Jamaica is the third largest island in the Caribbean. It lies between latitudes 17° and 19°N, and longitudes 76° and 79°W. Mountains, including the Blue Mountains, dominate the inland. They are surrounded by a narrow coastal plain.
Among the variety of terrestrial, aquatic and marine ecosystems are dry and wet limestone forests, rainforest, riparian woodland, wetlands, caves, rivers, seagrass beds and coral reefs. The authorities have recognised the tremendous significance and potential of the environment and have designated some of the more 'fertile' areas as 'protected'. Among the island's protected areas are the Cockpit Country, Hellshire Hills, and Litchfield forest reserves.
Despite its sometimes roguish image Jamaica is a beautiful, accessible and safe [yes safe!] birding country, with a range of locations as inebriating as our rum, and thirty great endemic birds.
The total number of recorded species is approximately 300, many of which are winter migrants from North America, 100 plus local breeding birds and 26-30 [depending on what you split] endemics. Finding the endemics can be dead easy - the Red-billed Streamertail is present in virtually every flower-laden garden - to very difficult - the Jamaican Blackbird feeds exclusively on the creatures living in bromeliads. But with reasonable luck all can be found in a few days, visiting half-a-dozen easily accessible sites.
Good local guides are available – but try to make arrangements ahead of your visit - local transport is available at reasonable cost [from a 4-seater car up to a 25-seater bus] and a wide range of accommodation choices can be provided.
A few suggestions:
Roads are not always well signposted and driving habits may be different to what you are used to, so if possible use a driver.
Be prepared for sun, rain, and high humidity - hats, sun block, light rain gear and a change of shirt are recommended.
In general - and especially out of the city - people, though initially reserved, will respond positively to your friendliness. Don't be shy to ask for directions, but be prepared for some vague answers with distances often given in chains!
Local food and drink can be one more facet of your adventure, but take it easy especially with the 'Jerked' pork and chicken which is very very hot!
Because of the weather birding can be done all year, but bear in mind that May and October are the rainy months and June to August are the hottest so the most comfortable time is likely to be December to April.
Black River Morass - wetland
This is a large wetland containing a variety of habitats. The northern part is probably the best place to find the endangered West Indian Whistling Duck. The southern area is open riverine country with herons, bitterns, rails and some friendly crocodiles.
Drive north out of Kingston up,up,up, through Newcastle and Hardwar Gap, and stop on the roadside almost anywhere. Look for all three hummingbirds, Blue Mountain and Jamaican Vireos, various Flycatchers, Todies, Orioles, Stripe-headed Tanagers and many more. This is prime Blue Mountain coffee territory, and much of the limited accommodation is connected with coffee interests. A comfortable and attractive base is Forres Park Guest House at Mavis Bank, one hour's drive from Kingston's airport.
Castleton Botanical Gardens
One hour's drive out of Kingston on the Junction Road. About 20 acres of open rolling country with a variety of exotic trees that attract an interesting range of birds.
Cockpit Country - Barbecue Bottom/ Burnt Hill road
This fabled area contains some of the richest birding in the island, but it is mostly trackless and inaccessible. The Barbecue Bottom road is the best area close to the Cockpit Country that can be reached by car. Look for both Parrots, Jamaican Blackbirds, Crested and Ruddy Quail Doves and both Chestnut-bellied and Jamaican Lizard Cuckoos. The choice of lodging is limited- beach hotels and villas on the north coast or rustic but clean and friendly, B&B's in Albert Town, which is a useful base for any foray into the Cockpit area.
Hope Botanical Gardens - Kingston
A possible site to visit en route from Kingston to the Blue Mountains. A flock of about 40 Yellow-Billed Parrots live in the Gardens and are easily seen; plus warblers and water birds in the ponds.
John Crow Mountains (Ecclesdown)
The Eastern face of the John Crow Mountains are best accessed from the narrow but good road through Ecclesdown. Look for Black-billed Streamertails, both Amazon parrots [Yellow-billed and Black-billed] Jamaican Blackbird, Jamaican Crow, Crested Quail-Dove, Arrow-marked Warbler etc. etc.
