Preparing for a birding excursion can be tremendous fun if one actually enjoys studying field guides, trip reports, and various and sundry other resources. I personally love the process. Not only does the preliminary research heighten anticipation of an already exciting trip, but the payoff in the field when I have no problem recognizing a bird I’ve never seen before in life cannot be beat!
Of all the foreign destinations I’ve ever done birding research for, Jamaica has to be the most fun. You can’t beat the hilarious, evocative nicknames Jamaican birds have acquired over the years. If all goes as planned, I will already be in the air winging towards Hotel Mocking Bird Hill in Port Antonio as this post publishes. Please enjoy these fruits of my labor, a master list of the nicknames for most Jamaican birds:
Generally, gulls and terns known in Jamaica as boobies
White-tailed Tropicbird (Phaethon lepturus catesbyi) is Bo’sun Bird
Brown Pelican (Pelecanus o. occidentalis) is Old Joe
Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) is Man o’ War Bird
EGRETS AND HERONS
Snowy Egret (Egretta thula brewsteri) is Golden Slippers
Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea) is Blue Gaulin
Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) is Tick Bird
Black-crowned Night-Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax hoactli) is Quok
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (Nyctanassa violaceus bancrofti) is Crab-catcher
WATERFOWL AND GREBES
Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps antillarum) is Duck-and-Teal
West Indian Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna arborea) is Mangrove Duck, Night Duck, or Whistling Teal
VULTURES AND RAPTORS
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) is John Crow or Carrion Crow
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius sparveroides) is Killy-killy
RAILS AND WADERS
Clapper Rail (Rallus longirostris) is Mangrove Hen
Yellow-breasted Crake (Porzana flaviventer) is Twopenny Chick
Northern Jacana (Jacana spinosa violacea) is River Chink
Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus) is Captain Lewis
PIGEONS AND DOVES
White-crowned Pigeon (Patagioenas leucocephala) is Baldpate
Ring-tailed Pigeon (Patagioenas caribaea) is Ringtail
Plain Pigeon (Patagioenas inornata) is Blue Pigeon
Zenaida Dove (Zenaida aurita zenaida) is Pea Dove
White-winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica) is White-wing
Caribbean (or White-bellied) Dove (Leptotila j. jamaicensis) is White-belly
Ruddy Quail-Dove (Geotrygon montana) is Partridge, Red Partridge, or Brown Partridge
Crested Quail-Dove (Geotrygon versicolor) is Mountain Witch, Blue Partridge, or Blue Dove
Yellow-billed Parrot (Amazona collaria) is Yellowbill
Black-billed Parrot (Amazona agilis) is Blackbill
Jamaican Lizard-Cuckoo (Coccyzus vetula) is Old Woman Bird, Ring Tail, Sawdering, Rain Bird, or May Bird
Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo (Coccyzus pluvialis) is Old Man Bird, Hunter, Rain Bird, or May Bird
Jamaican Owl (Pseudoscops grammicus) is Brown Owl, Potoo, or Patoo with the big eyes
Jamaican (or Northern) Potoo (Nyctibius j. jamaicensis) is Patoo with the long bill
Antillean Nighthawk (Chordeiles g. gundlachii) is Gimme-me-bit
Most hummingbird species in Jamaica are dubbed Doctorbird. Red-billed Streamertail (Trochilus polytmus), Black-billed Streamertail (Trochilus scitulus), and even Jamaican Mango (Anthracothorax mango) are called Doctorbird.
