Dominican Republic

Broad-billed Tody Todus subulatus ©Ivan Mota Website
Birding the Dominican Republic

The island of Hispaniola, including the Dominican Republic (know affectionately as “the DR”) and Haiti, is the second largest and the most populous island in the Caribbean region. As part of an oceanic archipelago, Hispaniola’s bird fauna has a relatively high numbers of endemic and regional endemic species. In comparison with countries with similar sized landmasses on the American continent, like Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Suriname, Hispaniola has fewer species and fewer bird families represented, but it has many more endemics.

Hispaniola benefits from extremely varied geography and habitats, from lowland swamps and rainforest, to broad savannahs, to arid deserts, to montane rainforest, to highland pine forests. It has several unique geographical features, like Lago Enriquillo, a salt lake 40 meters below sea level, and Pico Duarte, the highest mountain in the whole Caribbean 3,145 m.

Hispaniola also is an important stopover and wintering location for migrants from North America, including shorebirds, ducks, and warblers. In many cases these birds are much easier to see here in the winter than they are in North America in the summer, since they are concentrated in a much smaller area.

According to the Birds of the Dominican Republic and Haiti (See Useful Reading) approximately 306 bird species have been reported on Hispaniola (although this has since been superseded with new observations with a total of 319). About half of these are migrants, including vagrants and rare migrants. The rest are resident birds. Among the residents are 31 strict endemic species not found anywhere else in the world. They include such abundant birds as the Hispaniolan Woodpecker and the Palmchat, and other rare and spectacular treats as the Bay-breasted Cuckoo, Hispaniolan Crossbill, and La Selle’s Thrush. Perhaps the rarest of all is the highly endangered Ridgway’s Hawk. The only endemic Hispaniola bird species not seen (or very rarely seen) in the DR is the Grey-crowned Palm Tanager, restricted mainly to Southwestern Haiti.

In addition to the island endemics are about 20 regional endemic species, which are bird species only found in the Caribbean region. For example, the world’s second smallest bird, the Vervain Hummingbird is very common here, and is also found in Jamaica, and the Red-legged Thrush is a very handsome species found on Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Bahamas, and several other small islands.

Another interesting group of birds are the nearly 50 resident sub-species on the island and the 10 adjacent offshore islands, of which some are endemic. For example, there are three resident endemic sub-species of the Yellow Warbler Setophaga petechia: albicollis, chlora, and solaris. Referred to by some as the ‘Hispaniolan Golden Warbler’ complex, they are restricted to coastal mangroves and scrub at different points around the island. The other resident warbler subspecies is the Setophaga pinus chyrsolueca, or Hispaniolan Pine Warbler, found in highland pine forests. Other resident endemic races include the Sharp-shinned Hawk, American Kestrel, Burrowing Owl and Northern Potoo.

The DR’s relative proximity to the United States and the rest of the Caribbean islands, and its abundant tourism infrastructure, make it an ideal destination for birders, include from Europe, due to abundant direct flight routes.

The capital city of Santo Domingo is a good place to start your birding trip with a visit to the National Botanical Gardens (Jardin Botanico Nacional Moscoso Puello), which provides many of the lowland endemics and some aquatic specialties, including the West Indian Whistling Duck, endangered and very elusive anywhere else.

An hour and a half west of Santo Domingo, Salinas de Bani, with its salt flats, mangroves, sand dunes, and thorn scrub, is a great place for waders and shorebirds, as well as for winter migrants, making it a favourite haunt of local birders. It is a good day trip from Santo Domingo.

The Central Mountain Range (Cordillera Central) is a good choice for several mountain endemics and specialties. Reserva Cientifica de Ebano Verde (closest to Santo Domingo); Reserva Cientifica Valle Nuevo, and Parque J. Armando Bermudez (La Cienaga entrance) is recommended.

Parque Nacional del Este in the eastern section of the island is close to a number of resorts and is a good choice if you are tied into a non-birding trip around this area.

