Birding in Jamaica and the Caribbean

One of the least well-known aspects of the Caribbean is the richness of its biodiversity, which is comparable to that of the Galapagos Islands. There are few mammals, but a wide variety of birds and reptiles take their place. The rich heritage of single island endemic species and genera make the Caribbean one of the most fascinating places for birders to visit.

Jamaican birds

Jamaica's avifauna is one of the most distinctive in the world. It includes at least 29 endemic species including 4 endemic genera. There are also 16 endemic sub-species, 4 Caribbean endemic species and 13 Caribbean endemic subspecies making a total of 62 Caribbean species. The rich avifauna reflects the richness of landscape in Jamaica. Whilst searching for endemic species you will visit many of the most beautiful places in the country, from mangrove swamps to cloud forests high in the Blue Mountains.  

 

 jamaican streamertail: an endemic genus

jamaican streamertail: an endemic genus

 d. brandon hay leads tours with Ann sutton

d. brandon hay leads tours with Ann sutton

 Brandon Hay and a group of birders at marshall's Pen

Brandon Hay and a group of birders at marshall's Pen


Jamaican natural history

Jamaican is particularly rich in endemic plants (925 species), reptiles (21 species), frogs (21 species), land snails (505 species), butterflies (21 species) and other invertebrates. If you are interested in general natural history we can develop tours for you.

 
 Graham's anole at marshall's Pen

Graham's anole at marshall's Pen

 
 A hill in cockpit country

A hill in cockpit country


 Cockpit country shrouded in early morning mist

Cockpit country shrouded in early morning mist

 Black river upper morass

Black river upper morass

 
 Braziletto mountains and west HARBOR seen from portland ridge

Braziletto mountains and west HARBOR seen from portland ridge

 parottee pond

parottee pond

 flamingoes at great pedro pond

flamingoes at great pedro pond



 Blue mountains from harwar gap

Blue mountains from harwar gap


 tree fern on ecclesdown road

tree fern on ecclesdown road

Bird and natural history tours in Jamaica and the Caribbean

 jamaican owl at marshall's pen

jamaican owl at marshall's pen

Jamaica is one of the richest and most accessible places to explore the rich diversity of Caribbean birds. Visit for a week and you will have a very good chance of seeing all the 29 endemic species. And your birding experience will be greatly enhanced if you are with an experienced guide. We are also interested in natural history (including dragonflies and butterflies) and are both qualified scuba divers, and keen photographers and videographers, so if you want a custom tour including other activities we can help.

Ann has been leading bird and natural history tours in Jamaica and other parts of the Caribbean for many years, first with her late husband Robert Sutton and then with her business partner, D. Brandon Hay. She works with many of the leading companies in the US and UK and has also led tours with Chinese and Japanese groups. She also leads and designs private tours. As a keen photographer herself, she particularly enjoys leading photographic tours.

D. Brandon Hay has a lot of experience leading bird tours for Victor Emanuel Nature Tours and other companies in Jamaica as well as leading private tours. He is Science Officer and Fish Sanctuary Manager for C-CAM.

Hire us as your guides and we will work with you to develop a tour that suits your interests, pace and pocket, whether it is a day, a week or more.

What can you see?

Depending on the season, you may see all or most of the Caribbean endemic species and speciality birds as well as landscape on an almost continental scale, and many endemic plants, butterflies and lizards.

When can we go?

You can visit Marshall's Pen at any time of the year, by appointment only. The most popular time of year for birders is March-April, but we can show you all the endemics at any time of year. Even in May and October, which tend to be the wettest months, rain falls mainly in the afternoon, leaving plenty of time for birding in the morning,  There are also some scheduled tours to Jamaica that you can join e.g. with groups including Birdquest, Victor Emanuel Nature Tours, BirdFinders and Borderland Tours.

Where can we go?

From Marshall's Pen

Marshall's Pen is a great central location from which to bird and explore Jamaica's natural history in the centre and on the south coast of Jamaica. It is also a great place to visit.


Marshall's Pen

 location of marshall's pen and adjacent birding spots

location of marshall's pen and adjacent birding spots


Cockpit Country

Cockpit Country is the place of myths and legends about the Maroons. Its dramatic Karst limestone landscape provides excellent bird watching. Speciality birds include the Black-billed and Yellow-billed Parrots.


 jamaican chequerspot butterfly in cockpit country

jamaican chequerspot butterfly in cockpit country

 

Black River Upper Morass

Black River Upper Morass is part of the largest freshwater wetland systems in Jamaica. Rarities such as West Indian Whistling-Duck, Spotted Rail, Masked Duck and Yellow-breasted Crake are possible.

 american crocodile in the black river

american crocodile in the black river

 

Portland Ridge in the Portland Bight Protected Area

The dry limestone forests of Portland Ridge and Hellshire provide habitat for the endemic race of Bahama Mockingbird. They are also a good place to see Stolid Flycatcher and Caribbean Dove.

 

Parottee Pond

The mangrove lagoons of Parottee Pond are good places to see migratory shorebirds and terns.


 

Great Pedro Pond

In a good year, Great Pedro Pond can provide habitat for a variety of migratory shorebirds and ducks.


 

From other locations

A few places are too far from Mandeville to be easily reached in a day trip. These include Hardwar Gap and Ecclesdown Road in the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park.


Hardwar Gap

The mountains at Hardwar Gap and Silver Hill Gap are great places to see Ring-tailed Pigeon, Jamaican Blackbird and Blue Mountain Vireo as well as other endemic species.

 

Ecclesdown Road

The steamy wet limestone forests of eastern Jamaica can be a good place to see all the endemics, but the special bird is the Black-billed Streamertail, which is only found in the east of Jamaica. 


Caribbean Birding Trail

BirdsCaribbean is developing the Caribbean Birding Trail to help residents and travelers to the region to connect to the rich cultural and natural history of the Caribbean islands through birds.For more information about birding in the Caribbean visit their website http://caribbeanbirdingtrail.org