Bluefields is a spectacularly scenic area of Jamaica. It is located on the south-west coast of the island in the parish of Westmoreland. The area was first settled by the Taino (Amerindians from the Orinoco Basin in Venezuela) around 650 A.D. Bluefields Bay is a large natural harbour and was visited by Henry Morgan the pirate and Governor of Jamaica in 1670 and also Captain Bligh of Mutiny on the Bounty and breadfruit fame in 1793.
Behind Bluefields Beach, a popular bathing area, there is a small area of wetland through which streams and The Bluefields River percolate.
The mountain range, with its limestone outcrops, rises steeply from the narrow coastal plain to 801 m. There are remnants of Pimento (Jamaican Allspice) plantations throughout the hilly areas. The fruit of this tree is very attractive to a wide range of birds.
Along the coast there are narrow stands of mangrove (mostly Red Mangrove Rhizophora mangle) that are important food and breeding areas for birds. All four species of mangrove found in Jamaica are present in the area. Rainfall in the area is in the range 100 – 300 cm per annum (Morrissey 1983).
This IBA, particularly the forested gullies, is important for the consistent range of endemics species (19) that inhabit the mountains. It is home to large populations of Jamaican Tody (Todus todus) and many Arrow-headed Warblers (Dendroica pharetra). There is a very strong presence of the Jamaican Becard (Pachyramphus niger) that nest here annually. Jamaican Elaenia (Myiopagis cotta) and Jamaican Pewee (Contopus pallidus) are frequently observed as are Rufous-tailed Flycatcher (Myiarchus validus) Sad Flycatcher (Myiarchus barbirostris) and Stolid Flycatcher (Myiarchus stolidus). Rufous-throated Solitaire (Myadestes genibabis) is sometimes heard at altitudes >300m during the winter period and White-eyed Thrush (Turdus jamaicensis) is present throughout the year above 250m.
The IBA attracts a wide range of winter migrants: warblers and shorebirds. Most common are Black-throated Blue (Dendroica caerulescens), American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla), North-ern Waterthrush (Seirus noveboracensis) and Ovenbird (Seirus aurocapillus). Other regularly sighted visitors, ones and twos only, are Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius). Of note among the less common warblers, is the Worm Eating Warbler (Helmitheros vermivorous) and Magnolia Warbler (Dendroica magnolia) which occur with good frequency each winter season. Occasionally observed warblers include Black-throated Green Warbler (Dendroica virens) and Chestnut-sided Warbler (Den-droica pensylvanica).
Wetland and shorebird populations in the area are fairly small. All common resident herons, egrets, gulls and terns occur in the area depending on the season. An influx of numbers is evident in the win-ter season. Small numbers of the more common visiting plovers and sandpipers also occur as does the Belted Kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon). Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) roosts in the area at night but appear to breed offshore on small mangrove islands to the west of the IBA
Non-bird biodiversity: There is a small population of the Jamaican Kite Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellinus) [IUCN, 2006 VU] present in the area. This is usually seen on the coastal plain. Other less common endemic butterflies include: Jamaican Admiral (Adelpha abyla), Thersites Swallowtail (Papilio thersites), Hewiston’s Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus antaeus), Butler’s Skipper (Astraptes jaira). The Jamaican Boa (Epicrates subflavus) [IUCN, 2006 VU] is said to occur in the limestone areas.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
There is though a degree of sensitization of local farming and fishing communities to the need for conservation through the Bluefields Peoples' Community Associa-tion. Local fishermen have formed a friendly society and have started to impose controls on illegal and poor fishing practices. The main threat to terrestrial habitat is illegal timber felling, slash and burn agri-culture and un-controlled housing development. Local fringing coral reef is deteriorating. There are still remnants of Pimento plantations on the mountainsides but these are largely derelict although still farmed by a few forest dwellers. Human habitation is mostly confined to the coastal plain and along-side the main road that leads from Cave along the ridge of the mountains.
Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
Historically the site is important as Philip Henry Gosse spent from 1844-846 studying flora and fauna in the area resulting in his two books; A Naturalist’s Sojourn in Jamaica 1844-1846, and Birds of Jamaica. During his stay he lodged at Bluefields Great House.
Bluefields IBA is not a protected area.
Habitat and land use
Bluefields is a rural area dependant on hill farming and fishing for the livelihoods of the local population. Bluefields IBA includes wet, mesic and dry forest on limestone and alluvium, with small rivers and seacoast. Its vegetation includes disturbed Broadleaf (secondary) forest and Open Dry Forest (Short) Shrubland. The former is extremely valuable habitat that is confined largely to deep, humid gullies which run down the mountain sides. Along the coast there are narrow stands of mangrove that are important food areas for birds. All four species of mangrove found in Jamaica are present.
The land in the area is mostly privately owned, with the exception of government owned beach/shoreline.
BirdLife International (2019) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Bluefields. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 15/12/2019.