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Location Virgin Islands (to USA), St. Thomas
Central coordinates 65o 2.32' West  18o 21.85' North
IBA criteria A4ii, B4i, B4ii
Area 1,183 ha
Year of IBA assessment 2007

Site description Cockroach and Sula are located approximately 5 miles off the northwest coast of St.Thomas. Dutchcap Cay is closer to the main island, about 2 miles off Botany Point, the westernmost end of St. Thomas. The total area is approximately 21.3 hectares. There are steep cliffs on all sides of the islands except the northeast corner of Cockroach where a flat shield slopes into the sea. On the east end of Cockroach, the tip of the island tilts into the sea leaving smaller Sula Cay separated by a large crevice. Dutchcap is dome-shaped with steep cliffs on the north and east faces. There are no sandy beaches or coastal plain on any of the cays. No stream or permanent water is found on the islands, nevertheless, water collects in small rock crevices on Dutchcap where doves and goats (recently eradicated) come to drink. Offshore of the cays are modest sized coral reefs.

Key Biodiversity Audubon’s Shearwater, Red-billed Tropicbird, Masked Booby, Brown Booby, Red-footed Booby, Brown Pelican, Bridled Tern, Brown Noddy, Zenaida Dove. Cockroach and Sula Cays are the only breeding colony for Masked Boobies in the VI. Cockroach harbors the largest Red-billed Tropicbird nesting colony in the Virgin Islands. Dutchcap Cay is the only nesting site for Red-footed Boobies in the USVI. The endangered Brown Pelican nests at Dutchcap.

Non-bird biodiversity: The Puerto Rican Racer snake, crested anole, Slipperyback skink, dwarf gecko, and land crabs 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.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Red-billed Tropicbird Phaethon aethereus breeding  2006  100 breeding pairs  poor  A4ii  Least Concern 
Pelecanus occidentalis breeding  2006  100-200 breeding pairs  poor  B4i  Not Recognised 
Sula dactylatra breeding  2006  100 breeding pairs  poor  B4ii  Not Recognised 
Brown Booby Sula leucogaster breeding  2006  250-400 breeding pairs  poor  B4ii  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)
Rocky areas   major
Shrubland Arid lowland scrub  -
Sea Open sea  -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research major
tourism/recreation minor
Notes: diving/snorkling

Protection status The site is publicly owned by the Territorial government and subject to management and protection by the USVI Dept. of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) Division of Fish and Wildlife. Current use is very limited to diving/snorkeling the coral areas. Fishermen put goats on Dutchcap where they are periodically harvested. Access to the islands is difficult and there are no protected anchorages.

Further web sources of information 

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

References Dammann, A.E. and D.W. Nellis. 1992. A Natural History Atlas to the Cays of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Pineapple Press, Inc., Sarasota, FL. Pierce, J. J. 1996. Survey of cay nesting avifauna in the U. S. Virgin Islands. Final Report. Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Aid Grant W5-11, Study 2. Division of Fish and Wildlife, St. Thomas. 50 pp. Platenberg, R.J., F.E. Hayes, D.B. McNair, and J.J. Pierce. 2005. A Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy for the US Virgin Islands. Division of Fish and Wildlife, St. Thomas

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: North-west Cays. Downloaded from on 23/10/2016

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