Why birdwatch in the Dominican Republic?

Porqué observar aves en la República Dominicana?

The Dominican Republic offers some very unique and exciting birdwatching opportunities. We hope to encourage you to do so, whether you are are already in the country or will come to visit.

La República Dominicana ofrece oportunidades únicas y muy interesantes en calidad de observacion de aves. Esperamos animarle hacerlo, sea como residente o como visitante.

- Check out this map - vea ese mapa

A "must-have": The new Field Guide to the Birds of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, by Steven Latta et. al.(Princeton Press, 2005)

Also very helpful: the British Ornithological Union "Birds of Hispaniola" annotated checklist, by Allan Keith et.al.

The Birds of the West Indies, by Herbert Raffael et al., (Princeton Press, 1998) and a compact version (2003) are also useful publications.

1. Geography and Birds

The Dominican Republic (know affectionately as "the DR") occupies two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola, the second largest island in the Caribbean region. Because it is part of an oceanic archipelago, the bird fauna of Hispaniola has a relatively high numbers of endemic and regional endemic species. In comparison with countries with similar sized land masses on the American continent, like Guatemala, Costa Rica or Suriname, Hispaniola has fewer numbers of species and fewer bird families represented. But it has many more endemics.

Hispaniola benefits from extremely varied geography and habitats, from lowland swamps and rainforest, to broad savanas, to arid deserts, to montaine rainforest, to highland pine forests. It has several unique geographical features, like Lago Enriquillo, a salt lake 40 meters below sea level, and Pico Duarte, the highest mountain in the whole Caribbean(3,145 meters).

Hispaniola also is an important stop-over and wintering location for migrants from North America: mainly shore-birds and warblers. In many cases these birds are much easier to see here in the winter than they are in North America in the summer, since they are concentrated in a much smaller area.

1. Geografia y Aves

La Republica Dominicana (o, Rep. Dom.) ocupa dos-tercas partes de la isla de Hispaniola, la segunda isla en territorio en la region del Caribe. Como parte de un archipielago oceanico, Hispaniola tiene una avifauna con relativemente alta incidencia de especies endemicas y endemicas regionales. Comparado con paises con similar extencion territorial en el continente Americano como Guatemala, Costa Rica y Suriname, los cuales tiene altos numeros de especies pero pocas endemicas, Hispaniola tiene menos especies y menos familias avianas representadas. Pero tiene muchas mas endemicas.

Hispaniola beneficia de geografia y habitats muy variadas, como cienegas, savanas, desiertos, bosques humedos altos y bajos, bosques de pinos y bosque seco. Dos caracteristicas geograficas unicas son, el Lago Enriquillo, un lago salobre a 40 metros bajo nivel de mar, y el Pico Duarte, el punto mas alto en el Caribe(3,145 metros).

Hispaniola tambien es un punto importante para aves migratorias desde Norteamerica: principalmente playeros y ciguitas(reinitas). En muchos casos, estas aves son mas faciles de ver aca en el invierno que alla en el verano porque son mas concentradas en menos espacio.

2. Summary of the Bird Fauna

According to the "Birds of the Dominican Republic and Haiti", approximately 306 bird species have been reported on Hispaniola. About half of these are migrants, including vagrants and rare migrants(see the Complete List). The rest are resident birds.

Among the residents are 20 regional endemic species, which are bird species only found in the Caribbean region. For example, the world's second smallest bird, the Vervain Hummingbird is very common here, and is also found in Jamaica.

31 strict endemic species not found anywhere else in the world(see the Endemic Lists)are listed in Latta's book. They include such abundant birds as the Hispaniolan Woodpecker and the Palm Chat, and other rare and spectacular treats as the Bay-breasted Cuckoo and the Le Selle's Thrush. Perhaps the rarest of all is the highly endangerd Ridgeway's Hawk. The Hispaniolan Crossbill, Loxia megaplaga, has recently been designated as a full species according to some taxonomical studies.

The only endemic Hispaniola bird species not seen in the D.R. is the Gray-crowned Palm Tanager. It is only found in Southwestern Haiti.

Another interesting group of birds are the nearly 50 resident sub-species on the island and the 10 adjacent offshore islands, of which some are endemic. For example, there are three resident endemic sub-species of the Yellow Warbler Dendroica petechia: albicollis, chlora, and solaris. Some call it the "Hispaniolan Golden Warbler" It is easily spotted in coastal mangroves and scub. The other wabler is the Dendroica pinus chyrsolueca , or the Hispaniolan Pine Wabler, found in highland pine forests.

Other resident endemic races include the Sharp-shinned Hawk, American Kestrel, Burrowing Owl, Northern Potoo, etc.

2. Sumario de la Avifauna

Segn el libro "Guia de Campo de las Aves de la Rep. Dom. y Haiti", hay 306 especies de aves reportadas en la isla de Hispaniola incluyendo las islas adyacentes, como la mitad de ellas migratorias, incluyendo vagrantes y migrantes raras(vea la Lista Completa). Las demas son residentes.

Entre las residentes hay 20 especies endémicas regionales, que se encuentran solo en la region del Caribe. Por ejemplo, el Zumbadorcito es el segundo ave mas pequeno del mundo, y es muy comun aqui; se encuentra tambiéen en Jamaica.

