Hellshire Hills

Country/territory: Jamaica

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

Area: 9,399 ha

Site description (2007 baseline)
17053’ N; 76057’ W. Hellshire Hills, together with Portland Ridge and Brazilletto Mountain, is part of the largest remaining relatively intact dry limestone forests in Central America and the Caribbean. The whole area is called The Portland Bight Protected Area, it is large with a total area of 1,876 km2 making it Jamaica's largest protected area so far. (see Conservation section below). Many of the hillsides that appear as intact forests are in fact secondary forests. Great Goat Island is an uninhabited 1 km2 limestone cay roughly 1 km offshore from the Hellshire Hills, Little Goat Island is "joined" to it by an impenetrable morass of mangrove swamp; it differs significantly in that it is flat, primarily sandy in composition, and heavily im-pacted by man and animals.

Key biodiversity
This IBA is internationally important for the West Indian Whistling-duck Dendrocygna arborea (VU) and Plain Pigeon Patagioenas inornata, as well as the restricted range (and endemic subspecies) Bahama Mockingbird Mimus gilvus hillii. Other species include the three Myiarchus flycatchers. The Jamaican Pauraque Siphonorhis americanus, last seen more than 100 years ago, is rumoured to persist in the Hellshire Hills. The mangroves provide nesting, roosting and feeding locations for sea and shore birds and many North American Neotropical migrant birds add to the biodiversity.

Non-bird biodiversity: Other biodiversity In total, 271 plant species were identified in Ad=ams' and DuQuesnay's botanical survey of Hellshire (Woodley, 1970), of which 53 (19.6%) are endemic to Jamaica; several are endemic to this area. Hellshire Hills provides the last known habitat of the recently rediscovered (1990) Jamaican Iguana Cyclura collie, an endemic species and Jamaica's largest land animal. Herpetological surveys were conducted from 1992 to 1998 in the interior of the Hellshire plus baseline data from three pitfall trapping grids were obtained in 1997. A total of 18 species (2 frogs, 12 lizards and 4 snakes – including the Jamaican Boa Epicrates subflavus (VU)) were recorded, at least 12 of which are endemic to Jamaica. Eight of the species were not known from the Hellshire Hills, and another eight were known only from the periphery. One snake of the genus Tropidophis captured in the south-central portion of the Hills may rep-resent a distinct species endemic to the study site. In terms of reptile diversity, the Hellshire Hills is one of the most important remaining natural areas in Jamaica (Wilson & Vogel 2000). In addition, the Hellshire Hills are thought to be the last remaining stronghold in Jamaica of the skink Mabuya mabouya. The Blue-tailed Galliwasp, Celestes duquesneyi (IUCN DD 2004), last recorded on Portland Ridge in the 1930s, was rediscovered in Hellshire in 1997. The Jamaican Hutia or Coney Geocapromys brownie (VU) and Jamaican Fig-eating Bat Ariteus flavescens (VU) are also found in Hellshire.

Byron Wilson (in litt. 2007)

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2024) Important Bird Area factsheet: Hellshire Hills. Downloaded from on 22/02/2024.