguana is native, it is an endangered species in some countries because people have been hunting and eating this “chicken of the trees” for a long time.

Trinidad chevron tarantula. Endemic species conservation.

Trinidad Chevron Tarantula

(Psalmopoeus cambridgei)


Class: Arachnida

Order: Araneae

Family: Theraphosidae

Genus: Psalmopoeus

Species: P. cambridgei





photo: © Quentin Questel

The Trinidad Chevron Tarantula is an arboreal tarantula that reaches 4.5 to 5.5 inches as an adult, and can live up to 12 years. These spiders live a solitary life in specially constructed silken tube webs or in crevices, behind loose bark or among epiphytic plants.  They breed freely in captivity. Two silken egg sacs are commonly produced from one mating and each of these contains one hundred to one hundred and fifty eggs. The female spider guards the sac, turning it occasionally, and the eggs hatch after about six weeks.


Like all spiders these can produce their own venom. Its venom is the source of psalmotoxin and vanillotoxin which are classified as inhibitor cystine knot proteins. Psalmotoxin may be of therapeutic use in patients suffering from a stroke. Chevron tarantulas are endemic to Trinidad.

Silky anteater. Endangered and rare species. Protected by law. Rainforest.

Silky Anteater

(Cyclopes didactylus)


Class: Mammalia
Superorder: Xenarthra
Order: Pilosa
Suborder: Vermilingua
Family: Cyclopedidae
Genus: Cyclopes
Species: C. didactylus


photo: © Quentin Questel

Silky anteaters are the smallest living anteaters. Adults have a total length ranging from 360 to 450 mm (14 to 18 in), including a tail 17 to 24 cm (6.7 to 9.4 in) long, and weigh from 175 to 400 g (6.2 to 14.1 oz). They have soft, dense fur, which ranges from grey to yellowish in colour, with a silvery sheen.

Silky anteaters are nocturnal and arboreal, found in lowland rainforests with continuous canopy, where they can move to different places without the need to descend from the trees. Silky anteaters, as their name suggests can eat up to 5,000 ants a day. When threatened, like other anteaters, it defends itself by standing on its hind legs and holding its fore feet close to its face so it can strike any animal that tries to get close with its sharp claws.

Channel-billed toucan. Kevi Sammy. Rare bird. Preserve wildlife. Bird project.

Channel-billed Toucan

(Ramphastos vitellinus)

Class: Aves
Order: Piciformes
Family: Ramphastidae
Genus: Ramphastos
Species: R. vitellinus





photo: © Kevin Sammy

The channel-billed toucan is a tree-dwelling bird which breeds in Trinidad and in tropical South America as far south as southern Brazil and central Bolivia. There are 3 sub-species - the yellow-ridged toucan, the ariel toucan and the citron throated toucan that interbreed freely. This bird is an arboreal fruit-eater, but will take insects small reptiles, eggs, and frogs. The parents are both active in raising the young. The white eggs are laid in a high unlined tree cavity. There is have a gestation period of 18 days, and the parents both incubate the eggs for 15 to 16 days.


This bird is very rare, classified as vulnerable by the IUCN and protected by law, so it is illegal to own one without a licence.

Cascabel. Tree boa. Caroni swamp. Oli Price photo.

Tree Boa

(Corallus ruschenbergerii)

Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Boidae
Subfamily: Boinae
Genus: Corallus
Species: C. ruschenbergerii



photo: Oli Price

The tree boa is also known as Ruschenberger’s tree boa or cascabel dormillion, and was previously considered part of the widespread Corallus hortulanus species (Cook’s tree boa). The adults are usually a dull khaki green or brown colour with a yellow chin, neck and underbelly, sometimes with black checkered or scattered patterns on their tails.

These animals are notorious for being very aggressive, but tend to give some warning of being inclined to bite, and will usually give fairly gentle bites unless they are given reason to give a full strike. Highly nocturnal creatures, they sleep during the day, but forage for sleeping birds, lizards and some active rodents both on trees and on the ground during the night.

White hawk. Bird of prey. Raptor. Quentin Questel photographer.

White Hawk

(Pseudastur albicollis)

Class: Aves
Subclass: Neornithes
Order: Accipitriformes
Family: Accipitridae
Genus: Pseudastur
Species: P. albicollis




photo: © Quentin Questel

The white hawk is a bird of prey widespread through the tropical New World. This species is often seen soaring, and has a spectacular aerial courtship display. The white hawk feeds mainly on reptiles with some insects and mammals, caught in a sortie from a perch. The adult ranges from 46–56 cm long with very broad wings and has a white head, body and underwings. The upper wings are black, and the very short tail is black with a broad white band. The bill is black and the legs are yellow.


White hawks sometimes associate with foraging groups of capuchin monkeys and coatis to snatch prey startled by these animals.  This bird comes to Trinidad to breed, where it builds a large stick platform nest in a tree and usually lays one dark-blotched blue-white egg.

Snowy Egret. Kevin Sammy photography. Wildlife protection. Endangered species. Trinidad.

Snowy Egret

(Egretta thula)

Class: Aves
Subclass: Neornithes
Order: Pelecaniformes
Family: Ardeidae
Genus: Egretta
Species: E. thula




photo: © Kevin Sammy

The snowy egret (Egretta thula) is a small white heron. It is the American counterpart to the very similar Old World little egret, which has established a foothold in the Bahamas. This graceful bird lives in a variety of habitats from freshwater swamps to tidal estuaries and mangroves. It eats mostly aquatic animals, including fish, frogs, worms, crustaceans, and insects. It often uses its bright yellow feet to paddle in the water or probe in the mud, rounding up prey before striking with its bill. Migrating long distances to breed, birds banded in United States have been recovered as far away as Panama and Trinidad.

At one time, the beautiful plumes of the snowy egret were in great demand by market hunters as decorations for women's hats. This reduced the population of the species to dangerously low levels. Now protected in the United States by law, under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, this bird's population has rebounded.

White-fronted capuchin monkey. Environmental conservation. Trinidad and Tobago.

White-fronted capuchin

(Cebus albifrons)

Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Family: Cebidae
Genus: Cebus
Species: C. albifrons





photo: © Quentin Questel

A New World monkey found in 7 different South American countries: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, and Trinidad & Tobago. The species is divided into several different subspecies, though the specific divisions are uncertain and controversial. These monkeys live in troupes that have a complex social structure. Adult males are notably tolerant of each other in the group, but they are very aggressive towards males of other groups. They're inquisitive, intelligent animals that use tools and have an extensive range of vocalisations.


Many species of capuchin are in decline as they are targeted for the illegal pet trade. The subspecies endemic to this island (Cebus albifrons trinitatis) is listed as critically endangered - a mere 61 individuals estimated on the island of Trinidad in 2008.

Silver-beaked tanager. Bird conservation project Trinidad and Tobago.

Silver-beaked Tanager

(Ramphocelus carbo)

Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Thraupidae
Genus: Ramphocelus
Species: R. carbo





photo: © Quentin Questel

The silver-beaked tanager (Ramphocelus carbo) is a medium-sized passerine bird. This tanager is a resident breeder in South America from eastern Colombia and Venezuela south to Paraguay and central Brazil, and on Trinidad. It is common and conspicuous. This is a social bird which eat mainly fruit, but insects are also taken. It occurs in light woodland and cultivated areas.

Adult males are velvety crimson black with a deep crimson throat and breast. The upper mandible of the bill is black, but the enlarged lower mandible is bright silver in appearance. The bill is pointed upwards in display. The female is much duller.