The Hispaniolan Woodpecker/ Pájaro Carpintero de la Hispaniola (Melanerpes striatus)
The Hispaniola Woodpecker is a medium-sized woodpecker is only found on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola in the countries of Dominican Republic and Haiti. They can be found throughout the entire island.
This noisy woodpecker travels in groups and is very social, unlike most woodpeckers. They also watch out for other colonies members nesting young.
They are easily spotted because of their pointy beaks, their yellow and black striped body feathers, their greenish grey rump and the distinctive red head. Of course, these birds have the noticeable red on their heads. The males red striped goes from the forehead to their heck and the female species red markings are much smaller and can only be seen extending from the nape to its neck.
Here in the Dominican Republic, many parts of the country do not like these boisterous birds. One of their favorite nesting places is in cacao (cocoa) trees damaging the tree and they also like to poke through the seed pod making it easy access for insects and other organisms that can damage the crop. According to (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09670878509370969#preview) pod damage was assessed at 3.7% in 1981 and 3.5% in 1982, close to the 4% estimate by the Ministry of Agriculture of the Dominican Republic. The Ministry established a bounty program on the Hispaniola Woodpecker in 1976, our study suggested this bounty should be discontinued. The program was found to be not cost effective, and did not reduce damage, and had an adverse effect on other avifauna.
Madame Sagá also known as The Village Weaver (Ploceus cucullatus)
Madame Sagá was first record in Dominican Republic in 1796 originally arriving as a cage bird on the slave ships from Africa. In Africa there are many species in this family. They are common all over the country now and only recently have been spotted in the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo.
The male is usually bright orange to yellow with a black hood, brown nape and red iris. The female is yellow-green. To me, a person not very knowledgeable about birds, they looked bright yellow with black heads and beaks with red eyes. They are eye-catching easy to spot.
The males build the round nests with a small opening. They are nicely woven usually using with palm leaves. Then he waits hoping the female will choose him because he is the best mate and nest builder. They nest in colonies laying between 2 to 4 pale green to blue eggs between April and September. You can usually hear them before you see these bright birds are their colonies can be very loud especially in the mornings.
Madame Sagá feeds on rice and grains making it very unpopular with the rice and millet farmers. This pretty and noisy bird may be small but it loves to eat and eat. They are considered pests by the Dominican farmers.
The Black Witch Moth (Ascalapha odorata)
The Black Witch Moth is called so because is considered to be a warning of death in Mexican and some places in the Caribbean. Other places in the Caribbean this giant moth is considered to bring good luck by blessing people with money. In Spanish it is known as “Mariposa de la muerte”. It is also called the Bat Moth because it is close in size to a small bat.
This huge moth starts out as a large caterpillar that can be up to 3 inches in length. It has beautiful intricate patterns of black and greenish brown spots and stripes. These caterpillars grow into the large moths with the males wing span reaching up to 7 inches and many are even bigger. Their markings are very beautiful and at night, when they usually fly, they are many times mistaken for a bat because of their size. They will not hurt you and are lovely to watch.
Black Witch Moth caterpillars eat legumes and especially like acacia and mesquite. They are harmless and not considered to be a pest. They do not have stingers or teeth.
They originally were found in Mexico and Central America but now can be found in North America as well.
Vine Sphinx Moth (Eumorpha vitis)
The beautiful Vine Sphinx Moth is a nectar feeder. They enjoy dining on the nectar of orchids, jimsonweed, and periwinkle. The caterpillar prefers vines, in which to hide. Grapevines are their favorites.
The colors are black to brown with a touch of pink on the back winds where they connect to the body.
They do not bite and are not dangerous in any way. Some farmers consider the bright green caterpillar to be a nuisance because they like to dine on grapevine leaves.
I took this picture of the Vine Sphinx Moth in Santo Domingo Este, Dominican Republic, near Puerto San Souci.
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Manatees range in color from gray to brown. Their 2 small front flippers and their flat, horizontal tails are used to move them along the sea and river bottoms. They have very small eyes and no outer ears yet they are thought to see and hear quite good. The average adult can weigh from 1,500 to 1,800 pounds and can measure ten to 12 feet in length. They can live from 50 to 60 years in the wild and much longer in captivity. They are vegetarians and are quite gentle and slow moving.
The Antillean Manatee (pictured above), a Dominican Republic native, is one precarious survivor from an insane killing from the old Spanish colonizers who believed that Manatee meat was an aphrodisiac and had the taste of seven different kinds of meats. Still in peril from the actual population, the Haitians poachers are still a major threat or this endangered species. It is a rare experience to have a close encounter with these elusive creatures, but it can happen while diving within the sanctuary.
Interesting fact: Did you know the word Manati came from the language of the original inhabitants of the island, the Taino Indians? They gave this marine animal its name. it was considered to be sacred. It is also thought that when people saw mermaids, known in Spanish as Sirens, they were really the manatee. More Taino words used today.
The Jaragua Sphaero
The Jaragua Sphaero also known as the Dwarf Gecko scientific name: Sphaerodactylus ariasae. This little lizard was discovered in 2001 by a Penn State University scientists. This little creature fits on a Dominican Peso that is about the same size as a U.S. quarter. The Jaragua Sphaero measuring 16 to 18 mm, about ¾ of an inch, from the snout to the base of the tail, is one of the world’s two smallest known reptiles. It is found in Jaragua National Park on the remote island of Beata. It feeds on insects and fruits.
Heteropoda Venatoria, the common name is Huntsman Spider.
Also known as the Giant Crab Spider, Housekeeping Spider and Banana Spider.
