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Birdwatching in Jamaica

Jamaica has 28 wonderful endemic birds. That is more than any other island in the Caribbean. It offers excellent birding in a wide range of mountain or lowland forest and wetland habitats. In all, we have around 300 species including a large number of winter visitors, transients and vagrants that can be observed depending on the season.

"Red-billed Streamertail (Jamaica's national bird)"


In winter, through migration, we nearly double the number of species in Jamaica. These migrants can arrive in August and remain here until May. For birders from North America, it is a good opportunity to see species that do not occur in their home territory. Whilst for guests from Europe, the winter season is an ideal time to visit and to catch the mainly North American influx of warblers, wetland and shorebirds. Many of the species that come at this time add to our own resident populations. In early spring (March/April), we have a few species that migrate to Jamaica to breed here. (Black Whiskered Vireo, Caribbean Martin, Antillean Night Hawk).

"Cockpit Country "Karst Limestone" view"







Save money with our fixed date birdwatching tours to Jamaica

Tour I - PORTLAND & SOUTHERN JAMAICA

6 enjoyable days of well-paced bird watching and sightseeing by air conditioned bus or 4WD. After an initial two day visit to the outstandingly beautiful Portland parish in eastern Jamaica, the tour will be based out of a delightful but small hotel Idlers' Rest Beach Hotel (or similar) on a beautiful sandy beach on a long bay within Jamaica's largest wetlands area and IBA.

"Bluefields Mountains from the Bay"


We will visit four of Jamaica's IBA's: John Crow Mountains, world famous Cockpit Country, Jamaica's last wilderness and home to 27 of our 28 endemics; Bluefields and, mountain and forest and Black River Great Morass, wetland and coastal habitats. Travelling distances are generally no more than 1.5 hours away from the accommodation bases, so bird watching time is maximised. We would hope to see in the region of 75 species during the period May - August and more than 100 species when the winter migrants are at their peak (Our marathon record as part of the Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival is 98 species in 18 hours at the end of April!).
The following is a typical itinerary which can be customised to suit your arrival and departure times at Montego Bay.

ITINERARY

Day 1.
8.00a.m. Met by guides in Montego Bay. Travel to Port Antonio (approx. 4 hours). Afternoon birding in local area for endemic Black-billed Streamertail Hummingbird only found in eastern Jamaica.
Overnight at Port Antonio. Ivanhoe Guest House or similar.
(L, D)

"Black-billed Streamertail


Day 2.
Morning and afternoon birding at Ecclesdown, Portland parish, John Crow Mountain IBA. Look for endangered Jamaican Blackbird, near threatened Crested Quail Dove, Yellow-billed Parrott and other endemics. Evening search for Jamaican Owl.
Overnight in Port Antonio.
(B, L, D)

"Yellow-billed Parrot"



Day 3.
Drive to Montego Bay (approx. 4 hours). Water birds and lunch en route. Afternoon visit to Rocklands Hummingbird Sanctuary at Anchovy. Red-billed Streamertail, Mango Hummingbird, Orangequit and many more. Then mountain drive and transfer to your hotel base, Idlers Rest Beach Hotel, on the beautiful South Coast (approx. 1.5 hours).
(B, L, D)

"Jamaican Lizard Cuckoo"



Day 4.
Early start for visit to Bluefields Mountains IBA. Of the 28 Jamaican endemic species we have observed 20 in this IBA, plus a further 13 endemic sub-species. Among the regular favourites on our tours are the : Jamaican Tody, Jamaican Stripe-headed Tanager, Orangequit, Jamaican Euphonia, Jamaican Elaenia, Jamaican Pewee, Olive-throated Parakeet, Northern Potoo (quite often seen at day time roost), Rufous-tailed Flycatcher, Jamaican Woodpecker, Arrowhead Warbler.
(B, L, D)

"Mango Hummingbird"



Day 5.
Early start to spectacularly rugged Cockpit Country IBA. The area supports 33 of Jamaica's 36 EBA range restricted species including 95% of the entire population of Black-billed Parrots. Also to be seen are Yellow-billed Parrots, Blue Mountain Vireo, Crested Quail Dove, Jamaican Blackbird, Jamaican Crow, Jamaican Lizard Cuckoo, Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo.
(B, SL, D)

"Crested Quail Dove"



Day 6 - Subject to return flight departure time.
8 am Black River Upper Morass. Species here include Northern Jacana, Least Bittern, Purple Gallinule, Limpkin, West Indian Whistling Duck and perhaps a sighting of the rare Spotted Rail and Yellow-breasted Crake. Transfer to Montego Bay.
(B, L.)

