Jamaica

Red-billed Streamertail Trochilus polytmus ©Dick Daniels Website
Birding Jamaica

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.

Top Sites
  • Black River Morass - wetland

    Satellite View
    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.
  • Blue Mountains

    Satellite View
    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

    Satellite View
    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

    Satellite View
    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

    Satellite View
    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)

    Satellite View
    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

    Satellite View
    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

    Satellite View
    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

    Satellite View
    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.
  • San San

    Satellite View
    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

    Satellite View
    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.
Contributors
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 322

    (As at October 2018)

    National Bird: Red-billed Streamertail [Doctor Bird] Troclilus polytmus

Endemics
  • 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)
Checklist

  • iGoTerra Checklist

    iGoTerra Checklist
    Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web
Useful Reading

  • 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: 9781871104127 Buy 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: 9781845375911 Buy 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: 9781408107430 Buy 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 | #123199 | ISBN: Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • The Birds of the West Indies

    | By Guy M Kirwan, Anthony Levesque, Mark W Oberle & Christopher J Sharpe | Lynx Edicions | 2019 | 400 pages, 1600+ colour illustrations, 650+ colour distribution maps | ISBN: 9788416728176 Buy this book from NHBS.com
Organisations
  • BirdLife Jamaica

    Facebook Page
    Birdlife Jamaica is a non-profit organization committed to the conservation of Jamaica's birds and their habitats.
Reserves

Abbreviations Key

  • IBA Paradise Park

    WebpageSatellite View
    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

    InformationSatellite View
    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

    InformationSatellite View
    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.
  • WS Font Hill

    InformationSatellite View
    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…
  • Wetland of International Importance

    WebpageSatellite View
    Jamaica currently has four sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Sites), with a surface area of 37,847 hectares.
Guides & Tour Operators


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  • Birding Ecotours

    Tour Operator
    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

    Tour Operator
    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
  • Forres Park

    Tour Operator
    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

    Tour Operator
    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

    Tour Operator
    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.
Trip Reports


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  • 2012 [12 December] - Gina Nichol & Steve Bird

    PDF Report
    ….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…
  • 2014 [03 March] - Rob Gordijn & Helen Rijkes

    PDF Report
    …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

    PDF Report
    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

    Report
    ...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 March] - Sam Woods

    PDF Report
    ...we also added some Caribbean specialties too, like Bahama Mockingbird, Plain Pigeon, Antillean Palm Swift, Vervain Hummingbird, Greater Antillean Elaenia, Loggerhead Kingbird, StolidFlycatcher, Rufous-throated Solitaire, Greater Antillean Bullfinch, and Jamaican Oriole.
  • 2015 [06 June] - Mike Powell

    PDF Report
    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 theneed 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

    PDF Report
    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

    PDF Report
    ...Our final day in Jamaica. Started the journey to Kingston airport afterbreakfast. 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 walkedaround an hour and a half before we drove the last bit to the airport...
  • 2016 [03 March] - Eric Hynes

    Report
    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

    Report
    ...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

    PDF Report
    While seeing the “full house” of Jamaican endemic birds was normal and expected, we also saw some other lesspredictable 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

    PDF Report
    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

    PDF Report
    ...a Sad Flycatcher landed in a nearby bush, and Jamaican Spindalis and Jamaican Orioles came in to join it. After wehad 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

    PDF Report
    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

    PDF Report
    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

    Report
    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 [04 April] - Mark Van Beirs

    PDF Report
    The Jamaica section of our Greater Antilles tour started at Kingston airport in the middle of a hot March day. From here we drove along the big lagoon and through infamous Kingston towards the hilly centre of the island, picking up Brown Pelican, Magnificent Frigatebird, Turkey Vulture, Laughing Gull, Royal Tern, Northern Mockingbird and Greater Antillean Grackle on the way.
  • 2017 [11 November] - Jesse Fagan

    Report
    Annotated list
  • 2017 [12 December] - Cathy McFadden

    Report
    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 [03 March] - Michiel de Boer - Dominican Republic & Jamaica

    Report
    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

    PDF Report
    ...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...
  • 2019 [02 February] - Stefan Schlick

    PDF Report
    Portland Audubon’s 2019 Jamaica trip ended up being a great trip, but there had been some early adversity. First we struggled to get enough participants, but eventually had 6 (which was perfect!). Then the weather forecast for the flight out of Portland on the 9th looked horrible, with a winter storm arriving in the little hours. Nevertheless, we all got out well and made it to Kingston without any issues.
  • 2019 [04 April] - Mark Van Beirs

    PDF Report
    Birds that made a lasting impression in Jamaica included Masked Duck, Least Bittern, Jamaican Owl, the exquisite Red-billed Streamertail, Vervain Hummingbird, Jamaican Tody, Rufous-throated Solitaire and Arrowhead Warbler.
  • 2019 [08 August] - Jim Holmes - Cruise Ship Birding from Montego Bay

    Report
    My family and I went on a Carnival cruise that departed from New Orleans (Aug 11 - 18, 2019). We stopped in Montego Bay Jamaica on Aug 14. The information below would be useful for those arriving via cruise ship who wish to bird around the Montego Bay area.
Places to Stay


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  • Forres Park

    Accommodation
    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

    Accommodation
    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

    Accommodation
    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

    Accommodation
  • Strawberry Hill

    Accommodation
    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…
Other Links
  • Birdwatching in Jamaica

    Website
    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!
  • Cockpit Country

    Website
    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

    Website
    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).

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