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Jamaica has such a long list of amazingly beautiful and colorful birds that it's hard to pick a favorite. Close to the top of the list however surely was this Jamaican Spindalis, a species only found in Jamaica. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
Sitting between South America and Cuba, the Caribbean nation of Jamaica was a fantastic place for us to enjoy the warm weather, the plethora of unique and fascinating birds, the relaxed lifestyle, and escaping the holiday hustle and bustle. With the birdy and historical Green Castle Estate as our home base, we made a variety of daytrips and had the luxury of returning back to the same place every night!
Our day trips took us to a variety of birding hotspots and between them all, we saw a vast majority of the avifauna that this island nation has to offer. Even in driving from Montego Bay to Green Castle on our first day, we were surrounded with attention-grabbing species like Magnificent Frigatebirds gliding overhead, Zenaida Doves sitting on the wires, and even a small gathering of the rare West Indian Whistling-Ducks in Discovery Bay!
Our first day at Green Castle was our first foray into the forests and we quickly connected with a fun collection of endemic species like the showy Streamertail, Jamaican Woodpecker, Sad Flycatcher, White-chinned Thrush, Jamaican Spindalis, Orangequit, and many others. And who can forget the amazing day-roosting Northern Potoo!
The second full day we ventured east to the John Crow Mountains where we explored Ecclesdown Road. Even as we ate our picnic breakfast, birds of eye-popping color started coming out of the woodwork; highlights included both Black-billed and Yellow-billed parrots, Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo, Ring-tailed Pigeon, and many other specialties.
Shuttled up the hill via the pickup, the Vinery area was our next destination. Between the showers we connected with more Jamaican specialties like the showy Jamaican Lizard-Cuckoo, the tiny but colorful Jamaican Tody, Rufous-throated Solitaires, and the Greater Antillean Bullfinch. That night, we even connected with the rare Jamaican Owl deep in the forests at Green Castle!
The Blue Mountains were our final daytrip destination. As we wound up the road, the habitat changed and we found ourselves in a beautiful (and cool!) montane tropical rainforest. It was there that we got great looks at the endemic Blue Mountain Vireo, Jamaican Blackbird, and eventually the tricky White-eyed Thrush! We even enjoyed some local coffee while overlooking the valley.
But before long, it was time to leave Green Castle and make our way back to Montego Bay. We stopped at Stewart Town en route for some more birding and enjoyed quite a few of the crazy-sounding Jamaican Crows, a fly-by Ruddy Quail-Dove, and even got to hear the rare Greater Antillean Elaenia. The Rocklands Bird Sanctuary was another fun stop where we found ourselves face-to-face with many of the specialties like Streamertail, Orangequit, Caribbean Dove, and a variety of grassquits. It was a great conclusion to a fun trip!
The following morning, after our birding from the balcony, it was farewell and safe travels! On behalf of Field Guides, I want to thank you all for making it a fun and productive trip! Major thanks to Dwayne for his local expertise, Raymond for his excellent driving (and bird-finding skills!), and to Sharon in the home office for all her logistical work.
Until next time, and thanks for sharing this Caribbean adventure with me, good birding to everyone!
KEYS FOR THIS LIST
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
Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)
WEST INDIAN WHISTLING-DUCK (Dendrocygna arborea)
BLUE-WINGED TEAL (Spatula discors)
NORTHERN SHOVELER (Spatula clypeata)
RING-NECKED DUCK (Aythya collaris)
RUDDY DUCK (Oxyura jamaicensis)
LEAST GREBE (Tachybaptus dominicus)
PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps)
Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)
ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]
This Caribbean Dove showed really well at the Rocklands Bird Sanctuary near Montego Bay on our final day (and don't forget the Black-faced Grassquit in the corner!). Participant Frank Witebsky nicely captured this photo.
