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Location Virgin Islands (to USA), St. Thomas
Central coordinates 65o 0.00' West  18o 18.34' North
IBA criteria A4i, B4i
Area 503 ha
Altitude 0 - 80m
Year of IBA assessment 2007

Site description The site is located just off the south central coast of St. Thomas and includes Saba Island plus the smaller Turtledove Cay and Flat Cays, a total area of approximately 14 hectares. The islands are about 2 km S-SW of the western end of the Cyril King airport runway extension. Saba has 2 salt ponds (east and west) with coral rubble shoreline on the northern side and rocky cliffs on the seaward south. The Saba terrain rises to about 80 m while the other cays have very low and flat terrain. A shallow sandbar reaches north to Turtledove Cay. There is a protected cove on the northwestern side of Saba with a small sandy beach. Behind the beach is a relative open, flat area adjacent to the west pond. A nature trail was developed some years ago but has mostly grown over. A bird observation blind is located near the east pond shore and overlooks the pond and vicinity. Offshore of both Saba and Flat Cay are modest sized coral reefs.

Key Biodiversity Islands & surrounding waters Audubon’s Shearwater, Red-billed Tropicbird, White-tailed Tropicbird, Brown Pelican, Brown Booby, Magnificent Frigatebird, White-cheeked Pintail, Lesser Yellowlegs, Laughing Gull, Sandwich Tern, Royal Tern, Roseate Tern, Sooty Tern, Bridled Tern, Brown Noddy, Zenaida Dove, American Oystercatcher, Black-necked Stilt, Smooth-billed Ani, Yellow Warbler.

Non-bird biodiversity: The crested anole, Puerto Rican Racer snake, Slipperyback skink, dwarf gecko, and house mouse are also present. Green and Hawksbill Sea Turtles are common in the surrounding waters. There are small coral reef areas in adjacent waters that warrant protection from boat anchoring and terrestrial runoff. Seagrass beds provide habitat for fish, vital for the seabirds.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Laughing Gull Larus atricilla breeding  2007  800-1,000 breeding pairs  poor  A4i  Least Concern 
Royal Tern Thalasseus maximus breeding  2007  20-80 breeding pairs  poor  B4i  Least Concern 
Sandwich Tern Thalasseus sandvicensis breeding  2007  50-250 breeding pairs  poor  B4i  Least Concern 
Roseate Tern Sterna dougallii breeding  2007  20-600 breeding pairs  poor  A4i  Least Concern 
Bridled Tern Onychoprion anaethetus breeding  2000-2007  50-200 breeding pairs  medium  A4i  Least Concern 
Sooty Tern Onychoprion fuscatus breeding  2000-2006  20,000-40,000 breeding pairs  medium  A4i  Least Concern 
Brown Noddy Anous stolidus breeding  2007  100-300 breeding pairs  poor  B4i  Least Concern 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Caribbean Barrier Resource System Marine Reserve and Wildlife Sanctuary 0 unknown 0  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Shrubland   major
Rocky areas   -
Sea Open sea  -
Coastline Sand dunes & beaches; Shallow marine areas, coral reefs & keys  -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research -
tourism/recreation -

Protection status Saba Island and Cays are designated as wildlife sanctuaries by the territorial government of the U.S. Virgin Islands and are managed by the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW). Entry beyond the beach and bird blind is by special use permit only.

Acknowledgements Jim Corven and Judy Pierce

Further web sources of information 

Site profile from Important Bird Areas in the Caribbean: key sites for conservation (BirdLife International 2008)

Contribute  Please click here to help BirdLife conserve the world's birds - your data for this IBA and others are vital for helping protect the environment.

Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Saba Island and Cays. Downloaded from on 26/10/2016

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife