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Location Jamaica, Hanover Parish,Westmoreland Parish
Central coordinates 78o 10.00' West  18o 23.00' North
IBA criteria A1, A2
Area 5,372 ha
Altitude 100 - 544m
Year of IBA assessment 2007





Site description Dolphin Head and adjacent forested mountains (hereafter referred collectively as Dolphin Head) are located at the western end of Jamaica. The area is recognized as the western-most portion of the mountainous spine stretching across Jamaica from the John Crow Mountains (limestone) and Blue Mountains (igneous shales) in the East through Mount Diablo and Cockpit Country (limestone) and igneous Central Inlier of the Central Plateau, to the limestone-over-shale Dolphin Head mountains of the Hanover Block in the West. Considered part of the Western Uplands: “Although partly isolated from each other, these upland areas all lie on the western side (Hanover Block) of north-south trending fault zone (Montpelier-Newmarket Graben). Although the southern areas (801 m) are higher in elevation, Dolphin Head (545 m) has the better-developed wet limestone forest.” (Hedges,1999). The forests of Dolphin Head have been broadly classified as evergreen seasonal and closed broadleaf forest (Beard, 1955; Forestry Department, 2001). Dolphin Head includes a core area consisting of two Forest Reserves (Raglan Mtn. and Bath Mtn.), Crown Lands managed by the Forestry Department (FD), and privately-owned lands of natural, closed- and disturbed broadleaf forests and forestry plantations. Surrounding this core is a mosaic of mixed- and non-forest land use, including bamboo, sugarcane, pasture, small family farms of yam, banana, and fruit trees, and rural communities. The remnant forest has been depleted for more than 300 years by the harvesting of valuable timber species and for fuelwood associated with sugarcane and slaked lime production. Illegal timber harvesting and clearing of hilltops for marijuana (Cannabis sativa) cultivation occurs within the Forest Reserves and on private lands.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
White-crowned Pigeon Patagioenas leucocephala resident  2007  unknown  A1  Near Threatened 
Ring-tailed Pigeon Patagioenas caribaea resident  2007  unknown  A1, A2  Vulnerable 
Jamaican Lizard-cuckoo Coccyzus vetula resident  2007  unknown  A2  Least Concern 
Jamaican Owl Pseudoscops grammicus resident  2007  unknown  A2  Least Concern 
Jamaican Mango Anthracothorax mango resident  2007  unknown  A2  Least Concern 
Red-billed Streamertail Trochilus polytmus resident  2007  unknown  A2  Least Concern 
Vervain Hummingbird Mellisuga minima resident  2007  unknown  A2  Least Concern 
Jamaican Tody Todus todus resident  2007  unknown  A2  Least Concern 
Jamaican Woodpecker Melanerpes radiolatus resident  2007  unknown  A2  Least Concern 
Jamaican Becard Pachyramphus niger resident  2007  unknown  A2  Least Concern 
Jamaican Elaenia Myiopagis cotta resident  2007  unknown  A2  Least Concern 
Greater Antillean Elaenia Elaenia fallax resident  2007  unknown  A2  Least Concern 
Jamaican Pewee Contopus pallidus resident  2007  unknown  A2  Least Concern 
Sad Flycatcher Myiarchus barbirostris resident  2007  unknown  A2  Least Concern 
Rufous-tailed Flycatcher Myiarchus validus resident  2007  unknown  A2  Least Concern 
Stolid Flycatcher Myiarchus stolidus resident  2007  unknown  A2  Least Concern 
Jamaican Vireo Vireo modestus resident  2007  unknown  A2  Least Concern 
Rufous-throated Solitaire Myadestes genibarbis resident  2007  unknown  A2  Least Concern 
White-chinned Thrush Turdus aurantius resident  2007  unknown  A2  Least Concern 
White-eyed Thrush Turdus jamaicensis resident  2007  unknown  A2  Least Concern 
Arrowhead Warbler Dendroica pharetra resident  2007  unknown  A2  Least Concern 
Jamaican Oriole Icterus leucopteryx resident  2007  unknown  A2  Least Concern 
Yellow-shouldered Grassquit Loxipasser anoxanthus resident  2007  unknown  A2  Least Concern 
Orangequit Euneornis campestris resident  2007  unknown  A2  Least Concern 
Jamaican Spindalis Spindalis nigricephala resident  2007  unknown  A2  Least Concern 
Jamaican Euphonia Euphonia jamaica resident  2007  unknown  A2  Least Concern 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Bath Mountain Forest Reserve 121 protected area contained by site 0  
Burnt Savannah Block A Forest Reserve 39 protected area contained by site 0  
Burnt Savannah Block B Forest Reserve 40 protected area contained by site 0  
Raglan Mountain Forest Reserve 101 protected area contained by site 0  