However, the best birding in the whole country is concentrated in the southwest, in and around the Sierra de Bahoruco mountain range. This area includes a variety of habitats that range from dry thorn scrub to mountain pine forests. Bahoruco supports one of the highest bird densities in the Caribbean and it’s the only place where you have a chance at almost all endemics.

A thorough birding trip with an emphasis on the southwestern DR should set aside three to five days. The first place to go is the northern slope of the western Bahorucos. From the town of Duverge, turn up the mountain road towards Puerto Escondido, a small town in an intra-montane valley with excellent birding. It is valuable to spend time in the forest patches around the agricultural fields, on the Rabo de Gato trail, and then along the road west out of the valley where the thorn forests begins to transition into broadleaf, bird density tends to be high including scarce and much-sought-after species like Bay-breasted Cuckoo, Least Poorwill, and Flat-billed Vireo.

This is the road that heads up the mountain into high elevation broadleaf forest through prime birding habitat. On the way up the mountain, you will arrive at Aguacate, a military post right on the Haiti-Dominican Republic border. Stop and check in with the guards. Please take the time to look over into Haiti and you will be stunned to see the deforestation level. Afterwards, keep driving to Zapoten where you will start to approach mixed broadleaf and pines. This is a great area for La Selle`s Thrush, Western Chat Tanager, White-winged Warbler and other rare endemics. Back down to Duverge, the edge of Lago Enriquillo near Vengan a Ver and Baitoa provides an opportunity for aquatic species.

The southern slope is reached by picking up the coastal highway south of Barahona. The best place to start is on the Carretera ALCOA, which is a right turn on the Cabo Rojo intersection. This road is fully paved and starts in thorn scrub habitat and ends in pine forests, and birding can be productive along the road almost anywhere. However, the goal is to reach the higher elevations where the mid-and high elevation species start to be seen. Antillean Siskins, Narrow-billed Todies, Green-tailed Ground Warblers, Hispaniolan Parrots, and many others are found. These pine forests offer some of the best opportunities for the Hispaniolan Crossbill, Hispaniolan Palm Crow, and Stygian Owl. Along the southern coast are several good birding sites: the Oviedo lagoon and Cabo Rojo. These places are good for herons, ducks, Roseate Spoonbills, Flamingos, gulls, and shorebirds.

Top Sites
  • Botanical Gardens - Santo Domingo

    InformationSatellite View
    The Botanical Gardens are a necessary stop on your first morning in Santo Domingo. Although the official opening hour is 9AM, birders may be able to enter at earlier hours by explaining to guards that they are bird watching and would pay the entrance fee when departing. La Gran Canada is a great place for West Indian Whistling Duck, Limpkin, and Least Grebe. Many low land endemics and specialties are present here as well, such as: Hispaniolan Woodpecker, Palmchat, Black-whiskered Vireo, Antillean Palm Swifts, Antillean Mango, and many others. In season, it’s a good place for migratory warblers.
  • Parque del Este (Guaraguao entrance)

    InformationSatellite View
    This park is in the southeastern part of Dominican Republic, accessible by road through Bayahibe, within reach of the resorts of Bavaro, Punta Cana, and La Romana for a day trip. The Guaraguao entrance is just past the hotels (Dominicus) east of Bayahibe. Once you pass the park cabin there's a trail that winds through the coastal dry forest. Within the park we can find Antillean Piculets, Hisp. Parrots, Flat-billed Vireos, Black-whiskered Vireos, Brown Pelicans, gulls, terns, and others.
  • Reserva de Ebano Verde

