With its large size, complex topography and high number of avian endemics, Hispaniola appears to be a likely candidate for the in situ speciation of its avifauna, despite the worldwide rarity of avian speciation within single islands. We used multilocus comparative phylogeography techniques to examine the pattern and history of divergence in 11 endemic birds representing potential within-island speciation events. Haplotype and allele networks from mitochondrial ND2 and nuclear intron loci reveal a consistent pattern: phylogeographic divergence within or between closely related species is correlated with the likely distribution of ancient sea barriers that once divided Hispaniola into several smaller paleo-islands. Coalescent and mitochondrial clock dating of divergences indicate species-specific response to different geological events over the wide span of the island’s history. We found no evidence that ecological or topographical complexity generated diversity, either by creating open niches or by restricting long-term gene flow. Thus, no true within-island speciation appears to have occurred among the species sampled on Hispaniola. Divergence events predating the merging of Hispaniola’s paleo-island blocks cannot be considered in situ divergence, and postmerging divergence in response to episodic island segmentation by marine flooding probably represents in situ vicariance or interarchipelago speciation by dispersal. Our work highlights the necessity of considering island geologic history while investigating the speciation–area relationship in birds and other taxa.