Photo: Feeding the Hummingbird (National Bird of Jamaica)
Never before had I experienced such a peaceful and serene environment like that of the Rockland’s Bird Sanctuary! Just to be surrounded by birds and trees, looking out on the most breathtaking view of the city of Montego Bay, there really is nothing like it. Mr Fitz and Kimani, the gracious tour guides at the bird sanctuary shared all they knew about the birds, the sanctuary and the now-deceased founder, Lisa Salmon.
Rockland’s Bird Sanctuary is located just outside the city of Montego Bay in the community of Anchovy. It is hard to imagine that somewhere so tranquil can exist in such close proximity to the hustle and bustle of the second city. Mr Fitz, who has been raising birds since he was a child and has been working at the bird’s sanctuary for 30+ years, shared with us how the sanctuary came to be.
Lisa Salmon, in 1952 started visiting the area to see the birds. She had plans to make it a sanctuary where others could come and visit the birds without having to put the birds in cages. But to do that, the birds had to get accustomed to having people around.
This took a lot longer than I think even Lisa herself had imagined and if I’m honest I might have given up. Lisa on the other hand waited the six long years it took for the birds to be completely comfortable with human presence before finally opening up to guests in 1958. Lisa continued working at Rockland’s until she, unfortunately, passed away in 2000.
Lisa’s dream is kept alive by the two tour guides at the property who educate you on the types of birds and the history of the land while you watch and feed the birds. Mr Fitz and Kimani were able to name the 16 birds that can be found at the bird sanctuary, many of which are of the 25 bird species endemic to Jamaica.
Birds At The Rocklands Bird Sanctuary
Red-Billed Streamer Tail Hummingbird (The National Bird)
Jamaican Orielle (Aunty Katie)
White Chin Thrush (Hoppin Dick)
Caribbean Dove (White Belly Dove)
Common Ground Dove
Grey King Bird (Pitcheree)
Yellow Billed Parrot
Black Billed Parrot
What Do The Birds Eat?
Probably the highlight of the trip for me was feeding the hummingbirds. On arriving, you will be handed a bottle with granulated sugar that hummingbirds would feed from ever so often. The diet of the birds is a combination of Cracked Corn, Millet and Oats, Water, Oranges and Bananas. What came as a shock to me and I’m sure it will surprise you too is the fact, according to Mr Fitz, The Woodpecker and Jamaican Orielle do enjoy a tiny piece of cheese!
Where Do The Birds Sleep?
Usually, birds are seen in cages, but here they are all free to fly around the property unbothered. They are allowed to live in their natural habitats, sleeping and nesting in trees around the large property. Some birds, for example, the Yellow-billed parrots and the Jamaican Tody live so deep in the mountains that we did not get to meet them at all, they only come up to the building occasionally.
The Black-whiskered Vireo (Jamaicans call this one John Chewit) and the Grey King Birds are both migrant birds from South America. During the spring they will fly over to the Caribbean to nest and then fly back to their home country in the fall. I had no clue that the John Chewit was not an endemic bird as I’ve grown accustomed to seeing them or, more accurately hearing them, ever since I was a child.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: What is the National Bird of Jamaica? Answer: The Red-Billed Streamer Tail Hummingbird (Doctor Bird).
Question: Can Flamingos be found in Jamaica? Answer: No
Question: Can Macaws be found in Jamaica? Answer: Yes
If you ever get the chance to visit Rockland’s Bird Sanctuary I strongly suggest you do!
You can contact them by telephone at (876) 952-2009 or visit their website at: https://rocklandsbirdsanctuary.com/.
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