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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Three striking endemics: a Trogon, a Tody and a Warbler

[Hispaniola. Feb 2014]

Islands are hotspots of endemism and Hispaniola is no exception; 3 endemics (noted by E) and 3 additional specialty species were observed in the Dominican Republic (DR):
  • Hispaniolan Trogon (E)
  • Narrow-billed Tody (E)
  • Green-tailed Warbler (E)
  • Rufuous-collared Sparrow
  • Bananaquit
  • Antillean Bullfinch
There are 45 Trogon species in the World of which 2 are found in the Caribbean (both endemics). The remainder of the species are found in the tropics of America, Africa and Asia.

 The endemic Hispaniolan Trogon observed at Ebano Verde, DR

Trogons are highly sought after birds and this was a prime target species of the trip. Ebano Verde is reported to be a good site and indeed at this time of the year, the papagayo (the local name of the species) could be heard calling in the forest. However, seeing one was a different story: this is a sedentary species and the trogon was content to stay put.


The US has one trogon species, the Elegant Trogon -- found in a small area in SE Arizona. However, the next species, from the Tody family, has no representation in the US at all.

Narrow-billed Tody seen at Ebano Verde

Todies are exclusive to the Caribbean and there are only 5 species of this family: 2 endemic to Hispaniola and 1 each endemic to Jamaica, Cuba and Puerto Rico.

The Narrow-billed Tody is a brilliant, 4 inch relative of the kingfishers. Unlike the Puerto Rican Tody profiled earlier, this species shows a pink wash on the flanks as well.

The 2 Hispaniolan endemics -- the Narrow-billed and the Broad-billed Todies -- occupy different habitats. The former preferring montane forest while the latter lowlands.

Narrow-billed Tody

Green-tailed Warbler seen at Ebano Verde

Green-tailed Warbler (seen above in a poor photograph) is a grey warbler with a white incomplete eye-ring and greenish back; it is sometimes also classified with the tanagers.

 Rufous-collared Sparrow seen at Ebano Verde

Rufous-collared Sparrow while ranging from Mexico down to the tip of South America is not found in the Caribbean except in Hispaniola.

This handsome American sparrow features a bold collar that is bright brown except in the throat where it is black. The head is grey and marked with black stripes and the throat is white.

Unlike the Rufous-collared Sparrow which is exclusive to Hispaniola, the next bird is found widely in the Caribbean.


A rare vagrant to Florida, the Bananaquit is an abundant species in the Caribbean except Cuba where it is not found.

Bananaquit seen at the Jardin Botanico
Taxonomically, the Bananaquit is placed with either the Tanagers or its own family the Coerebidae.

Finally, 2 very poor shots of Antillean Bullfinch:

Antillean Bullfinch seen at Ebano Verde

The Caribbean offers a constellation of endemic species and also some puzzles -- for example, why is the Rufous-collared Sparrow found only on Hispaniola but not on nearby islands (Puerto Rico only 70 miles away) ? Why is the Bananaquit widespread on all the islands except Cuba? Surely mysteries that warrant further scientific research.

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