The Bottom Line
A stunning birding destination in the midst of two pristine mountain ranges, Hardwar Gap is a site not to be missed by serious birders. The preserved habitat of the Blue and John Crown Mountains National Park is home to many of Jamaica's endemic birds, and while this location can be strenuous for novice birders or individuals with limited mobility, it is an exceptional birding hotspot in a country with many great birding areas.
- Home to several convenient, nature-oriented resorts.
- Quiet road and undisturbed habitat.
- Elevation is higher than most bothersome insects.
- Extremely difficult access drive with poor road conditions.
- No orientation or hospitality facilities along birding roads.
- Name: Hardwar Gap (pronounced "hardware")
- Location: Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park, St. Andrew Parish
- Size: N/A; national park is 200,000 acres
- Hours: N/A; best birding in the morning
- Suggested Birding Time: 6-10 hours
Guide Review - Hardwar Gap
The mature montane forest of Hardwar Gap provides outstanding birding habitat in the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park in eastern Jamaica. Getting to the best birding areas, however, can be a challenge, as the narrow access roads are subject to landslides, particularly after heavy rains. Because of the difficulty of the drive, which frequently involves heavy potholes and severe ruts, an experienced driver with a suitable vehicle is highly recommended. Once in the area, the best bird sightings are right along the road in the rich vegetation. Venturing off the road is not recommended, since sharp drop offs and the steep elevation can be treacherous.
The road through Hardwar Gap is paved but can be moderately difficult to walk due to changing elevation and the road's questionable conditions. Small side roads and private drives also offer isolated birding but are even more difficult terrain. The very difficulty of the area, however, ensures its isolation and rich avian diversity. A wide range of foliage, including tropical flowers, trees and ferns, attract many of Jamaica's endemic birds as well as other tropical species, and birders can easily spend a full day or two exploring Hardwar Gap in detail.
Because Hardwar Gap is at roughly 5,000 feet elevation, the weather tends to be cooler and less prone to pesky insect swarms, making a birding hike very enjoyable. The best sightings tend to occur in the morning, before rising temperatures and humidity create regular mist and light rains. Birders staying in nearby nature-oriented resorts can access the road most easily, while those staying further afield may need to leave their accommodations 2-3 hours early to take advantage of the best birding times as well as the best views of the mountains.
Climate, time of year and local conditions can all affect which birds are likely to be seen in Hardwar Gap, but species regularly sighted in the area include the crested quail-dove, American kestrel, Jamaican lizard cuckoo, chestnut-bellied cuckoo, Jamaican woodpecker, white-chinned thrush, Jamaican pewee, black-whiskered vireo, Jamaican elaenia, arrow-headed warbler and Greater Antillean bullfinch.