North-west Cays

Country/territory: Virgin Islands (to USA)

IBA Criteria met: A4ii, B4i, B4ii (2007)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 1,183 ha

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.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: North-west Cays. Downloaded from on 11/08/2022.