1.  INTRODUCTION

Cockpit Country of west-central Jamaica is recognized nationally and globally for its unique biological diversity and for its ecological importance as being one of the largest contiguous tracts of wet limestone forest remaining in Jamaica and in the West Indies.  With over 100 bird species recorded for the area, including 27 of Jamaica’s 28 endemics and 36 Neotropical migrant species (the latter of which includes the globally-threatened Swainson’s Warbler (Limnothlypis swainsonii) and Bicknell’s Thrush (Catharus bicknelli)), Cockpit Country is recognized by BirdLife Jamaica (BLJ) and BirdLife International (BLI) as a major “Important Bird Area” (IBA) for the insular Caribbean.  The diverse avian species which occur in the core 25,000 hectare forest block and peripheral habitats are not only maintained as large, viable populations, but their numbers, in turn, ensure that bird-dependent plants continue to thrive with the presence of their pollinators and seed dispersers.  Maintaining (or, in certain instances, restoring) these functional relationships, with all of the unique components -- species, communities, and ecosystems -- is critical for ensuring the long-term persistence of a healthy Cockpit Country ecosystem.

 

Recognizing the importance of Cockpit Country and the need for comprehensive management, partnerships between Government and local and international NGOs have been developing over the past several years.  One program, The Nature Conservancy's (TNC) USAID-funded "Parks-in-Peril" (PiP) program, assessed the current status of biodiversity and the human activities that threaten the Cockpit Country ecosystem using the adaptive management tool of Conservation Area Planning (CAP).  This assessment identified important conservation targets, including the Jamaican Blackbird (Nesopsar nigerrimus) and its forest habitat, and is developing strategies to abate threats and improve the health of conservation targets.  By maintaining extensive, closed-canopy forest, it is hoped that parasitism of Jamaican Blackbird nests by the Shiny Cowbird (Molothrus bonariensis) will be minimized.  All birds nesting in Cockpit Country will benefit from this conservation umbrella species and the protection of its habitat.  

 

Effective management of Cockpit Country requires the ability to monitor and evaluate conservation activities for their outcomes and to adapt management as necessary.  This ability requires not only reliable and accurate information on focal conservation targets (or indicators of these targets) but also incorporating this information into management plans to achieve maximum benefit.  To meet these needs, Windsor Research Centre, through the support of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ), and TNC established an avian monitoring project, which:

 

 

The bird banding occurs in an area where WRC will be encouraging scientific research on forest restoration.  Changes in avian health parameters and demography will serve as one type of indicator variable to assess long-term efforts of rehabilitating degraded wildlife habitat in Cockpit Country. 

 

This report summarizes the results of this project during the NFWF funding period from May 1, 2002 through April 30, 2004.

 

 

 

 

2.  CONSERVATION OBJECTIVES

The over-all goals of this project were to develop local capacity to conduct reliable research, to establish baseline data on habitat use and the effects of habitat quality on resident and migratory bird populations in Cockpit Country and to develop the capacity to use this information for effective adaptive management of this important ecosystem.  To achieve these goals, the project implemented activities for long-term monitoring of Cockpit Country avifauna by: