Birders around the world travel extensively to add endemic birds to their life lists – birds that can only be seen wild in one location. The tropical island of Jamaica is one of the most popular Caribbean destinations for endemic birding, and it is home to an astonishing 28 endemic species.
As a tropical island, Jamaica's climate is a bird haven year round. The island also boasts a range of habitats, from lush lowland jungles and extensive shorelines to high elevation mountains and midrange grasslands.
Meandering rivers, dramatic waterfalls, coffee plantations and dry savannahs all contribute to the country's habitat diversity, which in turn leads to its avian diversity. Over the course of a year and counting the wide range of migrant species, more than 300 bird species may be seen in Jamaica. Of them, more than 125 breed on the island, and 28 are found nowhere else in the world.
Endemic Birds of Jamaica
Jamaica's endemic birds include a range of bird families, and while some families only have a single endemic species on the island, all are distinct.
- Crested Quail-Dove (Geotrygon versicolor)
- Ring-Tailed Pigeon (Patagioenas caribaea)
- Black-Billed Parrot (Amazona agilis)
- Yellow-Billed Parrot (Amazona collaria)
- Chestnut-Bellied Cuckoo (Coccyzus pluvialis)
- Jamaican Lizard Cuckoo (Coccyzus vetula)
- Jamaican Owl (Pseudoscops grammicus)
- Black-Billed Streamertail (Trochilus scitulus)
- Jamaican Mango (Anthracothorax mango)
- Red-Billed Streamertail (Trochilus polytmus)
- Jamaican Tody (Todus todus)
- Jamaican Woodpecker (Melanerpes radiolatus)
- Jamaican Becard (Pachyramphus niger)
- Jamaican Elaenia (Myiopagis cotta)
- Jamaican Pewee (Contopus pallidus)
- Rufous-Tailed Flycatcher (Myiarchus validus)
- Sad Flycatcher (Myiarchus barbirostris)
- White-Chinned Thrush (Turdus aurantius)
- White-Eyed Thrush (Turdus jamaicensis)
- Jamaican Crow (Corvus jamaicensis)
- Blue Mountain Vireo (Vireo osburni)
- Jamaican Vireo (Vireo modestus)
- Jamaican Euphonia (Euphonia Jamaica)
- Arrow-Headed Warbler (Dendroica pharetra)
- Jamaican Spindalis (Spindalis nigricephala)
- Orangequit (Euneornis campestris)
- Yellow-Shouldered Grassquit (Loxipasser anoxanthus)
- Jamaican Blackbird (Nesopsar nigerrimus)
Seeing Jamaica's Endemic Birds
Even though Jamaica is the third-largest Caribbean island, it is possible to see all of its endemic bird species in just a few days. Experienced guides and drivers are available who can arrange excursions to the most likely hotspots for visiting birders to get spectacular views of different endemics, such as Ecclesdown Road and Hardwar Gap, two of the most productive areas for birding in Jamaica.
Nature-oriented resorts frequently set up feeders and attract birds for guests to see, and many of the endemic species are easily spotted throughout the island. Others, such as the crested quail-dove and the Jamaican owl, are much more elusive and may require dedicated birding for a satisfactory view.
Birders hoping to see all 28 of the island's endemic birds should…
- Plan a visit of 4-7 days to allow adequate time for visiting different habitats and locations.
- Arrange for experienced local guides to maximize bird sightings.
- Be prepared for long birding days and challenging terrain for the most elusive species.
- Plan a visit during migration for the greatest variety of birds on the island.
With a total of 28 endemic birds to see and hundreds of bird species frequenting the island, Jamaica is an ideal birding location. Proper planning for targeting the endemic species can lead to amazing birding experiences for birders of any level, no matter how much time they have to spend on the island.
Photo – Red-Billed Streamertail © Melissa Mayntz