Santo Domingo Feature

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Birds in the Barahona Region

The national parks in the southwestern part of the country provide the last remaining habitats for some 300 bird species in the Dominican Republic, including 30 that are endemic to Hispaniola. You have never seen anything like these Caribbean birds outside of an exotic pet store. Take the little tody, which has both a narrow- and broad-billed variety. These diminutive beauties are predominately green with red, pink, and yellow markings on white or gray breasts. They're very sweet.

Both the Hispaniolan parrot (cotorra) and its smaller cousin, the Hispaniolan parakeet (perico) can be sighted here. The Hispaniolan trogon (papagayo), which has a verdant green back and head and gray chest that segues into ruby-red plumage, has a bright blue tail and is accented with black and white stripes on its wings. Should you see a low-flying vain hummingbird (zumbador Cito) suspended in motion over a fuchsia flower, you may need to catch your breath. Even more rare is his relative, the Antillean mango (zumbador grande); the male has a black mask, green face and throat, and purple tail. And then there are other birds normally associated with northern climes—owls, hawks, swallows, pigeons, quail-doves—though far more beautiful than their northern cousins, with vibrant colorings.

Birders come here in all sizes and shapes, from teenage students to fortysomethings and seniors. The ardent bird-watchers, including "twitchers," as some British aficionados are called, are in their own little feathered world here. They will arrive with tripods for their expensive cameras, not to mention equally expensive binoculars. Their floppy hats act as sunscreens. Of course, all true bird-watchers have their logbooks in which they record their sightings. They travel to exotic countries and spend thousands of dollars to be able to log views of nearly extinct species. The Dominican Republic—and much of the Caribbean (with the exception of Trinidad), actually—is a sleeper for bird-watching, often passed over for better-known places like Costa Rica.

Expert guide Kate Wallace is the queen of the birders. At an age when most ladies are content to garden, she drives a four-wheel-drive vehicle like a professional truck driver at all hours of the morning, up steep mountain trails.

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