Country/Territory Dominican Republic,Haiti
Area 76,000 km2
Altitude 0 - 3000m
Priority critical
Habitat loss severe
Knowledge incomplete

General characteristics

Hispaniola lies between Cuba (EBA 025) and Puerto Rico (EBA 029), and the EBA also includes the smaller offshore islands such as Gonâve, Tortue, Beata and Saona. Politically the region is divided between Haiti for the western third and the Dominican Republic for the eastern two-thirds.

The variation in altitude and climate is reflected in a range of vegetation types, including dry forest (usually 40-500 m, but up to 1,000 m in some areas), semi-deciduous forest (400-900 m, transitional between the dry and rain/cloud forests), rain forest (<500 m), cloud forest (600-2,300 m), pine forest (of Pinus occidentalis, a fire-adapted endemic species predominating over much of the Cordillera Central and the higher reaches of Sierra de Bahoruco/Massif de la Selle) and mangroves in many coastal areas. Savannas include small natural savannas in dry and pine forest, and large and abundant man-made livestock pastures (Harcourt and Sayer 1996, A. Schubert, T. V. Mora and D. A. S. Nuñez in litt. 1994).

Restricted-range species

Hispaniola has a particularly distinct avifauna with six endemic genera-Calyptophilus, Dulus, (the sole representative of its family) Microligea, Nesoctites, Phaenicophilus and Xenoligea.

All the restricted-range species occur in forest, often in rain, dry and pine forest. Of these, some 40% occupy forest ecosystems exclusively, and the others live mainly in forest, but temporarily use surrounding open habitat (scrub, savanna or agricultural land). About a third of the species occur in lower areas up to c.1,000 m, another third (notably Turdus swalesi and Xenoligea montana) are confined to the higher mountains, and the remainder can be found over a broad band of altitudes (A. Schubert, T. V. Mora and D. A. S. Nuñez in litt. 1994).

All species which are endemic to the island are included as having restricted ranges because it is assumed that, historically, appropriate habitat amounted to less than 50,000 km2. Most species are widely distributed, apart from Margarops fuscatus (Beata Island only in this EBA), Phaenicophilus poliocephalus (southern peninsula of Haiti) and Vireo crassirostris (Tortue Island only in this EBA).

Hispaniolan Crossbill Loxia leucoptera megaplaga, an isolated form of a widespread Eurasian and North American bird, is sometimes recognized as a distinct species (e.g. Ottenwalder 1992).

Species IUCN Category
Least Poorwill (Siphonorhis brewsteri) NT
Hispaniolan Nightjar (Antrostomus ekmani) LC
(Anthracothorax dominicus) NR
Hispaniolan Emerald (Chlorostilbon swainsonii) LC
Vervain Hummingbird (Mellisuga minima) LC
Bay-breasted Cuckoo (Coccyzus rufigularis) EN
Hispaniolan Lizard-cuckoo (Coccyzus longirostris) LC
Ashy-faced Owl (Tyto glaucops) LC
Ridgway's Hawk (Buteo ridgwayi) CR
Hispaniolan Trogon (Temnotrogon roseigaster) LC
Narrow-billed Tody (Todus angustirostris) LC
Broad-billed Tody (Todus subulatus) LC
Antillean Piculet (Nesoctites micromegas) LC
Hispaniolan Woodpecker (Melanerpes striatus) LC
Hispaniolan Amazon (Amazona ventralis) VU
Hispaniolan Parakeet (Psittacara chloropterus) VU
(Elaenia fallax) NR
Stolid Flycatcher (Myiarchus stolidus) LC
Hispaniolan Pewee (Contopus hispaniolensis) LC
Flat-billed Vireo (Vireo nanus) LC
Thick-billed Vireo (Vireo crassirostris) LC
White-necked Crow (Corvus leucognaphalus) VU
(Corvus palmarum) NR
Golden Swallow (Tachycineta euchrysea) VU
Pearly-eyed Thrasher (Margarops fuscatus) LC
Rufous-throated Solitaire (Myadestes genibarbis) LC
La Selle Thrush (Turdus swalesi) VU
Palmchat (Dulus dominicus) LC
(Euphonia musica) NR
Hispaniolan Crossbill (Loxia megaplaga) EN
Antillean Siskin (Spinus dominicensis) LC
Black-crowned Palm-tanager (Phaenicophilus palmarum) LC
Grey-crowned Palm-tanager (Phaenicophilus poliocephalus) NT
White-winged Warbler (Xenoligea montana) VU
Green-tailed Warbler (Microligea palustris) LC
Hispaniolan Spindalis (Spindalis dominicensis) LC
(Calyptophilus frugivorus) NR

