The avifauna of Puerto Rico includes almost 350 species of birds. However, 93 of these are accidentals (stragglers from other locations that have only been reported a few times). Also, man has introduced 35 of the total bird species, and many of these may not have established sustainable breeding populations. About 120 bird species regularly nest in Puerto Rico, including native species, plus other birds that have been introduced by humans over the last few centuries.
In addition to the local nesting avifauna, many other species of birds breed in North America and elsewhere, but spend the winter in the tropics, including Puerto Rico and other islands in the Caribbean. In fact, many of these migrants actually spend more time in Puerto Rico than on their breeding grounds.
Puerto Rico is an incubator of evolution, with 16 surviving endemic bird species on an island only 100 by 35 miles in size. In the USA by comparison, the 48 contiguous US states have more than 800 times as much land area, but only 11 surviving endemic bird species. In addition 25 species of birds endemic to the West Indies occur in Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico has not escaped the Earth's sixth mass extinction event. At least five endemic birds have become extinct in recent millennia in Puerto Rico - as many as in all of North America. Some of these recent extinctions may have been caused by climate change, others by the Taino Indians, while still modern inhabitants recently precipitated other extinctions. Puerto Rico had a large flightless rail that was hunted by the Taino Indians, an endemic woodcock, an endemic quail-dove, an endemic barn owl, and an endemic finch. In addition, several subspecies in Puerto Rico have become extinct recently. Some species that still survive elsewhere are now extinct in Puerto Rico. For example, the White-necked Crow 'Cuervo pescueciblanco' Corvus leucognaphalus was hunted to extinction in Puerto Rico by the mid-20th Century, but still survives on Hispaniola. The Limpkin 'Carrao' Aramus guarauna was still hunted in the 19th century in Puerto Rico, but has only rarely been reported on this island recently. Since bird bones are quite fragile and easily destroyed, we may never know about other birds that have become extinct in recent centuries, but have left no recognizable trace.
Recent studies have suggested that in all of the West Indies there were 50 to 60 species of endemic parrots, parakeets and macaws at the time humans arrived. Since the arrival of humans all but 12 of those have become extinct. These extinct species - some of which were once common birds - should remind all of us that we cannot take for granted that our children will have the benefit of interacting with the same birds who are co-occupying this planet with us now. If it were not for significant efforts by conservationists starting in the 1960s, the endemic Puerto Rican Parrot and the endemic Yellow-shouldered Blackbird would almost certainly be extinct on Puerto Rico.
Caribbean National Forest
Southeast of San Juan is locally called El Yunque. Its forest has many of the endemic bird species but is unique as the only place where the endemic Puerto Rican Parrot occurs. The main nesting area on the west side of the forest is off limits to visitors except by special arrangements with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Occasionally, parrots have been seen flying in late afternoon from the Tradewinds Trail, 1-2 miles west of PR 191, but that trail has frequently been closed due to landslides. They also have been seen recently flying over the Río Espíritu Santo overlook on PR 186.
Guánica State Forest
Puerto Rico.s dry forest can best be explored at Guánica State Forest. This area is good for Adelaide's Warbler, Puerto Rican Vireo, Puerto Rican Flycatcher, Puerto Rican Tody, Key-West Quail-Dove, Puerto Rican Lizard-Cuckoo, and Mangrove Cuckoo. At night, the endemic Puerto Rican Nightjar can be heard along Puerto Rico 333.
Humacao Wildlife Refuge
East of the town of Humacao has many waterfowl, plus Least Bittern. It is the most reliable spot for West Indian Whistling-Duck, but you have to be lucky to glimpse them at dawn or dusk as they fly to or from foraging grounds.
To the east in the town of La Parguera, the grounds of the hotel Parador Villa Parguera often host the endangered Yellow-shouldered Blackbird which feeds on table scraps there, and can be seen at dawn and dusk in the non-breeding season flying to and from roosts on mangrove islands.
Parador Hacienda Juanita
At the nearby Parador Hacienda Juanita (tel: 838-2550) many of the tall trees on the grounds were toppled by Hurricane Georges in 1998, but you can still find Black-cowled Oriole, Green Mango, Puerto Rican Spindalis, and Loggerhead Kingbird, as well as other common forest species. There is a good loop trail leading downhill through the forest just west of the swimming pool where Puerto Rican Screech-Owls call at dawn and dusk.
