Birds represent the most conspicuous terrestrial vertebrates on Jamaica. At least 64 of Jamaica's 67 resident breeding land birds have been reported from Cockpit Country, including 27 of the island's 28 endemic species. Several other human-introduced species and those species extending their geographic ranges naturally have become established along the periphery. The majority of Jamaica's resident birds occur across the island in suitable habitats and no species is endemic tož Cockpit Country. It is, however, the stronghold of the endemic Black-billed Parrot (Amazona agilis) and is the only region on the island where both species of endemic Amazona parrots occur sympatrically in significant numbers. The mid-elevation wet limestone forest of Cockpit Country is recognized as particularly important habitat for the endemic Ring-tailed Pigeon (Columba caribaea), Crested Quail Dove (Geotrygon versicolor) and Blue Mountain Vireo (Vireo osburni) (Raffaele et al. 1998). The Jamaican Blackbird (Nesopsar nigerrimus), considered by many Jamaican ornithologists to be the most endangered of endemic landbirds, occurs in isolated pockets of Cockpit Country, most notably in bottom lands and areas of high relative humidity. The Golden Swallow (Tachycineta euchrysea), an endemic sub-species, whose historical range included the Blue Mountains and central highlands, was last reported with certainty in 1989 in the Cockpit Country (Raffaele et al. 1989).
Windsor Research Centre has been training banders since 2002 and has an ongoing programme to band resident and migrant birds. Preliminary results and capture data are available on our searchable database.
Jamaica's endemic avifauna is associated most frequently with native habitat. Over 60% of endemic species are rare or absent in open disturbed areas, and about 30% utilize well-developed forests during the nesting season (Draft National Biodiversity Strategy 1999). Several species that nest in mid- and late-successional forest, however, extend their range into the lowlands and secondary-growth habitats during the winter months (outside the breeding season). This pattern is pronounced in the resident Plain Pigeon (Columba inornata), Greater Antillean Elaenia (Elaenia fallax) and Rufous-throated Solitaire (Myadestes genibarbis). Both Amazona parrot species, and particularly the Yellow-billed Parrot (A. collaria), display long-distance diurnal foraging movements from the interior to peripheral habitat during both breeding and non-breeding seasons. To what extent these movements indicate resource limitation in the interior or other preferences has not been ascertained. In fact, there are no species for which adequate ecological and demographic information exists to distinguish unsuitable, minimal and optimal resources and habitats and from which to base effective conservation management strategies.
A study of the endemic Amazona parrots, initiated in 1995, represents the only systematic study of resource and habitat requirements for any avian species in Cockpit Country (Koenig 1999, H. Davis 1999). While densities of parrots, particularly nesting Black-billed Parrots, are higher in edge than in interior forest, mortality rates due to predation by the endemic Yellow Boa (Epicrates subflavus) potentially renders secondary, regenerating edge habitat a sink for parrot populations (conversely, such habitat, with its proximity to human settlements and their associated mammalian pest species (rats), may represent beneficial habitat for this endangered boa). Comparison with less-disturbed interior forest suggests parrot mortality and survival rates are in equilibrium, as predicted for an evolutionarily-stable system. In this example of Black-billed Parrots, high densities of birds in edge habitat may be a misleading indicator of habitat quality and the consequent misidentification of critical habitat (see van Horne 1983). This finding emphasizes the need for in-depth studies of all threatened wildlife species, including intra- and interspecific interactions.
From the end of August to early May, migrants from North America join resident birds in all habitats. About 50 migrant land birds occur regularly in Jamaica, and another 30 are observed occasionally. Over 40 migrants have been observed in the Cockpit Country. Only a few migrants such as the Black-throated Green Warbler (Dendroica virens) overwinter chiefly in upland forests. Some migrants depend on well developed woodlands and therefore find an internationally important refuge in the Cockpit Country. Such species include the Black-throated Blue Warbler (Dendroica virens), Yellow-throated Warbler (D. dominica), Swainson's Warbler (Limnothylypis swainsoni), and the Louisiana Waterthrush (Seirus motacilla).
See our searchable database for those migrants we have netted at Windsor.
Species of economic importance include the parrots and parakeets (which are hunted for the pet trade, for food and because they are conspicuous agriculture pests) and the doves and pigeons (also hunted for food and sport). Endemic species attract bird watchers. Birds also serve as important pollinators and seed dispersers for native and commercially valuable crops; insectivores may serve as important control mechanisms for invertebrate pest species.
Birds have been identified as indicators of habitat quality, in part because they are frequently the most well-studied group. Because of their high visibility and attractiveness, birds are an important aspect for ecotourism. The near-100% representation of Jamaica's 28 endemic species is of particular interest for experienced birders.
Birds are of cultural importance because of the traditional interest in hunting and the pet trade.We value your feedback and comments: