Land of Rastafari, reggae, and rampant endemism, Jamaica should be on every birder’s bucket list. Known locally as the “Rock”, Jamaica boasts more endemic bird species than any other island in the West Indies (yes, even Cuba!). The island’s 30 endemics include 4 endemic genera: Trochilus (the Red-billed and Black-billed Streamertail hummingbirds); Loxipasser (Yellow-shouldered Grassquit); Euneornis (Orangequit); and Nesopsar (Jamaican Blackbird). Endemics also include 2 vireos, 2 cuckoos, 2 parrots, 2 pigeons, 2 thrushes, and the incredibly lovable Jamaican Tody. Most of the island’s endemic birds are easy to find, and ample opportunities await for you to sip Jamaican rum (or Blue Mountain coffee) while streamertails obscure your vision. If endemic birds aren’t your cup of tea (in which case you might want to reexamine your priorities), then you can delight in Black-throated Blue Warblers practically landing in your lap. Just in case endemics are your cup of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, you can vacillate between the wintering warblers and the 19 endemic subspecies and 18 Caribbean endemics occurring on the island.
If birds aren’t your cup of tea (in which case you might want to just stay home), then prepare to experience the amazing natural history of this storied Caribbean island. Once submerged under an Eocene ocean, the island has alternately uplifted, flooded, and exploded to range from sea level to 7,400 feet. Escape the steamy lowlands to enjoy Crested Quail-Dove and Blue Mountain Vireo, or plunge to underwater bliss among the Port Royal and Portland Bight Cays. No matter where you go, keep your radar on for endemic reptiles, like the Jamaican turquoise anole, the Jamaican Ameiva lizard, and the Jamaican rock frog and forest frog.
Immerse yourself in the laid-back Jamaican culture. Spend some time in the water, exploring the reefs and marine life around the island. Visit the Bob Marley museum in New Kingston. The Caribbean Birding Trail also features caving opportunities.
The sun always shines in Jamaica! However, birders may want to avoid hurricane season (you probably would not see the sun during a hurricane), and you may want to come when the North American migrants are visiting, from about November through April.