South-western Puerto Rico
All of Puerto Rico's endemic birds, with the exception of the Puerto Rico Parrot, can be found in a few leisurely days of exploring south-western Puerto Rico. The habitat here varies from wet cloud forest on high mountain ridge tops, to the cactus-dotted subtropical dry forest in the lowlands, where the mountain ranges often block the prevailing north-easterly winds from delivering rain. Key sites in the southwest include the mountains at Maricao State Forest, e.g. on PR 120 near the picnic area at Km 16.2. This spot is one of the most reliable spots for the endemic Elfin Woods Warbler. Listen for its rattling trill of a song, or its odd, buzzy call note, as it explores the tree canopy, often in mixed flocks with other species. Also common here is Puerto Rican Vireo, Lesser Antillean (Puerto Rican) Pewee, Puerto Rican Bullfinch, Puerto Rican Tody, and Puerto Rican Tanager.
At the south end of Puerto Rico 301 on the coast, follow the signs for the Cabo Rojo lighthouse (Faro). The mangroves and salt ponds in the wildlife refuge along the way are some of the best wetlands in the Caribbean for migrant shorebirds such as Stilt Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, and Whimbrel. The mangroves on the way have abundant Northern Waterthrush (winter) and Yellow Warblers. The shrubs along the trail harbor Troupials, Warbling Silverbills, and other dry scrub species
Number of Species
Number of bird species: 311
National Bird: Puerto Rican Spindalis Spindalis portoricensis
Number of endemics: 15
Puerto Rican Woodpecker Melanerpes portoricensis Puerto Rican Tody Todus mexicanus Puerto Rican Lizard-Cuckoo Saurothera vieilloti Puerto Rican Parrot Amazona vittata Green Mango Anthracothorax viridis Puerto Rican Emerald Chlorostilbon maugaeus Puerto Rican Screech-Owl Otus nudipes Puerto Rican Nightjar Caprimulgus noctitherus Puerto Rican Flycatcher Myiarchus antillarum Puerto Rican Vireo Vireo latimeri Adelaide`s Warbler Dendroica adelaidae Elfin-woods Warbler Dendroica angelae Puerto Rican Tanager Nesospingus speculiferus Puerto Rican Bullfinch Loxigilla portoricensis Yellow-shouldered Blackbird Agelaius xanthomus
Fatbirder's very own checklists are now available through WebBirder
A Birdwatcher’s Guide to Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico & the Caymans
by Guy Kirwan, Arturo Kirkconnell & Mike Flieg - Prion 2010
ISBN: 9781871104127Buy this book from NHBS.com
A Guide to the Birds of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands
Herbert A. Raffaele, Cindy J. House, John Wiessinger Hardcover - 272 pages ( 1 December, 1989) Princeton University Press
ISBN: 0691024243Buy this book from NHBS.com
Puerto Rico's Birds in Photographs
Mark W Oberle
2nd edition, softcover 132 pages + CD-Rom
See the Fatbirder Review
ISBN: 0965010414Buy this book from NHBS.com
The Birds of the West Indies
By Herbert Raffaele, James Wiley, Orlando Garrido, Allan Keith & Janis Raffaele
Helm Field Guides Sept 2003 Paperback RRP ?16.99p
See Fatbirder Review
ISBN: 0713654198Buy this book from NHBS.com
Guides & Tour Operators
Since 1992 we have been offering customized, guided outdoor itineraries for individuals and small groups looking for unique nature and soft 'green' educational experiences. We follow Green Globe and APIE Codes of Good Practices, plus Leave No Trace Principles…
Puerto Rico Birding Trips
Puerto Rico Birding Trips offers Birdwatching Tours in Puerto Rico with its over 300 species including 17 endemics, Puerto Rico is a great and recommended destination for birdwatching…
CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.
