Bird-Watching in Jamaica
Jamaica is a major bird-watching destination, thanks to its various natural habitats. The island is home to more than 200 species, some seen only seasonally or in particular parts of the island. Many bird-watchers flock here for the chance to see the vervain hummingbird (the world's second-smallest bird, larger only than Cuba's bee hummingbird) or the Jamaican tody (which nests underground).
Rocklands Bird Sanctuary and Feeding Station, which is in Anchovy south of Montego Bay, is a great place to go if you want an easy bird-watching experience.
The parish of Portland is, along with the Blue Mountains and Cockpit Country, one of the top birding destinations in Jamaica. Species including the Jamaican tody, black-billed streamtail, ringtail pigeon, and many others can be spotted in this sparsely developed area.
Jamaica Explorations. Jamaica a bird watchers paradise. There are more than 265 species of birds with more than 20 native to Jamaica. There are more species native to Jamaica than any other Caribbean Island. Among the several guided tours for birders is a special hummingbird tour. Hotel Mockingbird Hill, listed in "Birds of West Indies" as one of the best places for bird watching, is where these tours originate. Tours are given in two areas—either in the Reach Falls area or Blue Mountains. Rates include transportation. Hotel Mockingbird Hill, Port Antonio. 876/993–7267. www.jamaicaexplorations.com. $330 Blue Mountains tour; $130 Reach Falls tour.
Kingston and the Blue Mountains
Some of Jamaica's best birding opportunities are found above Kingston in the misty Blue Mountains, especially in the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park. You'll probably see the national bird, the streamer-tail hummingbird, a large hummingbird with a dramatic forked tail. Known locally as the "doctor bird," it's one of Jamaica's 28 endemic species. Other unique birds to watch for include the Jamaican woodpecker, Blue Mountain vireo, Rufous-tailed flycatcher, arrow-headed warbler, Jamaican stripe-headed tanager, and yellow-shouldered grassquit. Another popular birding area is on Lime Cay, just offshore from Port Royal.
Arrowhead Birding Tours. This company runs birding tours across the island, including customized trips and annual eight-day trips in November, February, and March. Customized tours available. Kingston. 876/260–9006. www.arrowheadbirding.com. $130.
Birdlife Jamaica. The nonprofit Birdlife Jamaica organizes bird-watching trips into the Blue Mountains and nearby John Crow Mountains, as well as other parts of the island. University of the West Indies Mona, Dept. of Life Sciences, Mona Rd., Kingston. 876/260–9006.
Sun Venture Tours. Billed as tours for nature lovers Sun Venture Tours offers 25 different special-interest tours across the island, including bird-watching. 30 Balmoral Ave., Kingston. 876/960–6685; 876/408–6973 After office hours and weekends. www.sunventuretours.com.
The South Coast is an excellent destination for birders who come in search of the mountain witch, jabbering crow, mango hummingbird, Jamaican oriole, and even the endangered yellow-billed parrot. The town of Bluefields was the home of the island's most famous naturalist, Englishman Philip Henry Gosse, who wrote several guides to Jamaica's birds.
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