The Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park (BJCMNP) is located in the eastern end of Jamaica and contains the island’s highest point: Blue Mountain Peak at 2,256 meters. The park is an impressive 101,802 acres and as the name suggests contains the Blue Mountains, John Crow Mountains, and one more range called the Port Royal Mountains.
One of the premier birding areas within the park is known as the “Hardwar Gap” region, where you can spot several of Jamaica’s endemics, including Jamaican Tody, Jamaican Woodpecker, Jamaican Pewee, Sad Flycatcher, Jamaican Becard, Blue Mountain Vireo, Jamaican Euphonia, Jamaican Spindalis, Jamaican Oriole, Jamaican Vireo, Jamaican Lizard Cukcoo, Jamaican Mango, Jamaican Owl, Jamaican Blackbird, and Red-billed Streamertail. The park is also home to the much less common Black-billed Streamertail, which is found only in eastern Jamaica.
The BJCMNP is also an important stopover and wintering site for migratory birds including Black-throated Blue and Green Warblers. A small percentage of the global Bicknell’s Thrush population is also known to winter here.
The park is co-managed by the non-profit group Jamaican Conservation Development Trust and tourism revenue is critical to helping fund park guards and other important conservation work. For that reason, be sure to stop at the Holywell Recreation Area as you enter the park and pay the small entrance fee. Here you can also ask how to hire a birdwatching guide (several of the park guards are trained in bird identification), or go on a community or coffee tour.
The park has fascinating history in that it was a refuge for the Maroons, escaped slaves fleeing from the Spanish-owned plantations when the British took the Caribbean island of Jamaica from Spain in 1655. They used the park’s rugged terrain to their advantage, learning how to survive and hide. There are Maroon communities in and around the park still today and they would love to share their people’s story with you.