Included:
Guides, all ground transportation within Jamaica (from Day 1 to Day 6), all entrance fees to sites, specified accommodation, daily meal plan as indicated with two course dinner.
On early start days breakfast will be a pre-prepared snack and beverage, Day 5 will be a sandwich lunch. Some lunches will be taken at local restaurants. When food is not specified, it is not included in the trip price

Excluded:
Overnight accommodation prior to commencement of day 1 of your tour unless included in your personalised itinerary. Gratuities, alcoholic beverages, items of personal nature, airport departure tax, or international airfare, government general consumption tax, bank electronic transfers.


6 DAYS TOUR PRICE IS: 2 pax minimum US$1675 per person.
Single room supplement, add US$250

Additional days available.


Due to currency fluctuations and fuel cost we reserve the right to adjust any pricing prior to departure.

Convert your tour cost into your currency of choice.

Tour II - 6 DAYS IN WESTERN JAMAICA

ITINERARY

Day 1.
Arrive and meet at Montego Bay International Airport. Visit Rocklands Hummingbird Sanctuary at Anchovy. Red-billed Streamertail, Mango Hummingbird and many more. Then mountain drive and transfer to your hotel base on the South Coast about one hour away.
(D)

"Jamaican Tody"



Day 2.
After breakfast start. Wetlands and shore birds with visit to Black River, Parottee Great Morass and then on to look for the threatened, Caribbean Coot on freshwater ponds. Endemics at Fort Charles.
(B,L,D)

"Caribbean and American Coots"



Day 3.
Early start for visit to Bluefields Mountains. Of the 28 Jamaican endemic species we have observed 20 in this IBA, plus a further 13 endemic sub-species. Among the regular favourites on our tours are the : Jamaican Tody, Jamaican Stripe-headed Tanager, Orangequit, Jamaican Euphonia, Jamaican Elaenia, Jamaican Pewee, Olive-throated Parakeet, Northern Potoo (quite often seen at day time roost), Rufous-tailed Flycatcher, Jamaican Woodpecker, Arrowhead Warbler.
Afternoon visit to Negril, Royal Palm Reserve. 19 of Jamaica's 36 Endemic Bird Area (EBA) birds including the vulnerable, West Indian Whistling Duck, Limpkins and near threatened White-crowned Pigeon.
(B,L,D)

"West Indian Whistling Duck"



Day 4.
Early morning start to southern part of Catadupa IBA in Cockpit Country Conservation Area. Excellent range of endemics including, Jamaican Lizard Cuckoo, Jamaican Pewee, Jamaican Oriole, White-eyed Thrush. Afternoon visit to YS mountain forest area.
(B,L,D)

"Yellow-shouldered Grassquit"



Day 5.
Early start to spectacularly rugged Cockpit Country which supports 33 of Jamaica's 36 EBA range restricted species including Black-billed and Yellow-billed Parrots, Blue Mountain Vireo, Crested Quail Dove, Jamaican Blackbird, Jamaican Crow, Jamaican Lizard Cuckoo, Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo.
(B,SL,D)

"Ring-tailed Pigeon"



Day 6.
Day 6 - Subject to return flight departure time.
8 am Black River Upper Morass. Species here include Northern Jacana, Least Bittern, Purple Gallinule, Limpkin, West Indian Whistling Duck and perhaps a sighting of the rare Spotted Rail and Yellow-breasted Crake. Transfer to Montego Bay.
(B, L)

Included:
Guides, all ground transportation within Jamaica (from Day 1 to Day 6), all entrance fees to sites, specified hotel accommodation, daily meal plan as indicated, two course dinner. On early start days breakfast will be a pre-prepared snack and beverage, Day 5 will be a sandwich lunch. Some lunches will be taken at local restaurants. When food is not specified, it is not included in the trip price.
Excluded:
Gratuities, alcoholic beverages, items of personal nature, airport departure tax, or international airfare, government general consumption tax, bank electronic transfers.


6 DAYS TOUR PRICE IS: 2 pax minimum US$1625 per person.
Single room supplement, add US$250

Additional days available.


Due to currency fluctuations and fuel cost we reserve the right to adjust any pricing prior to departure.

Convert your tour cost into your currency of choice.