Marshall's Pen - near Mandeville
One of the best-documented and oldest birding sites in Jamaica, home of Robert and Ann Sutton - two of the country's premier birders - and the oldest active banding centre in Jamaica. Robert birded this area all his life and knew every nest and roost on it. He recorded over 100 species there. Since his tragic murder some years ago his widow, Ann Haynes-Sutton has continued there work. Accommodation is available on site and there are alternatives in Mandeville.
Mockingbird Hill Hotel Gardens
Undoubtedly one of the best birding sites in Jamaica… a stay at the hotel just for its sumptuous breakfasts and wonderful dinners is highly recommended but the gardens have hosted all but a few endemic species and sub-species. In a few days even the Fatbirder managed more than a dozen endemics - most from the restaurant!
Royal Palm Reserve - near Negril
A managed but little-visited wetland on the Negril/ Savannah-la-Mar road, with a good selection of birds in an attractive setting. Boardwalk and viewing tower to add to one's convenience. The Great Morass in Negril, Jamaica is a large nature preserve for birds and animals. It is located off of the land side of Norman Manley Boulevard, stretching along for 7 miles parallel to Long Bay and Bloody Bay. The morass lies on the coastal flood plain of the Black River and attracts over 300 animal species including birds, butterflies and reptiles.
This small preserve behind the police station turns up may of the same species as Ecclesdown. It is much smaller and has a few open areas where houses give breaks in the forest. Great for Ring-tailed Dove, Sad Flycatcher, Jamaican Peewee etc.
Yallahs Salt Ponds
25 miles east of Kingston on the coast road - strictly shorebirds and some migrant warblers. No lodging nearby, but can be a worthwhile stop on the drive between Kingston and the Port Antonio area.
Number of Species
Number of bird species: 322
(As at October 2018)
National Bird: Red-billed Streamertail [Doctor Bird] Troclilus polytmus
Number of endemics: 28
Jamaican Woodpecker Melanerpes radiolatus Jamaican Tody Todus todus Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo Hyetornis pluvialis Jamaican Lizard-Cuckoo Saurothera vetula Yellow-billed Parrot Amazona collaria Black-billed Parrot Amazona agilis Jamaican Mango Anthracothorax mango Black-billed Streamertail Trochilus polytmus Red-billed Streamertail Trochilus scitulus Jamaican Owl Pseudoscops grammicus Ring-tailed Pigeon Columba caribaea Crested Quail-Dove Geotrygon versicolor Jamaican Spindalis Spindalis nigricephela Jamaican Pewee Contopus pallidus Jamaican Elaenia Myiopagis cotta Sad Flycatcher Myiarchus barbirostris Rufous-tailed Flycatcher Myiarchus validus Jamaican Becard Pachyramphus niger Jamaican Vireo Vireo modestus Blue Mountain Vireo Vireo osburni Jamaican Crow Corvus jamaicensis White-chinned Thrush Turdus aurantius White-eyed Thrush Turdus jamaicensis Arrowhead Warbler Dendroica pharetra Jamaican Euphonia Euphonia jamaica Yellow-shouldered Grassquit Loxipasser anoxanthus Orangequit Euneornis campestris Jamaican Blackbird Nesopsar nigerrimus (plus c. 18 endemic races)
Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web
A Birdwatcher’s Guide to Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico & the Caymans
By Guy Kirwan, Arturo Kirkconnell & Mike Flieg | Prion | 2010 | Paperback | 198 pages, Line illustrations, maps |
ISBN: 9781871104127Buy this book from NHBS.com
A Photographic Guide to Birds of Jamaica and the West Indies
By G Michael Flieg & Allan Sander | New Holland Publishers | 2006 | Paperback | 144 pages, 300 colour photos |
ISBN: 1845375912Buy this book from NHBS.com
A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Jamaica
By Audrey Downer, Ann Haynes Sutton, Robert Sutton & YJ Rey-Millet | Christopher Helm | 2009 | Paperback | 304 pages, colour photos, maps |
ISBN: 9781408107430Buy this book from NHBS.com
Bird Songs in Jamaica
By George B Reynard & Robert L Sutton | Cornell Lab Publishing Group | 2000 | Audio CD | 2 Discs |
ISBN: 675246123822Buy this book from NHBS.com
The Birds of the West Indies
By Herbert Raffaele, James Wiley, Orlando Garrido, Allan Keith & Janis Raffaele | Christopher Helm | 2003 Paperback | 216 pages, 92 colour plates, 181 colour distribution maps |
ISBN: 0713654198Buy this book from NHBS.com
Birdlife Jamaica is a non-profit organization committed to the conservation of Jamaica's birds and their habitats.
