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Field Guides Tour Report
Jamaica I 2019
Feb 24, 2019 to Mar 2, 2019
Chris Benesh & Dwayne Swaby

The highlight of any Jamaica tour is the charming and diminutive Jamaican Tody. Photo by guide Chris Benesh.

Thanks to all of you for coming along on the first of Field Guides 2019 Jamaica tours. Having last visited this island in the mid-1990s, it was a treat to get back there and see just how much the experience had improved! Under the excellent leadership of Dwayne Swaby we had some great success tracking down the Jamaican endemics as well as other Caribbean specialties. The birding was fantastic with some of those seen being quite memorable. On top of the birds, it was wonderful to see a few interesting reptiles and amphibians, cool arthropods, and some wonderful plants. We also enjoyed the playful banter of Dwayne and driver Raymond Condappa, and sampled a few Jamaican customs. Perhaps most notable was drinking coconut water from freshly harvested coconuts and sampling Blue Mountain coffee at a tiny plantation in Hardwar Gap.

This short tour begins and ends in Montego Bay, staying at the charming Mynt Retreat in Montego Bay, and at the impressive Green Castle Estate near Annotto Bay on the north side of the island. Day trips from there took us to some productive areas, including Ecclesdown Road, Vinery, Hardwar Gap in the Blue Mountains, Dunn’s River Falls, and the Rocklands Bird Sanctuary finale. Which of the many specialty birds stand out most? A tough call, but the Jamaican Tody won the hearts of most. Jamaican Owl and Northern Potoo were both impressive, and the Jamaican Lizard-Cuckoo and Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo are both memorable. While only having a few hummingbirds, Jamaica does them well. What can beat having a Streamertail or Jamaican Mango feeding on sugar water while perched on your finger?

Thanks again to all of you for making the Jamaica tour so special! — Chris

One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant

A pause in the birding at Green Castle Estate, with Dwayne keeping us entertained. Photo by participant Greg Griffith.

Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)
BLUE-WINGED TEAL (Spatula discors)
NORTHERN SHOVELER (Spatula clypeata) – Quite a few of these were at the Montego Bay Sewage Treatment Ponds.
RING-NECKED DUCK (Aythya collaris)
LESSER SCAUP (Aythya affinis) – A female was present at the reservoir below Green Castle Estate (GCE).
MASKED DUCK (Nomonyx dominicus) – This was a huge bonus for the trip thanks to a local groundskeeper that told Dwayne and Raymond about this site. Perhaps as many as nine of were these present, including at least one male in mostly bright plumage.
RUDDY DUCK (Oxyura jamaicensis)

The Rocklands Bird Sanctuary was a wonderful spot and provided opportunities to feed streamertails! Photo by guide Chris Benesh.

Podicipedidae (Grebes)
LEAST GREBE (Tachybaptus dominicus)
PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps)
Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)
ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]
WHITE-CROWNED PIGEON (Patagioenas leucocephala) – This species was plentiful in all of the coastal areas we passed through. Quite a few on the wing early and late in the day.
RING-TAILED PIGEON (Patagioenas caribaea) – We had good flyovers on the Ecclesdown Road and even found a nest and close perched birds in the Blue Mountains. [E]
COMMON GROUND-DOVE (Columbina passerina jamaicensis)

One of the toughest grail birds on the Jamaica tour is the Crested Quail-Dove. Raymond spotted one for us on the Eccelesdown Road that provided wonderful views. Photo by guide Chris Benesh.

CRESTED QUAIL-DOVE (Geotrygon versicolor) – Wow, this was certainly a highlight of the trip for nearly everyone. The mountain witch, as it is known, showed really well for us, thanks to Raymond's keen spotting on the Ecclesdown Road. [E]
RUDDY QUAIL-DOVE (Geotrygon montana) – Mostly heard, a couple of us saw one fly across the reservoir at GCE and Ron also saw one there.
CARIBBEAN DOVE (Leptotila jamaicensis jamaicensis) – We heard many more than we saw, and it wasn't until we birded the Rocklands Bird Sanctuary that we could appreciate them to the fullest.
WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica)
ZENAIDA DOVE (Zenaida aurita) – Looking a bit like a plump, short tailed version of a Mourning Dove, we had some nice looks at this Caribbean species.
MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura) – A few were seen in flight right along the coast late in the tour.