(B, L, D) = B stands for breakfast: L: lunch; SL: sandwich lunch; D: dinner. On early start days breakfast will be a pre-prepared snack and beverage. All dinners indicated will be at the base hotel. When food is not specified, it is not included in the trip price.
Included in our tours:
Guides, all ground transportation within Jamaica (from Day 1 to Day 6), all entrance fees to sites, specified accommodation, daily meal plan as indicated, two course dinner. On early start days breakfast will be a pre-prepared snack and beverage. Some lunches will be taken at local restaurants. When food is not specified, it is not included in the trip price.
Excluded from our tours:
Overnight accommodation prior to commencement of day 1 of your tour unless included in your personalised itinerary. Gratuities, alcoholic beverages, items of personal nature, airport departure tax, or international airfare, government general consumption tax, originating bank electronic transfer fees.
Notes:
The above itinerary is designed to provide the greatest opportunity to see the majority of Jamaica's endemics in the shortest time. Tour routes may be varied according to weather conditions. Arrival and departure date are included in the itinerary. Trips take place throughout the year. Private and customised tours available on request.
Fitness:
Our routes are relatively easy walking over short distances. Slightly more challenging trails can be walked with fitter groups. If you have any concerns regarding levels of fitness required, please ask for more details.
Equipment:
Clothing - Dress for hot and humid tropical weather and be prepare for rain. Light clothing is recommended: cotton shirts and t-shirts (earth colors preferable), long and short pants, closed shoes or trainers (not sandals), hat, insect repellent and sun block. Equipment - Binoculars, scope and camera. Travel insurance: strongly recommended

If you have a non birder in your group: For those not wishing to spend every day birding, then additional sightseeing tours can be arranged or substituted. Within easy reach of our base, are top Jamaican attractions such as Appelton Rum Tour, Black River Crocodile Safari, the cool mountain town of Mandeville. Also, a cultural and historic bus tour of Bluefields Mountains and its environs is a must! Please ask for more information.




Should you only need a guide for a day or two please contact us for details.   

Birding guide Wolde your local Birdingpal guide
Wolde is highly entertaining and great fun to be with and totally in love with Jamaica. He has an excellent knowledge of endemic birds in Jamaica and can where they can be found. He is dedicated to protecting and promoting the marine and terrestrial environment with particular emphasis at Bluefields on the South Coast. Here he has actively encouraged a wide range of other groups and organisations to become involved in conservation projects in local coastal and wetlands areas. He has also worked closely with the Government and local fishermen to establish a Fish Sanctuary in Bluefields Bay. In April 2009 Wolde won the prestigious Jamaica Tourist Board, "Tourism Service Excellence Award" for the South Coast Resort Area. He also received a national award for his company for Training Excellence.
In addition to his birding skills, he has a keen interest in local archaeology and history and has participated in a number of digs for Taino artifacts. If you are really lucky, he may give you a demonstration of his African drumming skills!
Birding guide Deceita your local Birdingpal guide
Deceita loves to share her corner of Jamaica and its superb birding with our visitors and loves meeting people. She has a great love of all aspects of natural history with a special fondness for birds. She knows just where to find them on her extensive patch of the island. She studied farming at Knockalva Agricultural School and will just as readily enjoy talking with you about folklore and Jamaican history or point out fascinating plants in the forests. She is well versed in herbal remedies for a wide range of common ailments and will demonstrate how to collect and prepare herbal teas. Deceita is a very active Secretary to Bluefields Bay Fishermens Friendly Society and is one of the main drivers in their successful fish conservation programme.
Birding guide Veda your local Birdingpal guide
Veda lives, eats, sleeps and dreams birds. Day and night she is on the case - even in church she is watching to see if one will fly into the building. She is fun to be with and will spot the birds with ease and give their common and local names and recollect many stories about them. Without doubt, her favorite bird is the Northern Potoo which with its superb camouflage seems to play hide-and- seek at its day time roost with even the most observant visitor. She will enjoy teasing you to see the large elusive bird right in front of you. You will be amazed. Whether at Bluefields, Catadupa, or in the remote wilderness of the Cockpit Country she will be the first to get you 'on the bird'! Veda is a key leader of the Bluefields Peoples' Community Association anti-litter eco initiative to educate and keep Bluefields and its environs in pristine condition.
Birding guide Vaughan your local Birdingpal guide
Vaughan is a keen naturalist and ornithologist. He enjoys making sure that visitors get to the hottest birding spots to ensure they have the best possible birding holiday on the island. Over the years, he has helped put western Jamaica back on the map as a one of Jamaica's "must visit" birding areas for international visitors wanting to find our endemics. He has an extensive knowledge and records of species that can be observed in the region. He is an Executive Member of Bird Life Jamaica with more than 30 years experience in Jamaican ornithology. He is editor of, "The Broadsheet', the long established and highly respected, Bird Journal for Jamaica. He also has contributed a wealth of information and drafted the sections on Bluefields and Black River IBA's for the 2008 publication, "Important Bird Areas in The Caribbean," the BirdLife International book on Caribbean IBA's. He provided data for Ann Sutton's "Birds of Jamaica", 2009 and BirdLife International's publication "Water Birds Conservation for the Americas." He is a keen photographer with a particular is interest in photographing butterflies and has images of several species not previously photographed. He has planned and led walking expeditions in a number of locations including the Arctic of Northern Norway, Canada, Malaysia, as well as the mountains of Scotland and throughout Europe.