IBA Paradise Park
You will not find this exquisite park in most of the guide books because it is primarily a cattle and dairy farm that has been owned and operated by the same family for over a hundred years…
NP Blue Mountains
The park is globally known for its biodiversity. This park is the last of two known habitats of the giant swallowtail butterfly (Papilio homerus), the largest butterfly in the Western Hemisphere and also the habitat for the endangered Jamaican blackbird (Neospar nigerrimus), a refuge for the Jamaican boa (Epicrates subflavus) and the Jamaican hutia (Geocapromys brownii).
NR Royal Palms
Walk the half-mile boardwalk and see up close the variety of birds that live among the mangroves – from egrets and herons to ospreys and hawks – the West Indian Whistling duck, an endangered species, and plants such as anchovy pear, wicker vine and saw grass. Some plants are endemic to the area, others have medicinal purposes.
Wetland of International Importance
Jamaica currently has four sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Sites), with a surface area of 37,847 hectares.
WS Font Hill
The Fonthill Wildlife Sanctuary includes a coastal mangrove preserve to protect the locally endangered American crocodile. They are best viewed early in the morning and a warden is available to accompany visitors to their favorite sunning spots. Birds are plentiful here…
Guides & Tour Operators
We make our Jamaica tours combinable with our Cuba and Dominican Republic set departure tours so you can cover a large part of the Caribbean and see a big proportion of the endemics - which include some stunning todies, hummingbirds, quail-doves and more. Travel is easy in Jamaica with English being the official language and we try for all the Jamaican endemics
Black River Safaris
Discover the beauty of the South Coast with a 1/12 hour boat tour by motor launch up Jamaica's largest navigable river and through what is Jamaica's largest wetland area, the Black River lower morass…
Jamaica is an island where you may find 265 different species of birds with 30 or so endemic to the island at the last count!
Mark Smith Nature Tours
Jamaica is biologically one of the richest islands in all the Indies and presents a relaxed introduction to the diverse natural and cultural history of the Indies. In addition to rainforest walks…
Rockjumper Birding Tours
Best known as a tropical paradise, Jamaica is also blessed with 30 mouth-watering endemics. Our tour explores habitats from evergreen mountain forests to beaches and ultramarine coastal waters in our quest to notch up all of Jamaica’s endemics, while simultaneously soaking up the unique atmosphere of the island.
CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.
