The Palmchat, Dulus dominicus, is a small, long-tailed passerine bird, the only species in the genus Dulus and the family Dulidae. It is thought to be related to the waxwings, family Bombycillidae, and is sometimes classified with that group. The name reflects its strong association with palms for feeding, roosting and nesting.
The Palmchat is the national bird of the Dominican Republic.
Palmchats are about 20 cm (8 inches) in length. They are olive-brown above, and cream-buff, heavily streaked with brown, below. Their rumps and the edges of their primary feathers are dark yellow-green. They have strong yellow bills and russet eyes. They lack the soft silky plumage of the waxwings or silky-flycatchers. Adults are alike in appearance; immature birds have dark throats.
Distribution and habitat
The species is endemic to the island of Hispaniola (politically divided between the Dominican Republic and Haiti), including the adjacent Saona and Gonāve Islands, where it is common and widespread. It inhabits areas from sea-level to 1500 m asl where palm savannas can be found, or other open areas with scattered trees. Where its food trees are present, it has adapted well to city parks and gardens.
Palmchats are very sociable birds, often seen in small flocks containing several pairs which will roost closely together.
The breeding season is mainly from March to June. The birds build large, messy, communal nests of twigs in the crowns of palms (mainly Royal Palms Roystonea sp.). Occasionally, in the absence of palms, other trees or even telephone poles, may be used. The whole nesting structure may be up to 2 m across, containing several adjoining nests with their own separate chambers and entrances. The females lay clutches of 2-4 thickly spotted, grey-purple eggs.
Palmchats feed on fruits and berries, including those of palms and of the Gumbo-limbo tree, as well as on flowers, especially those of epiphytic orchids.
They are voluble and noisy birds, with a large repertoire of gurgling and cheeping sounds constantly used in their social behaviour.
The Palmchat is a common species within its range of about 75,000 km². As it is not approaching the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e., declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations), it has been evaluated as being of Least Concern.