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Location Jamaica, Saint Catherine Parish
Central coordinates 76o 57.00' West  17o 53.00' North
IBA criteria A1, A2
Area 9,399 ha
Altitude 0 - 200m
Year of IBA assessment 2007

Site description 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.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
West Indian Whistling-duck Dendrocygna arborea resident  2007  unknown  A1  Vulnerable 
White-crowned Pigeon Patagioenas leucocephala resident  2007  unknown  A1  Near Threatened 
Jamaican Lizard-cuckoo Coccyzus vetula resident  2006  unknown  A2  Least Concern 
Jamaican Owl Pseudoscops grammicus resident  2007  unknown  A2  Least Concern 
Jamaican Poorwill Siphonorhis americana resident  unknown  A1, A2  Critically Endangered 
Jamaican Mango Anthracothorax mango resident  2007  unknown  A2  Least Concern 
Red-billed Streamertail Trochilus polytmus unknown  2006  unknown  A2  Least Concern 
Vervain Hummingbird Mellisuga minima resident  2006  unknown  A2  Least Concern 
Jamaican Tody Todus todus resident  2006  unknown  A2  Least Concern 
Jamaican Woodpecker Melanerpes radiolatus resident  2006  unknown  A2  Least Concern 
Jamaican Elaenia Myiopagis cotta resident  2006  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  2006  unknown  A2  Least Concern 
Bahama Mockingbird Mimus gundlachii resident  2007  5,000 individuals  poor  A2  Least Concern 
Jamaican Oriole Icterus leucopteryx resident  2006  unknown  A2  Least Concern 
Yellow-shouldered Grassquit Loxipasser anoxanthus resident  2006  unknown  A2  Least Concern 
Jamaican Euphonia Euphonia jamaica resident  2006  unknown  A2  Least Concern 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Portland Bight Protected Area 187,615 protected area contains site 0  
Portland Bight and Ridge National Park 809 protected area is adjacent to site 0  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Forest Mangrove  -
Shrubland   -

Land ownership The Urban Development Corporation (UDC), a quasi governmental organization owns most of the Hellshire Hills and both of the Goat Islands

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research major
energy production and mining -
hunting -

Protection status In 1999 the Government of Jamaica declared a new protected area -- the Portland bight Protected Area (PBPA); covering 87,615 hectares, this is the island’s largest protected area. Management authority was subsequently delegated to a local NGO, the Caribbean Coastal Areas Management (CCAM) Foundation. That delegation was challenged by the Urban Development Corporation (UDC). In 2006 the government delegated management responsibility for those areas to the UDC.

Acknowledgements Byron Wilson (in litt. 2007)

Further web sources of information 

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

Contribute  Please click here to help BirdLife conserve the world's birds - your data for this IBA and others are vital for helping protect the environment.

Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Hellshire Hills. Downloaded from on 28/10/2016

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