2008 [04 April] - Gary & Marlene Babic
This week-long trip was arranged through Ann Sutton and guided by Brandon Hay. For several days we were fortunate that Ann joined us as well. Others had reported that three or four days are all that is necessary to see all of the endemics, and Ann had suggested that our seven days would give us plenty of time to see all of the Jamaican endemics and specialties, with time for sightseeing…
2008 [04 April] - Mark Finn
This tour to Jamaica was the first by Birdwatching Breaks and was an immediate success for the company recording all the endemic species (28) including the scarce Jamaican Blackbird and the beautiful Crested Quail-dove. The tour covered all the important bird areas of this unique island situated on the western extremity of the West Indies. In addition to these areas visits were made to a selection of wetlands and lagoons for migrant waders and ducks…
2009 [04 April] - Mark Finn
This tour to Jamaica was the first by Birdwatching Breaks and was an immediate success for the company recording all the endemic species (28) including the scarce Jamaican Blackbird and the beautiful Crested Quail-dove…
2012 [12 December] - Gina Nichol & Steve Bird
….At first light we had Cattle Egrets flying over dispersing from their night roosts and Greater Antillean Nighthawks were flying past in numbers. The trees right in front of the lodge held Prairie Warbler, Northern Parula, more Northern Mockingbirds, and a White-crowned Pigeon…
2013 [03 March] - Mark Van Beirs
The smashing Red-billed Streamertail, that most delicious endemic hummingbird, together with the 29 other endemics made our all too short visit to sun-drenched Jamaica a real delight. Jamaica exudes an unique flavour, totally unlike most of the other Caribbean islands and is widely known for Bob Marley’s music, for James Bond’s early adventures (the real James Bond was the author of the first field guide to the Birds of the West Indies and a friend of Ian Fleming) and for its fiery rhum, expensive Blue Mountain coffee and dreadlocked rastafaris…
2014 [03 March] - Rob Gordijn & Helen Rijkes
…We had planned a 2 week trip to Cuba late February 2014. While making the itinerary it turned out we had some days left and decided to spend these on an extra trip to Jamaica. A Birdwatchers guide to Cuba, Jamaica etc. mentioned that all 29 endemics should be possible to see in just a couple of days so we booked a long weekend from Cuba arriving Friday afternoon…
2015 [02 February] - Clayton Burne
Vervain Hummingbirds were equally common, allowing for much better scoped views. A flock of Olive-throated Parakeet (soon to be split, probably as another endemic - Jamaican Parakeet), perched in a nearby fruiting tree, pairs of Orangequits foraged close by, and a single White-chinned Thrush finally took to sitting on an exposed perch so we could all see it.
2015 [03 March] - Eric Hynes with Dwayne Swaby
...Both Black-billed and Yellow-billed parrots were joined by Olive-throated Parakeets, White-crowned Pigeons, Ring-tailed Pigeons, and Jamaican Crows at our breakfast stop at the base of Ecclesdown Road. While walking up we spotted the Black-billed subspecies of Streamertail, White-eyed Thrush, Ruddy Quail-Dove, and our best look at Black-billed Parrot. A foraging Jamaican Blackbird barely above our heads trumped the fine look we had the day before.
2015 [04 April] - Eustace Barnes
Jamaica is truly a gem and staying at Marshall’s Pen a real pleasure with Jamaican Owls in the grounds and Red-billed Streamertails buzzing about. High above Kingston, Crested Quail Doves before breakfast followed by Blue Mountain Coffee takes some beating as does watching Black-billed Streamertails at a lek
2015 [04 March] - Sam Woods
...we also added some Caribbean specialties too, like Bahama Mockingbird, Plain Pigeon, Antillean Palm Swift, Vervain Hummingbird, Greater Antillean Elaenia, Loggerhead Kingbird, Stolid Flycatcher, Rufous-throated Solitaire, Greater Antillean Bullfinch, and Jamaican Oriole.
2015 [06 June] - Mike Powell
We eventually decided on Jamaica, a new destination for everyone, with trip reports indicating that the 29 endemics could be comfortably seen within a week without the need for too much travelling. Having birded extensively in North America, we were not too bothered about bumping the trip numbers up with wintering warblers so MCP set about organising a mid-June trip...
2015 [11 November] - Rosemary Royal
This trip was organised at fairly short notice as a chance to get away for a week for a relaxing time and some good birds. It was not a hard-core birding trip though we did hope to pick up most of the Jamaican endemics and other Caribbean endemics...
2016 [02 February] - Lars Olausson
...Our final day in Jamaica. Started the journey to Kingston airport after breakfast. We made a planned stop at Hector’s river but no tropicbirds around. Continued to Hope Botanical Garden in the outskirts of Kingston, where we walked around an hour and a half before we drove the last bit to the airport...
2016 [03 March] - Eric Hynes
We completed the clean sweep of all 27 endemics and tallied a number of the regional endemics as well. We enjoyed comfortable accommodations, easy transportation, quality food, agreeable weather, and excellent camaraderie. There is no such thing as the perfect tour, but a lot of things fell into place nicely for us on this run. Our local guide, Dwayne Swaby, performed admirably for us and showed us all a good time. Thanks again to the wonderful staff at Green Castle Estate...
