25 / 31 March - 13 / 16 April 2024

by Eustace Barnes

As one of the most exciting tours to insular archipelagos, this all new ‘the world makes no sense’ Birdquest tour to the Greater Antilles delivers the very best that nature has to offer to help forget the diabolical horrors inflicted upon us by despots and degenerate politicians or devised by administrators to tie our lives to their demands. Misery from day one, as we recorded 228 species in total, of which 108 are endemic to the Caribbean region and a further 32 subspecies endemic to the same region. This included 28 endemics in Jamaica, 34 on Hispaniola and 19 on Puerto Rico with 2 endemics and a further 17 endemic sub-species on the Cayman Islands. That is an astonishing number and good deal more diverse than many other, perhaps more renowned, biological hot spots around the world. The stats make very clear the biological significance of the region and the scale of the task ahead of us. It is an amazing tour and essential to all with an interest in birds or indeed fauna and flora more generally.
The highlights started on day one with a flurry of avifaunal endemism at Marshall’s Pen. The Red-billed Streamertails were buzzing about, and a Jamaican Owl sat and worried over the evident short comings of the bipedal ‘destroyer’ below them. Meanwhile Jamaican Todies, Jamaican Orioles and many other key species busied themselves round the colonial gardens. Finding 44 West Indian Whistling Ducks at the ominously named Black River Morass was a surprise, and one not likely to be repeated. Working the Ecclesdown road produced another storm of endemics, the highlight of which was the Black-billed Streamertail. The Blue Mountains were memorable for any number of reasons, including several spectacular Crested Quail Doves, a number of stops to enjoy the magnificent coffee from the area and locating a pair of Jamaican Blackbirds in dense fog at the last possible moment. Once in the Dominican Republic, we were treated to another fast and furious delivery of endemics in the Sierra de Baharuco, including a spectacular pair of Bay-breasted Cuckoos, Broad-billed and Narrow-billed Todies, numerous Hispaniolan Trogons, noisy pairs of White-necked Ravens, the various montane thicket-creeping Chat-Tanagers, a splendid La Selles Thrush, a magnificent Ashy-faced Owl, the endemic form of Rufous-collared Sparrow, a White-fronted Quail-Dove and finally a pair of Ridgway’s Hawks. In Puerto Rico, after the lovely Adelaide’s Warbler we connected with a very obliging Puerto Rican Screech Owl, numerous pairs of the enigmatic Puerto Rican Nesospingus (erroneously called a Tanager), a Puerto Rican Lizard-Cuckoo with a lizard, several pairs of Puerto Rican Amazons shrieking around us, our final Tody, that often elusive denizen of the bromeliad ladened cloud forests in the Mariaco state forest, the Elfin Woods Warbler and another batch of endemics. A memorable highlight was watching a displaying Antillean Nighthawk above a pair of copulating Clapper Rails while Yellow-shouldered Blackbirds gathered at their nearby roost. Finally, the Cayman Islands delivered a spectacular session at the Botanical Gardens where all thirteen of the sub-species endemic to Grand Cayman were located in a frenzied couple of hours. Of these, the caymanensis form of Cuban Amazon, the recently split Grand Cayman Bullfinch, Western Spindalis and delightful Vitelline Warbler were particularly notable. On Cayman Brac the ‘Brac’ Amazon performed in spectacular fashion, and we enjoyed great views of the other taxa endemic to this tiny island; the Vitelline Warbler and Red-legged Thrush. That was it and high time to call a halt to proceedings to avoid endemic overload.

As it happens, this tour commenced in Miami airport, where I met Steve, Marshall, Johan, and Herman for our fight to Jamaica for the, all too brief, pre-tour extension. After a brief tussle with yet more unnecessary digital bureaucracy (see below), we quickly sorted out our vehicle and headed west to Marshall’s Pen near Mandeville. While loading the vehicle and dealing with an unattributed onboard bleep along with our overall water requirement, we managed to see Great-tailed Grackles and House Sparrows at the airport, while Magnificent Frigatebirds wheeled overhead.  A little later on we found numerous Sandwich and Royal Terns, Laughing Gulls, a Belted kingfisher, and several Brown Pelicans cruising along the seafront.
Arriving at Marshall’s Pen, located at 600m in the Don Figuerero Mountains, we were greeted by our host, Ann Sutton-Hayes. A renowned biologist and long-term contributor to conservation in Jamaica,  Ann offers a wealth of knowledge as well as the spacious grand old manor house with its stunning grounds. There is no designed fakery here, it is quite authentic, packed with original Victoriana and very much an expression of a long-term commitment to excellence. We quickly settled into that ‘initial’ exploration of the aforementioned grounds, finding noisy groups of Jamaican Parakeets, and the ’perky’ little Jamaican Tody, which abounds throughout the island in most habitats. Jamaican Woodpeckers noisily called around the house, while Sad and Rufous-tailed Flycatchers sallied for insects, and a pair of Jamaican Becards were nest-building nearby. The taller trees are ladened with bromeliads and epiphytic plants and did host Jamaican Vireo, Jamaican Euphonia, Jamaican Orioles, the stunning Jamaican Spindalis and seemingly ubiquitous Orangequit along with Black and white Warbler, American Redstart and a dapper Black-throated Blue Warbler. All seemed perfectly at one with the gently fading colonial architecture,  resonant of ordered times past.
As the light faded, we enjoyed the spectacle of numerous Red-billed Streamertails at the feeders adorning the house. This is indeed an amazing hummingbird, which we were to enjoy watching during our all too short stay at this spectacular location. The males, in their vivid green finery and long black tail streamers did furiously chase off all competitors from their feeder, including the many sombrely attired females, while testing the patience of photographers. It was time to conclude our birding after a long travel day with a spectacular dinner and some very welcome Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, during which time it began to rain.  The resident Jamaican Owls went into hiding and did not call for two days!
Whilst creeping along the wide trails we will be listening out for the maniacal cackling of the rather elegant Jamaican Lizard-Cuckoo and gruff tones of the hefty Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo which reside in the dense viney tangles that adorn the taller trees here. Along the broad trails we connected with a pair of, the rather numerous, Jamaican Becards building their shabby nest. Jamaican Myiopagis (Elaenia) and Jamaican Pewees were less forthcoming, but we  found them quietly sitting along the wider tracks and trails. We then found a Northern Potoo on a roost a few metres above us, giving amazing views. The Jamaican Crow has recently started nesting near the grand old house and we enjoyed watching this odd-looking crow and listening to its unique vocal repertoire. Other Caribbean specialities here included White-crowned Pigeon, numerous Cave Swallows, Antillean Palm Swift, Grey and the endemic jamaicensis form of Loggerhead Kingbirds, abundant Black-whiskered Vireo, Black-faced Grassquit and a few Greater Antillean Grackles. It is high time someone worked on the Loggerhead Kingbirds and fully revised them. During our stay we continuously saw Turkey Vultures and American Kestrels, White-winged Dove, Common Ground Dove, Smooth-billed Anis and Northern Mockingbird. The region plays host to the many North American warblers that included Northern Parula, Black-throated Blue, Prairie and Worm-eating Warblers and the charming American Redstart.

While writing up our notes and resting after lunch, the gardens offer some great birding, with both White-eyed and White-chinned Thrushes, Jamaican Orioles and Spindalis, along with Caribbean Doves and the endemic Yellow-shouldered Grassquit easily seen picking about in the taller trees or borders, while the smart Greater Antillean Bullfinch and nominate form of Bananaquit busily flitted to and fro. As dusk fell on our final evening the resident pair of Jamaican Owls began to call and  subsequently very easily located sitting in an open tree above our heads. We did hear the Northern Potoo but having already seen it very well we decided to settle down to a critical review of Marxian dialectics at the house.

