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Hispaniolan Bird Conservation

Hispaniola supports more endemic bird species than any other Caribbean island except Jamaica. Its contribution to global biodiversity has earned Hispaniola the highest ranking of biological importance in a worldwide assessment of bird protection priorities.

White-winged WarblerYet the island's two countries, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, face severe conservation threats. Haiti's remaining forest cover stand at less than 1.5%, while current estimates place forest loss in the Dominican Republic at greater than 90% in the last 20 years.

In addition to its 31 endemic species, Hispaniola also harbors a large percentage of the wintering populations of many North American breeding birds. The most striking example of the dependence of a North American breeding species on Hispaniolan habitat is the Bicknell's Thrush. Breeding only in high-elevation forests of the northeastern U.S. and adjacent portions of Canada, this species winters almost exclusively in moist, broadleaf forests of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, indicating that its future survival hinges largely on the protection of wintering habitat in both countries.

VCE began field studies to assess the distribution, habitat use, and conservation status of Bicknell's Thrush in the Dominican Republic in December of 1994. Fourteen years and nearly 25 visits later, we are spearheading collaborative, islandwide efforts to protect birds and their habitats. Our current work integrates field research and monitoring with local training, outreach, and capacity building.

 

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PO Box 420• Norwich, VT 05055 • 802.649.1431• info@vtecostudies.org

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