A Forest for the Birds
The Hispaniolan Pine Forests ecoregion is found on Pic Macaya in Haiti and on the Cordillera Central, Sierra de Bahoruco, and Sierra de Neiba in the Dominican Republic. These high-altitude pine forests give the region an alpine look, and harbor many rare and endemic birds. Colors flash as parrots, parakeets, and hummingbirds fly through the canopy of pines.
Native West Indian pine trees are scattered across the island of Hispaniola. In lowlands, these pines rise from the savannah in scattered patches, while open forests blanket the mountain slopes. The trees can reach diameters of four feet (1.2 m) and heights of 150 feet (46 m). On Macaya Peak in Haiti, the lime-colored fronds of braken ferns decorate the forest floor, along with patches of wild holly, baccharis, and the pale, blue-gray spines of agave plants. The path ascending to Duarte Peak in the Dominican Republic, the highest point in the Caribbean at 10,417 feet (3,175 m), winds through montane forest up to extensive pine forests.
Sunlight gleams on the copper feathers of a Hispaniolan hawk as it soars over the pointed tops of pine trees. Hunting and habitat loss have caused this endemic bird to become endangered. An Antillean siskin lights up the trees as it ruffles its bright yellow chest feathers. An endemic Hispaniolan parakeet flies past in a streak of green. This bird is threatened because it is shot to protect crops and captured to supply the domestic and international pet trade. The endemic Hispaniolan emerald hummingbird--locally called zumbador, which means "buzzer" in Spanish--flits past. The male of this species, which measures about 4 inches (10 cm) in length, is the color of emeralds, with a dark forked tail and a black patch on his chest. Females are lighter in color. The trained eye can follow countless other birds as they fly through the dense network of pines, including the rufous-throated solitaire, the endemic and vulnerable La Selle thrush, and the endemic white-winged warbler.
Cause for Concern
Clear-cutting for development, agriculture, grazing, firewood gathering, and logging destroys the forests of this ecoregion. Replacing native pine with exotic trees, as has been done in the Dominican Republic for timber plantations, does not often meet the needs of the animals in this habitat. Introduced predators are a serious concern as well.
For more information on this ecoregion, go to the World Wildlife Fund Scientific Report.All text by World Wildlife Fund © 2001