Republic of Haiti

Hispaniolan Trogon Priotelus roseigaster ©Alfonso Lomba - Wikimedia Website
Birding Haiti

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.

Top Sites
  • Trou Caiman

    Satellite View
    Trou Caiman is a shallow lake close to the capital Port-au-Prince, good for water birds etc…
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 268

    (As at october 2018)

    National Bird: Hispaniolan Trogon Priotelus roseigaster

  • Number of endemics: 31

    Strictly speaking Haiti has no endemics, but the whole island of Hispaniola must be understood as a whole. DR really has just two endemics - the island of Hispaniola (DR is the other half of that island) has 31. All but two have seen in Haiti and, although not quite an endemic, 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

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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
  • 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: 0907446264 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
  • Haiti National Trust

    Haiti Trust was created to protect the environment and biodiversity of Haiti for future generations. Our primary activity is to identify the biodiversity hotspots of Haiti, acquire land for parks, and establish long-term protective measures.

Abbreviations Key

  • NP Deux Mamelles

    InformationSatellite View
    It is located on the Tiburon Peninsula of Haiti, just west of a line connecting Les Anglais to the south and Jérémie to the north. The park circumscribes a U-shaped mountain, Morne Deux Mamelles, reaching 1,276 meters in elevation and is the highest mountain at the western end of the Tiburon Peninsula.
  • NP Grand Bois

    InformationSatellite View
    Morne Grand Bois is an isolated bowl-shaped mountain with remnant original (primary) rainforest. Its highest peak is 1262 meters in elevation. On Grand Bois, they rediscovered a frog species that was believed to be extinct, the Tiburon stream frog (Eleutherodactylus semipalmatus). A rare Magnolia tree species, Magnolia ekmanii, which has not been seen since Ekman's exploration, was also found.
  • NP Grande Colline

    InformationSatellite View
    This park is one of the most remote and difficult to reach areas in Haiti. It was explored by the founders of the Haiti National Trust in 2011–2015, with assistance of a helicopter and supported by the National Science Foundation and Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund.
  • NP La Visite

    InformationSatellite View
    The park offers excellent opportunities for birdwatching. The park is home to over 80 species of birds. A number of threatened species, including some endemic to the island of Hispaniola, can be seen in the park.
  • NP Pic Macaya

    InformationSatellite View
    The forest is also home to 65 species of birds, several threatened with extinction.
Trip Reports
  • 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…
  • 2014 [04 April] - Rick Schaefer

    PDF Report
    ...There had just been a rain shower, cloud cover kept the temperature mild, and birds were active. Wewalked to the edge of a line of trees near the house and within a few minutes spotted a Grey-crownedPalm-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-andWhiteWarbler, and several Scaly-naped Pigeons perched in trees across the road...
  • 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.
Places to Stay
Other Links
  • 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

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