    WebpageSatellite View
    For mountain birding close to Santo Domingo, the best place is Reserva Cientifica de Ebano Verde, about 1 hr. 30 minutes north. Take the Duarte Highway and exit on the Constanza ramp. Once you reach the highest point on the mountain of Casabito, there will be a sign to the right that indicates the entrance. You will find a 6-kilometer trail that descends to the second entrance. Along this trail Hispaniolan Trogons, Hisp. Pewees, Rufous-throated Solitaires, Golden Swallows, Red Tailed Hawks, Hisp. Spindalis, Hisp. Emeralds, and if lucky, the Eastern Chat Tanager. Prior permission from the Fundacion Progressio (google it) is required to enter. Transportation back up the road to your car can also be arranged, unless you are willing to hike 6 kilometers back up. Ebano Verde might be a good option for those visiting one of the northern shore resorts. In that case, it is about 1 hr. 30 minutes south of Santiago. Other places Central Mountain range locations include Parque Nacional Valle Nuevo at an altitude of 2,200 meters, and La Cienaga in Parque J. Armando Bermudez. These two places are accessible from the mountain city of Constanza.
  • Salinas de Bani

    Satellite View
    To get to Salinas from Santo Domingo, turn left upon entering the town of Bani. Signs are confusing so you should stop and ask frequently for directions. Once you are out of Bani and on your way south, the road will lead you directly to Salinas. If traveling from the west, the road south near Cruce de Ocoa, then a left turn at the first 'T', and a right turn at the second 'T'. The first birding location will be on the long straight stretch just after the town of Caldera, just before the naval base, where mudflats stretch a kilometer or so and mangroves are visible. Continuing on the road after the naval base, mangroves, thorn forest, and patches of wetlands are good as well. Then go straight through the town of Salinas to the salt flats and more wetlands. The peninsula can be crossed to the Derrumbado beach.
  • Sierra de Bahoruco and Neighboring Areas

    Satellite View
    Sierra de Bahoruco should be your number one choice for birding when you visit the DR. Unfortunately this area is one of the poorest in the country so you must keep an open mind when you visit. Regardless, the area is rich in natural beauty and the people are extremely friendly. Your should base your stay in the bustling town of Barahona where there are several hotels available that range from meager accommodations to the all-inclusive resorts. To access the closest spots in the southern and northern slopes of Bahoruco, you will need to drive about 1 hour and a half. Very early morning trips are essential if you want to get to these spots before dawn.
  • Eladio Fernandez

    Dominican Republic |

  • Steve Brauning

    Dominican Republic |

    Hispaniolan Birds
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 321

    (As at September 2018)

    National Bird: Palm Chat Dulus dominicus (aka Cigua Palmera)

  • Number of endemics: 31

    Whilst DR really has just two endemics - the island of Hispaniola (DR is half of that island) has 31. All of them have been seen in DR although Grey-crowned Palm Tanager is almost completely restricted to southwestern Haiti.

    The Hispaniola endemics are: White-fronted Quail Dove Geotrygon leucometopia Antillean Piculet Nesoctites micromegas Hispaniolan Woodpecker Melanerpes striatus Hispaniolan Trogon Priotelus roseigaster Narrow-billed Tody Todus angustirostris Broad-billed Tody Todus subulatus Bay-breasted Cuckoo Hyetornis rufigularis Hispaniolan Lizard-Cuckoo Saurothera longirostris Hispaniolan Parakeet Aratinga chloroptera Hispaniolan Parrot Amazona ventralis Hispaniolan Emerald Chlorostilbon swainsonii Ashy-faced Owl Tyto glaucops Greater Antillean Nightjar Caprimulgus eckmani Least Pauraque Siphonorhis brewsteri Ridgway's Hawk Buteo ridgwayi Hispaniolan Pewee Contopus hispaniolensis Flat-billed Vireo Vireo nanus White-necked Crow Corvus leucognaphalus Hispaniolan Palm Crow Corvus palmarum Palmchat Dulus dominicus La Selle's Thrush Turdus swalesi Antillean Siskin Carduelis dominicensis Green-tailed Warbler Microligea palustris White-winged Warbler Xenoligea montana Black-crowned Palm-Tanager Phaenicophilus palmarum Grey-crowned Palm-Tanager Phaenicophilus poliocephalus Eastern Chat-Tanager Calyptophilus frugivorus Western Chat Tanager Calyptophilus tertius Hispaniolan Crossbill Loxia megaplaga Hispaniolan Oriole Icterus dominicensis

