Saturday, May 17, 2014

A Pair of Jamaican Near-Endemics

Jamaica has 28 endemic bird species, but several more are range restricted to only one or a few other Caribbean islands.

Vervain Hummingbird

For example, Vervain Hummingbird (Mellisuga minima) is range restricted to Jamaica and the island of Hispaniola (Haiti & the Dominican Republic). Vervain Hummingbird has the distinction of being the second smallest bird in the world, being only slightly larger than its sister species the Bee Hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae), a Cuban endemic.

Another Jamaican near-endemic is the Jamaican Oriole (Icterus leucopteryx).

Jamaican Oriole

This one really ought to be considered a Jamaican endemic since the only other place it occurs is the island of San AndrĂ©s, a small (57 km2) Columbian possession 800 km southwest of Jamaica.

Jamaican Oriole (a.k.a. "Baird's Banana-bird") also formerly occurred on the island of Grand Cayman; the last known individual was collected as a specimen by ornithologist James Bond on March 6, 1930.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Jamaica, West Indies

Jamaica is not a major birding destination, but because of family connections as well as a life long involvement with visiting and at one point residing and working on the island, it is one of my personal favourites. 

Streamertail (Jamaican endemic)

Studies of island biogeography have revealed that the more distant an island is away from its nearest neighbour, the fewer species will inhabit it and the greater will be its rate of endemism.  Jamaica illustrates this theory nicely: according to the Clements Checklist, a modest 327 bird species have been recorded in Jamaica of which 28 occur nowhere else in the world. That is an endemism rate of almost 10%.

Jamaican Woodpecker (Jamaican endemic)

With a land mass of a mere 11,000 km2 that is a high rate of endemism indeed. Consider that the Province of Ontario, which has a land mass of 100 times that of Jamaica has a bird endemism rate of 0%.

Sad Flycatcher (Jamaican endemic)

The pattern is similar across the islands of the Caribbean; a modest number of bird species to be encountered, but with comparatively high precinctivity.

Jamaican Crow (Jamaican endemic)

In addition to the large proportion of species that are unique to one particular island nation, there are a large number of regional endemics, native to only a few islands in the West Indies.

Arrowhead Warbler (Jamaican endemic)

Given the amount of time I have spent in Jamaica, you might think I would have seen all of the endemics by now, but alas I have not; Crested Quail-Dove, Jamaican Lizard-Cuckoo, Jamaican Pauraque (likely extinct), Jamaican Elaenia, Jamaican Vireo, Blue Mountain Vireo and Jamaican Blackbird have all eluded me so far. All the more reason for a return visit!

Jamaican Euphonia (Jamaican endemic)