email a friend
printable version
Location Anguilla (to UK)
Central coordinates 63o 10.70' West  18o 15.94' North
IBA criteria A4i, A4ii, B4i, B4ii
Area 973 ha
Altitude 0 - 10m
Year of IBA assessment 2013

Site description This cay lies 5 miles north of Anguilla. It is a low, rocky island with sandy shores on the north and east coasts and heavily fissured limestone cliffs on the remaining coastline. A small pond lies behind the northern beach and the centre of the island contains areas of scrub. The island also has an inshore coral reef system that is popular with visitors from the mainland and from neighbouring St. Martin. Two restaurants are open at peak visitor times, making Prickly Pear East Anguilla’s most accessible and most visited small island. It is uninhabited and is accessed primarily by water. Prickly Pear West – The larger of the two islands, Prickly Pear West is separated from its sister island by a narrow channel. Apart from one small beach, the island is a low limestone outcrop with low cliffs; it is the more rockier and rugged of the two islands.

Key Biodiversity Prickly Pear East – This cay is important for its large breeding colony of Brown Boobies Sula leucogaster and Laughing Gulls Larus atricilla. Population numbers for these species in 2007 have been estimated to be as high as 700 and 39 breeding pairs, respectively. One of Anguilla’s restricted-range species (Caribbean Elaenia Elaenia martinica) is present within the cay’s scrubland. Yellow Warblers Dendroica petechia, Brown Noddies Anous stolidus, and Bridled Terns Sterna anaethetus are also found on Prickly Pear East. Prickly Pear West – This cay is important for its breeding population of Brown Boobies which numbered as high as 40 pairs in 2007. 875 pairs of Laughing Gulls have also been counted here during that period. The bushes in the centre of the island also provide an occasional nesting area for a few pairs of Red-footed Boobies Sula sula. This is the only breeding site for this species in Anguilla.

Non-bird biodiversity: Nothing recorded.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Red-billed Tropicbird Phaethon aethereus breeding  2012  29 breeding pairs  good  A4ii  Least Concern 
Pelecanus occidentalis breeding  2007  29 breeding pairs  medium  B4i  Not Recognised 
Brown Booby Sula leucogaster breeding  2012  644 breeding pairs  good  B4ii  Least Concern 
Laughing Gull Larus atricilla resident  2004  2,500 breeding pairs  medium  A4i  Least Concern 
Least Tern Sternula antillarum breeding  2007  29 breeding pairs  medium  B4i  Least Concern 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Prickly Pear & Sea Island Marine Park 3,300 protected area contained by site 0  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Coastline Sand dunes & beaches; Sea cliffs & rocky shores; Shallow marine areas, coral reefs & keys  major
Sea Open sea; Pelagic waters  major
Shrubland Arid lowland scrub  major
Wetlands (inland) Freshwater lakes & pools  minor

Land ownership Prickly Pear East is a privately-owned island while Prickly Pear West is crown-owned. Both islands are situated within a marine park (Prickly Pear Marine Park). Marine park regulations only govern activities occurring in the water and on the beach. No protection is afforded to other areas of the islands or the seabirds that found there. At least one large scale development proposal for tourism purposes on Prickly Pear East had been submitted to the Government of Anguilla during the 1990s. The proposal was not approved and today tourism activities centre on Prickly Pear East’s white sand beach, coral reefs, and two restaurants. Anecdotal evidence suggests increased use in the area by day and overnight visitors to Anguilla. Publications about the island request that visitors not venture into the seabird breeding colonies. The Anguilla National Trust, with in-water assistance provided by the Department of Fisheries and Marine Resources, is currently working towards developing a management strategy (with stakeholder involvement) for the marine park and the islands. A count of the birds on both islands was completed in June 2007 by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
tourism/recreation major
urban/industrial/transport major
nature conservation and research major
Notes: Annual seabirds counts

Protection status Cays unprotected; waters protected as a marine park

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: Prickly Pear (East and West). Downloaded from on 23/10/2016

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