Habitats

IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Caves and subterranean habitats (non-aquatic)   -
Forest   -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture minor
forestry -
water management major
nature conservation and research minor
rangeland/pastureland minor
tourism/recreation minor

Other biodiversity Dolphin Head supports the highest density of endemic plant species and rare or threatened species per unit area for Jamaica. Nearly 150 species, representing 61 families in 10 classes of 4 phyla, have been reported historically or were observed in the 2001 study in the Dolphin Head Area. At least 50 of these species are endemic to Jamaica and a minimum four (1 Sesarma freshwater crab, 2 Lampyridae fireflies, 1 species of Operculate snail) are endemic to Dolphin Head. Identification of several unknown species of earthworms (Class Oligochaeta), cricket (Order Grylloptera), and grasshopper (Order Orthoptera) may increase the number of localized endemic species. Fourteen butterfly species were observed, the majority during the summer survey period. This increases known species richness from two (Brown and Heineman, 1972) to 16 for the Dolphin Head area. Only one species, Calisto zangis, is endemic to Jamaica; all other species are widespread and common throughout the Americas. The species endemic to Dolphin Head are relatively small animals with limited dispersal capabilities and predicted small home ranges. To contrast, there were no birds or bats whose ranges were restricted to this relatively small area. However, 21 of Jamaica’s 28 endemic landbirds and one of four endemic bats were identified, thus contributing to the recognition of Dolphin Head as important habitat both nationally and globally. Three species of reptiles were unique to one of three quadrats, including the Jamaican Black Groundsnake (Arrhyton funereum), which represents the first known sight-record for this small colubrid snake in Dolphin Head (see Schwartz and Henderson, 1991). The most species-rich site for reptiles, which included the location of the Black Groundsnake, was the same saddle corridor located along the trail leading to Dolphin Head Monument where invertebrate species richness was highest. Perhaps the most important new discovery of the field surveys with regards to wildlife was the identification of a large bat roosting and nursery chamber in King’s Pen, Westmoreland (Line 9, Plot 49; 18021’01”N, 78009’14”W). This cave had been known by several local persons for more than 50 years, but it was not documented in the Jamaica Cave Registry. At least two species were resident in the cave, the Moustached Bat (Pteronotus quadridens) and the Leaf-chinned Bat (Mormoops blainvillii). The current IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN, 2000) lists Mormoops blainvillii and Pteronotus quadridens as "Near-Threatened," meaning they are not conservation dependent but are close to being considered "Vulnerable". Both of these species are endemic to the Greater Antilles. This cave represents the largest colony of roosting and breeding bats in the Dolphin Head environs identified thus far. Because of their biomass, the bats probably represent the most important consumers of insects in Dolphin Head. In contrast to the King Pen cave, the next largest identified bat colony was found in Clifton Cave. Two species were present, the insectivorous Parnell’s Moustached Bat (Pteronotus parnellii) and the frugivorous Jamaican Fruit Bat (Artibeus jamaicensis). Their populations were estimated to be fewer than 500 individuals. The Jamaican Fig-eating Bat is one of four bats endemic to Jamaica and is the sole species in the genus Ariteus (i.e. the genus is endemic to Jamaica). It is not believed to be a cave-dwelling bat, but most likely roosts and breeds in tree hollows. It is rare in collections and as early as 1942 was thought likely to become scarce because of intensive agricultural development. The Jamaican Fig-eating Bat is listed as “Vulnerable” by the IUCN. Almost nothing is known of its ecology and habitat requirements.

Protection status Dolphin Head is a proposed National Park. The protection and conservation of this limestone ecosystem is recognized nationally and globally for its unique biological diversity. The area nominated as an IBA (7301 ha) encloses 3 Forest Reserves: Raglan Mountain (101 ha), Bath Mountain (121 ha) & Burnt Savanna (ca. 80 ha). Raglan Mountain and Burnt Savanna reserves are located in watershed #25; Bath Mountain straddles the boundary of watersheds # 25 and #2.

Further web sources of information 

Site profile from Important Bird Areas in the Caribbean: key sites for conservation (BirdLife International 2008)

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Dolphin Head. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 30/07/2014

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