Bird Watching in Jamaica | 10 Places You Must Visit
by Deon Clarke | Associate Writer
Have you ever taken the time to just stop and look at a bird, any bird? It is an amazing experience. Thanks to its many natural habitats, Jamaica’s birdlife is considered to be one of the most distinctive worldwide. As a child, I would go bird hunting in the bushes but it was never about enjoying or appreciating these magnificent beauties. I developed a greater appreciation for birds later on in life as I had a friend who had quite a few – parrots, budgies, cockatiels, love birds and so on.
My experience was elevated when I visited Jamaica Zoo in St. Elizabeth and saw the macaws in the trees. Oh My God! It was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever seen in my entire life – bright and beautiful colours of blue, red and yellow amidst the green leaves as they perch on branches, absolutely heaven made! If I could, I would still be sitting there, just watching them fly from one branch to the next. It’s just awesome. You should try it sometime.
Here in Jamaica, many persons enjoy bird watching and there are several cool spots to go and enjoy the scenery. The early mornings or late afternoons are considered the best time for bird-watching in Jamaica. With over 300 species of birds here on the island, 29 of which are indigenous to Jamaica, bird lovers will traverse from all over the world to get a glimpse of some of these especially the Vervain hummingbird (the second smallest bird in the world). As the experts will tell you, this exercise requires a good amount of time and patience. An avid bird watcher has this attribute in abundance. For some Jamaicans though, the only form of bird watching they might do involuntarily is looking at the cattle egrets (called gaalin) on the backs of cows :-). So where in Jamaica can you go to do your real bird-watching? Let’s take a look at 10 places.
Hotel Mocking Bird Hill - The Blue Mountains, Portland
The Gardens at Hotel Mockingbird Hill are highly recommended by Birds of the West Indies as 22 of the 29 Jamaican endemics along with 6 Caribbean endemics that can be found on this 7½ acre property. This spot is particularly known as one of the best places to see the Black-billed Streamer Tailed Hummingbird. The lush gardens are a great habitat for over 72 bird species, including many migrants. About 17 species of North American warblers were observed here.
Frenchman’s Cove – Portland
The 48 acres of Frenchman’s Cove is home to many rare and unique birds making it the perfect location for bird enthusiasts to stay.
For bird watching tours Frenchman’s Cove collaborates with Jamaican Birding and Arrowhead Birding. Tours can be booked with them directly.
The Gardens at Reach Falls, Portland
You can see the morning and afternoon birds feeding such as the Blue Mountain Vireo, Jamaican Blackbird, Crested Quail Dove, Jamaican Tody, Yellow-billed Parrot, Jamaican Becard, Jamaican Elaenia, Jamaican Spindalis, Jamaican Euphonia, White-chinned Thrush, White-eyed Thrush and Orangequit, Jamaican Lizard Cuckoo, Jamaican Pewee, Jamaican Woodpecker, Red-tailed Hawk and more.
Ecclesdown Road - The Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park, Eastern Jamaica
The Natural Forest is over 41,000 acres of land and stretches across four parishes; St Andrew, St Thomas, Portland and St Mary. There is a Southern entry in Portland.
In this area, you can expect to see birds including the endangered Jamaican Black-bird, Jamaican Elaenia, the near-endangered Crested Quail Dove, Vervain Hummingbird, Ring-tailed Pigeon, Black-billed Parrot, Yellow-Shouldered Grassquit, Jamaican Lizard Cuckoo Blue Mountain Vireo, Jamaican Tody, Jamaican Becard, Rufous-tailed Flycatcher, Olive-throated Parakeet, Greater Antillean Bullfinch, Jamaican Crow, Arrowhead Warbler and others of the 29 endemics.