2016 [03 March] - Megan Edwards Crewe
...Our time in the field was spent largely in the island's less trammelled (and more forested) northeast, principally in the John Crow and Blue Mountains. With the exception of our first soggy day and a half, we had delightful weather -- including a few days warm enough to make our lodge's pool seem awfully inviting! And we found plenty to watch and enjoy during our six days of birding. The endemics cooperated wonderfully -- with one notable exception (we're talking to you, Crested Quail-Dove!!) everybody saw all of them very well....
2016 [03 March] - Sam Woods
While seeing the “full house” of Jamaican endemic birds was normal and expected, we also saw some other less predictable birds, like Caribbean Coot, West Indian Whistling-Duck, and a very popular American Flamingo near Kingston, which outranked all of the endemics for choice of top bird of the tour...
2016 [07 July] - Colin Manville
I opted for Jamaica as it had been recommended by friends and it had 28 endemics for me to try for. As usual, in consideration of my non-birding wife I always choose the resort before doing any analysis of the local avifauna. I opted for the Bahia Principe hotel at Runaway Bay in the north of the country.
2017 [02 February] - Chris Sharpe
...a Sad Flycatcher landed in a nearby bush, and Jamaican Spindalis and Jamaican Orioles came in to join it. After we had taken our fill, it was time for breakfast and our introductory talk by the estate owner and our local guide, Dwayne Swaby. Once this was over, we took a stroll down the Waterfall Trail with Dwayne. More showy endemics awaited, starting with Red-billed Streamertails: six males, as well as a female, on the nest! Rufous-tailed Flycatchers, Orangequits and White-chinned Thrushes were next, together with a suite of birds bearing the epithet “Jamaican”: Vireo, Becard, Elaenia, Woodpecker and Tody....
2017 [03 March] - Forrest Rowland
Jamaica is as about unique a destination as can be imagined. In the middle of the Caribbean, this small island developed a culture unlike any other, cuisine unlike any other, and vibrant, beautiful avifauna unlike any other. As a guide, it’s pretty dreamy as well. Great accommodations, great food, and outstanding local bird guides that are extremely knowledgeable and helpful, making it a delight for everyone involved!
2017 [03 March] - Ian Merrill
Having caught something of a ‘Caribbean Bug’, in the wake of highly successful trips to Cuba and Puerto Rico, the decision to sample the ornithological delights of Jamaica was not a difficult one. With its compact size, great infrastructure and profusion of avian endemism, once our research began it was difficult to figure out how we had bypassed this amazing little island for so long!
2017 [03 March] - Jesse Fagan
This was my first trip to Jamaica, and I was blown away. Not literally, like in a hurricane of the sort that sometimes hit the island, but by the diversity (and uniqueness) of the avifauna/endemics, the jerk pork, and the beautiful people. Island birding doesn't get much better than this! Green Castle Estate was also the perfect base for us. I want to thank all our local support, including the staff at GCE, but, of course, to our steady driver, Raymond, who did a wonderful job. It was also great working with our talented local guide, Dwayne Swaby, who did an excellent job. Thanks to all. There were a lot of bird highlights to this trip. Maggie and Raven (of course, Raven!) thought the Jamaican Crow with its bizarre call and active behavior was a hit. I agree. Our Jamaican Owl experience was hard to beat. Which did you prefer? The bird we found along the entrance road (after working hard to find one for several nights) or the pair we ran into in Cockpit Country on a day roost?! There are two endemic parrots to Jamaica, and Roger enjoyed those perched Yellow-billed in the scope. Brian liked the Black-billed. Either way, you can't go wrong. Dean loved the Stolid Flycatcher interaction we had at Green Castle Estate. Finally, Susan enjoyed watching the Orangequit feeding on the palm fruits. However, there was one clear favorite in the group: Crested Quail-Dove!
2017 [11 November] - Jesse Fagan
2017 [12 December] - Cathy McFadden
Most birders visit Jamaica between February and May, at which time a few additional Caribbean endemics are present that either migrate elsewhere or are simply difficult to find in the winter. We found very few trip reports or eBird records from visits in late December or early January, so really weren’t sure what to expect.
