Jamaica has thirty endemic bird species, which is more than any other West Indies island. Justin, John and I have a good chance of seeing a good handful of those, especially since Cockpit Country and the Blue Mountains are such well-forested and protected areas. Although none of us are the type of birder that pursue “life lists” — a checklist of the thousands of bird species in the world that one has seen — we all use eBird and are definitely interested in seeing and identifying wildlife of any sort.
And if that type of animal happens to be found only in the area that we’re passing through, then that just makes us appreciate the relative rarity a little more. Endemism in a bird species does seem to assign that bird a bit of a higher status for life-listers, for the obvious reason that you have to be able to go to the certain region to find it — you can’t necessarily spot it merely by visiting a different continent, but rather you have to go to the country, or island, or mountain range.
In Jamaica, one of the species that we’re pretty excited to get a look at is the Jamaican Tody, pictured above. The Todidae family is limited to the Caribbean islands, and there are only a handful of these little green species. While Justin has seen both the Broad- and Narrow-billed Todies in Hispaniola, neither John nor I have seen any members of the family, and I’m pretty partial to small cute birds, like manakins, another charismatic tropical family.
Owls can be pretty tough to spot, but we have high hopes for spotting the Jamaican Owl while setting up camp at dusk and walking around in the early morning. The only other owl in Jamaica is the Barn Owl, which none of us have seen much of either. The calls from both these species are pretty weird, or downright freaky, so we should be having fun listening in at night.
Everybody loves hummingbirds, and Jamaica only has four species, two of which are streamertails with red or black bills. The Red-billed Streamertail is the one we’ll hopefully be dealing with on this trip, and perhaps the Black-billed will make an appearance during our second expedition. The males of these two species have two wonderfully long tail feathers that should be quite a sight.