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HISPANIOLA (DOMINICAN REPUBLIC) & PUERTO RICO
with JAMAICA & THE BAHAMAS

The Ultimate Caribbean Bird Tour

Birdquest's Hispaniola & Puerto Rico with Jamaica & The Bahamas birding tour is an extraordinary combination of some of the richest islands for endemic birds in the Caribbean region. As we explore some of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean we will enjoy some excellent birdwatching, including many endemics and Caribbean specialities as well as migrant species from North America. This tour is also a magnet for family collectors as it features Palmchat, the sole member of its family, and no fewer than four out of five species of tody, the second generally accepted Caribbean endemic bird family. Some authorities now recognize three further endemic Caribbean families that feature on this tour!

Tuesday 2nd April — Monday 15th April 2019
(14 days)


Jamaica Extension: Tuesday 26th March — Monday 1st April (7 days)

Bahamas Extension: Tuesday 16th April — Saturday 20th April (5 days)

Leader: Mark Van Beirs

Group Size Limit: 8 (9 in Jamaica and the Bahamas)

Tour Category: Easy walking for the most part and comfortable accommodations almost throughout

One of the highlights of this tour is getting to grips with four species of Tody. This is a fabulous Broad-billed Tody (Ron Knight)

One of the highlights of this tour is getting to grips with four species of Tody. This is a fabulous Broad-billed Tody (Ron Knight)

There is something magical about the Caribbean Sea and its scattering of beautiful islands. These tropical wonderlands with their palm-fringed, pearly beaches and ultramarine waters, their wealth of tropical fruits, their swinging reggae and calypso music, their famously relaxed way of life and their attractive mixture of races and cultures conjure up an idea of paradise. Of course this happy vision is only part of what the islands are about, and an aspect of the Caribbean more available to wealthy locals and visitors from more developed lands: life is far from idyllic for many inhabitants of the Caribbean.

Columbus discovered these islands soon after his famous transatlantic crossing and in the early 1500s the Spanish, eager for slaves to work in the goldmines of Hispaniola, conquered the native Indians and colonized the whole region. Santo Domingo, the present-day capital of the Dominican Republic (which occupies roughly two-thirds of Hispaniola), became the centre of Spanish influence and was sacked by Francis Drake in 1586. Buccaneers and pirates used the islands as bases for their pillaging forays. Later millions of slaves were imported from Africa and the resulting blend of different cultures has profoundly influenced the whole history of the West Indies.

Most of the Caribbean islands are rugged and mountainous, but encompass a breathtaking variety of terrain, fringed by white sandy beaches meeting the turquoise ocean. Eons ago, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and Jamaica were mountain peaks, connected to what is present-day central America, but nowadays their very special fauna and flora reflect their longstanding isolation.

Ornithologically, the Caribbean islands are perhaps most notable for the occurrence of at least two endemic families, the gem-like Todies (Todidae), comprising five very similar species (one of which is restricted to Cuba, while the other four are distributed between Hispaniola, Puerto Rico and Cuba) and the strange Palmchat (monotypic family Dulidae), which is restricted to Hispaniola. Some authorities now recognize three further endemic Caribbean families; the Phaenicophilidae, which contains both the White-winged and Green-tailed Warblers and the Black-crowned and Grey-crowned (Palm) Tanagers (all endemic to Hispaniola), the Calyptophilidae, which holds the two Chat-Tanagers (also endemic to Hispaniola) and the monotypic Nesospingidae, which consists of the endemic Puerto Rican Tanager.

With the richest concentration of endemic bird species in the Caribbean, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico and Jamaica are highly appealing to anyone with an interest in the avifauna of this beautiful part of the world. Hispaniola boasts no fewer than 32 endemics (although one, Grey-crowned (Palm) Tanager, is virtually confined to Haiti and not possible on bird tours to the Dominican Republic part of the island), Puerto Rico a further 18 (if one includes one species shared with the Virgin Islands), and Jamaica 30 (if one includes Jamaican Oriole, which is only shared with the remote island of San Andres), and there are also a host of more widespread endemic Caribbean specialities. Families that are especially well represented amongst the endemics include pigeons, parrots, cuckoos, nightjars, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, tyrant flycatchers, vireos and wood warblers. With persistence, we should see the vast majority of the specialities. Apart from the endemic birds, the pleasant tropical climate encourages many North American passerines to winter on these islands and even more to rest while on spring migration.

We start our journey in the Dominican Republic, which comprises the eastern two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola. Here we will spend most of our time in the forested valleys of the Sierra de Bahoruco. At lower altitudes we will be looking for the famous Palmchat as well as many other endemics including Ashy-faced Owl, Least Poorwill, the splendid Broad-billed Tody, Hispaniolan Amazon, the strange Hispaniolan Lizard Cuckoo, the rare Bay-breasted Cuckoo, Antillean Piculet, Hispaniolan Woodpecker, Hispaniolan Pewee, White-necked Crow, Flat-billed Vireo, Black-crowned (Palm) Tanager, Hispaniolan Spindalis (or Hispaniolan Stripe-headed Tanager), and Hispaniolan Oriole.

At higher altitudes we will be looking for Hispaniolan (or White-fronted) Quail-Dove, Hispaniolan Parakeet, Hispaniolan Nightjar, Hispaniolan Emerald, Narrow-billed Tody, Hispaniolan Trogon, the exquisite Golden Swallow, Hispaniolan Palm Crow, the rare La Selle Thrush, the attractive White-winged Warbler (formerly Hispaniolan Highland Tanager) and the skulking Green-tailed Warbler (formerly Green-tailed Ground Tanager), the skulking Western and Eastern Chat-Tanagers, Antillean Siskin and Hispaniolan Crossbill.

We will also explore the remote wilderness that is Los Haitises National Park, an area that is the last stronghold of the increasingly rare endemic Ridgway’s Hawk.

From Hispaniola we will fly eastwards to the much smaller island of Puerto Rico, where we will visit the tropical rainforest of the Luquillo Mountains. Later we will work the trails of the humid reserve of Maricao, before travelling to the dry forests of Guanica. Here we will seek out such endemics as the critically-endangered Puerto Rican Amazon (now easier to see than in the past), the weird Puerto Rican Lizard Cuckoo, Puerto Rican Screech Owl (which also occurs on the Virgin Islands), the rare Puerto Rican Nightjar, Puerto Rican Emerald, Green Mango, the lovely Puerto Rican Tody, Puerto Rican Woodpecker, Puerto Rican Pewee, Puerto Rican Flycatcher, Puerto Rican Vireo, the rare Elfin Woods Warbler, the lovely Adelaide’s Warbler, Puerto Rican Tanager, Puerto Rican Spindalis (or Puerto Rican Stripe-headed Tanager), Puerto Rican Bullfinch, Puerto Rican Oriole and the declining Yellow-shouldered Blackbird.

By the end of our journey through these two fascinating islands we should have seen the vast majority of their endemic birds, as well as many other Caribbean specialities, while enjoying some beautiful scenery and the special atmosphere of the Caribbean.

The name Jamaica derives from the word Xaymaca, meaning ‘Land of Wood and Water’ or perhaps ‘Land of Springs’, used by its Arawakan-speaking original Taíno inhabitants. Columbus ‘discovered’ Jamaica in 1494 on his second voyage of exploration to the New World, and in the early 1500s the Spanish conquered the Taíno indians and colonized the island, which they called Santiago. At times, buccaneers and pirates used the island as a base for their pillaging forays, and eventually the island passed under British control and became known as Jamaica. Huge numbers of slaves were imported from Africa during its colonial past and the resulting blend of different cultures has profoundly influenced the subsequent history of the island, which has been an independent state since 1962. Ian Fleming, who lived on the island, repeatedly used Jamaica as a setting for his James Bond novels, but Jamaica’s most famous son is surely Bob Marley, who is still regarded with reverence by the locals.

We start the Jamaica extension at Kingston, the capital of Jamaica, and from here we travel westwards to the climatically-perfect hill town of Mandeville. Here we shall explore the open gardens, pastures and woodland of a working cattle ranch where well over half of Jamaica’s endemics can be found, including the splendid Red-billed Streamertail (a supremely elegant hummingbird that is surely the island’s signature bird), Jamaican Parakeet, Jamaican Lizard Cuckoo, Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo, Jamaican Owl, Jamaican Mango, the lovely Jamaican Tody, Jamaican Woodpecker, Jamaican Elaenia, Jamaican Pewee, Sad and Rufous-tailed Flycatchers, Jamaican Becard, White-chinned Thrush, Jamaican Vireo, Jamaican Euphonia, Jamaican Spindalis (or Jamaican Stripe-headed Tanager), Yellow-shouldered Grassquit, the attractive Orangequit and Jamaican Oriole. We will also visit the Black River Morass, Jamaica’s largest wetland, where we should see Antillean Nighthawk and have a good chance of encountering the uncommon West Indian Whistling Duck.

