McKinnon’s Saltpond IBA is on the west facing coast of north-west Antigua, 3 km north of St John’s and just inland from Runaway Bay. It was once a mangrove-lined lagoon (the largest natural pond on the island), but a road along the western and northern seaward side has cut it off from the sea (except for a small culvert that allows limited exchange of water). The resultant increased water levels (now c.1 m deep) have killed the majority of the mangroves so that most of the shoreline is open (albeit fringed by the “skeletons” of the dead mangroves). Small stands of degraded mangroves remain on the southern and western (seaward) edges. A man-made causeway (accommodating fuel lines from a facility 3 km offshore to the storage area of an oil refinery) runs through the pond, isolating the southernmost section from the main body of water. There is extensive resort development around and adjacent to the pond, as well as private homes.
This IBA is notable for its waterbird populations. Numbers of Brown Pelican Pelecanus occidentalis and Least Tern Sterna antillarum are regionally significant, while those of Laughing Gull Larus atricilla are globally so. The Vulnerable West Indian Whistling-duck Dendrocygna arborea is often present at the site (although not all year) with 56 adults and 18 ducklings found in 2006. Little Egret Egretta garzetta breeds in this IBA: three nests found in 2008 represent a significant percentage of the New World breeding population. Numerous Neotropical migratory shorebirds use this site.
Non-bird biodiversity: The Critically Endangered hawksbill turtle Eretmochelys imbricata nests on the nearby beaches.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
McKinnon’s Saltpond is under mixed ownership, and is not protected in any way. There are claims on different parts of the pond by various landowners who have individual ideas about the development of the pond. The Government's Environment Division is currently dredging the pond to reduce flooding and increase the aesthetics of the area. Dendrocygna arborea has not been seen in the IBA since the dredging started. The sand flats surrounding the area open to dogs, mongoose and other domestic animals, and are used as parking areas for visitors to the pond or beach nearby. These activities adversely impact the nesting terns and shorebirds.
Authors: Joseph Prosper, Victor Joseph, Andrea Otto, Shanee Prosper (Environmental Awareness Group)