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Gray-crowned Palm-Tanager

Phaenicophilus poliocephalus

Gray-crowned Palm-Tanager

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Thraupidae
  • Polytypic 3 Subspecies

Authors: Townsend, Jason M.

Gray-crowned Palm-Tanager

© Juan Klavins

The Gray-crowned Palm-Tanager (Phaenicophilus poliocephalus) is Haiti's lone avian endemic.  The species occurs west of the Jacmel Depression -- a strip of low-lying land running north to south that separates the still bio-diverse and relatively well-forested Tiburon peninsula from the rest of Hispaniola. Towering over the Tiburon is the Massif de la Hotte, one of Haiti’s major mountain ranges and, fortunately for the Gray-crowned Palm-Tanager, a last bastion for Haiti’s flora and fauna (Rimmer et al. 2005). Until the Mid Pleistocene the Jacmel Depression sat below sea-level, forming a water barrier that effectively isolated the Massif de la Hotte from the rest of Hispaniola (Maurrasse and Rigaud 1982). This geographic isolation allowed for the speciation of the Gray-crowned Palm-Tanager, along with multiple other species of flora and fauna unique to these mountains, many of which have yet to be described by science.  The Gray-crowned Palm-Tanager is a relatively common species in this region and is most often associated with forests, where it probes dead leaves for arthropods and also consumes soft-bodied fruit. It inhabits mangrove, scrub, gardens, city parks, agro-forestry plantations, pine, semi-humid forest and humid forest (Keith et al. 2003). The species can be found from sea-level to the highest forested peaks at 2400 m, and is especially abundant in the karst limestone rainforests of the Macaya Biosphere Reserve, a loosely protected national park high up in the Massif de la Hotte. Although this species can be considered common in comparison to other resident species in Haiti, it is likely that the extreme diminution of Haiti’s forests over the last 200 years has caused a general decline in the species’ total population (Kieth et al. 2003). It is estimated that just 1.5% of Haiti's original forest cover remains, and even this little bit is under constant pressure from shifting agriculture and charcoal production for cooking fuel (Rimmer et al. 2005). All forest-dwelling birds in Haiti, whether resident or migrant, face a tenuous situation, and several authors consider Gray-crowned Palm-Tanager to be of conservation concern due to it's restricted range and the near-total lack of conservation enforcement in Haiti (Birdlife International 2000, Rimmer et al. 2005, Sly et al. 2010).

Gray-crowned Palm-Tanager photos © Juan Klavins

Recommended Citation

Townsend, Jason M.. 2009. Gray-crowned Palm-Tanager (Phaenicophilus poliocephalus), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online:

This map is based on the maps available from the NatureServe InfoNatura website. The data for these maps are provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Robert Ridgely, James Zook, The Nature Conservancy - Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International - CABS, World Wildlife Fund - US, and Environment Canada - WILDSPACE.

  • Migration/Movement:Resident (nonmigratory)
  • Primary Habitat:Tropical deciduous forest
  • Foraging Strata:Midstory
  • Foraging Behavior:Glean
  • Diet:Omnivorous
  • Sociality:Solitary/Pairs
  • Mating System:Unknown
  • Nest Form:Cup
  • Clutch: 2 - 4
  • IUCN Status:Near Threatened