This is a very common spider found in tropical and sub tropical areas throughout the world. Its leg span can reach 5 inches. I love the mask it is wearing that gives it a very fierce look. They can move very fast which also makes them a bit frightening but they are pretty much harmless, usually running away when a human approaches. They normally eat all types of insects, especially cockroaches, crickets and moths. For this reason many people do not mind this spider setting up home in their barns and sheds. They hunt on the go, usually at night, and do not spin webs attacking their prey before they even realize what happened. They can fit into tiny places because of their flat bodies.
If this spider does bite it is a little painful but not deadly or dangerous and many reports say that when they are disturbed they play dead. Some say it is bad luck to kill this spider as it helps us humans by eating all those nasty insects.
Thank you Tony for the information. There are some great spider pictures and information on the Dominican Spiders Blog.
in Dominican Spanish: Mayes (may-gee’s) (found near the sea) and Gegenes (found in the hills). No matter what you call them these nasty little creatures are true bloodsuckers. They are known as Punkies, Midges, Black Gnats, and Black Sandflies. (In Spanish: Moscas de Arena, Chaquistíes, Zancudos Negros). These loathsome flies come from the family Ceratopogonidae. They are teeny, tiny, biting, persistent little buggers that are, in my opinion, worse than mosquitoes. Less than ¼ inch long and can get through a normal window screen with no problem. No problem for them but big problems for their unawares meal that just may have your name on it!
Since the noseeum cannot be seen (maybe this is why they have this nickname??) and the immediate bite can’t be felt, they can make your blood a feast before you really know what’s happening. Walking along ever so innocently one can easily stir up a swarm without knowing. If you’re lucky they will swarm. In a swarm they can be seen, a dark foreboding mass. The only problem with this swarm is they can enter any open body cavity (i.e. the mouth and nose). If you happen to find yourself in a swarm I strongly suggest that you close these openings. That is unless you want to be choking on their little, bitter tasting carcasses (yes, I know the taste well). If you have been swarmed move along quickly and get out of their territory, as they don’t like to travel very far from their home. So, I say, when you see a black cloud of flying bugs coming toward you..RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY!
These blood sucking mini vampires usually live in shrubs and ground cover. Along the water, marshlands, beaches and areas where it is damp. But they can be found just about anyplace. Even in the soil around your home or in your favorite potted plant. They are unlike mosquitoes as they do not need water to produce their offspring. Moisture will do just fine for them and their offspring.
The female, the only gender of these vicious little buggers that sucks blood, will get you before you know what is happening. She needs the protein in your blood for her to be able to procreate and be mommy to the next generation of these relentless creatures. She will find you by smell. As with any persistent woman out for blood, it is not easy to hide. This unrelenting female will suck the blood of anything that has this red substance flowing through their veins.
After taking the blood, of course, they need to leave you a little gift so you remember them. Left behind is a little red blotch that is extremely itchy that shows itself a few hours after the attack. The skin is usually raised and there is a small center red dot where they stuck you. Try not to scratch these red spots as they will just get itchier and could get infected.
The red spots can plague you for a few hours up to a week or more. Usually, there are many blotches and you can look like you have some sort of disease before they turn from bright red to a light fading pink. Rest assured the blotches will disappear in time. All that will be left behind is the memory of what these minuscule, almost invisible vampire-ettes can do to reek havoc on your nerves and flesh. You will for sure remember to watch out for them in the future, even if you can’t see them.
Be sure to use some type of insect repellant. Something with DEET is best. It is said that if you do not want to put those chemicals on your body that you can use Catnip, lavender, cedar, or even patchouli oils. Don’t wear light colored clothing as this attracts bugs. They say (do you know who they are?) that eating too many bananas can attract biting bugs. If you eat garlic or eat lots of hot peppers (bugs and humans alike won’t come near), take vitamin B or brewers yeast, this is supposed to help also. To ease the itch rub parsley, lemon balm, or the inside of a banana peel on the spot. (*NOTE-these are all things I have read and some I have tried myself. Use what is best for you. These natural remedies are not tested and may not work for you. I just like learning of the natural ways to rid myself of bugs and their after effects. This is probably why I always have bites on my body)
Interesting note – these tiny insects are found in abundance in amber. Seemingly attracted to the color of the fluid. The DMS extracted from these pesky creatures has been very helpful.
The Hispaniola Boa / Boa de la Hispaniola (Epicrates striatus)
This boa is a native to this island and can be found mostly on the Dominican Republic part of Hispaniola. The Hispaniolan Boa also known here as the Culebra Jabá has been seen on other Caribbean islands as well. This snake, like all snakes, plays an important roll in the environment by controlling pests such as rodents and birds that are bad for agriculture.
Hispaniola Boa is the largest snake found in Dominican Republic measuring up to 4 meters in length. They are nocturnal and like to hang out in tall grasses near water, in caves and hollow trees. Sometimes, if you are lucky you may see one sunning itself in tree branches, on a rock or maybe on a dirt road but spotting one is not easy. They are also good swimmers. Their colors vary from shades of black, brown, gray and even red. As with all constrictors, the mother gives birth to live young. She carries her eggs inside for between 192 to 218 days and she can carry about 25 babies at a time.
Dominicans are afraid of snakes, like many people the world over. The government and environmental people are trying to make the people aware that the snake is not poisonous. It is a good thing for the environment. They are trying to deter the killing of this much-needed creature.
The Dominican Zoo, Parque Zoológico Nacional Arq. Manuel Valverde Podestá República Dominicana, in Santo Domingo (ZOODOM) has this and other reptiles on display in their completely remodeled snake house.
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