Western Spindalis Abaco 4


Nearly two years ago, when this blog was still in its mewling infancy, I posted about one of my favourite small birds on Abaco, the WESTERN SPINDALIS (Spindalis zena, formerly known as the Stripe-headed Tanager). It is a strikingly handsome creature by any standards, often seen posing ‘tall’ on a branch looking splendid in its orange, black and white livery.

Perching proudly…Western Spindalis Abaco 1… or dining elegantly…Western Spindalis Abaco 2

The  spindalis is one of the birds to look out for if you are walking along one of the drives at Delphi, or (*recommended 1/2 hour stroll*) walking the drive circuit. You’ll see them in the coppice or in the undergrowth alongside the drives in the pine forest area, almost certainly a little way in from the front. We spotted one quite close to the Highway, looking most decorative in the greenery. This one had an uncharacteristic hunched look about him, and we soon discovered why – he was courting. Not the black-faced grassquit near the bottom of the photo, but a female spindalis well-hidden low down and further back in the undergrowth to the left. So we edged nearer to get a better look.Western Spindalis Abaco 7

You’ll see that this male bird’s hunched posture has produced a rather impressive neck ruff, an adornment presumably irresistible to female spindalises. Both birds were ‘chucking’ softly to each other, and the male turned his head regularly to show off his glories from all angles. Western Spindalis Abaco 6Western Spindalis Abaco 8I can’t unfortunately reveal the outcome of this encounter. We never saw the female, and we had probably got too close for her to feel comfortable about breaking cover. The male, however, was too absorbed refining his pulling techniques to be greatly bothered by our presence, though he did keep a beady black eye on us. Is this male preoccupation when courting found in other animal species, I wonder? Reader, we made our excuses and left…


  1. If you ever go to Jamaica, just go to Mount Airie, (20 minutes straight on A3 (Constant Spring Road out of Half Way Tree, Kingston, up Stony Hill then to Total Garage at Golden Spring then 15 minutes,into Mount Airie, coffee groves by the Forestry Commission Plantation (good local farmers who know their birds and welcome visitors) , Walk a little way 10 minutes to ” Watershed River” (from coffee telier shop). A good selection of at least 10 Jamaican endemics and others (March 2015), ie: Greater Antillian species (Jamaican Tody, Orangequit, White-eyed Thrush, White-chinned Thrush, Blue Mountain Vireo, Sad Flycather, Eastern Wood Pewee. Loggerhead Kingbird, Grey Kingbird, Jamaican Pewee, Stolid Flycatcher, Stripe-headed Tanager,(probable Jamacan Blackbird) Jamaican Oriole, Greater Antillian Bullfinch, Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo, Black-striped Tanager, Jamaican Woodpecker, flocks of (50) Black Swift (over village towards mountain roost) at 5-6pm), Jamaican Euphonia, Ringed-tailed Pigeon, Red-billed Streamer-tail, Jamaican Mango, Vervaine. Also,, White-crowned Pigeon, Yellow-billed Parrot (a selection of American Wood Warblers -, Black-throated Blue, American Redstart, Northern Parula). Perhaps the est accessible birdwatching from Central Kingston, taxi or regular “one stop taxis”

    Best regards, Patrick English.


    • Thanks for that Patrick, and what a great checklist that is. There are birds on it that I’d love to see. Sadly, I’m think it unlikely I’ll ever get too Jamaica – though the cricket makes it tempting as well! RH


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