One of the Northern Potoos hanging out at the Green Castle Estate. Photo by participant Greg Griffith.

Cuculidae (Cuckoos)
SMOOTH-BILLED ANI (Crotophaga ani) – Our best encounter was perhaps the ones at the Masked Duck pond.
CHESTNUT-BELLIED CUCKOO (Coccyzus pluvialis) – Wow, what an impressive beast! A couple were seen at GCE and another was along the Ecclesdown Road. [E]
JAMAICAN LIZARD-CUCKOO (Coccyzus vetula) – This distinctive cuckoo has a rather long bill. We had our first at GCE and another couple along the Vinery trail. [E]
Nyctibiidae (Potoos)
NORTHERN POTOO (CARIBBEAN) (Nyctibius jamaicensis jamaicensis) – Some great looks at this species right at our lodging at Green Castle Estate. Notice the scientific name for this species, first described from here.
Apodidae (Swifts)
ANTILLEAN PALM-SWIFT (Tachornis phoenicobia phoenicobia) – A few encounters with this fast flying species. As its name suggests, it is found only in the Caribbean.
Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)
JAMAICAN MANGO (Anthracothorax mango) – A regular visitor to the porch feeder at GCE, and we had some really close encounters at Rocklands where some were hand-fed sugar water. [E]

The impressive Jamaican Lizard-Cuckoo! Photo by participant Greg Griffith.

VERVAIN HUMMINGBIRD (Mellisuga minima minima) – The second smallest hummingbird, we had a few encounters here and there. The most memorable one for me was the singing bird hanging out at Vinery.
STREAMERTAIL (RED-BILLED) (Trochilus polytmus polytmus) – What a distinctive species with its audible whirring sound. Many, many great encounters, including the opportunity to hand feed them at Rocklands. Wow! [E]
STREAMERTAIL (BLACK-BILLED) (Trochilus polytmus scitulus) – Found principally in the John Crow Mountains, this subspecies is restricted to east of Jamaica's Rio Grande. It is often recognized as a full species (e.g. HBW, IOC World Bird List). [E]
Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)
COMMON GALLINULE (Gallinula galeata)
AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana)
Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)
BLACK-NECKED STILT (Himantopus mexicanus)

In the Jim Crow Mountains, we came across the black-billed form of Streamertail, often considered a distinct species. Photo by participant Greg Griffith.

Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)
KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)
Jacanidae (Jacanas)
NORTHERN JACANA (Jacana spinosa violacea)
Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)
RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres)
SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius)
GREATER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa melanoleuca)
LESSER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa flavipes)

While in the rest of Jamaica, the red-billed form occurs. Photo by participant Greg Griffith.

Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)
LAUGHING GULL (Leucophaeus atricilla)
ROYAL TERN (Thalasseus maximus)
Fregatidae (Frigatebirds)
MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRD (Fregata magnificens) – Quite a good showing of these at our lunch stop near the coast on the final day.
Pelecanidae (Pelicans)
BROWN PELICAN (SOUTHERN) (Pelecanus occidentalis occidentalis)
Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)
GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)
GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)

The furtive highlands dwelling Arrowhead Warbler was one of the trickier species to see well. Photo by participant Greg Griffith.

SNOWY EGRET (Egretta thula)
LITTLE BLUE HERON (Egretta caerulea)
CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis)
GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens)
YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nyctanassa violacea) – Several seen with a particularly good look at one in Dunn's River Falls.
Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)
GLOSSY IBIS (Plegadis falcinellus)

The Caribbean Dove must be the most attractive of the Leptotila doves. Photo by guide Chris Benesh.

