Birding in Jamaica: What to expect

Jamaica has a warm tropical climate which can get rather humid, especially in the forests. Although it is noticeably cooler in the winter months and high elevations, the only seasons we experience are a wet and dry season. The main dry season runs from December to April while the wet season shows on average peak rainfall in October with a secondary spike in May.

The southern coast of the island is dominated by plains and large rivers which spread out into vast wetlands. The eastern section is mountainous reaching 2,256 m (7,402 ft) at Blue Mountain Peak while smaller mountains form an east to west spine across the island. The central region is dominated by the impressive and almost impenetrable Cockpit Country – a wet limestone forest comprised of hundreds of little hillocks resembling an inverted egg carton.

The road network is mostly paved roads but as birding takes us off the beaten paths you can expect to encounter pothole riddled roads and areas where the paved roads give way to dirt tracks.

Jamaica is the birding gem of the Caribbean, boasting 67 resident landbird species including 30 endemic species, 18 endemic subspecies and over 300 species recorded on the island. Unfortunately 2 of these (the Jamaican Petrel and Jamaican Pauraque) have not been recorded since shortly after the introduction of the mongoose in 1872. There is fading hope that these species still persist. The remaining 28 endemics can be reliably seen on a one week birding trip. It is important to note that the American Ornithologists’ Union (AOU) only recognizes 27 endemics as the Red-billed and the Black-billed varieties of the Streamertail Hummingbird have not been split into separate species. When all the wetland species, migrants, transients and vagrants are considered the species list for Jamaica reaches over 300 birds. A reasonable birding trip during the winter migrant months can expect to see about 120 species.

Arrowhead Birding Tours offers birding in various habitats right across the island but short birding trips will be mainly focused on the eastern section of the island, particularly the Blue Mountains and the parish of Portland.

2 Thoughts on “Birding in Jamaica: What to expect

  1. Hi. any suggestion for a day trip near Negril? I have been in the royal Palm reserve once in the year the last 6 years.I have also been one trip to Blue moutains looking for the black billed streamertail , 2 trips with Wendy Lee in Runaway bay, 2 trips with RAJ tour in blackriver and bluefilds. Just wonder if there are some ponds or nice plasce at the northwest cost you now about??
    Tanks for Answare
    Dagfinn from Norway

    • Hi Dagfinn Dahl, thanks for your interest in birding in Jamaica. There are several places to go birding in western Jamaica. I see that you have already done some extensive birding and been at some of the good spots. The issue however is to correctly point you to the areas to go birding. One good area for wetland birds is the Montego Bay Waste Water Treatment Plant. Be sure to check with the office on the compound so they know what you are doing. I do recommend however that you acquire a local guide whenever you go birding. Please let me know if you need any further assistance.

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