  • iGoTerra Checklist

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Useful Reading

  • A Birdwatcher’s Guide to Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico & the Caymans

    By Guy Kirwan, Arturo Kirkconnell & Mike Flieg | Prion | 2010 | Paperback | 198 pages, Line illustrations, maps | ISBN: 9781871104127 Buy this book from
  • Birds of the Dominican Republic & Haiti

    by Steven Latta, Christopher Rimmer, Allan Keith, James Wiley, Herbert Raffaele, Kent McFarland, Eladio Fernandez, Bary Kent MacKay, Tracy Pedersen & Kristin Williams | Helm Field Guides | 2006 | Paperback | 258 pages, 57 colour plates, b/w distribution maps | ISBN: 9780713679052 Buy this book from
  • Ruta Barrancolí: A Bird-Finding Guide to the Dominican Republic

    by Steven C Latta, Kate J Wallace, Dana Gardner & Dax Román E | National Aviary, USA | Dec 2012 | Paperback | 241 pages, 32 plates with colour illustrations; colour photos, 33 colour maps | ISBN: 9780615625683 Buy this book from
  • The Birds of Hispaniola

    | (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) | by Allan R Keith, James W Wiley, Steven Latta & Jose Ottenwalder | British Ornithologists' Union | 2003 | Hardback | 309 pages, 32 pp col photos, tabs, figs, plates | ISBN: 9780907446262 Buy this book from
  • The Birds of the West Indies

    | By Guy M Kirwan, Anthony Levesque, Mark W Oberle & Christopher J Sharpe | Lynx Edicions | 2019 | 400 pages, 1600+ colour illustrations, 650+ colour distribution maps | ISBN: 9788416728176 Buy this book from
Useful Information
  • National Bird

    Palm Chat Dulus dominicus

Abbreviations Key

  • NP Cueva de las Maravillas

    InformationSatellite View
    The Parque nacional Cueva de las Maravillas (Cave of wonders) is a national park located approximately 10 kilometres (7 miles) west from La Romana, in the south-eastern part of the Dominican Republic.
  • NP Jaragua

    InformationSatellite View
    Jaragua National Park is located in Pedernales Province in the extreme southwest of the Dominican Republic. It has an area of 1374 km² (905 km² of which are marine). Alto Velo Island, Bahia de las Aguilas and Lago de Oviedo (noted for its diverse bird life) are part of the park.
  • NP Los Haitises

    InformationSatellite View
    Los Haitises National Park is a national park located on the remote northeast coast of the Dominican Republic. Being a coastal and marine park, it contains a large variety of birds, including most of the species endemic to the country.
  • NP Sierra De Baoruco

    InformationSatellite View
    Part of the area is protected within the Sierra de Bahoruco National Park (Parque Nacional Sierra de Bahoruco), also a Biosphere reserve.
  • NP WII BR Lake Enriquillo

    InformationSatellite View
    Lake Enriquillo (Spanish: Lago Enriquillo) is a hypersaline lake in the Dominican Republic located in the southwestern region of the country. Its waters are shared between the provinces of Bahoruco and Independencia, the latter of which borders Haiti. Lake Enriquillo is the lowest point for an island country. Among the numerous bird species found at the lake, American flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber) are prominent; flocks of flamingos are especially concentrated on Isla Cabritos and near the eastern end of the lake.
  • NR Saona Island

    InformationSatellite View
    Saona Island is a tropical island located a short distance from the mainland on the south-east tip of the Dominican Republic. The seas around the Island are rich in wildlife, with many species of birds and tropical marine fish, and there are large areas where natural sandbars offshore bring the depth to just a few feet.
  • National Parks

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Brief entries on all the parks
  • Wetland of International Importance