Cathartidae (New World Vultures)
TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)
Pandionidae (Osprey)
OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus)
Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)
RED-TAILED HAWK (JAMAICENSIS) (Buteo jamaicensis jamaicensis) – Fun to see the nominate subspecies of Red-tail, one of two subspecies found in the Caribbean.
Tytonidae (Barn-Owls)
BARN OWL (AMERICAN) (Tyto alba furcata) – Ron saw one of these at GCE and others reported hearing them.
Strigidae (Owls)
JAMAICAN OWL (Pseudoscops grammicus) – Great looks at a female near the Green Castle Estates buildings and a few of us also saw a male at dusk earlier that same day. [E]
Todidae (Todies)
JAMAICAN TODY (Todus todus) – This tiny bird is one of five species of todies, all found in the Caribbean. It won the hearts of all of us. [E]

Jamaica is home to three species of Myiarchus flycatchers, including this Rufous-tailed. Photo by guide Chris Benesh.

Picidae (Woodpeckers)
JAMAICAN WOODPECKER (Melanerpes radiolatus) – Part of the familiar Gila/Golden-fronted/Red-bellied clade, this was one of the commonest species. [E]
Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)
AMERICAN KESTREL (HISPANIOLAN) (Falco sparverius dominicensis) – Some distinctive looking kestrels here in Jamaica. They seemed to be doing quite well here.
MERLIN (Falco columbarius) – Nice looks at one perched over the Masked Duck pond.
PEREGRINE FALCON (Falco peregrinus) – Ron spotted one soaring a couple of miles away that we could just make out enough detail to tell it was a Peregrine.
Psittacidae (New World and African Parrots)
BLACK-BILLED PARROT (Amazona agilis) – Often one of the toughest endemics to get, we had great views of a few of these perched on the Ecclesdown Road. [E]
YELLOW-BILLED PARROT (Amazona collaria) – Our best views were of some in flight along the Ecclesdown Road. [E]

We saw a number of the strange Loggerhead Kingbirds, a rather atypical kingbird. Photo by participant Greg Griffith.

GREEN-RUMPED PARROTLET (Forpus passerinus) – Native to northern South America, this species is established in Jamaica. [I]
Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)
JAMAICAN ELAENIA (Myiopagis cotta) – This was one of the more elusive endemics. We managed to see a couple, and heard a few more. [E]
JAMAICAN PEWEE (Contopus pallidus) – Perhaps the plainest of Jamaica's flycatchers, this one is Contopus in shape, but almost devoid of any markings. [E]
SAD FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus barbirostris) – This small species is closely related to the Dusky-capped Flycatcher of mainland Americas. [E]
RUFOUS-TAILED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus validus) – An impressively big Myiarchus that we saw several times; with a dark face and really rusty edged wings and tail. [E]

One of the scarcer flycatchers was this Jamaican Elaenia seen on the first full day of birding. Photo by guide Chris Benesh.

STOLID FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus stolidus stolidus) – We had one well in the afternoon at GCE and another unseen one was quite vocal at Rocklands.
LOGGERHEAD KINGBIRD (LOGGERHEAD) (Tyrannus caudifasciatus jamaicensis) – A rather atypical Caribbean-based Tyrannus, this is a forest dwelling species. In addition to them being un-kingbird like, this species, as it is currently comprised, includes some distinctive island forms that are likely good species, based on vocal and plumage differences.
Tityridae (Tityras and Allies)
JAMAICAN BECARD (Pachyramphus niger) – Several encounters. The song is quite a bit like the more familiar Rose-throated, but the call note not so much. Best views of a male came later in the trip. [E]
Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)
BLUE MOUNTAIN VIREO (Vireo osburni) – A scarce species, but we managed a couple of fantastic looks on the Ecclesdown Road. [E]
JAMAICAN VIREO (Vireo modestus) – This pale eyed species has one of the more variable songs, some reminiscent of Mangrove Vireo. Widespread throughout the island. [E]
BLACK-WHISKERED VIREO (Vireo altiloquus altiloquus) – A few recent arrivals were heard singing at GCE and Dunn's, but boy, were they tough to see well.

A male Jamaican Becard, one of several seen on the tour. Photo by guide Chris Benesh.

Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)
JAMAICAN CROW (Corvus jamaicensis) – This was certainly one of the stranger crows out there. We saw some in flight early on, but it wasn't until our visit to Dunn's River Falls that we finally really had a good encounter. [E]
Hirundinidae (Swallows)
CAVE SWALLOW (CARIBBEAN) (Petrochelidon fulva poeciloma) – A few seen along the coast.
Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)
RUFOUS-THROATED SOLITAIRE (RUFOUS-THROATED) (Myadestes genibarbis solitarius) – A great songster. We managed to see a couple of these well in the highlands. The subspecies is endemic to Jamaica.
WHITE-EYED THRUSH (Turdus jamaicensis) – This was one of the more elusive endemics to track down. After several brief encounters, we spotted one on the edge of the road which Dwayne said was about only the fourth time he had ever seen that species on the ground! [E]
WHITE-CHINNED THRUSH (Turdus aurantius) – Fairly common, especially at higher elevations. [E]
Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)
NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus polyglottos)

We were fortunate with some good views of the Blue Mountain Vireo. Photo by guide Chris Benesh.

Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)
JAMAICAN EUPHONIA (Euphonia jamaica) – In a genus known for its bright colors, this one missed out big time. But it's all Euphonia in voice, shape, and behavior. [E]
Spindalidae (Spindalises)
JAMAICAN SPINDALIS (Spindalis nigricephala) – Part of the old Stripe-headed Tanager complex, this complex is now in its own family. We had a number of nice studies. [E]
Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)
JAMAICAN ORIOLE (Icterus leucopteryx leucopteryx) – Quite widespread, this species has a somewhat peculiar song.
JAMAICAN BLACKBIRD (Nesopsar nigerrimus) – We had some great views of a pair of these along the Ecclesdown Road and then another brief pair in the Blue Mountains. [E]
SHINY COWBIRD (Molothrus bonariensis) – What an amazing song!
GREATER ANTILLEAN GRACKLE (Quiscalus niger crassirostris)

We saw a number of Orangequits, a species and genus endemic to Jamaica, but it wasn't until we got to Rocklands that we could really fully appreciate the orange chins. Photo by guide Chris Benesh.

Parulidae (New World Warblers)
OVENBIRD (Seiurus aurocapilla) – We saw a couple strutting down the trail ahead of us in the way they do.
WORM-EATING WARBLER (Helmitheros vermivorum) – Always a treat to see this species, we watched a couple of them working dead leaf clumps.
LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia motacilla)
COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas)
ARROWHEAD WARBLER (Setophaga pharetra) – A fast moving species found at higher elevations. We had several brief looks before we really connected with them in the Blue Mountains. [E]

We were fortunate to connect with Black-billed Parrot on our first visit to the highlands. Photo by guide Chris Benesh.

AMERICAN REDSTART (Setophaga ruticilla)
CAPE MAY WARBLER (Setophaga tigrina)
NORTHERN PARULA (Setophaga americana)
YELLOW WARBLER (GOLDEN) (Setophaga petechia eoa)
BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER (Setophaga caerulescens)
PRAIRIE WARBLER (Setophaga discolor)

We had some nice studies of the stunning Jamaican Spindalis. Photo by participant Greg Griffith.

Thraupidae (Tanagers and Allies)
BANANAQUIT (GREATER ANTILLEAN) (Coereba flaveola flaveola) – Very widespread species in much of the neotropics lowlands, once placed in its own family.
YELLOW-FACED GRASSQUIT (Tiaris olivaceus olivaceus)
BLACK-FACED GRASSQUIT (Tiaris bicolor marchii) – We had our best views of birds coming to feed at Rocklands.
ORANGEQUIT (Euneornis campestris) – Another monotypic genus found only on Jamaica. It wasn't until the final afternoon where we could fully appreciate the attractiveness of the males. [E]
GREATER ANTILLEAN BULLFINCH (Melopyrrha violacea ruficollis) – A rather quiet forest dwelling finch with soft, high pitched calls. Rather attractive when seen well.
YELLOW-SHOULDERED GRASSQUIT (Loxipasser anoxanthus) – One of the more furtive forest birds was this grassquit. Loxipasser is a monotypic genus found only on Jamaica. [E]

One of the shyer forest birds was the Yellow-shouldered Grassquit. With patience, we all eventually had some wonderful looks. Photo by guide Chris Benesh.

NORWAY (BROWN) RAT (Rattus norvegicus) [I]
SMALL INDIAN MONGOOSE (Herpestes auropunctatus) [I]


Totals for the tour: 102 bird taxa and 2 mammal taxa