Sunday, November 23, 2014

Bulletin 208 - Dominican Republic #1 Todies, Hawks, Falcons, Pigeons

I had a week birding in the Dominican Republic with Tody Tours. This company is owned by a retired ex -Bostonian, Kate Wallace, who has lived on the island for 20 years. She was the first person to organize bird tours in Dominican Republic and is the local guide for several international tour groups. She has several local guides to take you around. I spent most of the time with Ivan Mota who is excellent, knows his birds and really tries to bring in the birds. He also has his own tour company.

The Dominican Republic is the eastern 2/3 of the island of Hispaniola, sharing it with Haiti to the west. Hispaniola's area is 29,000 square miles. It is 2/3 size of Cuba, but much larger than Jamaica (4200 sq miles) and Puerto Rico (3500 sq miles). Together, these 4 islands make up the Greater Antilles group. The island is tectonic in origin, not volcanic like many Lesser Antilles, so earthquakes are a hazard like the major quake that hit Haiti several years ago. There are 3 mountain ranges on Hispaniola and they include the 2 largest peaks in the Caribbean (10,000 and 9,300 feet).
There are several rivers and lakes on the island. 2 of the lakes are below sea level and are saline. Both Haiti and Dominican Republic have a population of about 10 million each

Hispaniola has the most endemic birds (32) of any island in the Caribbean. These include 5 tanagers, and 2 each of parrots, cuckoos, nightjars, woodpeckers, todies, crows, warblers and finches. I was able to photograph 19 of them and saw or heard several others.

The todies are a 5 species family of birds in the Greater Antilles. Hispaniola has 2 endemic species and the other islands have 1 each. The Broad-billed Tody (Todus subulatus) is 4.5" in length. It has a bright green back, red throat and flanks and grayish belly. The lower mandible is entirely red.

Broad-billed Tody

His cousin, the Narrow-billed Tody (Todus angustirostris) is slightly smaller (4.25") but similar coloration except the lower mandible has a black tip. Also, their voices are different.

Narrow-billed Tody

There are 4 resident species of hawks and falcons, as well as several migrants. The American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) is common and we saw several. Here are a pair on a tree top. The male is above with the gray wings. Notice how little streaking there is on the belly. In USA, the birds are heavily streaked.

American Kestrel

The Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) as its name suggests is a common resident in the Caribbean from the Bahamas to St. Kitts and Nevis. It is also the most common hawk in North America. This was the only bird I saw on the trip. His red tail is clearly visible.

Red-tailed Hawk

The third is the Sharp-shinned Hawk. I saw one of those but didn't get a good photo. The last resident hawk is the endemic Ridgway's Hawk (Buteo ridgwayi). I was really pleased to see and photograph this bird on my last day. It is listed as the rarest hawk in the world with about 100 breeding pairs in Los Haitises National Park. The Peregrine Fund has set up a captive breeding program in the last few years and is reintroducing the birds on another location on the island. So far, it has not been particularly successful.

Ridgway's Hawk
The next bird was a lifer for me. Quail-Doves are a group of doves that are ground dwellers and very shy. They are very hard to even see, as they walk or fly off when they see somebody. There are 3 species of Quail-Doves on Hispaniola, Key West Quail-Dove, Ruddy Quail-Dove and the endemic White-fronted Quail-Dove. I saw the first 2 and managed a photo of the Key West Quail-Dove (Geotrygon chrysia). This bird is found from the Bahamas to Puerto Rico and as its name suggests, it is a vagrant to the Florida keys. It has a green head and neck with a horizontal white line through the cheek. The back is reddish and the underparts gray. The sexes are similar.

Key West Quail-Dove

The Common Ground-Dove (Columbina passerina) is the only small (6.5") dove in the Caribbean. It is also found from the southern USA to northern South America.

Common Ground-Dove
Other pigeons on Hispaniola include the White-Crowned Pigeon (Columba leucocephala).These birds nest in the mangroves along the coast and feed inland on fruit and berries. They can be found from south Florida through the Caribbean and Central America. As I already had a photo of this bird from Florida, we didn't look for it.

The Scaly-naped Pigeon (Columba squamosa) is found in most of the Caribbean except Jamaica and Bahamas. It lives in mountain forests and we saw several fly overs, but none landed. Here is a photo I took of this bird in Puerto Rico.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

Lisa Kelly-McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2014 David McDonald

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