2007 [01 January] - Bill Brenner
This trip was the result of a desire to extend a several-day work-related conference in Orlando, to make it a whole week off and to include a few days vacation somewhere not too far from Florida. Puerto Rico was ideal, since it had some great endemic birds, nice butterflies, and especially, more new life hummingbird species than I could see anywhere else in the Caribbean, since I’ve already been to Jamaica and some of the Lesser Antilles…
2007 [11 November] - Gary & Marlene Babic
…our total of 75 birds seen plus 1 heard-only was not as high as it could have been – almost every lake and mud flat we saw did contain flocks of waders which remained unidentified. For us, the trip was an unqualified success – we had 33 life birds and saw all endemics except for the critically-endangered Puerto Rican Parrot…
2012 [05 May] - John Thornton
…We then drove to our hotel for our first night: the Fajardo Inn located in the northeastern city of the same name. The drive over we managed to spot other birds such as CATTLE EGRET, GREEN HERON, RED-TAILED HAWK, ZENAIDA DOVE, GRAY KINGBIRD, and CARIBBEAN MARTIN. The hotel grounds had many of the same birds we had already seen, plus we added COMMON GROUND-DOVE, ANTILLEAN CRESTED HUMMINGBIRD, PEARLY-EYED THRASHER and my first endemic and lifer of the trip, a PUERTO RICAN (PR hereafter) ORIOLE. From our room's balcony, we could see BROWN PELICANS and LAUGHING GULLS at the nearby coastline…
2013 [03 March] - Eric Hynes & Pepe Rojas
The next morning, charismatic endemics like Puerto Rican Tody and Puerto Rican Lizard-Cuckoo were around us right from the start at Cambalache. The rainforest up at Rio Abajo in the Haystack Hills was lush and birdy. Thank goodness that Puerto Rican Screech-Owl was still roosting in the bamboo. Lunch at Guajataca was highlighted by a streaking Peregrine Falcon and White-tailed Tropicbirds…
2013 [04 April] - Steve Johnson
These notes are intended to help other birders visiting Puerto Rico. Other peoples' reports are very helpful; these are just my own additions…
2014 [03 March] - Eric Hynes & Leno Senko
...Cambalache State Forest (Bosque Estatal de Cambalache) was a great second stop. We parked under a singing Puerto Rican Lizard-Cuckoo and followed it up with close Puerto Rican Tody and a yummy picnic lunch. The afternoon of our first full day had two noteworthy stops: the "flamingo pond" and Guajataca for White-tailed Tropicbirds...
2015 [02 February] - Clayton Burne
The tiny island of Puerto Rico, together with Cuba, Jamaica and Hispaniola make up the Greater Antilles. As with all the Greater Antilles islands, there is a host of endemic species here to whet the appetite. A logistically easy island to travel around, with excellent accommodation and food, makes Puerto Rico a truly Enchanted Island. With a small gap between tours, I recently spent 6 days investigating the island’s avian delights...
2015 [03 March] - Eric Hynes & Tom Johnson
...We continued on to Cambalache, where we had lunch and enjoyed Puerto Rican Lizard-Cuckoos. The afternoon held in store close views of an American Flamingo at Camuy and White-tailed Tropicbirds zooming around offshore at Guajataca. In the evening, we arrived at our seaside lodging at La Parguera.
2015 [04 April] - Eustace Barnes
Puerto Rico is a truly American Experience providing car park birding at its best. The Elfin Woods Warbler and Puerto Rican Screech Owl car park experience was the best.
2016 [01 January] - Ian Merrill
...even the shortest of trips can encompass all of the key birding sites, while a week-long visit facilitates a very relaxed tour of this seductively picturesque and laid-back island. Even though our trip was by no means a full-on birding experience, and consisted of an itinerary taking in various cultural attractions to entertain a largely non-birding wife, I still saw all of the island’s endemics (with the exception of Puerto Rican Parrot) within the first three days...
2016 [01 January] - Wilton Farrelly
This was a family Christmas cruise with a few days holidaying beforehand in Puerto Rico. It was taken in the period 21st December to 2nd January. Birding was worked around family time and activities. Indeed cruises are not great for birding in that ships arrive in the centre of towns and birding sites are rarely close by. However I had pre-booked local bird guides in St Lucia and Grenada. I have below also mentioned a number of wildlife related activities that we took up.
2016 [03 March] - Ross Gallardy - Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and Dominican Republic
2016 [03 March] - Tom Johnson & Pepe Rojas
...The tour started off in San Juan with an introductory dinner, but we retired to bed early to prepare for a predawn start the following day. We headed west to Rio Abajo, where we found Puerto Rican Screech-Owls, enjoyed a picnic breakfast, and then walked a forest road until we came to a good site to wait for Puerto Rican Parrots to arrive...
Places to Stay
Bed and Breakfast in the Rainforest - Listen to the melodies of the coquis - literally a chorus of singing frogs. Be lulled to sleep by the waterfalls that surround your island home. Breathe in the soft Caribbean air. Your mountain top retreat is set on the lush edge of the 28,000 acre El Yunque Rain forest - home to more than 200 species of trees, 50 species of native orchids, and 150 types of exotic ferns…
Welcome to Mamacitas the friendliest little guesthouse in the Caribbean. For information regarding room information, bar and restaurant hours or Culebra Island activities. Culebra is almost exactly betweenthe big island of Puerto Rico and St. Thomas of the US Virgin Islands
Coereba Society/ Sociedad Coereba
7336 16th Ave. SW Seattle, WA 98106-1835
The Coereba Society takes its name from what's by far the most common bird in the Puerto Rico region, the bananaquit…
Sociedad de Historia Natural de Puerto Rico
La Sociedad de Historia Natural de P.R., organizada en 1960, es de los más antiguos grupos conservacionistas en Puerto Rico. Sus objetivos principales son la educación, conservación y aprecio de nuestro ambiente y recursos naturales, ofreciendo conferencias, excursiones y otras actividades de temas ambientales. Las charlas mensuales son seguidas por una excursión relacionada. La Sociedad también participa en programas de conservación y educación ambiental con otras instituciones y grupos comunitarios.