The next day we headed north to explore Cockpit Country; a region comprising a broken karst limestone plateau characterised by deeply dissected landscape with numerous rocky outcrops and step sided hills. It is a particularly interesting region with at least one hundred endemic plant species restricted to the region. This largely inaccessible country is home to the endemic Black-billed and Yellow-billed Amazons, which we saw as they dispersed from their roosting sites. There were several pairs of Jamaican Crows, which we enjoyed seeing again. The rather uncommon Ring-tailed Pigeon was more difficult to see but we did see several of this beautiful columbid.
Another afternoon was devoted to exploring the Black River Morass, a large wetland that lies to the west of Marshall’s Pen. This area offers an excellent opportunity to see the stunning Jamaican Mango and Mangrove Cuckoo, which we saw. The marshes also gave us Purple Gallinule and Northern Jacana, Belted Kingfisher, numerous Snowy, Great and Western Cattle Egrets and both Yellow-crowned and Black-crowned Night Herons,  Tricoloured Heron, and a couple of Great Blue Herons. The wooded lanes were full of American Redstarts, Palm and Prairie Warblers along with Smooth-billed Ani, Greater Antillean Grackles and Yellow-faced Grassquit. We headed to another marshy area near Lachovia, where we found 44 West Indian Whistling Ducks! An astonishing find and a tour highlight unlikely to be repeated.

On departure from Marshall’s Pen, we made our way east to the arid Portland peninsula to search for Bahama Mockingbird. As it happens, this is a common and somewhat confiding species, which is just as well since temperatures soar to around 38C by 10am in this area. In addition to the Mockingbird, the endemic form of Stolid Flycatcher is common at the same location, and we quickly added this prettily adorned tyrannid taxon to the list, while appreciating that it too may well become a full species in due course. Along the rocky shoreline we searched out a suitable watch point adjacent to the mangroves to see the often-skulking Clapper Rails to put in an appearance. They do make a lot of noise, but it can be hard to pin down exactly where they are. However, are much effort several did put in an appearance, as they stalked about in their muddy abode peering out at us and hoping to avoid detection. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the base colour of the rails exactly matches the colour of the mangrove mud. What a life! Sloshing around in fetid slime loudly shrieking and making innumerable incomprehensible gurgling noises while trying not to be seen.
Afterwards, we continued eastwards to Port Antonio for an overnight stay, arriving sometime after dark. The following morning, we explored the John Crow mountains along the Ecclesdown road, which delivered the endemic Black-billed Streamertail in style, with great views of several males. This isolated range, situated in the northeast of the island, is infrequently visited except by ornithologists and botanists. This is mainly because of the extensive areas of humid forest that remain largely inaccessible. During the course of the morning, we saw many more Ring-tailed Pigeons, several Back-billed and Yellow-billed Amazons, another pair of Jamaican Crows and a Jamaican Lizard Cuckoo. As it happens, the forests here also play host to most of Jamaica’s endemics of which we saw most. We then headed to the Blue Mountains above Kingston, a range that overlooks the city and which is popular at the weekends with residents and tourists escaping the stifling heat of the city.
We did stop en route at a coffee house severing the famous Blue Mountain coffee and enjoyed spending a brief interlude with other members of our species. Perhaps not remarkably, this largely included individuals devoted their social media existence and general appearance. Regarding general appearance, it is fair to say that the arresting pneumatic reproductive signalling (cf Aldous Huxley) of the fairer sex may have reached its zenith in Jamaica. This contrasting sharply with those for whom such display is intended, who are sporting ever more loose fitting and baggy apparel. In Jamaica, but perhaps everywhere, this is then combined with the contrived appearance of semi-conscious marginal awareness of the world around them. I suppose, the two are connected and doubtless anthropologists are working on the phenomena. Anyway, enough of the disconnected affectations of youth and time to head to the fog shrouded peaks of the Blue Mountains.

In spite of the value of Blue Mountain Coffee, pristine evergreen montane forest fragments remain between Silver Hill Gap to Hardwar Gap. A brisk pre-breakfast walk in search of Crested Quail Dove produced a busy individual marching up and down in front of us. A very smart looking endemic and often the star bird of the extension. During breakfast it began to rain! Undeterred, we headed off to search the various patches of forest on the cool misty slopes in search of our remaining targets species. The Blue Mountain Vireo was found quite quickly and subsequently another Crested Quail Dove sheltering from the rain. Fruiting trees along the road proved a great attraction for numerous Jamaican Spindalis, Ring-tailed Pigeons and other endemics including Jamaican Tody, Jamaican Woodpecker and the abundant Orangequit. As often happens in cloud forests it rained hard, and a thick fog began to develop. We returned to base as the fog closed in and visibility reduced to 10 metres, but we still needed to find Jamaican Blackbird and doing so in the remaining two hours available to us looked decidedly problematic. Searching a forested fog-bound ridge for the three or four trees, in which this species frequently liked to forage, was a challenge, but find them we did. Almost immediately, after again extracting ourselves from the van, we found them. Never have two uniformly rather small black birds looked so good. We worked our way back to Kingston to celebrate the end of the, very successful, extension.

Next, the Dominican Republic. On arrival, after meeting up with Miguel and the other half of the team,  we headed west to the Barancoli, aka Kate’s, Camp in the western part of the Sierra de Bahoruco. Arriving in time for a late lunch and some of that much promised initial exploration; Broad-billed Todies, Hispaniolan Woodpecker, the Hispaniolan Amazon and endemic form of Bananaquit kept us entertained around camp before we walked nearby trails. At lunch,  a Hispaniolan Emerald buzzed around the flowering shrubs next to our tables. Walking trails around the camp is always very productive and we enjoyed some great birding. Our first morning walk produced a pair of Bay-breasted Cuckoos, which gave spectacular views of what can be a difficult species to find. We then found the Hispaniolan Lizard-Cuckoo, Hispaniolan Woodpecker, Antillean Piculet, Black-crowned Palm-Tanager and the endemic Amazon, Pewee and Oriole. The forest was alive with birds, including both high numbers of Broad-billed and Narrow-billed Todies, the latter wintering at lower elevations. Stolid Flycatcher and Flat-billed Vireo were quickly located amongst the abundant Palmchats and a few Hispaniolan Orioles. The White-necked Crow is quite numerous in the area, and we had some great views of this odd-looking corvid, which, as often commented, looks more like a Raven. The field edges were full of Antillean Siskin, Yellow-faced and Black-faced Grassquits along with small numbers of Greater Antillean Grackles and smaller numbers of Plain Pigeons. A number of Caribbean Martins wheeled overhead and around their nest holes.

On the second morning, we headed to the upper elevations of the rugged Sierra de Bahoruco for dawn along a rather difficult road. The forests here are semi-humid, with many larger trees ladened with mosses and bromeliads overhanging a dense understorey. On arrival we were greeted with the ethereal sibilant notes of the dapper Rufous-throated Solitaire. The bushes and trees near our breakfast stop gave us the attractive White-winged Warbler and the unobtrusive Green-tailed Warbler. The latter two species were formerly placed in the parulid, or American wood-warbler family, subsequently considered tanagers and renamed Hispaniolan Highland Tanager and Green-tailed Ground Tanager respectively, and more recently often treated as two out of four members of the endemic family, Calyptophilidae (lover of hidden places). I think they would be better known after their generic names Xenoligea and Microligea. These two species combine characteristics and behavioural traits of many groups of species but are unique.
Higher up we found several pairs of the more secretive Western Chat Tanager. Again, this is another distinctive genus that should have its own name; perhaps Montane Thicket-creepers? Anyway, we had great views of this smart looking species and moved on to find Hispaniolan Trogons that called all around us. We saw at least a dozen, calling and prospecting for nest sites. A La Selles Thrush bounced along the track and gave great views in the half light. Only found at higher elevations, the Hispaniolan Spindalis put in a welcome appearance while a few Golden Swallows circled overhead. We descended for a break on the Haitian border and a short excursion into Haiti. On departure from the  benighted country, blighted by decades of political horror, our Haitian list stood at two species: Yellow-faced Grassquit and Vervain Hummingbird.
At lower elevations we found a pair of the highly distinctive Hispaniolan form of Loggerhead Kingbirds and small numbers of Hispaniolan Euphonias. However, Key West Quail Dove was more difficult, and we only managed to glimpse a couple of birds. We did find another pair of Chestnut-breasted Cuckoos, which were more secretive than the first pair but eventually gave reasonable views.
After a pleasant lunch, it was time to move, and so we headed to Barahona to explore both the semi-humid cloud forests and dry pine forests on the south-facing slopes of the Sierra de Bahoruco. However, our first mission was to search for the lovely Ashy-faced Owl above the city. We were in luck and a bird put in an appearance and gave a much-appreciated show.  In the morning, we then headed to Pedernales and the pine forests that blanket the slopes above town. Perhaps the most surprising species on this Caribbean Island is the endemic Hispaniolan Crossbill found in the extensive pine forests throughout the Sierra de Baharuco and Central Highlands. We quickly found several pairs of this species coming to drink at a favoured pool and enjoyed great scope views. We also enjoyed watching the boisterous Hispaniolan Palm Crows as they cavorted in the trees, entertaining us as they called and searched for food. We also found numerous pairs of Golden Swallows and Pine Warblers in the extensive pine woods. Lower down we picked up both Hispaniolan Parakeets and Amazons as they screeched around the treetops. Working the mixed woodlands, we also found several Mangrove Cuckoos, Cape May, and Black-throated Blue Warblers and, very briefly, a Key West Quail-Doves. Overhead we saw a Sharp-shinned Hawk in the company of a Red-tailed Hawk. We subsequently observed this association in the central highlands.