Red-billed Streamertail is Eastern Streamertail
Black-billed Streamertail is Western Streamertail
Other names for both streamertails include God Bird, Long Tail, and Scissors-tail
Other names for Jamaican Mango include Black Hummingbird or Mango Hummingbird
Vervain Hummingbird (Mellisuga minima) is, naturally, Little Doctorbird
Observe how many Jamaican flycatchers are called Tom Fool…
Jamaican Tody (Todus todus) is Robin Redbreast, Robin, or Rasta Bird
Jamaican Elaenia (Myiopagis cotta) is Sarah Bird
Jamaican Becard (Pachyramphus niger) is Mountain Dick (male) or Mountain Judy (female). Other names include Kissidy, Rickchay, Rickatee, London City, or Weaver Bird
Gray Kingbird (Tyrannus d. dominicensis) is Petchary
Loggerhead Kingbird (Tyrannus caudifasciatus jamaicensis) is Jamaican Petchary
Stolid Flycatcher (Myiarchus s. stolidus) is Tom Fool
Rufous-tailed Flycatcher (Myiarchus validus) is Big Tom Fool or Big Head Bob
Sad Flycatcher (Myiarchus barbirostris) is Little Tom Fool or Dusky-capped Flycatcher
Jamaican Pewee (Contopus pallidus) is Willie Pee, Stupid Jimmy, or Little Tom Fool
Jamaican Crow (Corvus jamaicensis) is Jabbering Crow, Jamicrow, Jamming Crow, or Gabbling Crow
White-eyed Thrush (Turdus jamaicensis) is Shine-eye, Glasseye, Fish-eye, Long Day Bird, or Long Day Hopping Dick
White-chinned Thrush (Turdus aurantius) is Hopping Dick, Jumping Dick, Twopenny Chick, Chick-me-Chick, or Chap-man-Chick
Rufous-throated Solitaire (Myadestes genibarbis solitarius) is Mountain Whistler
Jamaican Vireo (Vireo modestus) is Sewi-sewi or White-eyed Vireo
Black-whiskered Vireo (Vireo a. altiloquus) is John-to-Whit
Arrow-headed Warbler (Dendroica pharetra) is Ants Picker or Ants Bird
American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla) is Butterfly Bird or Fire Lantern
TANAGERS AND ALLIES
Bananaquit (Coereba f. flaveola) is Sugar Bird, Teasy, or Beanie Bird
Orangequit (Euneornis campestris) is Blue Quit, Blue Blaize, Bluebird, Blue Badas, Blue Gay, Swee, or Long Mouth Quit
Jamaican Spindalis (Spindalis nigricephala) is Mark Head, Goldfinch, Cashew Bird, Champa, Beeza, Orange Bird, Silver Head, Spanish Quail, or Tam-cutter
Jamaican Euphonia (Euphonia jamaica) is Short-mouthed Quit, Chocho Quit, or Blue Quit
Greater Antillean Grackle (Quiscalus niger crassinostris) is Cling-cling
Jamaican Oriole (Icterus l. leucopteryx) is Banana Katie or Auntie Katie
Jamaican Blackbird (Nesopsar nigerrimus) is Wildpine Sargeant, Corporal Bird, or Black Banana Bird
In general, grassquits are called grass birds
Yellow-shouldered Grassquit (Loxipasser anoxanthus) is Yellow-back, Yellow-backed Finch, or Yellow-shouldered Finch
I discovered your homepage by coincidence.
Very interesting posts and well written.
I will put your site on my blogroll.
this kind of research will help you avoid an error I made when first arriving in the caribbean. Talking to a local at a salt pond I pointed out a peregrine (a reasonably rare bird where we were). He said this was “the best place on the island to see falcon and also in winter a good place to see scissortail”. I spent that winter hopefully scanning the bushes for a vagrant scissortail flycatcher before learning scissortail is a local name for mag. frigatebird. As the man says: d’oh!
I hear they call everything seen on the Brooklyn side of Jamaica… “Boids”.
I live in Jamaica and spend a lot of my time birdwatching and i have never heard some of these names. You did your research well. The names are truly hilarious and i could add a few names that you missed. The rufous-tailed flycatcher for example is called Big Head Bob in some parts of the island.
I hope you have a wonderful visit and if you are ever in the Kingston area give me a shout, I will take you birding.
Hi Mike –
I worked for several winters at a small Jamaican resort taking visitors on bird walks into the hills. I loved your list and remember having to learn all of them – one I didn’t see on your list was “rain bird”, which I thought was reference to all the cuckoos. Maybe that was a local (SW Jamaica) term? Carol
Carol, I think you are right, I have heard cuckoos being called “Rain Bird” but i cannot recall which section of the island I was at the time. I know for a fact though that the Antillean Nighthawk is also called the “Rain Bird” as it is often observed in the summer just after a shower of rain or on overcast days.
Mike, I understand you had a wonderful time in Jamaica. John Fletcher told me all about your trip. Do visit again soon 😉
Hi Carol, you’re right. Rain Bird is used for both the Chestnut-bellied and Jamaican Lizard-Cuckoo. I brought back a lot more names from my trip and will be revising this list soon!
Hey Ricardo, thanks for sharing that info. Yes, I did have a wonderful time and look forward to coming back. Maybe you can help me see some of the birds I missed!
I am a Jamaican linguistic student putting together a list of Jamaican compound words (particularly those created for animals). I came across your website by pure coincidence but thanks for the list, makes my work a little bit more interesting.
Awesome work!!!!! well done!!!1 I’m jamaican and all of those names are true and hilarious… Thank you for sharing it with the world it means alot to us..well done…NICE
In building our website we discovered your page. It fits to our site and we linked. Thank you very much and happy birding.
Interesting compilation, well done! A good refresher on the names I used in my slingshot shooting boyhood days in JA. Hope the authorities will monitor & enforce the protocols to restrain the shotgun/riffle tooting honchos so that the ballpate & other endangered birds will be saved from extinction.
Very informative . the only thing is that a picture of each of the birds would be great.
I used to enjoy bird watching with an environmental group as a teenager in Catherine’s Peak and Blue Mountains in Jamaica.