JAMAICA CONSERVATION AND DEVELOPMENT TRUST
25 Eastwood Park Road, Kingston 10
Telephone: 876-619-9807, Cellphone & Whatsapp: 876-357-9565
Rockland’s Bird Sanctuary- Anchovy, Montego Bay, St. James
Get close up views of the Orangequit, the Red-billed Streamertail, the Mango Hummingbird, finches, doves, and many more at this privately owned reserve.
The Enchanted Garden Resort- Ocho Rios, St. Ann
Here in the beautiful botanical gardens, you will find over 80 species of the most friendly, magnificent tropical birds that you can feed and pet as they land on your hand and even your head. Among these exotic birds are, macaws, wild birds, hummingbirds, and woodpeckers.
The Cockpit Country – Stretches along, Trelawny, St. James, St. Elizabeth, St. Ann, Manchester and parts of Clarendon
The Cockpit Country is Jamaica’s largest remaining protected rainforest. Here you will get an amazing opportunity to spot the 29 endemic Jamaican bird species along with so many more. This is another great spot for bird watching enthusiasts.
Maroon Town – Cockpit Country Tours
Telephone: 876- 952- 4546
Cockpit Country Adventure Tours
Telephone: 876-393-6584 or email: email@example.com
The Black River Upper Morass - Black River, St. Elizabeth
The Black River Upper Morass is part of Jamaica's largest wetland and an IBA. In this area, you will find some very rare occupants such as the Spotted Rail and Yellow-breasted Crake. Look out for the West Indian Whistling Ducks, Masked Duck, Least Bittern, Limpkin, Purple Gallinule and many others. Others that have migrated to the area include Flamingos, Sora, Wilson’s Snipe, Northern Harrier, Great Blue Heron, Peregrine Falcon, Merlin and often flocks of Hirundines. Wintering warblers are also present in large numbers.
Contact: Black River Safari Tours
P.O. Box 129, Mandeville – Jamaica
Telephone: (876) 965-2513
South Coast Safaris Ltd.
1 Crane Road
Black River, Jamaica WI
Tel: 876-965-2513, Fax: 876-965-2086
The Fonthill Wildlife Sanctuary – Fonthill, St. Elizabeth
The Fonthill Wildlife Sanctuary includes a coastal mangrove preserve where birds are in abundance. While it is privately owned, Fonthill was a popular hunting site for 'bird shooters' who were more interested in gaming birds such as the pigeons, doves, and bald plates that make their nest in the pimento trees on the property. Cattle egrets are also plentiful around cattle farms where they can be seen eating the insects off the animals. They roost in the nearby mangrove trees in the evenings in large numbers. Other water loving birds that can be found here are the black-billed whistling ducks, jacanas, pelicans, lunate bluewings, and herons.
Dean’s Valley Forest Reserve and the Woodlands above Whitehouse – Westmoreland
Of the 29 Jamaican endemic species, persons have observed about 21 in these areas, along with an additional 13 endemic subspecies. You can expect to see favourites such as the Jamaican Spindalis, Jamaican Elaenia, Jamaican Euphonia, Jamaican Tody Jamaican Pewee, Orangequit, Olive-throated Parakeet, Northern Potoo (seen sometimes during day-time roost), Rufous-tailed Flycatcher, Jamaican Woodpecker, Arrowhead Warbler, Greater Antillean Bullfinch, and the Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo.
You will find that there are different offerings for guided tours at varying prices and packages for bird watching. Some of these are included above. Of course, there are a lot more places where you can do bird watching in Jamaica, whether guided or private. Be sure to check these spots out and remember to share your amazing experiences with us.
I also recommend you read Native Birds of Jamaica: Three Little Birds
- “Bird-Watching”, Foders, https://www.fodors.com/world/caribbean/jamaica/things-to-do/sports-activities/bird-watching-275531080
- “Birdwatching in Jamaica” Birdingpal, http://www.birdingpal.org/Jamaica.htm
- “Bird watching & walks”, Frenchman’s Cove, https://frenchmanscove.com/bird-watching-and-nature-walks/
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