bird watching in jamaica
Bird Watching, Jamaica

Bird Watching in Jamaica

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Jamaica is the land of wood and water, the reggae capital of the world and the home of ackee and saltfish. But many people do not know that bird watching in Jamaica is another past time that has quietly flown under the radar. Now, the secret is out.

History of Bird Watching In Jamaica

Bird watching in Jamaica has been around for several years but has seen a boost thanks to increased focus on conservation, ecological and environmental awareness. The island has large expanses of mountains, forests and wetlands which are ideal for animals and birds.

There are over three hundred species of birds in Jamaica. This includes local birds that are native to the island as well as migratory birds that visit on an annual basis. It is estimated that there are one hundred and twenty-seven (127) local and one hundred and eighty (180) migratory species.

Birds migrate to the island from as early as August and some of them remain in Jamaica until the next May. Many of these visitors come from North America and a few come from as far as Europe. A few of these bird species specifically fly to Jamaica to breed, which makes bird watching in Jamaica even more fascinating.

Best Places to Go Birding in Jamaica

There are several places to bird watch in Jamaica. Some of them are easily accessible, whilst others may be difficult to reach due to rough terrain. According to the Fat Birder, the top birding spots in Jamaica include:

  • Black River Morass: The Black River Morass is a large wetland that is home to herons, bitterns, rails and the endangered West Indian Whistling Duck.
  • Blue and John Crow Mountains: The famous Blue Mountains and John Crow Mountains in Jamaica are home to several species of hummingbirds, vireos, todies, orioles and tanagers.
  • Castleton Botanical Gardens: One of the oldest botanical gardens in the Western hemisphere, the Castleton Botanical Gardens is home to several species of birds.
  • Cockpit Country: Rumored to be one of the best areas in Jamaica to watch birds, Cockpit Country hosts parrots, blackbirds, doves and cuckoos.
  • Hotel Mockingbird Hill: Located in the Port Antonio, Hotel Mockingbird Hill is a sustainable eco-hotel which is one of the best places to bird watch in Jamaica.
  • Royal Palm Reserve: Royal Palm Reserve is an eco-tourism attraction that’s located in the protected landscape in western Jamaica.

Jamaica’s Bird Species

Of the 300+ birds in Jamaica, there are twenty-eight birds which are endemic to the island. The list below provides the common names of these birds and their scientific names.

Least Concern

Birds in the least concern category are not in any conservation programmes because they are plentiful. Least concern birds in Jamaica are:

  • Arrowhead Warbler (Dendroica pharetra)
  • Black-billed Streamertail (Trochilus scitulus)
  • Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo (Hyetornis pluvialis)
  • Jamaican Becard (Pachyramphus niger)
  • Jamaican Crow (Corvus jamaicensis)
  • Jamaican Elaenia (Myiopagis cotta)
  • Jamaican Euphonia (Euphonia jamaica)
  • Jamaican Lizard Cuckoo (Saurothera vetula)
  • Jamaican Mango (Anthracothorax mango)
  • Jamaican Owl (Pseudoscops grammicus)
  • Jamaican Pewee (Contopus pallidus)
  • Jamaican Spindalis (Spindalis nigricephala)
  • Jamaican Tody (Todus todus)
  • Jamaican Vireo (Vireo modestus)
  • Orangequit (Euneornis campestris)
  • Red-billed Streamertail (Trochilus polytmus)
  • Rufous-tailed Flycatcher (Myiarchus validus)
  • Sad Flycatcher (Myiarchus barbirostris)
  • White-eyed Thrush (Turdus jamaicensis)
  • White-chinned Thrush (Turdus aurantius)
  • Yellow-shouldered Grassquit (Loxipasser anoxanthus)

Vulnerable

Birds in the vulnerable category are facing extinction unless the threats for its survival are removed and reproduction number improve. Vulnerable birds in Jamaica are:

  • Black-billed Parrot (Amazona agilis)
  • Ring-tailed Pigeon (Patagioenas caribaea)
  • Yellow-billed Parrot (Amazona collaria)

Near Threatened

Birds in the near-threatened category are vulnerable to endangerment in future. Near threatened birds in Jamaica are:

  • Blue Mountain Vireo (Vireo osburni)
  • Crested Quail-Dove (Geotrygon versicolor)

Endangered

Birds in the endangered category are likely to become extinct in the near future. Endangered birds in Jamaica are:

  • Jamaican Blackbird (Nesopsar nigerrimus)

Birding Tours and Holidays in Jamaica

Are you interested in a birding tour or a holiday in Jamaica? There are several companies which can plan a bird watching getaway with accommodation, bird watching tours and transportation. Here are a few recommendations:

Arrowhead Birding Tours

Arrowhead Birding Tours was founded in 1912 with the intention of showcasing Jamaica’s unique and beautiful treasures – its birds! The company offers three types of tours – One Day Tour; Seven Days Tour; and the Customised Tour. The One Day Tour takes you through the Blue Mountains and includes lunch. The Seven Days Tour explores the wetlands and drylands of Jamaica as well as the Blue Mountains.

Sun Venture Tours

Sun Venture Tours offers a collection of sightseeing, hiking, camping and special interest tours in Jamaica.  The company offers three birding tours. The Birding in Blue tour is seven hours and tours the Blue Mountains. The Cockpit Forest tour is between nine and twelve hours and visits either Barbecue Bottom or Windsor Forest. The Shore Birds tour offers an opportunity to see a wide variety of shore birds.

Birding Pal Tours

Birding Pal is a unique website that conducts birding tours throughout the world. Their bird watching tours in Jamaica are weekly excursions which provide stunning sightseeing in Jamaica. Tour I is a six day tour which takes in Portland and Southern Jamaica. Tour II is a six day expedition which guides birders through Western Jamaica.

Best Bird Watching Products

As you get ready to go bird watching in Jamaica, you will need the right gear to make your bird watching visit worth it. Here is a list of our recommended bird watching supplies:

Watching Binoculars

The Bushnell Wide Angle Binoculars feature quality optics with a 25 feet close focusing distance. This is a pair of shock resistant and rugged binoculars which features a sturdy, ergonomic rubber housing so that it can be gripped securely as you’re maneuvering through difficult and uneven terrain.

Choose a set of binoculars with revolutionary technology designed with bird watching in mind. The Wingspan Optics WingCatcher Professional Binoculars for Bird Watching are tailored for birding enthusiasts. Features include an extra wide field of view, fully multi-coated lenses and a close focus.

Bird Watching Books and Magazines

Subscribe to Bird Watching, one of Britain’s best selling bird watching magazine. Some of the highlights included in each birding issue are details about the best birding spots around the globe; interesting stories about birding; and  reviews on bird watching technology.

In this Photographic Guide to the Birds of Jamaica, you will learn about the species and where they are found on the island. This photograph rich guide, introduces readers to Jamaica’s 300 species of birds and describes their key identification features, voice, habitat, confusion species, status, and distribution.

Bird Watching Scope

Add a durable, waterproof scope like the one by Wingspan Optics Explorer High Powered Scope to your bird watching arsenal. This versatile and powerful scope gives you a clearer and brighter view. Key features include a durable external armour with a non-slip grip; and waterproofing and fog proofing coatings to stop the lens from fogging up in extreme weather.

The Roxant Authentic Blackbird High Definition Spotting Scope is an affordable option for birders. It is a compact and powerful scope that checks off key points for the perfect birding scope. This model includes the compact precision spotting scope; a portable foldable tripod; a carrying case; and lens caps.

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