Fort Amsterdam, Sint Maarten

Site description (2006 baseline):

Site location and context
The site is a peninsula of land approximately 2.5 kilometers long. Fort Amsterdam is a registered historical site, composed of several ruins. The pelican breeding colony is located on the west side of the point, on a slope below the fort. Vegetation is characterized by thorny scrub, composed mainly of Acacia macracantha and A. tortuosa, reaching over 2 m in height. The colony was on the western side of the point, below the fort. A smaller group of about 10 pelicans has also nested on the eastern side of Fort Amsterdam.

Key biodiversity
The breeding population of Brown Pelicans at Ft. Amsterdam varies greatly between years. The highest count was 60 nests in 2001, which qualifies as regionally important to the Caribbean Brown Pelican population. The presence of nesting pelicans at Pelikan Rock is noted in the literature, but no mention of the Fort Amsterdam colony has been found (Danforth 1930; Voous 1954, 1955a, 1955b, 1983; Voous and Koelers 1967; Pinchon 1976; Hoogerworf 1977; Halewyn and Norton 1984; Rojer 1997; Raffaele et al. 1998; Collazo et al. 2000). The only exception is a note by David Johnston from the same year as the initial sighting in 2001 (Norton and White 2001). The size of the Fort Amsterdam colony would seem to make it more obvious than the smaller and more distant Pelikan Key colony. The area may have been overlooked in the past or possibly it was recently colonized. Regionally limited species found at this site include Green-throated Carib Eulampis holosericeus, Antillean Crested Hummingbird Orthorhyncus cristatus, Pearly-eyed Thrasher Margarops fuscatus, and Lesser Antillean Bullfinch Loxigilla noctis.

Non-bird biodiversity: The island endemic Anolis pogus may be present at this site.

Habitat and land use
Human disturbance is an issue at this urban location. A resort lies approximately 500 m away. The Fort ruins are approximately 10 m from the nearest nest, but the thorny vegetation restricts visitors from accessing the nesting area. The surrounding waters are used heavily by watercraft, including jet skis, dive boats, and parasail boats. The bay on the eastern side of the point is a major cruise ship port.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The threat of development could arise if government alters its view of the historical and environmental value of Fort Amsterdam. Increasing tourism will likely cause more disturbances from speeding watercraft.

Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
Weekly population counts have been conducted every winter since 2001. A nesting success survey was also conducted in 2001.

Protected areas
Fort Amsterdam is a registered historical site, which affords it some protection. The adjacent resort has, in the past, attempted to expand the resort buildings over this registered historical area. Thus far, legal challenges to this action have protected the site. Public access to the site is controlled by the resort’s security checkpoint.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2024) Important Bird Area factsheet: Fort Amsterdam, Sint Maarten. Downloaded from on 27/02/2024.