Jamaica - Cruise Ship Birding from Montego Bay

Published by Jim Holmes (jfholmes AT ucdavis.edu)

Participants: Jim Holmes, Jim Holmes Sr.


My family and I went on a Carnival cruise that departed from New Orleans (Aug 11 - 18, 2019). We stopped in Montego Bay Jamaica on Aug 14. The information below would be useful for those arriving via cruise ship who wish to bird around the Montego Bay area.

Guides: We were self guided.

Timing of the trip: August is not the best to bird Jamaica (most go from January - April). It can be hot and birds get silent earlier in the day.

Field Guides: We used the field guide “Birds of the West Indies” by Herbert Raffaele and others, published in 2003. I had voice recordings from xeno-canto.

Weather & Clothing: This is at the beginning of the rainy season (although we had no rain). The weather was mostly sunny and warm.

Biting animals: We had no problems with any biting animals (mosquitos, snakes, etc).

Advice: There are several good areas that are a short distance from the Montego Bay cruise ship terminal including Whales Pond Road, Rocklands Bird Sanctuary and Montego Bay Sewage Ponds. We had originally booked a rental car with Efay car rental. Efay had agreed to meet us at the cruise terminal at 8:00am (time for us to disembark). Efay was not there with the car and eventually they informed me that they did not have a car for us (despite us clearly having a reservation). I would recommend not booking with Efay as they appear unreliable (and their Facebook page had plenty of complaints). We wasted about 50 minutes on the rental car debacle. Thus, we had to quickly find another mode of transportation. Taxis inside the terminal gates wanted a significant amount of $$$ to take us to the three sites (their starting request was $150 for two of us). As this is outrageous, you should walk out the cruise terminal gates and to the Alice Eldemire road. At this location (google map coordinates: 18.457807, -77.939096), we met up with "Johnson's Tours & Transportation JA". We would highly recommend them.

Johnson's Tours & Transportation
(876)408-4107, email: johno78 AT yahoo.com


Whales Pond Road: This road is essentially the continuing of Ramble Hill Road (which goes southeast from Bogue Road (main road). Whales Pond Road is about 5Km from the cruise ship terminal. Have your driver drop you off 1.2Km up (google map coordinates 18.428184, -77.914739) from the start of Whales Pond road and meet you at the junction of Whales Pond Road, Ramble Hill Road and Bowen Hill Road (google map coordinates: 18.436624, -77.915965). This way you can walk downhill along Whales Pond Road to where your driver is now waiting. This area has good forest and many of the Jamaican endemics. We saw Crested Quail Dove in the gully on the east side of the road. It responded to tape and was seen briefly.

eBird list for Whales Pond Road

Rocklands Bird Sanctuary: This is the famous Montego Bay bird location. it is about 10Km from the cruise ship terminal or 8 Km from Whales Pond Road.

Rocklands Bird Sanctuary web page

Fritz (the owner?) has set up a feeding station with seed (dove, grassquits) and sugar water (hummingbirds). There are also trails that you can walk. There is a fee for sitting and watching the hummingbirds and an additional fee to walk the trails. Streamertails will sit on your finger as you hold the sugar water. Fritz may have stakeouts for both Potoo and Jamaican Owl.

eBird list for Rocklands

Montego Bay Bay Sewage Ponds: These are the set of ponds along Bogue Road (about 2.5 Km from the cruise ship terminal and you go by them on your way to Whales Pond Road and Rocklands). During our stop, all the birds were essentially in the two most southern ponds. We parked at google map coordinates 18.441799, -77.927019 (I think this is a bus stop) and then walked north along the side of Bogue Road.

eBird list for Montego Bay Sewage Ponds

Once back on the cruise ship, we watched from the bow as we departed Montego Bay. Highlight was a Sandwich Tern which flew across the ship and fortunately perched on a buoy for distant photos.

Montego Bay Harbor area

Species Lists

Numbers and Specific Locations in the eBirds lists linked above.
Ruddy Duck
White-crowned Pigeon
Common Ground Dove
Crested Quail-Dove - one along Whales Pond Road
Caribbean Dove - Rocklands
White-winged Dove
Smooth-billed Ani - Rocklands entrance road
Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo
Antillean Palm-Swift
Jamaican Mango - Rocklands
Vervain Hummingbird - Whales Pond Road
Streamertail - Rocklands
Common Gallinule
American Coot
Black-necked Stilt
Ruddy Turnstone
Solitary Sandpiper
Lesser Yellowlegs
Laughing Gull
Royal Tern
Sandwich Tern - harbor as we were departing Montego Bay
Magnificent Frigatebird
Brown Pelican
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Cattle Egret
Turkey Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk
Jamaican Woodpecker
American Kestrel
Rufous-tailed Flycatcher
Gray Kingbird
Loggerhead Kingbird
Jamaican Vireo - Whales Pond Road
Black-whiskered Vireo
Northern Mockingbird
White-chinned Thrush - Rocklands
Jamaican Oriole - Whales Pond Road
Greater Antillean Grackle
Arrowhead Warbler - Whales Pond Road
Yellow-faced Grassquit
Yellow-shouldered Grassquit
Black-faced Grassquit