WHITE-CROWNED PIGEON (Patagioenas leucocephala)
RING-TAILED PIGEON (Patagioenas caribaea) [E]
COMMON GROUND DOVE (Columbina passerina jamaicensis)
RUDDY QUAIL-DOVE (Geotrygon montana)
CARIBBEAN DOVE (Leptotila jamaicensis jamaicensis)
WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica)
ZENAIDA DOVE (Zenaida aurita)
MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)
There are two species of parrots in Jamaica and both are found nowhere else on earth! This species, the Yellow-billed Parrot, was seen well by everyone in flight and perched. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
SMOOTH-BILLED ANI (Crotophaga ani)
CHESTNUT-BELLIED CUCKOO (Coccyzus pluvialis) [E]
JAMAICAN LIZARD-CUCKOO (Coccyzus vetula) [E]
NORTHERN POTOO (CARIBBEAN) (Nyctibius jamaicensis jamaicensis)
WHITE-COLLARED SWIFT (Streptoprocne zonaris pallidifrons)
ANTILLEAN PALM-SWIFT (Tachornis phoenicobia phoenicobia)
JAMAICAN MANGO (Anthracothorax mango) [E]
VERVAIN HUMMINGBIRD (Mellisuga minima minima)
That isn't a stump, is it?! Look carefully and you'll see a day-roosting Northern Potoo that we all enjoyed just up the road from our rooms! Photo by participant Frank Witebsky.
STREAMERTAIL (RED-BILLED) (Trochilus polytmus polytmus) [E]
STREAMERTAIL (BLACK-BILLED) (Trochilus polytmus scitulus) [E]
Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)
COMMON GALLINULE (Gallinula galeata)
AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana)
Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)
BLACK-NECKED STILT (Himantopus mexicanus)
Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)
KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)
Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)
RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres)
LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla)
Our Field Guides group got to enjoy the gaudy and pugnacious Streamertail so many times, it was hard to keep track! However, we won't soon forget the chance to have this hummingbird land on our fingers as they drank! Here Roz is staying focused! Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
WILSON'S SNIPE (Gallinago delicata)
SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius)
GREATER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa melanoleuca)
LESSER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa flavipes)
Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)
LAUGHING GULL (Leucophaeus atricilla)
ROYAL TERN (Thalasseus maximus)
SANDWICH TERN (Thalasseus sandvicensis)
MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRD (Fregata magnificens)
BROWN PELICAN (SOUTHERN) (Pelecanus occidentalis occidentalis)
Deep in the forests at Green Castle Estate, as the last light dipped out of view, we were at the right place at the right time to see this hard-to-find Jamaican Owl! Dwayne worked his magic and we were all delighted to see (and hear!) this endemic shadow-stalker. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)
GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)
GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)
SNOWY EGRET (Egretta thula)
LITTLE BLUE HERON (Egretta caerulea)
TRICOLORED HERON (Egretta tricolor)
CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis)
GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens)
BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax)
Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)
GLOSSY IBIS (Plegadis falcinellus)
Although Jamaica doesn't have much in the way of woodpecker diversity (just one resident species), it sure has a good one! The Jamaican Woodpecker isn't hard to find but it was always appreciated when one of these specialties popped into view. Photo by participant Frank Witebsky.
Cathartidae (New World Vultures)
TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)
Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)
RED-TAILED HAWK (JAMAICENSIS) (Buteo jamaicensis jamaicensis)
JAMAICAN OWL (Pseudoscops grammicus) [E]
JAMAICAN TODY (Todus todus) [E]
BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon)
JAMAICAN WOODPECKER (Melanerpes radiolatus) [E]
Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)
AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius)
MERLIN (Falco columbarius)
Psittacidae (New World and African Parrots)
BLACK-BILLED PARROT (Amazona agilis) [E]
As is often the case, the species that captured our attention (and hearts!) the most was the tiny but vibrant Jamaican Tody. Their antics were always a joy to be around. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
YELLOW-BILLED PARROT (Amazona collaria) [E]
GREEN-RUMPED PARROTLET (Forpus passerinus) [I]
OLIVE-THROATED PARAKEET (JAMAICAN) (Eupsittula nana nana)
Tityridae (Tityras and Allies)
JAMAICAN BECARD (Pachyramphus niger) [E]
Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)
JAMAICAN ELAENIA (Myiopagis cotta) [E]
GREATER ANTILLEAN ELAENIA (JAMAICAN) (Elaenia fallax fallax) [*]
The easy-going lifestyle of Jamaica really jived with us! Photo by participant Pete Thayer.
JAMAICAN PEWEE (Contopus pallidus) [E]
SAD FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus barbirostris) [E]
RUFOUS-TAILED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus validus) [E]
STOLID FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus stolidus stolidus)
LOGGERHEAD KINGBIRD (LOGGERHEAD) (Tyrannus caudifasciatus jamaicensis)
Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)
BLUE MOUNTAIN VIREO (Vireo osburni) [E]
JAMAICAN VIREO (Vireo modestus) [E]
Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)
JAMAICAN CROW (Corvus jamaicensis) [E]
CAVE SWALLOW (CARIBBEAN) (Petrochelidon fulva poeciloma)
EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) [I]
Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)
NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus polyglottos)
Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)
RUFOUS-THROATED SOLITAIRE (RUFOUS-THROATED) (Myadestes genibarbis solitarius)
WHITE-EYED THRUSH (Turdus jamaicensis) [E]
WHITE-CHINNED THRUSH (Turdus aurantius) [E]
Although it made us work, it was well worth the wait! This White-eyed Thrush, a Jamaican endemic, was eventually seen very well and even through our scopes! This was picked as a favorite bird by a few folks and for good reason! Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)
JAMAICAN EUPHONIA (Euphonia jamaica) [E]
JAMAICAN SPINDALIS (Spindalis nigricephala) [E]
Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)
JAMAICAN ORIOLE (Icterus leucopteryx leucopteryx)
JAMAICAN BLACKBIRD (Nesopsar nigerrimus) [E]
GREATER ANTILLEAN GRACKLE (Quiscalus niger crassirostris)
Parulidae (New World Warblers)
OVENBIRD (Seiurus aurocapilla)
WORM-EATING WARBLER (Helmitheros vermivorum)
BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER (Mniotilta varia)
The Orangequit is a rather unique endemic that shares its genus with no others. Although we saw them throughout our tour, the views at the Rocklands Bird Sanctuary were hard to best! Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas)
ARROWHEAD WARBLER (Setophaga pharetra) [E]
AMERICAN REDSTART (Setophaga ruticilla)
CAPE MAY WARBLER (Setophaga tigrina)
NORTHERN PARULA (Setophaga americana)
MAGNOLIA WARBLER (Setophaga magnolia)
BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER (Setophaga caerulescens)
PALM WARBLER (WESTERN) (Setophaga palmarum palmarum)
YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER (Setophaga dominica)
PRAIRIE WARBLER (Setophaga discolor)
Thraupidae (Tanagers and Allies)
BANANAQUIT (GREATER ANTILLEAN) (Coereba flaveola flaveola)
YELLOW-FACED GRASSQUIT (Tiaris olivaceus olivaceus)
This was downright crazy to see! This Caribbean Land Hermit Crab had taken a liking to this discarded glass jar! What a resourceful critter! Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
ORANGEQUIT (Euneornis campestris) [E]
GREATER ANTILLEAN BULLFINCH (Melopyrrha violacea ruficollis)
YELLOW-SHOULDERED GRASSQUIT (Loxipasser anoxanthus) [E]
BLACK-FACED GRASSQUIT (Melanospiza bicolor marchii)
SMALL INDIAN MONGOOSE (Herpestes auropunctatus) [I]
JAMAICAN GIANT ANOLE (Anolis garmani)
CANE TOAD (Rhinella marina) [I]
Totals for the tour: 103 bird taxa and 1 mammal taxa