Testimonials.

In February 2010 we spent seven wonderful days in the company of Wolde, Vaughan, Deceita and Veda. In that time we saw all 28 of Jamaica's endemic birds as well as several Greater Antillean endemics. They were always so punctual and so accommodating to our needs. Their birding skills were on a par with anything that we have seen in operation anywhere in the world. Not only were they experts in finding birds by call but their knowledge of the history and culture of Jamaica seemed almost limitless. The whole experience of being on their tour was truly outstanding.
Bob & Kathleen, Bedford, UK

I have just returned from a very successful trip to Jamaica where I was very lucky to see all 28/28 endemics. Whilst I realise that I was lucky with the weather and the birds the rest was purely down to the unstinting effort and knowledge of Vaughan and the team. It was birding with a smile on your face! In this day and age is there anything you want more!
Birdingpal Paul Gaffan, Suffolk, UK

Maria and I were both happy with the trip and the outstanding service. Wolde, Veda and Deceita were entertaining and fun to be with but at the same time business like, making sure everything was taken care of and everything we asked for was achieved. I know they really enjoy birding, but they put in some extra long days when they didn't have to. They know the birds and where to find them and what they sound like.
Laurie K

I know Carol communicated to you our appreciation for all you did for us in Jamaica. But more than that we appreciate what you are doing for birdlife and conservation in that country---and the key we observe around the world is training and helping local people to see amidst their difficult and oft poverty struck lives--value in preserving local habitats both economically short term and spiritually long term.
Duncan H

I have been on several other professionally-led birding tours, including Dominican Republic and Peru, with established international birding tour companies. I particularly liked that it was local people leading the tour, not people who had traveled in from somewhere else.
Owen B

"In March of 2014, I took a 6 day birding tour of Jamaica with RAJ. It was simply wonderful! Our leader, Veda, was extraordinarily skilled at locating the birds and making sure that everyone had a good look at each bird. All endemics were located and well seen. Veda was also attentive to all administrative details and very aware of the well-being of each guest. And, of course, traveling with a local guide, we got to go to the best jerk restaurants and eat at small spots along the coast where there were no other tourists. I highly recommend RAJ for a birding trip to Jamaica."
Edna, California


I took part in a 6-day birding tour with Reliable Adventures Jamaica in March, 2014. It was a wonderful experience! Our guide, Veda, managed to show us all 28 endemic species, and many more. We covered a lot of terrain, but made frequent rest stops (and indulged in lots of fresh, local fruit along the way!) Veda was extremely helpful and attentive. She made sure that everyone saw the birds clearly. Her son, Dion, was our driver and provided excellent service. We were well supplied with drinking water, snacks and insect repellent. It was a memorable trip! From mountains to marshes, RAJ shows you a Jamaica that few tourists get to see.
Jane, Toronto




Some facts about Jamaica.

The island - discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1494 - was settled by the Spanish early in the 16th century. The native Taino Indians, who had inhabited Jamaica for centuries, were gradually exterminated and replaced by African slaves. England seized the island in 1655 and established a plantation economy based on sugar, cocoa, and coffee. The abolition of slavery in 1834 freed a quarter million slaves, many of whom became small farmers. Jamaica gradually obtained increasing independence from Britain, and in 1958 it joined other British Caribbean colonies in forming the Federation of the West Indies. Jamaica gained full independence when it withdrew from the Federation in 1962.
Industry: tourism, bauxite/alumina, agro processing, light manufactures, rum, cement.
Agriculture: coffee, bananas, sugarcane, yam, ackee.
Capital: Kingston.
Population: 2,825,928 (July 2009 est.).
Area: 10,991 sq km.
Language: English.
Religion: Protestant 62.5%, Roman Catholic 2.6%, other or unspecified 14.2%, none 20.9%, (2001 census).
Currency: Jamaican Dollar.
Life Expectancy: 73.53.
GDP per Capita: U.S. $7,700 Literacy Percent: 87.9.
Climate: Tropical maritime.
Weather: Max day temperature range 29-33. Rainy months: May and October.

More facts about Jamaica.

Guide books and CD's recommended:

Birds of Jamaica Haynes -Sutton, Downer, Sutton.
Important Bird Areas in The Caribbean -David Wege & Veronica Anadon-Irizarry. Birds of North America -David Sibley.
Bird Songs in Jamaica - George B. Reynard and Robert L. Sutton

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Last update 20/028/2014