Returning to Baharona we headed to Cabo Rojo. Stopping at some mangrove lined ponds, we enjoyed seeing numerous Reddish, Snowy and Great Egrets, Tricoloured and Great-blue Herons along with White-cheeked Pintail, Black-necked Stilt, Short-billed Dowitchers, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Least and Semi-palmated Sandpipers, Killdeer and Semipalmated Plovers. Heading to a rocky headland on the coast we watched numerous stunning pairs of White-tailed Tropicbirds as they displayed and circled overhead. A Peregrine shot out of the cliffs and chased a Black-necked Stilt that had inadvisably wandered past. Cave Swallows hawked for insects around us, and a Belted Kingfisher flew along the rocky shoreline. We did spend a good deal of time scrutinising the horizon for seabirds. Any of the distant flecks we could see, might just as easily have been the product of retinal aberration or the heat haze! We were trying to find the endangered Black-capped Petrel which nests in the Sierra de Baharuco. Several birds have been radio tagged to track their movements and data indicates that they use the Pedernales river to navigate their way to and from their nesting sites. Using the river mouth, it appears they head directly out to a feeding area well offshore. On the next visit we might look from the mouth of the Pedernales river at dawn.
Once back in Barahona, we set out in search of nightbirds. Arriving at our site above Cabral there were a number of Hispaniolan Nightjars calling, of which we saw a couple. An Antillean Nighthawk displayed overhead, but the views were not great. A single Least Poorwill called repeatedly but showed no interest and quickly stopped calling. The following morning, we returned to the same site, for a pre-dawn search, for the Poorwill. This time several Poorwills were calling and only a single Nightjar! The Poorwill quickly put in an appearance,  and we enjoyed good views of this Hispaniolan endemic.
After our success with the more crepuscular species, we climbed through the dry scrub to the semi-humid forests and montane scrub high above us. On arrival, we walked the various tracks, finding the stunning White-fronted Quail-Dove. This is a rare species, endemic to Hispaniola and perhaps one in trouble. A great find on this misty morning, which turned into one of the best mornings of the tour. Once we had all seen the Quail-Dove to our satisfaction we turned our attention to the more sombrely attired denizens of the dense thickets that clothe the hillsides. A number of Eastern Chat-Tanagers were calling and singling loudly from said thickets, through which they crept. With a little gentle encouragement, we all had very good views of this somewhat skulking species. Populations of the Eastern Chat-Tanager have only recently been discovered in the Sierra de Baharuco and the Sierra Martin Garcia which might represent a new taxon, rather than either the nieba or nominate forms found north of the Lago Enriquillo depression. Also, wintering in the Sierra are large numbers of the cryptic Bicknell’s Thrush. There were a number calling around us and after some effort and with persistence we all managed great views of this rarely seen species.
We headed to Villa Barancoli for lunch and a final look at the dry forest species. This included the widespread Scaly-naped and White-crowned Pigeons, Zenaida Dove, Vervain Hummingbird, numerous Red-legged Thrushes, another pair of Antillean Euphonia and the more secretive Greater Antillean Bullfinch. We also enjoyed seeing Jamaican Parakeets and wintering wood-warblers, including Black-and-white, Prairie, Black-throated Blue, Cape May and Palm Warblers, Ovenbird and American Redstart. We also found a single female Indigo Bunting, which was a pleasant surprise. A second visit to La Placa gave us another Bay-breasted Cuckoo, several pairs of Hispaniolan Loggerhead Kingbirds, Hispaniolan Euphonias and Pewee as well as both Broad-billed and Narrow-billed Todies.

Departing form Barahona, eschewing the ease of wetland birding,  we headed north and east to the Central Highlands. We climbed from the coastal plain high into the highlands above Ochoa where, exploring forest edge scrub at a number of sites we found the endemic antillarum form of Rufous-collared Sparrow. The nearest populations of this species are of the form septentrionalis from southern Mexico and Guatemala and costaricensis from Costa Rica and the northern Andes. It does sound quite distinctive and has some morphological differences. Given this and its highly isolated distribution it may well warrant further investigation. A little further on we again saw a Sharp-shinned Hawk associating with a Red-tailed Hawk hunting along the ridge. As we continued along the ridge we stopped at a dense thicket where we extracted an excitable pair of Eastern Chat-Tanagers of the nominate form. These birds were of interest to us, having seen the birds in the Sierra de Baharuco. They were more cleanly marked with a whiter throat, perhaps browner upperparts and paler grey flanks and belly. Indicating a need for investigation of this species as well.
It was time to go. We descended to the lowlands via a site for Grasshopper Sparrow, which we easily saw. Then a late lunch, followed by the drive to Cano Honda, on the edge of the  Los Haitises National Park in eastern Hispaniola. We were in search of the critically endangered Ridgway’s Hawk, a species that used to be widespread and common on Hispaniola. Direct persecution led to a disastrous decline, as the species was seen as the main predator of chickens; chickens being the much-loved national symbol of home and, needless to say, cock fighting. Threatening both home and a national sport rendered this hapless creature the subject of intense persecution over many decades. As a consequence, this endemic raptor is now virtually confined to Los Haitises National Park. However, a conservation program is attempting to establish a second population away from this isolated region. Entering the park with a park ranger, monitoring the nests of several pairs of this hawk we were treated to great views of a nesting pair. Hopefully, the irrational behaviour of a plague invasive species can be sufficiently tempered to save another threatened species from extinction. Another expression of hopeless optimism over grinding reality.
Exploring the area further we enjoyed final views of Hispaniolan Amazon, White-necked Ravens, Palmchats, Hispaniolan Woodpecker and numerous wintering warblers. After lunch we returned to Santo Domingo for the night, say farewell to the Dominican Republic and prepare for the next instalment in our Caribbean peregrinations.
Taking our flight to San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico we arrived in good time to get to Luquillo and enjoy a visit to the Cabezas de San Juan. We only really has time to find the lovely endemic Adelaide’s Warbler which was bird of the day, although more or less the only bird of the day. We also found the predatory Pearly-eyed Thrasher, several pairs of the lovely Puerto Rican Woodpecker and the introduced Monk Parakeet.

An early start found us heading to the El Yunque National Forest, in the Luquillo Mountains. This mountainous area protects are large area of verdant rainforest on the lower slopes of El Yunque, a peak that rises to 1065m. At higher elevations, palm and elfin forest dominates the highest peaks and ridges. A pre-dawn stop produced a stunning Puerto Rican Screech Owl which gave us unbeatable views. Working up into the park we quickly found more smart endemic Puerto Rican Woodpeckers and the drably garbed endemic Puerto Rican Tanager. This species has a superficial resemblance to the Chat-Tanagers but is neither a Chat-Tanager or a Tanager. It would be better called after its generic name; The Nesospingus. We also found the endemic Green Mango, Puerto Rican Emerald, Puerto Rican Tody, Puerto Rican Spindalis and noisy Puerto Rican Bullfinch in another endemic packed session. A second visit to the El Yunque state forest gave us the spectacular Puerto Rican Lizard-cuckoo that clambered about above us with a lizard held in its bill.
It was time to explore other areas of this spectacular island. An afternoon visit to the Reserva Nacional de Huamaco then gave us Puerto Rican Flycatcher and a spectacular pair of Mangrove Cuckoos. We then headed to the Aguirre and the Jobos Bay where we searched for and found Antillean Crested Hummingbird and Green-throated Carib on the many flowering shrubs in the area. These smart hummingbirds that are otherwise restricted to the Lesser Antilles where they are quite numerous.
We headed to La Parguera in the far southwest of the island to explore the arid habitats of the Cabo Rojo national reserve and nearby montane forests in the Maricao State Forest. On arrival to La Parguera, we headed to the mangroves for a great afternoon session. While waiting for the Yellow-shouldered Blackbirds to arrive we watched a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron and a pair of Clapper Rails copulating in the open. While this unexpected activity took place an Antillean Nighthawk displayed overhead. This was then nicely complemented with several large flocks of Yellow-shouldered Blackbird flying into roost. We then headed to the hills and a nice area of tall dry forest. Here several Puerto Rican Nightjars called from the ridge tops around us but would not budge from their favoured perches. After, dark they began to venture out to hunt and one landed in the open, giving excellent views to all.

The following morning, we headed north to the Mariaco State forest. We were within 2km of our first site when the narrow mountain road was blocked by a gigantic truck that had broken down. It seemed utterly impossible that such a vehicle could have negotiated the narrow sinuous route from the coast to these montane forests but there it was. It did hold us up but only for an hour or so before we were on our way to the somewhat degraded state forest. After some searching, we found several Puerto Rican Vireos and, eventually, a couple of the rare Elfin Woods Warbler, a species that was only discovered in 1971 in elfin forest in the Luquillo Mountains. Well, that was more or less it and time to go.
After lunch at the 101oeste, we headed to the Cabo Rojo National reserve. This is an area of dry woodland dominated by the spiny Vachellia macrantha (previously Acacia macrantha) and a variety of endemic cacti species. These forests provided great views of the Adelaide’s Warber, Puerto Rican Flycatcher and Caribbean Eleania. Nearby salt pans and sandy shorelines gave us an opportunity to watch large numbers of waders, including Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, American Golden and Black-bellied Plovers, Turnstones, a lone Whimbrel and numerous Royal Terns, Little-blue and Tricoloured Herons, Snowy and Great Egrets and other species.

The following morning, we headed north to the Rio Abajo State Forest where Puerto Rican Amazons have been re-introduced, the population of which was decimated after Hurricanes Hugo and George. Arriving good and early we explored the forest along its maze of trails. Puerto Rican Lizard-cuckoo seemed to be common, along with Greater Antillean Bullfinch, and the stunning Red-legged Thrush, which must be one of the prettiest Thrushes. We quickly found the somewhat localised blancoi form of Greater Antillean Pewee, sometimes regarded as a separate species the rather prosaically named the Puerto Rican Pewee. Walking on, a Broad-winged Hawk passed in front of us and lifted over the canopy causing absolute havoc in the hitherto silent parrots. Several pairs of which erupted from the canopy all around us in a deafening chorus. Well, we saw quite a number of the critically endangered Puerto Rican Amazon and enjoyed excellent views as well. We knew where several birds were perched other pairs sitting and so finding them was now very easy.
Time to go and so we headed to Arecibo on the north coast. Arriving rather too late for any useful exploration we headed out for a celebratory meal at a nearby eatery. This was the end of a very enjoyable and highly successful tour with a great group. We just had one final morning to fill and devoted that to visiting the Cambaleche State Forest, which was quiet, although the Puerto Rican Lizard Cuckoos were out in force. As much of the group had remarked that they had not seen Least Bittern, we headed out to a favoured location for this, often elusive, croaking reed-creeper. After a little bit of digital coaxing, one appeared and began to call and then another and then a third. In no time we had a chorus of Least Bitterns calling around us. One to our left, another to our right and a third in front of us. A great way to conclude business. We then returned to San Juan airport, where the main tour ended.

Next on our travels were the Cayman Islands. Perhaps not the most obvious destination but certainly a very enjoyable destination to explore and one packed with endemic taxa, many of which will surely be recognised a full species in the not-too-distant future. Again, a spectacular combination of endemics, passage migrants and wildlife spectacles! Recent taxonomic revision has elevated the insular form of Cuban Bullfinch to a full species, the Grand Cayman Bullfinch. This gives two currently recognised endemic species for the islands, for which attention has been notable only by its absence. A brief scrutiny of the island’s avifauna reveals that there are in fact 17 endemic taxa on the three islands, with a number of clear candidates for elevation to full species status in the very near future.
On arrival, after a rapid passage through an easy, friendly immigration and customs followed by a quick lunch, we headed to the Queen Elizabeth Botanical Gardens in the centre of the island. As we worked our way around the gardens, we quickly found the inquisitive Grand Cayman Bullfinch and caymanensis form of Cuban Amazon. The collaris form of Caribbean Dove was busily investigating tables in the restaurant for snacks along with Yucatan Vireo, Thick-billed Vireo, Caribbean Eleania, Western Spindalis and Greater Eleania Grackle all represented here by endemic subspecies. The nominate form of Vitelline Warbler took a little more time to find but it was soon added to our list of endemic taxa. The endemic form of Northern Flicker and West Indian Woodpecker then put in an appearance. These forms are both distinctive and highly disjunct, perhaps especially the West Indian Woodpecker. Time for the flycatchers and we quickly found both the Caribbean Eleania and La Sagra’s Flycatcher indicating the islands connection with Cuba and the Bahamas. Then, the caymanensis form of Loggerhead Kingbird descended upon us! The Loggerhead Kingbird taxon is so distinct it must be the subject of study somewhere. If not, I think I might tackle it. This form has a clear pale-yellow wash across the flanks and lower belly combined with a charcoal blackish grey head and greyish wings with pale edgings to the scapulars, secondaries and primaries. Additionally, the vocalisation is the most distinct of the forms observed in the Greater Antilles.
Next was the form sharpie of the well-known species, the Bananaquit. Well, this is totally different from the forms elsewhere in the Greater Antilles. It is quite a bit larger than the other taxa with a heavy decurved bill. Then, it has a whitish throat, with a broad white eye stripe. It also has a rounded tail with broad terminal spots on the retrices. The primary vocalisation bears no resemblance to that in other forms in the Caribbean and so……Anyone working on this? I guess not, as there are so many taxa within what is currently considered ‘The Bananaquit’ that no one wants the thankless task of dealing with it.
So, thirteen endemic taxa in less than two hours! Only two of which are currently considered full species, but….watch this space. We all know this is only heading in one direction. What an afternoon. So, we had a day in hand and decided to reorganise a little. It was at the last minute, but we booked flights to Cayman Brac for the remaining endemic taxa on the islands. Grand Cayman had far exceeded out expectations and delivered a highly memorable and indeed productive, afternoon’s birding.
I think it had been considered that a day or so on the Cayman Islands would be an easy and pleasant conclusion to our Greater Antilles endemics extravaganza. Wrong, wrong, wrong!  Up at 4.30 for our flight to Cayman Brac, where we had to arrange transport and find the relevant sites. As it happens, not only were the flights easily arranged, but so was vehicle hire. On arrival to the pleasantly dozy Cayman Brac, we drove to the Brac Parrot reserve where we set about searching for the three endemics on the island. The ‘Brac’ Amazon kept us entertained for a while as we watched several pairs playing about in the Red Birch trees. Not long after we connected with the crawfordi form of Vitelline Warbler. I had not realised this was also quite distinct from the nominate form found on Grand Cayman. More work required here, I think. Then, the coryiform of Red-legged Thrush, also endemic to Brac Cayman. Location of the, now extinct, Cayman Thrush. We connected with a pair of Thrushes which gave great views and then, that was that.

Time to try and arrange a boat trip. Unfortunately, the wind had picked up and although we could have taken a boat trip to Little Cayman, the boatman advised against it. It was a strong wind, and the sea was ‘choppy’, to say the very least, so we agreed to continue birding the island. The purpose of heading to Little Cayman was to see the huge Red-footed Booby colony (4800 pairs) and the endemic bangsi form of Greater Antillean Grackle that inhabits this tiny wind-swept islet.  However, it was not to be, and we had to settle for beachfront views of Red-footed and Brown Boobies returning to their colonies from Cayman Brac. It was also from this point that we could see several pairs of West Indian Whistling Ducks with young in the landward side lagoons. All while enjoying a few poolside drinks.

Our final morning gave us time to reacquaint ourselves with the endemic taxa found on Grand Cayman. First up the ‘Cayman’ Amazons, followed by several pairs of Grand Cayman Bullfinch, a couple of Vitelline Warblers, Yucatan Vireos and a spectacular West Indian Woodpecker that landed a few feet from us. The ‘Cayman’ Loggerhead Kingbirds were hunting lizards, as might Lizard Cuckoos elsewhere in the Caribbean, spiralling down tree trunks chasing their prey, a remarkable similarity in hunting strategy. Then it was time to head to the airport and the conclusion of a great tour. It was a great tour and, apart from the 110 endemic species and many other future endemic species, it was thanks to a great group that the tour went as well as it did.




1st   Crested Quail Dove – bobbing along the road in front of us.

2nd   Jamaican Blackbird – after a day-long search in thick fog.

3rd   Jamaican Owl – spectacular.

4th   Jamaican Tody – the first of four stunning Todies.

5th   Red-billed Streamertail – one of the most stunning hummers.


1st   Ashy-faced Owl – a stunning Owl that came and inspected us.

2nd   Bay-breasted Cuckoo – unbeatable views of what is normally a tough species.

3rd   La Selle Thrush – it performed.

4th   Western Chat-Tanager – this and other Calyptophilus species, creeping about in thickets.

5th   White-necked Crow – a characterful species with a highly memorable vocal repertoire.



1st   Puerto Rican Screech-Owl – a great pre-breakfast performance.

2nd   Puerto Rican Tanager – a group favourite.

3rd   Puerto Rican Amazon – at last recovering.

4th   Adelaide’s Warbler – a very pretty warbler.

5th   Puerto Rican Lizard-Cuckoo – that first sighting of a bird with a lizard.


1st   Grand Cayman Bullfinch – a recent split.

2nd   Vitelline Warbler – a very pretty warbler.

3rd   Cuban (Brac) Amazon – they put on quite a show for us.

4th   Western Spindalis – a very pretty member of the genus.

5th   West Indian Woodpecker – it landed 3.5m from us to see what we were up to.



The species and family sequence, taxonomy and species names follow the I.O.C. World Bird List which is available on-line at www.worldbirdnames.org/. Taxa which are split by the author of the principal field guide, but not by IOC, are noted.

Species given following status categories, assessed by the IUCN. Near threatened, Vulnerable, Endangered, Critically endangered.

Where species names followed by the diamond symbol (◊) indicated they are either endemic to the country, are range restricted or considered ‘special’ birds for some other reason (e.g., only seen on one or two Birdquest tours, are difficult to see across all or most of its range, the local form is endemic or restricted-range and may in future be treated as a full species. NB: This is particularly true of Caribbean taxa, many of which have not been studied in detail.

If recorded in Jamaica, Hispaniola, or Puerto Rico indicated as follows with (J), (H), and (P) respectively. If recorded in the Cayman islands indicated with (C). (i) indicates introduced taxon.



West Indian Whistling Duck ◊ Dendrocygna arborea (J) 44 near Lacovia was exceptional, (C) Numerous on Cayman Brac and Grand Cayman. The Cayman Islands is the best place to see this species, as it is not hunted.

Blue-winged Teal Spatula discors (J) Seen Elim pools and Portland, (H) A few at Cabo Rojo lagoons, (C) Common on Cayman Brac.

White-cheeked Pintail (Bahama Pintail) Anas bahamensis (H) A few at Cabo Rojo lagoons and near Santo Domingo, (P) Several Cabo Rojo.

Masked Duck Nomonyx dominicus (J) 3 at Old Harbour Bay.

Helmeted Guineafowl (i) Numida meleagris (H) Commonly seen and heard. As is, of course, the Indian Jungle Fowl and Peacock.

Antillean Nighthawk ◊ Chordeiles gundlachii (H) First of the year near Barahona, (P) A spectacular display from a newly arrived bird near La Parguera.

Least Poorwill ◊ Siphonorhis brewsteri (H) Heard at Barrancoli camp and seen near Barahona.

Hispaniolan Nightjar ◊ Antrostomus ekmani (H) Heard at Zapoten and seen near Barahona.

Puerto Rican Nightjar ◊ Antrostomus noctitherus (P) Seen above Parguera, where common. Up to 8 heard at this site and several outside our hotel.

Northern Potoo Nyctibius jamaicensis (J) Endemic nominate. A roosting bird seen at Marshall’s Pen.

White-collared Swift Streptoprocne zonaris (J) Seen Marshall’s Pen and Portland.

Antillean Palm Swift ◊ Tachornis phoenicobia (J) Fairly common, (H) Common.

Jamaican Mango ◊ Anthracothorax mango (J) Seen near Lacovia and Marshall’s Pen.

Hispaniolan Mango ◊ Anthracothorax dominicus (H) Commonly found at Kate’s Camp.

Puerto Rican Mango ◊ Anthracothorax aurulentus (P) Several noted at the Carguas Botanical gardens.

Green Mango ◊ Anthracothorax viridis (P) 2 seen very well in El Yunque State forest.

Green-throated Carib ◊ Eulampis holosericeus (P) 1 seen very well in Aguirre.

Vervain Hummingbird ◊ Mellisuga minima (J) Endemic nominate form. A lekking group seen Marshall’s Pen, (H) Seen Zapoten.

Hispaniolan Emerald ◊ Riccordia swainsonii (H) Common at Kate’s camp and Zapoten.

Puerto Rican Emerald ◊ Riccordia maugaeus (P) El Yunque and Mariaco State Forests,

Antillean Crested Hummingbird ◊ Orthorhyncus cristatus (P) Several seen in Aguirre. The form here has an entirely green forehead and crown.

Red-billed Streamertail ◊ Trochilus polytmus (J) Common Marshall’s pen and Hardwar Gap.

Black-billed Streamertail ◊ Trochilus scitulus (J) Common Ecclesdown road

Smooth-billed Ani Crotophaga ani (J) Common Black morass, (H), (P), (C) Common.

Mangrove Cuckoo Coccyzus minor (J) Elim pools, (H) Common Pedernales, (P) Several seen of the darker form.

Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo ◊ Coccyzus Pluvialis (J) One Marshall’s Pen and another Eccelsdown road.

Bay-breasted Cuckoo ◊ Coccyzus rufigularis (H) A superb pair at Rabo de Gato, another at La Placa and a single bird near Barahona at a new site for the species.

Jamaican Lizard Cuckoo ◊ Coccyzus vetula (J) Marshall’s pen, Eccelsdown road and Hardwar gap.

Puerto Rican Lizard Cuckoo ◊ Coccyzus vieilloti (P) Seen El Yunque with a small lizard. Commoner on the coast near Arecibo.

Hispaniolan Lizard Cuckoo ◊ Coccyzus longirostris (H) Rather numerous at Rabo de Gato.

Rock Dove (i) Columba livia  Yes.

White-crowned Pigeon Patagioenas leucocephala (J) Fairly common, (H) Common above Pedernales, (P) common, (C) Common.

Scaly-naped Pigeon ◊ Patagioenas squamosa (H) A few at Puerto Escondido, (P) Very common throughout the island.

Ring-tailed Pigeon ◊ Patagioenas caribaea (J) Seen Cockpit country, Eccelsdown road, and Hardwar Gap. Remarkably common at the Hardwar Gap now. The population has markedly increased.

Plain Pigeon ◊ Patagioenas inornata (H) One or two at Rabo de Gato, (P) 1 seen near Caguas.

Eurasian Collared Dove (i) Streptopelia decaocto (J) Kingston, Barahona, (H) & (P) common.

Common Ground Dove Columbina passerine (J) jamaicensis, (H) insularis, (P) portoricensis Common, (C) Common.

Crested Quail-Dove ◊ Geotrygon versicolor (J) Seen several times at Hardwar Gap. Several more heard.

Ruddy Quail-Dove Geotrygon montana (J) Marshall’s pen, (H) Heard Pedernales, 2 Cano Honda.

White-fronted Quail-Dove ◊ Geotrygon leucometopia (H) One seen Loma La Jo, near Barahona.

Key West Quail-Dove ◊ Geotrygon chrysia (H) A single bird seen briefly by most of the group above Pedernales. Others glimpsed and heard in the Sierra de Baharuco.

