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February 7 to 21, 2000

by Reto and Marg Zach

We stayed in Cabarete at the Windsurf Resort on the north shore of the Dominican Republic. Almost all of the birding was done on foot in the early morning within the vicinity of this resort, particularly along a road to the south of it. The entire area was essentially residential, but with many trees and some small woodlots. There were also extensive open wetlands beyond the road, but the most interesting parts of them were not accessible. We did go on some general tours by car, but they yielded only a few new bird species. The three main tours were to the Samana peninsula for watching humpbacked whales, to the Laguna Gri Gri for visiting a swallow cave, and to Santiago for seeing some of the interior country. The weather was generally fine and warm, but there was some rain. It seemed to be spring there and many trees were in flower. Also, some birds did sing, some were seen to carry nesting material, and we even had the nest of an Antillean Mango right in front of our balcony.

Being a distant island, the avifauna of the Dominican Republic is limited, although there can be many birds at favourable locations. There are some endemic species, many other breeders, and neotropical migrants, particularly warblers. Some species have both breeding and migrant populations. One of the most surprising thing is that we did not see a single gull, tern or duck. This is particularly so because Cabarete is right at the ocean and because there are extensive wetlands. In all we saw 61 species. Some species that we would have liked to see in the wild were seen only in captivity and mostly under unfortunate circumstances. They include Hispaniolan Parakeet, Hispaniolan Parrot, Ashy-faced Owl and White-necked Crow.

