The Greater Antillean bullfinch (Loxigilla violacea) is a stout finch with a very thick, short, black bill that is adapted to take the husks off seeds. The male Greater Antillean bullfinch has a diagnostic orange-red stripe above the eye, as well as an orange-red throat and dusky brown legs. The upperparts are glossy black and the underparts are dull black, except for an orange-red throat (2)(3).
The Greater Antillean bullfinch displays marked sexual dimorphism, the female being duller black. The juvenile has pale underparts and olive-brown upperparts, with rusty markings on the head. The juvenile may become spotted as it develops adult plumage (2)(3).
The Greater Antillean bullfinch may be further identified by its call, which is a harsh ‘wichi-wichi-wichi’, followed by a cicada-like ‘scree’ (3).
Breeding between March and June (2), the Greater Antillean bullfinch usually builds a globular nest in a shrub or low tree, with the entrance at the side of the nest. It sometimes constructs this nest amongst grass on the ground or in a cavity in a tree. Three spotted eggs are usually laid (3).
The Greater Antillean bullfinch feeds mainly on seeds, skilfully removing the husks with its large bill. It may also feed on the buds and petals of flowers, and also on fruit, such as plantain, coffee and peppers (2).
The population size of the Greater Antillean bullfinch is currently unknown. However, this species is thought to be fairly common across its range, and no major threats to its survival have been identified (4).
However, forest loss has been prevalent across much of its range, including on Hispaniola. Due to a history of unsustainable activities, such as logging and encroaching urbanisation, only 10 percent of the Dominican Republic remains forested while, tragically, only 1.5 percent of Haiti’s landscape is still forested. These saddening figures make Hispaniola one of the most environmentally degraded areas in the world (5)(6).
In the absence of any major threats, the Greater Antillean bullfinch has not been the target of any specific conservation measures. However, it is likely to occur in a number of reserves, including in the Dominican Republic, where around 16 percent of the total land cover is designated as reserves. Unfortunately, the level of legal enforcement offered these reserves varies, and very few are afforded strict protection (6).
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