Spend Some Time Bird Watching 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. Due to this fact (and our wonderful winter weather), you can see many different types of birds during a short visit to the island, especially if you know where to look. You have a pretty good chance of seeing at least a few of the 17 endemic birds and many of the 300 different types of bird species that call Puerto Rico home at some time throughout the year.
Right Here on Our Property
Here, in the El Yunque rain forest area where we live and have our vacation rental, we have spotted a number of endemic and migratory birds. My favorite ones are the PR Tody, PR Oriole, PR Woodpecker, PR Emerald Hummingbird, the orange-fronted parakeet and the male pin-tail Whydah (during mating season). But there are many others that we see on a daily basis, such as the bananaquit (Coereba flaveola), red tail hawks and the PR Lizard Cuckoo.
One bird you should not expect to see is the endangered Puerto Rican parrot. With only a few dozen left in the wild, it would be an extremely lucky sighting!
I am not a true birdwatcher, but even I am always amazed at the amount of birds that call this area home. There is always something flitting about! Especially early in the morning.
I am sure someone with some birdwatching experience, binoculars, a book of local birds and some patience can really add a few birds to their life list. And even when you can’t see them, you can hear them, both day and night. There are a number of nocturnal birds, too!
Though you need to go up to higher elevations of El Yunque forest to see a few specific species, most of the bird species that call this area home can be observed at the lower elevations where the vegetation is less dense.
Out on the Island
If you are really into birdwatching, you will want to make some road trips around the island to see a more diverse variety of species. One area that is great for observing shore and water birds is the Humacao Nature Reserve. It is nice to walk around and look for birds, but it is best to go on a weekend when you can rent a kayak and go into the mangroves and the lagoon. They even have signs around the lagoon to help with bird identification.
Other places further away that are also excellent for birdwatching are the out-islands of Vieques and Culebra, which have wildlife refuges. In the south-west of Puerto Rico, you’ll find the Cabo Rojo wetlands and saltflats, the freshwater Cartagena Lagoon, and the dry forest in Guanica. The Maricao Forest and Boquerón Forest are also home to a number of different variety of birds that you can’t see in the El Yunque forests.
Only in Puerto Rico
Endemic birds, which mean that they are native to the island and live only in Puerto Rico, include
- Yellow-shouldered Blackbird (Agelaius xanthomus)
- Puerto Rican Parrot (Amazona vittata)
- Green Mango (Anthracothorax viridis)
- Puerto Rican Nightjar (Caprimulgus noctitherus)
- Puerto Rican Emerald (Chlorostilbon maugeaus)
- Puerto Rican Lizard Cuckoo (Coccyzus vieilloti)
- Puerto Rican Pewee (Contopus portoricenis)
- Adelaide’s Warbler (Dendroica adelaidae)
- Elfin-woods Warbler (Dendroica angelae)
- Puerto Rican Bullfinch (Loxigilla portoricensis)
- Puerto Rican Screech Owl (Megascops nudipes)
- Puerto Rican Woodpecker (Melanerpes portoricensis)
- Puerto Rican Flycatcher (Myiarchus antillarum)
- Puerto Rican Tanager (Nesospingus speculiferus)
- Puerto Rican Spindalis (Spindalis portoricensis)
- Puerto Rican Tody or San Pedrito (Todus mexicanus)
- Puerto Rican Vireo (Vireo latimeri)
Guides, Guide Books & Tours
If you’re looking for some field guides to local birds, we have some recommendations for you. We have the first two on this list as part of the library our guests can access.
- A Guide to the Birds of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands by Herbert A. Raffaele, Cindy J. House, John Wiessinger.
- Puerto Rico’s Birds In Photographs by Mark W. Oberle. This one has a CD with the birds’ songs.
- Aves de Puerto Rico by Virgilio Biaggi (this heavy book is in Spanish, but great illustrations)
Of course you can go bird watching on your own, but if you want to go on a guided tour, there are a few companies/groups that offer them.
- The Puerto Rico Conservation Trust runs birdwatching outings all around Puerto Rico. These are basic birdwatching trips. Check their website to see what trips are being offered, dates/times and to reserve your tour in English. You can call 787-722-5882 for more information.
- The Puerto Rico Ornithological Society also does guided bird watching outings. Check their website for more information. These trips are most likely in Spanish, but I am sure many in the group will be bilingual. Their website is a great source of information on Puerto Rican birds (they even have recordings of the bird calls along with pictures).
- Adventours is a tour company that offers birdwatching trips and multi-day tours. You can check their website for more information.
So bring your binoculars, a good bird book, lots of patience and go birdwatching during your visit to Puerto Rico!