    WebpageSatellite View
    The Dominican Republic currently has 4 sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Sites), with a surface area of 135,097 hectares.
Guides & Tour Operators
  • Birding Ecotours

    Tour Operator
    Most birders access the large Caribbean island of Hispaniola, and its 30 avian endemics, by visiting the Dominican Republic. This is an essential destination for family listers, as Palmchat is the only member of its family and is only found here. But there are also two todies, a trogon and so many other tantalising endemics. Do join us on our Dominican Republic birding tour, which focuses on the endemics but certainly without ignoring all the other goodies.
  • La Cua Birding & Wildlife Tours

    Tour Operator
    La Cua tours are designed to cover the most beautiful regions of the island. The varied terrain, rich biodiversity, and one of the highest bird populations of the Caribbean allows guests to experience phenomenal birding from sea level up to 2,250m
Trip Reports
  • 2014 [06 June] - Brent Steury

    I just returned from Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. We stayed at the Melia Caribe and it turned out to be a great location to find lowland coastal Dominican birds. I did one hour walks every morning from 6:00 to around 7:00am between June 16 and 21 and found 36 species without leaving the resort grounds. Many species were nesting and I observed chicks of West Indian Whistling-duck and Common Moorhen. The grounds are extensive and include large trees, ponds, and mangrove wetlands. The south side of the resort is especially productive as it seems to border an undeveloped scruby wetland area. Below is the total list of species observed and numbers of each species.
  • 2015 [01 January] - Anonymous

    PDF Report
    Although this was not strictly a birding holiday, we took ourbinoculars and were surprised how many birds we managed tofind in the hotel grounds, from the beach and walking a shortcircuit each day around the hotel perimeter....
  • 2015 [03 March] - Jesse Fagan & Tom Johnson

    Our final full day in the Dominican Republic was designed to give us the best possible chance to see one of Hispaniola's rarest birds, Ridgway's Hawk. After we stopped for stunning views of displaying White-tailed Tropicbirds on the way east out of Santo Domingo, we headed to the outskirts of Los Haitises National Park. Timoteo, a local man who helps to keep an eye on the critically endangered hawks, helped us find a perched female Ridgway's Hawk, and we also saw and heard a male displaying high overhead.
  • 2015 [11 November] - David Ousey

    ...An early morning walk up the beach (west) and into the palm "jungle" was, having forgot to apply liberal amounts of insect repellent, I was duly well bitten by the local insect population!! Be warned or start scratching. A few waders on the coral edge of the sea were:-6 Wilson`s Plover, 5 Solitary Sandpiper (rather defying their name) & 18 Ruddy Turnstone. A strange sight for myself was 2 American Kestrels chasing an Osprey along the beach....
  • 2016 [02 February] - Dusan M Brinkhuizen

    PDF Report
    We managed to see all the possible 30 Hispaniolan endemicsand 8 near-endemics, missing only Hispaniolan Nightjar,which unfortunately remained heard-only.
  • 2016 [03 March] - Ross Gallardy - Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and Dominican Republic

    PDF Report
    ...This area included Antillean Euphonia, Antillean Piculet, Antillean Siskin, Hispaniolan Pewee, Hispaniolan Parrot, and Hispaniolan Parakeet. The areas of pine forest further along the road were dominated by Pine Warblers and the occasional Stolid Flycatcher(mostly just heard) as well as the occasional flyby of Golden Swallow...
  • 2016 [03 March] - Tom Johnson & Jesse Fagan

    ...we saw the incredible deforestation along the Haitian border and (in intact forest on the DR side of the border) picked up such key species as La Selle Thrush, Western Chat-Tanager, Greater Antillean Nightjar, Least Pauraque, Flat-billed Vireo, White-fronted Quail-Dove, White-necked Crow, and so much more. Our only "heard only" endemic was the Hispaniolan Crossbill that called a few times (presumably as it flew over) from the pine forest at Zapoten. However, we made up for it with the gigantic, gurgling, cooing Bay-breasted Cuckoos in the scrub forest in the foothills -- this rare species was a tour headliner for us this year with such incredible views...
  • 2017 [01 January] - Dušan Brinkhuizen