Caribbean Dove ◊ Leptotila jamaicensis (J) Endemic nominate. Marshall’s pen and elsewhere. (C) endemic subspecies collaris seen on Gran Cayman.

Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura (J) Common Kingston, (H) Common, (P) Common.

Zenaida Dove Zenaida aurita (J) Common, (H) Only in dry forest, (P) Very common, (C) Common.

White-winged Dove Zenaida asiatica (J) Common, (P) Abundant, (C) Common.

Clapper Rail Rallus crepitans [caribaeus] (J) Seen Portland, (P) A pair seen copulating and others heard at La Parguera.

Common Gallinule Gallinula galeata (J) Black Morass, (H). (P) and (C) commonly recorded.

American Coot Fulica americana (J) Seen Old Harbour Bay, (C) Seen Cayman Brac.

Purple Gallinule Porphyrio martinica (J) Black Morass.

Limpkin Aramus guarauna (J) 1 Black Morass, (H) Heard at Kate’s Camp and Los Haitises. On Hispaniola, a forest bird that feeds on terrestrial snails.

Least Grebe Tachybaptus dominicus (J) Seen Marshalls pen and Old Harbour Bay,

Pied-billed Grebe Podilymbus podiceps (P) Seen at several localities, (C) A few.

American Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber (H) 45 at Laguna Oviedo.

American Oystercatcher Haematopus palliatus (P) A pair near Luquillo.

Black-necked Stilt Himantopus mexicanus (J) Elim Pools, (H) A few at Cabo Rojo lagoons.

Grey Plover (Black-bellied P) Pluvialis squatarola (P) A few seen at Cabo Rojo.

American Golden Plover Pluvialis dominica (P) A small number seen at Cabo Rojo. One of few write-ins.

Killdeer Charadrius vociferus (J) Elim pools, (H) A few at Cabo Rojo lagoons.

Semipalmated Plover Charadrius semipalmatus (J) Seen Portland, (C) Up to twenty Colliers pond, Gran Cayman

Northern Jacana Jacana spinosa (J) endemic form violacea. Common, (H) A few at Cabo Rojo lagoons.

Hudsonian Whimbrel Numenius hudsonicus (P) One Cabo Rojo.

Short-billed Dowitcher Limnodromus griseus (H) Up to 25 at Cabo Rojo lagoons, (P) Cabo Rojo.

Spotted Sandpiper Actitis macularius (J) A few noted, (H) A few at Cabo Rojo lagoons, (P) Also.

Solitary Sandpiper Tringa solitaria (C) Seen Cayman Brac.

Lesser Yellowlegs Tringa flavipes (H) A couple at Cabo Rojo lagoons, (P) Cabo Rojo.

Willet (Eastern W) Tringa [semipalmata] semipalmata (J) Seen Portland, (H) A few along the coast, (C) One near airport.

Greater Yellowlegs Tringa melanoleuca (H) A single bird at Cabo Rojo lagoons, (P) large numbers Cabo Rojo.

Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres (P) Cabo Rojo.

Least Sandpiper Calidris minutilla (J) A small flock at Elim pools, (C) Several small flocks.

White-rumped Sandpiper Calidris fuscicollis (H) A single bird at Cabo Rojo lagoons, (P) Cabo Rojo.

Western Sandpiper Calidris mauri (J) Seen Portland,

Semipalmated Sandpiper Calidris pusilla (H) A few at Cabo Rojo lagoons, (P) Cabo Rojo.

Least Tern Sternula antillarum (H) About thirty at Laguna Oviedo. Ever harder to find.

Gull-billed Tern Gelochelidon nilotica (P) Cabo Rojo.

Cabot’s Tern Thalasseus acuflavidus (J) Common near Kingston, (P) A few seen Aguirre.

Royal Tern Thalasseus maximus (J) A few near Kingston, (H) Barahona, (P) Common Cabo Rojo.

Laughing Gull Leucophaeus atricilla (J) Abundant near Kingston, (H) Barahona,

White-tailed Tropicbird Phaethon lepturus (H) 25 or so at Cabo Rojo, (C) Common on Cayman Brac.

Magnificent Frigatebird Fregata magnificens (J) Several in Kingston, (C) Common on Cayman Brac.

Brown Booby Sula leucogaster (P) A few noted, (C) Common on Cayman Brac.

Red-footed Booby Sula sula(C) A couple of brown morph birds seen inshore on Cayman Brac. There is a colony of 4800 pairs C10km from where we saw them. This spectacular colony is on Little Cayman, which we could not visit because of a ‘choppy’ sea.

American White Ibis Eudocimus albus (J) A few near Kingston, (H) A few at Cabo Rojo lagoons.

Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus (J) Common Elim pools, (P) Common near Arecibo.

Least Bittern Ixobrychus exilis (P) Three seen very well at a favoured locality.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron Nyctanassa violacea (J) 1 Elim pools, (P) Parguera.

Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax (J) 1 Elim pools, (P) Parguera, (C) A couple.

Little Blue Heron Egretta caerulea (J) Common Elim pools, (P) Cabo Rojo, (C) A few.

Tricolored Heron Egretta tricolor (J) Elim pools, (H) one or two, (C) Common on Cayman Brac.

Reddish Egret Egretta rufescens (H) Three at Cabo Rojo lagoons.

Snowy Egret Egretta thula (J) Seen Old Harbour Bay, (H) A few at Cabo Rojo lagoons, (P) Cabo Rojo.

Green Heron Butorides virescens (J) A few Elim pools, (P) Parguera, (C) Common on Cayman Brac.

Western Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis (J), (H), (P) abundant

Great Egret (American G E) Ardea [alba] Egretta (J) A few Elim pools and Old Harbour Bay, (H) A few at Cabo Rojo lagoons, (P) Cabo Rojo.

Great Blue Heron Ardea Herodias (J) A few Elim pools, (P) Cabo Rojo. (C) One at Westerly pools.

Brown Pelican Pelecanus occidentalis (J) A few around Kingston, (H) a few, (P) Cabo Rojo.

Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura (J) Abundant, (H) a few, (P) Cabo Rojo.

Osprey (American O) Pandion [haliaetus] carolinensis (P) Caguas Botanical gardens, (C) Two on Cayman Brac.

Sharp-shinned Hawk Accipiter striatus (H) Endemic nominate form. A single male above Pedernales and another above Ochoa. (P) One very briefly in the Mariaco state forest.

Ridgway’s Hawk ◊ Buteo ridgwayi (H) A pair at the Altos de Cano Honda.

Broad-winged Hawk Buteo platypterus (P) A single bird seen in the Abajo state forest.

Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis (J) Seen near Marshall’s Pen, (H) An adult bird above Pedernales, (P) More numerous.

Ashy-faced Owl ◊ Tyto glaucops (H) Heard Kate’s camp, seen La Cienaga.

Burrowing Owl Athene cunicularia (H) A single bird found near Pedernales.

Jamaican Owl ◊ Asio grammicus (J) A superb bird seen at Marshall’s Pen. Young birds heard Port Antonio.

Puerto Rican Owl ◊ Gymnasio nudipes (P) Seen superbly well in El Yunque forest.

Hispaniolan Trogon ◊ Priotelus roseigaster (H) Common Zapoten and Ochoa.

Belted Kingfisher Megaceryle alcyon (J) A few noted, (H) One at Cabo Rojo lagoons.

Broad-billed Tody ◊ Todus subulatus (H) Common to abundant at Rabo de Gato,

Narrow-billed Tody ◊ Todus angustirostris (H) A few at Rabo de Gato and at Zapoten.

Jamaican Tody ◊ Todus todus (J) Common at Marshall’s pen, Eccelsdown road and Hardwar Gap.

Puerto Rican Tody ◊ Todus mexicanus (P) El Yunque on…..

Antillean Piculet ◊ Nesoctites micromegas (H) Seen above Puerto Escondido and at Zapoten.

Puerto Rican Woodpecker ◊ Melanerpes portoricensis (P) Common

West Indian Woodpecker Melanerpes superciliaris caymanensis (C) Endemic subspecies. Common Gran Cayman. This is a quite distinct form.

Hispaniolan Woodpecker ◊ Melanerpes striatus (H) Commonly seen at Rabo de Gato,

Jamaican Woodpecker ◊ Melanerpes radiolatus (J) Common Marshall’s pen and elsewhere.

