Portland Ridge and Bight

Country/territory: Jamaica

IBA criteria met: A1, A2, A4i, B4i, B4ii (2007)
For more information about IBA criteria, please click here

Area: 42,829 ha

Site description (2007 baseline)
17044’ N; 77010 W The most southerly point of the island Portland Ridge, together with Hellshire Hills and Brazilletto Mountain, represents the largest remaining relatively intact dry limestone forests in Central America and the Caribbean. It is Ja-maica's largest protected area to date - he whole area is called The Portland Bight Protected Area, with a total area of 724 sq. miles (1876 km2) [see Conservation section below]. The protected area includes a marine section, Portland Bight, that encompasses all the area out to the 200 meter depth contour, as well as inshore mangroves. This latter is the Peake Bay Forest Reserve (516 ha) and part of the terrestrial section is Crown Lands (2271 ha).

Key biodiversity
This IBA is internationally important for the West Indian Whistling Duck Dendrocygna arborea (VU), the Plain Pigeon Patagioenas inornata (NT) and White-crowned Pigeon Patagioenas leucocephala (NT), as well as the restricted range (and endemic subspecies) Bahama Mockingbird Mimus gundlachi hillii. Other species include the three Myiarchus Flycatchers, and the Jamaican Lizard Cuckoo Coccyzus vetula . Portland Ridge dry forest may provide a critical resource for the Plain Pigeon, perhaps at a time when fruit abundance is low on other parts of the island. Given the globally significant number of Plain Pigeons that use this site, protection from further development should be a priority (Strong and Johnson, 2001). The Portland Bight cays are the only ones nearshore which host nesting colonies of a variety of seabirds, such as Brown Noddy Anous stolidus and the Magnificent Frigatebird Fregata magnificens; also the mangroves provide nesting locations for columbids and other species. Migrant shorebirds are numerous – the last reported sighting of the Piping Plover Charadrius melodus (NT) was in this location. The forest and surrounding areas are habitat for many terrestrial migrants.

Non-bird biodiversity: Many of the hillsides that appear as intact forests are in fact secondary forests. Jamaican dry for-ests are dominated by plants of the Rubiaceae Euphorbiaceae and Myrtaceae and have a high degree of endemism, of which several require special protection including species of Orchida-ceae and Cactaceae. No comprehensive vegeta-tion survey has been carried out, but due to pres-sures from recent fires and hurricanes, it is sus-pected that much may have been lost or at risk. Also, replanting of ‘bird-feeding trees’ by hunting clubs has created semi-monoculture in some ar-eas. The tree frog Eleutherodactylus cavernicola (CR) has only ever been found in 2 caves in Portland Ridge, while the Blue-tailed Galliwasp Celestus duquesneyi (IUCN DD 2004), last collected in Portland Ridge in the late 1930s, was rediscovered in Hellshire Hills in 1997, so it is possible it still exists here. Other endemics pre-sent in the area include the Jamaican Boa Epicrates subflavus (VU), and the Jamai-can Fruit-eating Bat Ariteus flavescens (VU); also two endemic Thunder snakes Tro-phidophis stullae and Trophidophis jamaicen-cis are entirely restricted to Portland Ridge. The area also houses caves of importance for “a diverse assemblage of late Pleistocene and Holo-cene vertebrate remains…” (McFarlane et al. 2002).

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Portland Ridge and Bight. Downloaded from on 28/11/2023.