Important Bird Areas (IBAs)
IBA Code Site Name Country
DO002 Nalga de Maco-Río Limpio Dominican Republic
DO003 Armando Bermudez National Park Dominican Republic
DO004 Sierra de Neyba Dominican Republic
DO005 Enriquillo Lake National Park Dominican Republic
DO006 Sierra de Bahoruco National Park Dominican Republic
DO007 Jaragua National Park Dominican Republic
DO008 Cabral Lagoon Dominican Republic
DO009 Eastern Bahoruco Dominican Republic
DO010 Sierra Martin Garcia National Park Dominican Republic
DO011 Parque Nacional Dr Juan Bautista Pérez Rancier (Valle Nuevo) Dominican Republic
DO012 Ebano Verde Scientific Reserve Dominican Republic
DO013 Loma Quita Espuela Dominican Republic
DO015 Parque Nacional Montaña La Humeadora Dominican Republic
DO016 Honduras Dominican Republic
DO018 Haitises National Park Dominican Republic
DO020 Cotubanamá Dominican Republic
DO021 Punta Cana Dominican Republic
HT001 Lagon-aux-Boeufs Haiti
HT002 Citadelle - Sans Souci - Ramier Haiti
HT003 Coquillage - Pointe Est Haiti
HT004 Les Grottes Haiti
HT005 Trou Caïman Haiti
HT007 Aux Diablotins Haiti
HT008 Aux Cornichons Haiti
HT009 Aux Becs-Croisés Haiti
HT010 Bois Musicien Haiti

Threat and conservation

Between 1630 and the 1880s the lowland forests of Hispaniola were converted to sugar-cane plantations, and after this time, following the abolition of slavery, destruction of montane forest took place as many freed slaves established themselves in the mountains (Harcourt and Sayer 1996).

Today Haiti is one of the most environmentally degraded and densely populated countries in the world, with forest cover of less than 1.5%, the largest remaining blocks being in the Massifs de La Hotte and de La Selle (Paryski et al. 1989). The Dominican Republic has c.10% of its land forested, but the rain and cloud forests which remain are in danger of further loss, mainly due to shifting (slash-and-burn) agriculture, with what little forest that there is left being very dispersed through the country; dry forests have been altered considerably by charcoal production and there are only a few pristine areas left; pine forests face fewer threats because they are located mainly at higher elevations and are less affected by fires (Schubert 1993). Even the pine forests have, however, been devastated by indiscriminate logging and clear-cutting, and the reforestation with exotic pine species does not necessarily provide good bird habitat (Ottenwalder 1992).

Continuing habitat loss has resulted in seven of Hispaniola's endemic species being considered threatened (though none critically so) and in seven more being classified as Near Threatened. Hunting has also contributed to the decline of Buteo ridgwayi, Aratinga chloroptera (shot to protect crops, and trapped for use as a house pet and for international trade), Hyetornis rufigularis (shot for its medicinal value) and Corvus leucognaphalus (shot to protect crops and for food).

As well as its many threatened restricted-range species, two more-widespread threatened species also occur on Hispaniola: West Indian Whistling-duck Dendrocygna arborea (Vulnerable) and Plain Pigeon Columba inornata (Endangered). Black-capped Petrel Pterodroma hasitata, a seabird which breeds on islands in the Caribbean (including in small colonies on cliffs and in undisturbed montane forests in this EBA), is also threatened (Endangered); the clearance of vegetation by grazing, logging and fires is reducing the quality of nesting habitat and increasing the birds' susceptibility to predators.

There are many protected areas in the Dominican Republic (a network of 22 areas amounting to c.16% of the land surface), but these do not include all the major ecosystems, with many being under-represented or absent altogether (particularly montane forest), and only two national parks having management plans. In addition, several Hispaniolan parks and reserves are small (under 75 km2), and thus have a limited prospect of overcoming threats from development and of achieving their primary goal of the long-term maintenance of biological diversity. In Haiti there are only two small national parks with any significant forest fragments, La Viste (20 km2) and Macaya (55 km2) (IUCN 1992a, J. A. Ottenwalder in litt. 1993).

To address these problems the wildlife service in the Dominican Republic has recently identified gaps in the representation of ecosystems within the nation's protected-area system: 15 new areas have been proposed for protected status including six with cloud forest, four with lowland rain forest and four with dry or semi-deciduous forest (Schubert 1993).

Important sites in this EBA include Los Haitises National Park (recently extended to 1,600 km2), which has wet limestone forest with a wide array of lowland species (including Buteo ridgwayi and Hyetornis rufigularis), although there is some cutting of trees and some agriculture. Sierra de Bahoruco National Park (800 km2) and Jaragua National Park (1,374 km2) both protect threatened species (J. W. Wiley in litt. 1993).

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Endemic Bird Areas factsheet: Hispaniola. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 01/12/2021.