2018 [02 February] - John & Jenny Wilsher
...The commonest species seen were Turkey Vultures and Greater Antillean Grackle, which is a very sociable and noisy bird! We soon found our first endemics including the national bird of Jamaica, the Redbilled Streamertail. This handsome hummingbird is quite approachable and we enjoyed close views. Whitecrowned Pigeon and Zenaida Dove were seen, and a pair of nesting American Kestrels patrolled the gardens. A Northern Mockingbird serenaded us with its lovely song; its local name is Nightingale....
2018 [03 March] - Michiel de Boer - Dominican Republic & Jamaica
For some time I wanted to visit these Islands in the Caribbean. Jamaica because of the Streamertails and Dominican Republic (DR) for the Trogon, the monotypic Palmchat and both Islands for the Todies. The annoying fact that there are no direct flights between J and DR has put me off going there in earlier years.
2018 [03 March] - Rich Lindie
...Kicking things off in real style, one of the first birds we encountered was an obliging Jamaican Oriole, while a supporting cast that included male Orangequits, a pair of Jamaican Woodpeckers and a Black-faced Grassquit was also much enjoyed...
Places to Stay
Forres Park Resort 60 acre coffee plantation is the ideal base for exploring the Blue Mountains, Bird Watching, Coffee Farm Tours and biking around the Village of Mavis Bank or just plain do-nothing but stare into Nature…
Great Huts is Paradise on the Edge – where nature, heritage, artistry, comfort and spirituality converge – a beachfront eco-resort set in a jungle landscape, perched on cliffs that overlook the Eastern Caribbean. Our all-price-range accommodations welcome everyone from travelers of independent mind to couples who want everything taken care of for them. Artists and romantics find warmth, executives find much needed balance. Everyone finds inspiration.
Green Castle Estate
If you are looking for a Jamaica villa for rent, jamaican eco resort, or a unique Jamaica vacation, Green Castle Estate, Jamaica is a perfect solution. Green Castle has an intimate guest house or villa rental on a historic plantation set among the lush green beauty of the Jamaican countryside. Our 1600 acres make it a true caribbean eco retreat and a perfect Jamaica family vacation or Jamaican holiday where you can have an authentic experience as well as a relaxing get-away…
Mocking Bird Hill Hotel
…an ideal base for exploring the various natural attractions in the area. The natural, tropical gardens with a multitude of birds and flowers are a paradise for nature lovers. Guests can also enjoy the range of lovely beaches and coves close by. The romantic Frenchman`s Cove beach is just 5 minutes away…
Starlight Chalet & Health Spa
The Blue Mountains provides sanctuary for 95% of Jamaica's endemic birds. Starlight Chalet is serene, and we are surrounded by a mature rain forest and at an elevation of 4000 ft., panoramic view. 17 comfortable rooms with private bath, guided tours and transportation available. Reasonable rates, include breakfast, trail lunch and dinner.
Strawberry Hill is a modern-day classic - a mountainside retreat with harmonious proportions on a former tea estate. Designed by Ann Hodges, its 12 airy cottages are based on 19th century buildings. It`s the perfect choice for guests who value luxury, privacy, romance and verdant beauty…
Birdwatching in Jamaica
Jamaica is one of the most beautiful islands in the world! The bird life there is extremely varied and interesting. With approximately 200 native species that include a whopping 25 endemic species, Jamaica has much to offer the bird watcher!
Windsor Research Centre (WRC) created this website to share information about a globally unique landscape located in the heart of Jamaica. We hope your enjoy your virtual tour of what, in reality, is a rugged and inaccessible part of the island. It is these very characteristics which define Cockpit Country and give it such special importance to Jamaica and the World.
Jamaica Parrot Project
The Jamaica Parrot Project was established in 1995 by BirdLife Jamaica (formerly Gosse Bird Club) with the assistance of the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica and Wildlife Preservation Trust International (Philadelphia, PA). The project represented the first systematic study of Jamaica's two endemic Amazona parrots -- the Black-billed Parrot (Amazona agilis) and the Yellow-billed Parrot (A. collaria).