Sociedad Ornitológica Puertorriqueña
Address: PO Box 195166 San Juan, PR 00919-5166
Cabo Rojo Wildlife Refuge
The Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1974 when 587 acres of land in the coastal plain of south-western Puerto Rico were transferred to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. This area is classified as subtropical dry forest. Previous to the establishment of the refuge the vegetation was severely disturbed by cattle grazing. The Cabo Rojo NWR now includes tracts of secondary forest, grassland and brush habitats.
Culebra National Wildlife Refuge
Culebra National Wildlife Refuge is one of over 400 wildlife refuges administered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service in the United States, Puerto Rico and US territories. These refuges, managed principally for migratory birds and other unique wildlife values, are part of the National Wildlife Refuge System in the Department of the Interior. The Culebra Refuge, which comprises about 1,480 acres, includes 23 islands and rocks in addition to the four tracts on the main island of Culebra. The refuge is well known as a nesting site for a variety of seabirds and preserves important habitat for endangered sea turtles and the Culebra giant anole.
El Yunque Caribbean National Forest
The Forest contains rare wildlife including the Puerto Rican Parrot, which is largely green in coloration, about 12 inches long, and displays brilliant blue wings in flight. At close range a vivid red forehead is also visible. It is found only in this part of the island. Approximately 50 other bird species are found on the Forest.
Now that I have my own house, I have the goal of making my backyard a special place or habitat for birds. Everyone should know that my passion for birds is extreme. It has not been easy. The backyard was left without proper cleaning for years. I cut dead trees, picked leaves, trash and other things that did not belong to the place…
Puerto Rico Birding
On this blog I post info about Puerto Rico Birds as well as my birding tours, and other thing related to birds or birding here on the island of Puerto Rico…
Aves de Puerto Rico
The birds of Puerto Rico [under construction Jan 2003]
Birds of Vieques
The birds of the salt flats of Sun Bay, a key wintering and feeding habitat for waterfowl. Featuring the White Cheeked Pintail (Bahama Duck). This is a species of concern due to it being overhunted, mongeese stealing the eggs and loss of habitat. One quarter of the Puerto Rico population of this bird lives here…
Birdwatching in Puerto Rico
If you are a birdwatcher, then Puerto Rico needs to be added to your must-visit bucket list. Puerto Rico has so many different geographical regions, all within a small 35×100 mile area — rain forests, dry forests, and forests in-between, seaside, mangroves and mountains....
Checklist - Birds of Puerto Rico
Puerto Rican Parrot Amazona vittata
Puerto Rico was once an unspoiled tropical island with an abundance of wildlife, including its endemic Parrot (amazona vitatta). Along with the population explosion and a tremendous growth of housing much of the habitat the parrots were surviving in had been lost. The parrots retreated to their last stronghold, the El Yunque Mountains…
Photographers & Artists
Photographer - Gabriel Lugo
Siempre había deseado tener alguna actividad que me envolviera con la naturaleza, pero jamás pensé que fueran las aves…
Photographer - Mark Oberle
Puerto Rico`s first book to illustrate in colour photographs all breeding birds and common migrants. Over 300 colour photos of 181 species of Puerto Rican birds are included. The English text is designed for students,teachers, tourists, and anyone who wants to understand Puerto Rico`s natural heritage by learning about its fascinating birds. The species life histories are written in a non-technical style for the general reader,and include important lessons for conservation of our natural resources. Most common birds of the Virgin Islands and Lesser Antilles are also illustrated. Over 80 professional and amateur ornithologists collaborated in this effort. The book comes with a CD-ROM with detailed Spanish and English life history accounts and bibliography of 350 species, plus audio clips, and over 1,250 photos. Translation by José Julián Placer. The CD-ROM is written in HTML, for most PC and Macintosh computers, and allows easy use for student projects in biology, music, and art.
Photographer - Mark Swan
Stills from video