Wildlife of the real Gilligan’s Island(s)

Please don’t ask how I come up with these things because I can’t explain it, but I found myself wondering if anyone had ever eBirded Gilligan’s Island? Rabbit hole: entered.

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I mean, come on.

Quick history: Gilligan’s Island was a goofy comedy brainchild of Sherwood Schwartz. It ran for three seasons on CBS from 1964–1967. You know the rest, e.g., it’s probably never stopped being aired in syndication somewhere in the world, I’ve been in love with Dawn Wells my entire life, etc.

But what of the island itself? Fans of the show will know that the infamous three-hour tour ended with The Minnow marooned on an uncharted island 250 miles southeast of Hawaii. Truly deranged fans out there might also know that the legendary coordinates are 10°N, -140°W. This puts a pin on a map, but there is nary a speck of land anywhere near that pin. Perhaps at some point I’ll seek ocean data on this spot in the North Pacific, but that’s not what I’m after at the moment. I want to know more about the island itself, i.e., the one that appears in the credits.

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This is where the fabled Gilligan’s Island is supposed to be.

Ah yes, the island. Of course, this is more complicated than it at first appears. The credits change between the first season (black and white with “and the rest” in the opening theme song) and seasons two and three (in color and, on Bob Denver’s demand,”the Professor and Mary Ann” in the theme song). Do you know what else is different? The island. In the first season, this is our view from offshore of Gilligan’s Island:

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That’s Sandy Cay, in the Bahamas. People go to Sandy Cay all the time. They go to lots of Sandy Cays, in fact. But the one described as used for the photo in the opening credits does not appear to be mapped. If I’m ever able to find it mapped, it looks like ghost crabs, hermit crabs, and the odd Ruddy Turnstone are all I can expect to be reported as terrestrial wildlife there. So let’s try the other one.

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Seasons 2 and 3 had a different island serve as the opening credits backdrop. This is Coconut Island, or Moku-o-loe, in Oahu’s Kaneohe Bay in the Hawaiian Islands. It currently serves as the field station for the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology. You’d think that surely there’d be some eBird checklists for a biological field station, but nope. There are some interesting marine species reported there on iNaturalist, plus some obvious things like Mallard, Red-crested Cardinal, Mourning Gecko, etc. I’m looking for birds, though.

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That pale blue marker off to the right, however, does provide some indication for at least some bird species that might occur at this Gilligan’s Island. That’s the Marine Core Hawaii Base, and checklists submitted from that hotspot suggest that about 45 bird species can be found in the area. Of those, the most frequently encountered are Black-necked Stilt, Cattle Egret, Zebra Dove, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Warbling White-Eye, Common Waxbill, Pacific Golden-Plover, Red-vented Bulbul, Northern Cardinal, and Common Mynah – none of which I remember any of the Castaways mentioning.



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