We will also spend some time exploring the wild, hilly Cockpit Country in search of four more endemics: Ring-tailed Pigeon, Black-billed and Yellow-billed Amazons, and Jamaican Crow.

During the second part of our stay on the island, we concentrate on the dark evergreen forests of the Blue Mountains and the John Crow Mountains, which dominate the eastern part of this tropical paradise. These ranges are home to the rest of Jamaica’s endemics, including Black-billed Streamertail, the shy Crested Quail-Dove, White-eyed Thrush, Blue-Mountain Vireo, Arrowhead Warbler and Jamaican Blackbird. By the end of our journey there is a good chance we will have seen all of the Jamaican endemics. We will also have enjoyed some lovely Caribbean scenery and soaked up the relaxed way of life of this unique island.

A far-flung scattering of low-lying islands in the tropical Atlantic make up the Bahamas, which we will visit during a second optional extension. If ever a group of islands typified the popular view of the ‘desert island’ then the Bahamas fit the bill – endless miles of white sand beaches, swaying palms, turquoise blue waters, coral reefs and the sun shining down from a blue, blue sky almost every day of the year!

We only need to visit the attractive island of Abaco and the island of North Andros, in the northern Bahamas, in order to see the islands’ five endemics: Bahama Woodstar, Bahama Swallow, Bahama Warbler, Bahama Yellowthroat and the recently-recognized Bahama Oriole.

Whilst searching for these five major specialities we will also be able to enjoy a series of predominantly Caribbean birds, including the Bahamas form of the Cuban Amazon, the rare and threatened Caribbean Osprey, Zenaida Dove, the beautiful Key West Quail-Dove, Great Lizard Cuckoo, Antillean Nighthawk, Cuban Emerald, West Indian Woodpecker, Cuban Pewee, La Sagra’s Flycatcher, Loggerhead Kingbird, Red-legged Thrush, Bahama Mockingbird, Olive-capped Warbler, Western Spindalis (or Western Stripe-headed Tanager), Greater Antillean Bullfinch and perhaps West Indian Whistling-Duck. Interesting seabirds include White-tailed Tropicbird and perhaps Audubon’s Shearwater.

The Bahamas are a very attractive destination for anyone with an interest in the avifauna of this beautiful part of the world. Good standards of accommodation and food, and mostly easy travelling and birding conditions, make for a relaxing but highly rewarding journey. After exploring these idyllic islands, and after so much sun and sea, never mind such relaxing and enjoyable birding, it is going to be hard to drag ourselves away!

Birdquest has operated tours to Jamaica, Hispaniola and Puerto Rico since 1998, and to the Bahamas since 2004.

Jamaica-only or Bahamas-only Options: You may opt to take just the Jamaica section or just the Bahamas section as a stand-alone tour.

Cayman Islands Option: Providing there are enough participants wanting to go there, we will organize a short (one night) extension to the Cayman Islands in order to see the endemic Vitelline Warbler. Cost will depend on numbers. Please inform us at the time of booking if you are interested in participating in this extension.

Great Inagua (Bahamas) Option: Providing there are enough participants wanting to go there, we will organize a short (two nights) extension to Great Inagua Island in order to see the endemic Inagua Woodstar. Cost will depend on numbers. Please inform us at the time of booking if you are interested in participating in this extension.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels are of good standard almost throughout. Barrancoli Camp in the Sierra de Bahoruco, where we spend two nights, is pleasantly situated but fairly basic and bathroom facilities are shared. Transport is by small coach and minibus/passenger van, and roads are mostly good or reasonable, except in the sierras in the Dominican Republic.

Walking: The walking effort is easy throughout.

Climate: Mostly warm or hot, dry and sunny, but it is sometimes cool and overcast (especially at higher altitudes). It may rain at times.

Bird Photography: Opportunities are quite good.

Prices are provisional

Tour Price: £4090, €4830, $5360 Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic)/San Juan (Puerto Rico). Single Room Supplement: £484, €571, $634. Deposit: £500, €600, $650.

Jamaica Extension: £2150, €2540, $2820 Kingston/Kingston. Single Room Supplement: £240, €283, $314. Deposit: £250, €300, $330.

Bahamas Extension: £1590, €1870, $2080 Marsh Harbour/Nassau. Single Room Supplement: £256, €302, $335. Deposit: £200, €240, $260.

Includes surface transportation, accommodations, meals, water, entrance fees and tips/gratuities.