Y mas llamativas son las 31 especies estrictamente endémicas, esto segun autor Steven Latta. La especies endémicas son las cuales que existen solamente en esa isla y no en ningun otro sitio en el mundo; vea la Lista de Endemicas). Entre ellos estan aves abundantes como el Carpinterio y la Cigua Palmera, nuestro ave nacional; ademas otras aves raras y espectaculares como la Cua y el Zorzal de Leselle. El ave mas escasa es el Gavilan, Buteo Ridgewayi. Una especie interesante es el Pico Cruzado,Loxia megaplaga, recientemente determinado una especie propia.

Otro grupo interesante de aves son las aproximadamente 50 sub-especies residentes, algunas tambien endémicas. Por ejemplo, hay tres sub-especies de la ciguita, el Canario de Manglar Dendroica petechia albicollis, chlora, y solaris. Se encuentra en manglares costaneros; y la Ciguita Pinar, Dendroica pinus chyrsolueca, que vive en bosques de pinos en las montanas.

Aqui tambien tenemos varias especies que son de razas endémicas del halconcito americano, la Cuyaya, el buho barranquero, el Cucú, la "Bruja", etc.

3. How to get started birdwatching here.

The best way to get started is to connect with someone else who already has experience. There are several groups which foment the activity among residents as well as for tourist. The Conservacionistas de Aves Dominicanas and el Club de Observadores de Aves Annabelle Dod are two such groups. The Sociedad Ornitologica de la Hispaniola (also see this page) can help connect people with tour guide services and activities. Foreign tour agencies such as Eagle Eye and Victor Emanuel also come here.

Once you connect with an experienced local guide, your travels will take you to the birding hot-spots. Surprizingly, the first one is usually the Botanical Gardens in the middle of the capital city of Santo Domingo. There are dozens of species seen there, from tiny Vervains to bulky Limpkins.

But all hard core birders have to go the Southwest, especially the Bahoruco National Park, where nearly all of the island and regional endemics can be found. It's a must-go place if you are a serious birder! In a three or four day tour, you can hit montaine rainforests, highland pines, dry chaparal and thorn forest, coastal marshes and salt flats, riparian habitat, lowland desert and scrub, inland salt lakes, and lowland rainforest. You can get up to 100 species, including all the endemics and regional endemics(with the exception of the Ridgway's Hawk; we know of no reliable reports for a decade - or the Gray-headed Palm Tanager- that's in Haiti) And of course, we cannot promise that you will get them all, but you could! It may take a few extra days though.

The best time to go is between February and April, since the weather is good and the migrants are still around.

If you want make connect with potential guides, please click on the following links

Kate Wallace's "Tody Tours" page:Call 809-686-0882

Miguel Angel Landestoy - Call 809-705-2430 for personalized tours

or e-mail me for more info. Steve Brauning

NOTE: If you plan to go to the North Coast(Puerto Plata, Sosua, Cabarete), or the Eastern tourist destinations(Bavaro, Punta Cana, Bayahibe), please be advised that these areas are not well covered for birding. We do not know of guides available or have much information. Please look at the pages for the North Coast) and the East.

3. Como comenzar observar aves aca

La mejor forma de comenzar es junto con alguien que ya tiene experiencia. Hay varios grupos que fomentan esta actividad: Conservacionistas de Aves Dominicanas; el Club de Observadores de Aves Annabelle Dod; la Sociedad Ornitologica de la Hispaniola (vea tambien esta pagina). Esta ultima puede ayudar contactar servicio de guia, actividades, salidas mensuales, y muchos otros recursos. Agencias extranjeras como Eagle Eye y Victor Emanuel tambien operan aca.

Guias locales

Kate Wallace's "Tody Tours" page: Llama aCall 809-686-0882 para informacion.

Miguel Angel Landestoy Llama 809-705-2430 para excursiones personalizadas.

Escribeme Steve Brauning para consultas.

Una vez que haya hecho contacto con guias locales, sus viajes pueden comenzar. Tal vez le sorprende que el primer lugar que ir es el Jardin Botanico en el mismo Santo Domingo. Es facil ver docenas de especies alla.

Pero para los observadores serios, hay que ir al Suroeste del pais, especialmente el Parque Nacional Sierra de Bahoruco, donde se encuentran casi todas la aves endemicas de la isla y las regionales tambien(excepto el Gavilan y el Cuatro ojo cabeza gris). Ademas, en tres o cuatro dias uno puede cubrir una buena parte de la region en la cual hay muchos habitats muy diversos: bosque humedo de montana, bosque de pinos, bosque seco, pantanos y salinas costaneras, desierto, lagos salobres, etc. Se pueden ver hasta 100 especies. Los mejores meses son febrero hasta abril, pero el tiempo y la presencia de las migratorias. Para mas informacion, mande un correo electronico a los contactos arriba..

Pero, no tenemos posibilidades si ud. va a la costa norte ni al Este.

Some more bird beauties to look at:(all photos by Eladio Fernandez)

Antillean Nightjar - "Pitangua"- Endemica Regional

Hispaniolan Pewee - MaroitaEndemica

Antillean Euphonia - JilguerilloEndemica Regional

Ridgeway's Hawk - GavilanEndemica

Least Bittern - "Martinetico"- Residente

Osprey - "Guincho"-Migratoria y residente

Blackpoll Warbler - Ciguita de pasoPass-through migrant(winters in South America)

Black & White Warbler - "Pega Palo"Common migrant

Black-whiskered Vireo - "Julian Chivi" - Residente

Happy birding! Feliz observacion de aves!

Return to Table of Contents

Last updated on Sept. 15, 2007 by Steve Brauning