Northern Flicker Colaptes auratus gundlachi(C) Endemic subspecies. Seen on Gran Cayman.

American Kestrel Falco sparverius (J) Fairly common, (H) Commonly seen,

Merlin Falco columbarius (J) One seen along Eccelsdown road, (P) One Cabo Rojo and another near Arecibo.

Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus (H) A single bird hunting Stilts at Cabo Rojo.

Monk Parakeet (i) Myiopsitta monachus (P) Common

White-winged Parakeet (i) Brotogeris versicolurus (P) While others slept, a leader only sighting of a few from the vehicle.

Cayman (Cuban) Amazon ◊ Amazona leucocephala caymanensis  (C) Endemic subspecies. Common on Gran Cayman. Likely a full species; the Cayman Amazon.

Brac (Cuban) Amazon ◊ Amazona leucocephala hesterna  (C) Endemic subspecies. Common on Cayman Brac. A distinctive taxon but perhaps not a full species.

Black-billed Amazon ◊ Amazona agilis (J) Seen Cockpit country and Eccelsdown road.

Yellow-billed Amazon ◊ Amazona collaria (J) Seen Cockpit country and Eccelsdown road.

Hispaniolan Amazon ◊ Amazona ventralis (H) Fairly common around Kate’s camp.

Puerto Rican Amazon ◊ Amazona vittata (P) About 12 seen in the Rio Abajo state forest. A critically endangered species that seems to be finally recovering from decimation, inflicted by the last hurricane.

Orange-winged Amazon (i) Amazona amazon (J) One seen in Kingston. Another escapee.

Olive-throated Parakeet (Jamaican P) Eupsittula nana (J) Common at Marshall’s pen and elsewhere, (H) A few at Rabo de Gao.

Hispaniolan Parakeet ◊ Psittacara chloropterus (H) Small flocks above Pedernales.

Jamaican Myiopagis (Elaenia) ◊ Myiopagis cotta (J) Seen at Marshall’s pen, where an unobtrusive species of secondary growth and tall scrub.

Caribbean Elaenia ◊ Elaenia martinica (P) Cabo Rojo, where common, (C) Common. Here an endemic subspecies.

Greater Antillean Elaenia ◊ (Large Jamaican E) Elaenia [fallax] fallax (J) Heard only. This seems to be a very uncommon species. It descends to the lowlands in the northern winter and can be hard to find when returning in Spring.

Greater Antillean Elaenia ◊ (Hispaniolan E) Elaenia [fallax] cherriei (H) Seen above Zapoten.

Hispaniolan Pewee ◊ Contopus hispaniolensis (H) Several seen at Rabo de Gato,

Jamaican Pewee ◊ Contopus pallidus (J) Seen Marshall’s pen and Hardwar Gap.

Lesser Antillean (Puerto Rican) Pewee ◊ Contopus [latirostris] blancoi (P) Endemic subspecies. This is often considered a separate species.

Grey Kingbird Tyrannus dominicensis (J) Suddenly appeared in numbers at Marshall’s pen, (H) Fairly common, (P) & (C) common.

Loggerhead Kingbird ◊ (Jamaican K) Tyrannus [caudifasciatus] jamaicensis (J) Common.

Loggerhead Kingbird ◊ (Puerto Rican K) Tyrannus [caudifasciatus] taylori (P) Not common.

Loggerhead Kingbird ◊ (Hispaniolan K) Tyrannus [caudifasciatus] gabbii (H) Localised. A pair above Puerto Escondido at another at La Placa (Charco Azul), several at Zapoten.

Loggerhead Kingbird ◊ (Cayman K) Tyrannus [caudifasciatus] caymanensis (C) Seen on Gran Cayman and Cayman Brac. Endemic subspecies. This having dark ash grey head, pale underparts with distinct yellow wash to belly and flanks.

Sad Flycatcher ◊ Myiarchus barbirostris (J) Common Marshall’s pen and elsewhere.

Rufous-tailed Flycatcher ◊ Myiarchus Validus (J) Fairly common at Marshall’s pen.

Stolid Flycatcher ◊ (Hispaniolan S F) Myiarchus [stolidus] dominicensis (H) Common at Kate’s camp.

Stolid Flycatcher ◊ (Jamaican S F) Myiarchus [stolidus] stolidus (J) Seen Portland, where quite numerous.

La Sagra’s Flycatcher ◊ Myiarchus sagrae (C) Common in open dry woodlands.

Puerto Rican Flycatcher ◊ Myiarchus antillarum (P) Common

Jamaican Becard ◊ Pachyramphus niger (J) Common Marshall’s pen.

Black-whiskered Vireo Vireo altiloquus (J) Abundant, (H) & (P) Very common,

Yucatan Vireo ◊ Vireo magister caymanensis(C) Common on Gran Cayman. Endemic subspecies.

Thick-billed Vireo ◊ Vireo crassirostris alleni (C) Common on Gran Cayman and Cayman Brac. Endemic subspecies.

Yellow-throated Vireo Vireo flavifrons (P) Mariaco state forest. An uncommon winter visitor.

Blue Mountain Vireo ◊ Vireo osburni (J) Several heard and one seen Hardwar Gap. Also, Eccelsdown road.

Flat-billed Vireo ◊ Vireo nanus (H) Common at Rabo de Gato and Loma La Jo.

Jamaican Vireo ◊ Vireo modestus (J) Common at Marshall’s pen and elsewhere.

Puerto Rican Vireo ◊ Vireo latimeri (P) Mariaco and Abajo state forests.

Hispaniolan Palm Crow ◊ Corvus palmarum (H) A few seen in the Sierra de Baharuco.

Jamaican Crow ◊ Corvus jamaicensis (J) Marshall’s pen and Cockpit country.

White-necked (Raven) Crow ◊ Corvus leucognaphalus (H) Common around Rabo de Gato. This is a species that looks like a Raven rather than a crow.

Palmchat ◊ Dulus dominicus (H) Abundant.

Sand Martin (Bank Swallow) Riparia riparia (J) Seen at Old Harbour bay.

Golden Swallow ◊ Tachycineta euchrysea (H) Seen above Zapoten.

Caribbean Martin ◊ Progne dominicensis (H) 3 seen Puerto Escondido and Cabo Rojo, (P) common.

Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica (J) Seen at Elim pools and elsewhere, (H) A few at Cabo Rojo lagoons.

Cave Swallow Petrochelidon fulva (J) Endemic form poeciloma. Common Elim pools, (H) Endemic nominate form. Fairly common at Cabo Rojo.

Grey Catbird Dumetella carolinensis (H) A single bird heard above Pedernales, (C) Seen Gran Cayman.

Northern Mockingbird Mimus polyglottos (J) Common throughout, (H), (P) & (C) Fairly common.

Bahama Mockingbird ◊ Mimus gundlachii (J) Endemic form hillii. Seen Portland ridge area, where common.

Pearly-eyed Thrasher ◊ Margarops fuscatus (P) Common.

Rufous-throated Solitaire ◊ Myadestes genibarbis (J) Endemic form solitarius. Common at Hardwar Gap, (H) Common Zapoten and elsewhere high in the Sierras.

Bicknell’s Thrush ◊ Catharus bicknelli (H) Several seen very well near Barahona in the eastern Sierra de Baharuco.

Red-legged Thrush ◊ (Eastern R-l T) Turdus [plumbeus] ardosiaceus (H) Widespread and fairly common, (P) Very common.

Red-legged Thrush ◊ (Western R-l T) Turdus [plumbeus] coryi (C) Common on Cayman Brac, where it is an endemic subspecies.

White-chinned Thrush ◊ Turdus aurantius (J) Common at Marshall’s pen and abundant at Hardwar Gap.

White-eyed Thrush ◊ Turdus jamaicensis (J) Commonly seen at Marshall’s pen.

La Selle Thrush ◊ Turdus swalesi (H) Several heard and one seen Zapoten.

House Sparrow (i) Passer domesticus (J), (H), (P) OK.

Village Weaver (i) Ploceus cucullatus (H) OK.

Bronze Mannikin (i) Spermestes cucullate (P) OK.

Scaly-breasted Munia (i) Lonchura punctulate (J) OK

Tricolored Munia (i) Lonchura malacca (P) OK.

