Haiti, officially the Republic of Haiti, is a Creole- and French-speaking Caribbean country. Along with the Dominican Republic, it occupies the island of Hispaniola, in the Greater Antillean archipelago. Ayiti (Land on high) was the indigenous Taíno or Amerindian name for the island. The country's highest point is Pic la Selle, at 2,680 metres (8,793 ft). The total area of Haiti is 27,750 square kilometres (10,714 sq mi) and its capital is Port-au-Prince.
Haiti's regional, historical, and ethnolinguistic position is unique for several reasons. It was the first independent nation in the Caribbean, the first post-colonial independent black-led nation in the world, and the only nation whose independence was gained as part of a successful slave rebellion. Haiti is the only predominantly Francophone nation in the Caribbean, and one of only two in North America (along with Canada) which designate French as an official language; the other French-speaking North American countries are all overseas départements or collectivités of France.
Most people will not even know that John James Audubon (1785 - 1851) was born in Santa Domingo (now Haiti) to a French naval officer and his Creole mistress. He would surely turn in his grave if he could see the parlous state of the ecology of today's Haiti - one of the poorest and most environmentally degraded places in the world.
Haiti is situated on the western part of Hispaniola, the second largest island in the Greater Antilles. Haiti is the third largest country in the Caribbean behind Cuba and the Dominican Republic (the latter shares a 360 kilometre (224 mi) border with Haiti). Haiti at its closest point is only about 45 nautical miles (50 mi; 80 km) away from Cuba and boasts the second longest coastline (1,771 km/1,100 mi) of any country in the Antilles, Cuba having the longest. Haiti's terrain consists mainly of rugged mountains interspersed with small coastal plains and river valleys.
The northern region consists of the Massif du Nord (Northern Massif) and the Plaine du Nord (Northern Plain). The Massif du Nord is an extension of the Cordillera Central in the Dominican Republic. It begins at Haiti's eastern border, north of the Guayamouc River, and extends to the northwest through the northern peninsula. The lowlands of the Plaine du Nord lie along the northern border with the Dominican Republic, between the Massif du Nord and the North Atlantic Ocean. The central region consists of two plains and two sets of mountain ranges. The Plateau Central (Central Plateau) extends along both sides of the Guayamouc River, south of the Massif du Nord. It runs from the southeast to the northwest. To the southwest of the Plateau Central are the Montagnes Noires, whose most northwestern part merges with the Massif du Nord.
The southern region consists of the Plaine du Cul-de-Sac (the southeast) and the mountainous southern peninsula (also known as the Tiburon Peninsula). The Plaine du Cul-de-Sac is a natural depression which harbors the country's saline lakes, such as Trou Caïman and Haiti's largest lake Lac Azuei. The Chaîne de la Selle mountain range, an extension of the southern mountain chain of the Dominican Republic (the Sierra de Baoruco), extends from the Massif de la Selle in the east to the Massif de la Hotte in the west. This mountain range harbors Pic la Selle, the highest point in Haiti at 2,680 metres (8,793 ft).
The country's most important valley in terms of crops is the Plaine de l'Artibonite, which is oriented south of the Montagnes Noires. This region supports the country's (also Hispaniola's) longest river, the Riviere l'Artibonite which begins in the western region of the Dominican Republic and continues most of its length through central Haiti and onward where it empties into the Golfe de la Gonâve. The eastern and central region of the island is a large elevated plateau. Haiti also includes various offshore islands. The historically famous island of Tortuga (Île de la Tortue) is located off the coast of northern Haiti. The arrondissement of La Gonâve is located on the island of the same name, in the Golfe de la Gonâve. Gonave Island is moderately populated by rural villagers. Île à Vache (Island of Cows) is located off the tip of southwestern Haiti. It is a lush island with many beautiful sights. Also part of Haiti are the Cayemites and Ile de Anacaona.
In 1925, Haiti was lush, with 60% of its original forest covering the lands and mountainous regions. Since then, the population has cut down all but an estimated 2% of its original forest cover, and in the process has destroyed fertile farmland soils, contributing to desertification. Erosion has been severe in the mountainous areas. Most Haitian logging is done to produce charcoal, the country's chief source of fuel. The plight of Haiti's forests has attracted international attention, and has led to numerous reforestation efforts, but these have met with little success to date. Despite the large environmental crises, Haiti retains a very high amount of biodiversity in proportion to its small size.