Also includes these flights: Santo Domingo-San Juan, Marsh Harbour-Nassau, Nassau-Andros, Andros-Nassau.

Please note, if you are taking the extensions, that air travel between Kingston and Santo Domingo and between San Juan and Marsh Harbour is not included. These flights are usually more economically incorporated into your round trip international tickets from home.

In the Dominican Republic there are only a limited number of rooms at the lodge in the Sierra de Bahoruco where we spend two nights. There is no single supplement at this location, but singles are provided free of additional charge if available at the time (they often are, but not always for everyone who wants one).

Base prices for this tour are in US Dollars. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = $1.310 and €1 = $1.110.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

Our main target on the island of Hispaniola is the Palmchat, which is the only member of its family, the Dulidae (Ron Knight)

Our main target on the island of Hispaniola is the Palmchat, which is the only member of its family, the Dulidae (Ron Knight)

Other Hispaniolan endemics include the cracking Hispaniolan Trogon (Ron Knight)

Other Hispaniolan endemics include the cracking Hispaniolan Trogon (Ron Knight)

... and the excellent Hispaniolan Lizard Cuckoo (Ron Knight)

... and the excellent Hispaniolan Lizard Cuckoo (Ron Knight)

The uncommon West Indian Whistling Duck is always a great sight (Ron Knight)

The uncommon West Indian Whistling Duck is always a great sight (Ron Knight)

The mean-looking Pearly-eyed Thrasher is endemic to Puerto Rico and some of the islands in the Lesser Antilles (Ron Knight)

The mean-looking Pearly-eyed Thrasher is endemic to Puerto Rico and some of the islands in the Lesser Antilles (Ron Knight)

The attractive Adelaide's Warbler is another fine endemic found on Puerto Rico (Ron Knight)

The attractive Adelaide's Warbler is another fine endemic found on Puerto Rico (Ron Knight)

One of the highlights of our tours to Jamaica, Hispaniola & Puerto Rico is the exquisite Red-billed Streamertail. It is endemic to Jamaica and is the national bird of this beautiful Caribbean island (Ron Knight)

One of the highlights of our tours to Jamaica, Hispaniola & Puerto Rico is the exquisite Red-billed Streamertail. It is endemic to Jamaica and is the national bird of this beautiful Caribbean island (Ron Knight)

We usually see all of the Jamaican endemics, including Black-billed Streamertail (Ron Knight)

We usually see all of the Jamaican endemics, including Black-billed Streamertail (Ron Knight)

...the subtly-hued Black-billed Parrot (Ron Knight)

...the subtly-hued Black-billed Parrot (Ron Knight)

...the Orangequit - which belongs in its own genus (Ron Knight)

...the Orangequit - which belongs in its own genus (Ron Knight)

...the colourful Jamaican Spindalis or Stripe-headed Tanager (Ron Knight)

...the colourful Jamaican Spindalis or Stripe-headed Tanager (Ron Knight)

...the lovely Jamaican Lizard Cuckoo (Ron Knight)

...the lovely Jamaican Lizard Cuckoo (Ron Knight)

...the Jamaican Woodpecker (Ron Knight)

...the Jamaican Woodpecker (Ron Knight)

...and the Rufous-tailed Flycatcher - one of the easiest to identify members of the genus Myiarchus (Ron Knight)

...and the Rufous-tailed Flycatcher - one of the easiest to identify members of the genus Myiarchus (Ron Knight)

Other Caribbean endemics include the smart Greater Antillean Bullfinch (Ron Knight)

Other Caribbean endemics include the smart Greater Antillean Bullfinch (Ron Knight)

The Antillean Piculet is placed in its own genus and is endemic to Hispaniola (Ron Knight)

The Antillean Piculet is placed in its own genus and is endemic to Hispaniola (Ron Knight)

The glorious Hispaniolan Woodpecker is one of the most common Hispaniolan endemics (Ron Knight)

The glorious Hispaniolan Woodpecker is one of the most common Hispaniolan endemics (Ron Knight)

The White-necked Crow has a lovely call and is endemic to Hispaniola  (Ron Knight)

The White-necked Crow has a lovely call and is endemic to Hispaniola (Ron Knight)

The Caribbean Martin is a more widespread Caribbean endemic (Ron Knight)

The Caribbean Martin is a more widespread Caribbean endemic (Ron Knight)

Many of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOL Certificate

Birdquest Ltd is Registered in England, Company No. 01568270. The address of our registered office is Two Jays, Kemple End, Stonyhurst, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 9QY

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