Hispaniolan Crossbill ◊ Loxia megaplaga (H) Small numbers in the Sierra de Baharuco.

Antillean Siskin ◊ Spinus dominicensis (H) Seen at Rabo de Gato, a flock of 100+ near Puerto Escondido.

Hispaniolan Euphonia ◊ Chlorophonia musica (H) A pair near Puerto Escondido, another at Zapoten.

Jamaican Euphonia ◊ Euphonia Jamaica (J) Common Marshall’s pen and Eccelsdown road.

Grasshopper Sparrow Ammodramus savannarum (J) Endemic nominate form. Recorded near Marshall’s Pen, (H) Endemic form intricatus. A pair at Rancho Arriba in the central Cordillera.

Rufous-collared Sparrow Zonotrichia capensis antillarum (H) Endemic subspecies. Recorded at Hacienda Landestoy above Ochoa. A decidedly disjunct taxon of what is a widespread neotropical species. This form has a very distinctive vocalisation that is more complex, structurally different and quieter than Andean populations. Additionally, it has very specific habitat preference: old secondary growth or humid montane forests and not farmland or urban areas as is the case in South America.

Western Chat-Tanager ◊ Calyptophilus tertius (H) Several birds heard and seen at Zapoten. A lover (philus) of hidden places (calypto).

Eastern Chat-Tanager ◊ Calyptophilus frugivorous frugivorus (H) Nominate form found above Ochoa. This is a form quite distinct from that recently discovered in the eastern Sierra de Baharuco. It is more ‘cleanly’ plumaged, with a clear white throat, greyish underparts and dark olive brown upperparts.

‘Eastern’ Chat-Tanager ◊ Calyptophilus frugivorous sub sp nov (H) This recently discovered and, as yet un-described subspecies was recorded above Cabral in the eastern Cordillera Baharuco. This form is less cleanly plumaged, with olive green upper parts with a dull whitish throat and more brownish belly and flanks.

Black-crowned Palm-tanager ◊ Phaenicophilus palmarum (H) Common.

Green-tailed (Microligea) Warbler ◊ Microligea palustris (H) Common Zapoten. NB: This very distinctive species is not a warbler or a tanager. Likewise, the following species is not a Tanager, highland or otherwise.

White-winged (Xenoligea) Warbler ◊ Xenoligea montana (H) Common Zapoten. NB: This is not at all like a Warbler or a Tanager, but it does look and behave a bit like a Warbling-finch.

Puerto Rican (Nesospingus) Tanager ◊ Nesospingus speculiferus (P) El Yunque. NB: Not a Tanager.

Hispaniolan Spindalis ◊ Spindalis dominicensis (H) Common Zapoten.

Puerto Rican Spindalis ◊ Spindalis portoricensis (P) El Yunque, Mariaco state forest.

Jamaican Spindalis ◊ Spindalis nigricephala (J) Fairly common.

Western Spindalis ◊ Spindalis zena salvini  (C) Common. Another likely spit. Quite distinct from the form found on the Bahamas, with which it currently considered conspecific. Endemic subspecies.

Jamaican Oriole ◊ Icterus leucopteryx (J) Endemic nominate form. Seen Marshall’s pen and Eccelsdown road.

Venezuelan Troupial (introduced) Icterus icterus (P) Aguirre, Parguera,

Puerto Rican Oriole ◊ Icterus portoricensis (P) El Yunque,

Hispaniolan Oriole ◊ Icterus dominicensis (H) Small numbers at Kate’s camp,

Jamaican Blackbird ◊ Nesopsar nigerrimus (J) Searched for in thick fog and rain at Hardward gap. Once the favoured copse of mossy bromeliad ladened trees was located a pair was quickly found picking about in bromeliads. The pair was probably nest building. A tour highlight as a result of the climatic impediments to its being found on the day and notable time constraint.

Yellow-shouldered Blackbird ◊ Agelaius xanthomus (P) Common Parguera. A threatened species.

Shiny Cowbird Molothrus bonariensis (J) Increasing, (H) Present, (P) Present.

Greater Antillean Grackle ◊ Quiscalus niger (J) Endemic form crassirostris. Seen Elim pools, (H) Endemic nominate form. Small numbers throughout. Seen Puerto Escondido, (P) Abundant, (C) form caymanensis common on Gran Cayman. Endemic subspecies. We missed the endemic subspecies bangsi on Little Cayman because of bad weather.

Great-tailed Grackle Quiscalus mexicanus (J) Seen Kingston airport.

Ovenbird Seiurus aurocapilla (J) Marshall’s pen,

Worm-eating Warbler Helmitheros vermivorum (J) Several seen at Marshall’s pen.

Louisiana Waterthrush Parkesia motacilla (H) A single bird found at Los Haitises NP.

Northern Waterthrush Parkesia noveboracensis (H) One at Cabo Rojo lagoons, (P) Parguera,

Black-and-white Warbler Mniotilta varia (J) Marshall’s pen, (H), (P) & (C) Widespread,

Common Yellowthroat Geothlypis trichas (J) Seen Cockpit country and elsewhere.

Elfin Woods Warbler ◊ Setophaga angelae (P) An adult and an immature bird seen in the Mariaco state forest. Hard to find this year as they had already bred.

Arrowhead Warbler ◊ Setophaga pharetra (J) Not uncommon at Marshalls pen and Hardwar Gap.

American Redstart Setophaga ruticilla (J) common, (H), (P) & (C) Individuals seen every day.

Cape May Warbler Setophaga tigrine (H) The principal wintering grounds. Commonly seen throughout the island. (C) A couple noted.

Northern Parula Setophaga americana (J) A few Marshalls’ pen, (P) Mariaco state forest and elsewhere.

Mangrove Warbler (Golden W) Setophaga petechia (H) Endemic form albicollis. Several pairs at Cabo Rojo lagoons.

Blackpoll Warbler Setophaga striata (C) One on Cayman Brac.

Black-throated Blue Warbler Setophaga caerulescens (J) Seen Marshall’s pen, (H) Common.

Palm Warbler Setophaga palmarum (J) Several noted, (H) A few seen, (C) A few on Cayman Brac.

Pine Warbler Setophaga pinus (H) Endemic form chrysoleuca. Seen in the Sierra de Baharuco.

Yellow-throated Warbler Setophaga dominica (H) Seen in the Sierra de Baharuco.

Vitelline (Grand Cayman) Warbler ◊ Setophaga vitellini vitellini (C) Endemic subspecies. Common Gran Cayman.

Vitelline (Brac) Warbler ◊ Setophaga vitellini crawfordi (C) Quite distinct endemic subspecies. Common Cayman Brac.

Prairie Warbler Setophaga discolor (J) Seen near Elim pools,

Adelaide’s Warbler ◊ Setophaga adelaidae (P) Common on eastern end of the island.

Indigo Bunting Passerina cyanea (H) A single female seen near Kate’s camp.

(Jamaican) Bananaquit Coereba flaveola flaveola (J) Local race quite numerous.

(Hispaniolan) Bananaquit Coereba flaveola bananivora (H) Common to abundant.

(Puerto Rican) Bananaquit Coereba flaveola portoricensis (P) Abundant. Small taxon. Short bill. Dark grey throat.

(Cayman) Bananaquit Coereba flaveola sharpei (C) Very large and distinctive taxon. It has a large, curved bill with pale greyish-white throat and large terminal spots on the retrices. The vocalisation is also quite unique.

Yellow-faced Grassquit Tiaris olivaceus (J) Seen on feeders, (H) Common at Kate’s camp,

Orangequit ◊ Euneornis campestris (J) Common Marshall’s pen,

Grand Cayman BullfinchMelopyrrha taylori (C) Very common on Grand Cayman. Recently split from Cuban Bullfinch.

Puerto Rican Bullfinch ◊ Melopyrrha portoricensis (P) Common in El Yunque.

Greater Antillean Bullfinch ◊ Melopyrrha violacea (J) Common, (H) Endemic form affinis. A few seen.

Yellow-shouldered Grassquit ◊ Loxipasser anoxanthus (J) Seen Marshall’s pen,

Black-faced Grassquit Melanospiza bicolor (J) Seen at Cockpit country, (H) and (P) common.



Small Indian Mongoose (i) Urva auropunctata (J) An introduced pest that is decimating the native fauna. Very common in Jamaica.