We used "A Guide to the Birds of the West Indies" by H. Raffaele et al. (1998). This pleasurable guide proved to be very informative, although it does not give detailed distributions of species in the Dominican Republic.
Pied-billed Grebe Several seen, one of them right behind the resort. Unfortunately, none of them turned out to be a Least Grebe.
Magnificent Frigatebird A few seen on the humpbacked whale tour to the Samana peninsula.
White-tailed Tropicbird A juvenile was found soaked on the beach near the resort after a heavy rainstorm. It was brought to the pool at the resort. I brought it back to the beach for drying out. I had a bit of a struggle with a Dominican who wanted to take the bird. It solved the problem all be itself by taking nicely off and by flying straight north over the ocean as far as the eye could see.
Brown Pelican A few seen on the humpbacked whale tour to the Samana peninsula.
Little Blue Heron A single bird seen several times in wetlands at Cabarete.
Cattle Egret A very common species at Cabarete and elsewhere.
Snowy Egret A few seen here and there.
Great Blue Heron A few seen at Cabarete and elsewhere. 
Great Egret A few seen here and there.
Black-crowned Night-Heron Apparently, this is a rare species in the Dominican Republic, but we had two sightings at Cabarete. One of them right behind the resort.
Green Heron A common species at Cabarete and elsewhere.
Killdeer A few sightings. Two were seen for a couple of days in a wet patch where a horse was tied up.
Spotted Sandpiper Two were seen east of Cabarete at the Laguna Gri Gri. They were foraging on small mudflats between mangrove roots.
Common Moorhen A single sighting east of Cabarete. We had hoped it would be a Purple Gallinule.
American Kestrel A very common resident bird. They are much lighter than those we get in Manitoba. There would seem to be few small mammals for them to feed on, but there are many insects, lizards and small birds.
Turkey Vulture A very common bird, especially along mountain ridges in the morning.
Osprey Several sighting around Cabarete and elsewhere. There are both resident and migrant populations in the Dominican Republic. Residents have little dark on the head.
Scaly-naped Pigeon A single bird high in a tree on Bacardi Island off the Samana peninsula.
White-crowned Pigeon A common, interesting looking bird at Cabarete. Pigeons and doves at Cabarete are quite tame, perhaps because they are not hunted.
Rock Dove There seemed to be a loft for them near the resort.
White-winged Dove A common bird near Cabarete.
Morning Dove Also common near Cabarete.
Common Ground Dove Common at Cabarete, sometimes seen right at the resort.
Mangrove Cuckoo A single bird seen right at the resort on the day of arrival.
Hispaniolan Lizard Cuckoo What a super endemic bird! It is common around Cabarete and seems to be rather tame. It moves slowly, low to the ground and was seen gathering nest material. At one time a pair of them was followed for a long time.
Smooth-billed Ani Common near Cabarete. They seem to move around in small flocks in open country and are usually quite tame.
Palmchat This very common, noisy, endemic species of the monotypic family Dulidae is the national bird of the Dominican Republic. It is a very social bird and fun to watch as it goes about its business. It can be seen feeding on flowers and buds, and I also saw it tear off twigs for nest building. Nests, which are bulky and communal, are usually tucked into the base of palm leaves.
Black Swift A few birds at Santiago around one of the main monuments there. 
Antillean Palm Swift Common at Cabarete over wetlands and elsewhere. These are small and fast-flying swifts. They generally fly low and quite erratically and so can be difficult to follow with binoculars.
Antillean Mango A large and common hummingbird at Cabarete and elsewhere. The female is quite dull and the male is iridescent, mostly green, but it often appears to be entirely black. Immature males have an irregular black stripe down the breast. The nest off our balcony was a neat cup perched on a fork of a branch. It was well camouflaged with lichens that were the same as those on the branch. The nest was first seen on February 8, but the female did not start to incubate until about February 15. The female was very aggressive chasing away Banaquits and even Gray Kingbirds. We never saw a male.
Vervain Hummingbird This is not an uncommon hummingbird in Cabarete and elsewhere. It is the second smallest hummingbird there is. It is not very colourful and more often heard than seen. It can usually be seen high up on top of trees where it keeps buzzing, but sometimes it can be seen forging at eye level.
Hispaniolan Woodpecker This is a delightful, common, endemic woodpecker. It is rather tame and so can be easily observed. It is highly social and usually several individuals can be seen together. They sometimes feed on flowers and we saw them examining holes in a palm right at the resort. They may well have been getting ready to breed there. Apparently, they have done so in the past.
Belted Kingfisher A single bird was seen at the Laguna Gri Gri.
Gray Kingbird This bird can be commonly seen at Cabarete and elsewhere. There is usually a pair of them and they sit on exposed perches and wires. They can be rather noisy.
Cave Swallow The only place they were seen well is at the Puerto Plata airport where they were in the process of nesting under the large entrance canopy. The swallow cave at Laguna Gri Gri did not have any birds although there were many, what appeared to be, old Cliff Swallow nests.
Caribbean Martin This species is common at Cabarete and elsewhere. They can usually be seen foraging near the ocean. However, I also saw them lined up on wires along the road behind the resort.
Northern Mockingbird A very common and delightful species to watch.
Red-legged Thrush This good-looking thrush was only seen twice. Once right in Cabarete when it was singing high up in a tree at sunrise, and the other time on the way to Santiago where it sat briefly on a fence.
Flat-billed Vireo This endemic species was only seen once at Cabarete. It was a good sighting and there was ample time to take field notes.
Black-whiskered Vireo This species was heard near Cabarete at the National Park with the limestone caves. It seemed to be common there. It was also heard elsewhere and on Bacardi Island I got a good look at a couple of them as they squabbled lower down. I was surprised at their large size.
Black-and-white Warbler Two birds were observed at Cabarete. They foraged in the same way as they do in Manitoba.
Northern Waterthrush At least two birds were observed at Cabarete, one of them possibly several times. Both birds were of the buffy morph.
Louisiana Waterthrush This species was only seen once at Cabarete.
Ovenbird At least two birds were observed at Cabarete.
Prairie Warbler This is a common wintering warbler at Cabarete. This species winters primarily in the Caribbean.
Palm Warbler Several birds were observed at Cabarete, all of them of the duller western subspecies, which surprised me.
Yellow-throated Warbler This warbler is uncommon in the Dominican Republic but I had two sighting of splendid males at Cabarete. It is possible that both sightings were of the same bird.
Yellow-rumped Warbler This is also an uncommon warbler in the Dominican Republic and I only saw one bird at Cabarete.
Cape May Warbler This warbler was common at Cabarete. This species winters almost exclusively in the Caribbean.
Common Yellowthroat This species was very common at Cabarete and elsewhere. It occupied the same type of habitat as it does here.
Northern Parula In the first few days I saw several birds at Cabarete but then they seemed to have disappeared completely. This species winters extensively in the Caribbean.
American Redstart Only two or three birds at Cabarete. None of them was an adult male.
Black-throated Blue Warbler I saw only a splendid male at Cabarete. This species winters exclusively in the Caribbean
Banaquit This is a very common species at Cabarete and elsewhere. It is usually seen in pairs but I have seen several birds feeding with much squabbling at favored flowering trees. It has a piercing, short song and was seen to construct a nest. It is known to build nests for both breeding and for roosting. Some roosting nests are communal.
Black-crowned Palm Tanager I had several sightings of this endemic tanager around Cabarete. It seems to be moving slowly through the vegetation, relatively low to the ground. It is also quite approachable.
Black-cowled Oriole This species was high on my list and I did not find it around Cabarete. However, we lucked into it on the way to Santiago when two males flew low into a tree and started to squabble right in front of us. They have a dramatic black and yellow plumage. The Black-cowled Oriole may well include more than one species over its range into Central America.
Shiny Cowbird I only saw a single bird on the wing at Cabarete. This species may be having a detrimental effect on the breeding success of the Black-cowled Oriole.
Greater Antillean Grackle A very Common bird at Cabarete and elsewhere. They are smaller than our Common Grackle and also sound differently.
Yellow-faced Grassquit These neat little birds were common around Cabarete and they have a high-pitched song, much like some insects. Sometimes, several could be seen together. They can sit on grass stems to take off seeds and feed.
House Sparrow We saw them several times around Cabarete and elsewhere, but they are not as common as one might expect.
Village Weaver I observed a pair of them at Cabarete and then saw another bird at the same location a few days later. They are husky, stunning birds that have been established on Hispaniola for a very long time. I watched them opening large tough seed pods while holding on to them with their feet.

Reto and Marg Zach
Box 89
Pinawa, MB
R0E 1L0

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