The country is home to more than 6,000 plants, of which 35% are endemic; and 220 species of birds, of which 21 species are endemic. The country's high biodiversity is due to its mountainous topography and fluctuating elevations in which each elevation harbors different microclimates and its own specific native fauna and flora. The country's varied scenery include lush green cloud forests (in some of the mountain ranges and the protected areas), high mountain peaks, arid desert, mangrove forest, and palm tree-lined beaches.
Trou Caiman is a shallow lake close to the capital Port-au-Prince, good for water birds etc…
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Number of Species
Number of bird species: 245
National Bird: Hispaniolan Trogon Priotelus roseigaster
Number of endemics: 31
Haiti does not have any endemics, but the Grey-crowned Palm Tanager Phaenicophilus poliocephalus, is restricted mainly to Southwestern Haiti. However, the island of Hispaniola (that Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic) has 31 - most of which can be seen in Haiti - for the full list see the Dominican Republic page.
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A Birdwatcher’s Guide to Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico & the Caymans
by Guy Kirwan, Arturo Kirkconnell & Mike Flieg - Prion 2010
ISBN: 9781871104127Buy this book from NHBS.com
Birds of the Dominican Republic & Haiti
by Steven Latta, Christopher Rimmer, Allan Keith, James Wiley, Herbert Raffaele, Kent McFarland & Eladio Fernandez Illustrated by Bary Kent MacKay, Tracy Pedersen & Kristin Williams Helm Field Guides 2006 ?24.99 See Fatbirder Review
ISBN: 0713679050Buy this book from NHBS.com
The Birds of Hispaniola
by A. R. Keith, J. Wiley, S. Latta & J. Ottenwalder. £30 from British Ornithologists' Union | PO Box 417, Peterborough PE7 3FX, UK Tel & Fax +44 (0) 1 733 844 820
The birds of Hispaniola - Haiti and the Dominican Republic
Allan R Keith, James W Wiley, Steven Latta and Jose Ottenwalder Series: BOU CHECKLISTS 309 pages, 32 pp col photos, tabs, figs, plates. British Ornithologists' Union 2003
ISBN: 0907446264Buy this book from NHBS.com
The Birds of the West Indies
By Herbert Raffaele, James Wiley, Orlando Garrido, Allan Keith & Janis Raffaele
Helm Field Guides Sept 2003 Paperback RRP ?16.99p
See Fatbirder Review
ISBN: 0713654198Buy this book from NHBS.com
CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.
2013 [01 January] - Haynes Miller
…One day we took off the afternoon and hired a bus to take us to Wahoo Bay, a very small but pleasant swimming beach north of Port-au-Prince. There were no birds at all at the beach itself, but I noted a few on the drive. Kenscoff is a substantial village spread out along an active roadway at an elevation of about 1500 meters…
2013 [04 April] - Mark Van Beirs
The glorious, mysterious La Selle Thrush that posed so very, very well on its track in the remote mountains of the southwestern Dominican Republic was without a doubt the star bird of our latest Caribbean extravaganza. But other contenders for long living memories were the very rare Ridgway’s Hawks (a pair at their eyrie with two downy chicks), the delectable Elfin Woods Warblers, the fabulous Puerto Rican Screech Owls (emitting their haunting calls), the smart Puerto Rican Woodpeckers, the very showy Antillean Piculets, the lovely Ashy-faced Owl…
2014 [04 April] - Rick Schaefer
...There had just been a rain shower, cloud cover kept the temperature mild, and birds were active. We walked to the edge of a line of trees near the house and within a few minutes spotted a Grey-crowned Palm-Tanager in one of the trees. Shortly thereafter a second one appeared. We figured the species must at least be fairly common since the habitat we found these birds in was abundant. We were at this location for only 15 minutes. Other birds seen here were Palmchat, Black-andWhite Warbler, and several Scaly-naped Pigeons perched in trees across the road...
2015 [04 April] - Eustace Barnes
The Dominican Republic was more demanding but gave us some great moments including La Selle Thrush, Hispaniolan Trogon and a singing White-fronted Quail Dove within the space of a few minutes of one another. Our forest camp gave us another White-fronted Quail Dove and Key West Quail Dove running about in front of us just before we found a Least Poorwill!
Places to Stay
Checklist - Birds of Haiti
Haiti and the destruction of nature
Has anyone documented the rate of extinction of our bird species?, asks Guy Antoine in one of his discussions on the ecological concerns about Haiti. Most of the birds in Haiti have migrated to the Dominican Republic. The Haitian peasants cross the border so do the birds. Why? Deforestation, no green (vegetation) and poor agriculture…