Hispaniolan Crossbill Loxia megaplaga

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Fringillidae
  • Monotypic
  • Authors: Julia A. Hart


Conservation Status

Hispaniolan Crossbill is listed as Endangered by IUCN because of its small population size, range restriction to one island, and increasing threats to its habitat (BirdLife International 2008). Although its numbers fluctuate naturally (because of a variable food supply), available habitat is decreasing as a result of conversion to agriculture, fire, and logging. Total population estimates range from fewer than 1,000 to 3,375 islandwide (Benkman 1994, Latta et al. 2006).

Conservation recommendations for this species focus on maintaining adequate habitat for this species. A top priority is to protect large tracts of mature pine forest over a range of elevations and geographic locations (Benkman 1994). Local communities should be engaged in the protection of the Sierra de Bahoruco National Park, the area supporting the largest number of crossbills (BirdLife International 2008). The most productive pine forests in the Cordillera Central between 850 and 2100 m in elevation should also be conserved. Because mature forests produce more cones than younger trees, mature stands should be conserved and young stands should be allowed to mature (Benkman 1994). To prevent fires from spreading into pine forests, controlled burns should take place in the wet season (Latta et al. 2000). For a detailed conservation strategy of crossbills in Haiti, see Woods et al. 1992.

Effects of human activity on populations

Habitat loss is the greatest threat to this species. More than 75% of forest fires in the Dominican Republic are in pine forests with an average of 1112 ± 308 ha burned each year (Latta et al. 2000). The number of fires per year appears to be increasing, and under this altered fire regime trees are burning before they mature to a fire tolerant age. Based on this trend, Latta et al. (2000) predicted that pine forests will be completely lost within 100-150 years. Within the officially protected Sierra de Bahoruco National Park, where the majority of crossbills remain, small-scale cutting, introduced animals (dogs, chickens, cows, cats, rats), hunting, and poaching are unrestricted (Woolaver 2005). Logging of pines has also been observed in Macaya Biosphere Reserve and La Visite National Park, two of the few areas remaining in Haiti that support Hispaniolan pine (Rimmer et al. 2005a,b).

Habitat loss has further, indirect implications for crossbill survival. Hispaniolan pine has a periodic masting cycle of three years, but the timing of masting varies across the landscape because of climate variation. As pine forests are lost, cone availability becomes less variable and the food supply of crossbills is limited (Benkman 1994). Fragmentation into smaller and more isolated patches of suitable foraging and nesting habitat may further exacerbate population declines of this species (Latta et al. 2000). The altered fire regime described above also allows an introduced broadleaf tree (Syzgium jambos) to form dense thickets beneath some pines thereby inhibiting fire and natural regeneration of pine (Latta et al. 2000).

Recommended Citation

Hart, J. A. (2009). Hispaniolan Crossbill (Loxia megaplaga), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/nb.hiscro.01