    PDF Report
    ...A female Black-throated Blue Warbler confused us for a moment, but soon we realised it was not the hoped for White-winged Warbler. Green-tailed Warblers were common along the track and back at the car, we enjoyed great views of a true White-winged Warbler (the species is sometimes called Hispaniolan Highland Tanager). ...
  • 2017 [04 April] - Mark Van Beirs - Greater Antilles

    PDF Report
    Our recent Greater Antilles island hopping tour produced all the single island endemics of Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and The Bahamas...
  • 2018 [02 February] - Forrest Rowland

    PDF Report
    ...We had a quick view of Ruddy Quail-Dove and fabulous looks at a cooperative Flat-billed Vireo. We hung around until dusk, at which point we successfully targeted Least Poorwill (heard by all, seen by some) and had another encounter Hispaniolan Nightjar! A fine endingto a day packed with fantastic endemics...
  • 2018 [03 March ] - Michiel de Boer - Jamaica & Dominican Republic

    For some time I wanted to visit these Islands in the Caribbean. Jamaica because of the Streamertails and Dominican Republic (DR) for the Trogon, the monotypic Palmchat and both Islands for the Todies. The annoying fact that there are no direct flights between J and DR has put me off going there in earlier years...
  • 2019 [04 April] - Mark Van Beirs - Hispaniola & Puerto Rico

    PDF Report
    The highlight of our recent Hispaniola and Puerto Rico endemics extravaganza was without a doubt the magnificent male Antillean Crested Hummingbird that showed so very well in a flowering tree in northeastern Puerto Rico
  • 2022 [02 February] - Gilles Delforge

    PDF Report
    The objective of the two of us (Gilles Delforge and Benoît Forget) was to see all the endemics of the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico and as much as possible of the other Caribbeans specialties as we had never been to Cuba, Jamaica or the Lesser Antilles.
  • 2022 [03 March] - Hans Matheve

  • 2022 [04 April] - Ian Merrill

    PDF Report
    ...Twenty minute drive to Santa Domingo Botanical Gardens for two hours of great introductory birding. Key bird: West Indian Whistling Duck. c4.5 hour drive west to Puerto Escondido, via lunch stop at Restaurant Francia, Azua. Birding on Rabo de Gato Trail until dark. Check into Rio Barrancoli Eco Lodge, evening meal and early night...
  • 2022 [12 December] - Lieven De Temmerman

    PDF Report
    The obvious goal was to try and see all possible endemics and as many other species. Since it was December, some species are hard / impossible to see: Caribbean Martin, Antillean Nighthawk, White-tailed Tropicbird (summer breeders) and Black-capped Petrel (not present at the breeding sites 15th of Nov- end of Dec, according to Petrel researchers I contacted).
Other Links
  • Aves Endemicas de la Republica Dominicana

    La Hispaniola presenta una gran diversidad de especies de aves. Entre las 31 especies endémicas en la Hispaniola e islas adyacentes, 30 pueden ser observadas en la República Dominicana.
  • Birds

    The considerable bird population in the Dominican Republic is made up of indigenous species and wintering birds from the North American mainland. Look out for species such as the Hispaniolan parrot, the Hispaniolan woodpecker, the rarer Hispaniolan trogon and Hispaniolan parakeet, the palmchat (which nests in the royal palms on the coastal plains) and several types of owl and pigeon, including the endangered white-crowned pigeon…
  • Birds of the Dominican Republic by Eladio Fernandez

    These photos were taken in the Dominican Republic. All these pictures were taken using a 35 mm Canon AE2, a Canon 300mm f 4.0 IS lens, and in some instances a Canon 1.4X telextender. Clicking on each photo will take you to the web page of one of the other countries where this bird can also be found.

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