The Bottom Line
Birding Abbey Green Estate in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica is a unique experience not only to see many of this country's beautiful birds, but also to see an operating tropical coffee plantation. Birders who spend time at Abbey Green will come to realize just how vital sustainable cultivation is to tropical and migrant birds.
- Unique opportunity to observe birds in a tropical coffee plantation.
- Transition vegetation from plantation to forest offers diverse habitats.
- Periodic coffee harvests disrupt birding.
- Radnor Road access can be slippery and steep.
- Long drive to access the plantation is difficult.
- Name: Abbey Green Estate
- Location: St. Thomas Parish, Jamaica
- Size: N/A
- Hours: N/A, morning hours are preferable
- Suggested Birding Time: 3-5 hours
Guide Review - Abbey Green
Birding Abbey Green Estate in eastern Jamaica is a unique experience that can heighten a birder's awareness not only of the bird diversity of Jamaica, but also of the necessity for sustainable coffee plantations throughout the world. Situated at nearly 5,000 feet elevation in the Blue Mountains, Abbey Green is one of the country's most exclusive coffee plantations, and it offers birders an unusual perspective of birding in a working plantation. Because of the elevation the weather can be cooler than other birding destinations in Jamaica, yet the mountains can also make weather patterns and daily changes unpredictable. Birders should visit the area prepared for both sun and rain as necessary with sunblock and rain gear.
Access to Abbey Green is easiest when arranged through the Forres Park Nature Resort & Spa – the resort's owners are also the owners of Abbey Green and can arrange for experienced drivers and expert guides familiar with the bird life of the estate. The drive to the estate is challenging and involves narrow, winding dirt roads that can be hazardous in poor weather. Where the vegetation is thick along those roads, however, the birding can be exemplary. Walking can be difficult as the roads, particularly Radnor Road, one of the main access routes, have steep sections composed of shale and other loose rocks that can make footing treacherous, particularly after rain or heavy fog.
The biggest difficulty with birding Abbey Green, because it is an active plantation, is harvest activity can severely diminish the likelihood of seeing many bird species. The best time to visit the plantation, then, is when the coffee beans are ripening but not quite yet ready for harvest – many birds will be feeding on the crop without harvest activities to dissuade them. Harvests on the large estate are staggered in different fields, so there are always fields at different levels of maturity to consider for a birding expedition.
The exact species seen on a visit to Abbey Green Estate will vary based on the weather, time of day and proximity to the coffee harvest in each area of the estate, but species often seen include the vervain hummingbird, chestnut-bellied cuckoo, rufous-throated solitaire, crested quail dove, ring-tailed pigeon, white-collared swift, grey kingbird, white-eyed thrush and arrow-headed warbler. In spring and fall, neotropical migrants may also visit Abbey Green and can make birding the area even more rewarding.