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Field Guides Tour Report
Puerto Rico 2013
Mar 24, 2013 to Mar 30, 2013
Eric Hynes & Pepe Rojas

The Puerto Rican Tody might be the most beloved of Puerto Rican endemics. (Photo by guide Eric Hynes)

Our Puerto Rico tour was a smashing success thanks to a wonderful group of birders, pleasant weather, and cooperative birds.

We started with a delicious meal at a Peruvian restaurant, Lima, just down the street from our comfortable hotel in San Juan. 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.

On day two, an early walk around the village of Parguera produced an absurdly cooperative Clapper Rail, a tree full of hummingbirds, and the endemic Yellow-shouldered Blackbird. Laguna Cartagena National Wildlife Refuge was full of waterbirds, including tough to find Masked Duck and West Indian Whistling-Duck.

A morning in the Maricao Highlands with Julio Gallardo resulted in the bird of the trip: the highly endangered venator subspecies of Sharp-shinned Hawk. Picking up Lesser Antillean Pewee, Green Mango, and Puerto Rican Tanager helped as well. And who could forget that pair of brilliant Antillean Euphonias from the tower?

Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge really padded our list with lots of shorebirds before we headed back east across the island. A detour to Comerio for the poorly named Plain Pigeon was definitely worthwhile en route to Casa Cubuy.

The hummingbirds, waders, coots, warblers, and ducks of Humacao rounded out our checklist nicely before wrapping up our birding in Fajardo.

Pepe and I are truly appreciative of the respect and cooperation you shared with each other. We had a blast and sincerely hope to see you all again on another tour soon.

Peace, Love, and Papayas,


One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant

Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)
WEST INDIAN WHISTLING-DUCK (Dendrocygna arborea) – Good looks at more than a dozen birds from the tower at Laguna Cartagena NWR
BLUE-WINGED TEAL (Anas discors) – Seen well at Laguna Cartagena NWR and Humacao
NORTHERN SHOVELER (Anas clypeata) – A lone drake at Laguna Cartagena NWR

Brown Booby from the dock in Fajardo. (Photo by guide Eric Hynes)

WHITE-CHEEKED PINTAIL (Anas bahamensis) – Our best looks at this striking dabbler were at Cabo Rojo NWR
MASKED DUCK (Nomonyx dominicus) – Several hens remained well hidden in the vegetation at Laguna Cartagena NWR
RUDDY DUCK (Oxyura jamaicensis) – The drakes in full breeding plumage at Humacao were worthy of a long look.
Podicipedidae (Grebes)
LEAST GREBE (Tachybaptus dominicus) – This tiny grebe was an unusual find at Humacao.
PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps) – Good looks at Humacao and hearing their strange call was a real bonus
Phaethontidae (Tropicbirds)
WHITE-TAILED TROPICBIRD (Phaethon lepturus) – This spectacular seabird flew by the cliffs at Guajataca during our first picnic lunch.
Fregatidae (Frigatebirds)
MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRD (Fregata magnificens) – I could watch those dynamic soarers all day long.
Sulidae (Boobies and Gannets)
BROWN BOOBY (Sula leucogaster) – We enjoyed perched and in flight views at Fajardo.
Pelecanidae (Pelicans)
BROWN PELICAN (Pelecanus occidentalis) – Almost an everyday bird
Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)
LEAST BITTERN (Ixobrychus exilis) – What an amazing spot by Ildiko at Humacao! The second bird in flight was a treat as well.

Green Heron at Humacao. (Photo by guide Eric Hynes)

GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias) – Laguna Cartagena NWR provided our best looks at this large wader.
GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba) – This species turns up almost everywhere on Puerto Rico.
SNOWY EGRET (Egretta thula) – In the river on the approach to Casa Cubuy and at Humacao
LITTLE BLUE HERON (Egretta caerulea) – The piebald immature in the rice paddies was our only encounter surprisingly
TRICOLORED HERON (Egretta tricolor) – Several at Humacao
CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis) – Have you ever seen so many in your life?
GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens) – Plenty at Laguna Cartagena NWR but the raised crest at Humacao really stands out in my memory
BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax) – Laguna Cartagena NWR
YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nyctanassa violacea) – The bold adult at the end of the road in Guanica at sunrise was memorable.
Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)
GLOSSY IBIS (Plegadis falcinellus) – Laguna Cartagena NWR and Humacao
Cathartidae (New World Vultures)
TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura) – They are most conspicuous in the southwest part of the island.
Pandionidae (Osprey)
OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus) – Great looks from the tower at Laguna Cartagena NWR
Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)
SHARP-SHINNED HAWK (CARIBBEAN) (Accipiter striatus venator) – What an amazing experience we shared with that pair at Maricao thanks to Julio Gallardo.
RED-TAILED HAWK (JAMAICENSIS) (Buteo jamaicensis jamaicensis) – The other subject of Julio's PhD research; this nominate race found on Jamaica, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico and the northern Lesser Antilles occurs in higher concentrations here than anywhere else in the species' substantial range.
Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)

This Clapper Rail was remarkably cooperative in Parguera. (Photo by guide Eric Hynes)

CLAPPER RAIL (CARIBBEAN) (Rallus longirostris caribaeus) – Wow, can you believe that bird? Talk about cooperative!
SORA (Porzana carolina) – Distant looks but we got it at Laguna Cartagena NWR
PURPLE GALLINULE (Porphyrio martinicus) – Plenty at Laguna Cartagena NWR
COMMON GALLINULE (Gallinula galeata) – They were thick at Laguna Cartagena NWR
AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana) – At Laguna Cartagena NWR
CARIBBEAN COOT (Fulica caribaea) – Good looks at the extensive frontal shield at Humacao
Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)
BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (Pluvialis squatarola) – Cabo Rojo NWR
WILSON'S PLOVER (Charadrius wilsonia) – They marched right up to us! Pepe's lifer
SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (Charadrius semipalmatus) – Cabo Rojo NWR
KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus) – Heard more than seen
Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)
BLACK-NECKED STILT (Himantopus mexicanus) – This elegant shorebird was abundant at Cabo Rojo NWR.
Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)
SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius) – Several locations
GREATER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa melanoleuca) – We enjoyed a great study of the two different Yellowlegs side-by-side in the rice paddy as well as at Cabo Rojo NWR.

The pair of Sharp-shinned Hawks up at Maricao were the birds of the tour. (Photo by guide Eric Hynes)

LESSER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa flavipes) – We enjoyed a great study of the two different Yellowlegs side-by-side in the rice paddy as well as at Cabo Rojo NWR.
RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres) – Along the shore at Parguera
SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER (Calidris pusilla) – Many at Cabo Rojo NWR
WESTERN SANDPIPER (Calidris mauri) – At least one teased out of the Semi Sands at Cabo Rojo NWR; a rarity for this tour
LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla) – Nice comparisons with Semi Sands at Cabo Rojo NWR
WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER (Calidris fuscicollis) – Two were across the cove at Cabo Rojo NWR
STILT SANDPIPER (Calidris himantopus) – Hundreds at Cabo Rojo NWR
WILSON'S PHALAROPE (Phalaropus tricolor) – Good spotting Hans. Several were seen by Pepe and a few participants at Cabo Rojo NWR at our first stop but they flushed and never returned.
RED-NECKED PHALAROPE (Phalaropus lobatus) – Hans seemed to have the eye for Phalaropes. We got a great look at one bird in winter plumage among the Stilt Sandpipers at Cabo Rojo NWR.
Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)
LAUGHING GULL (Leucophaeus atricilla) – A couple dozen at Fajardo
ROYAL TERN (Thalasseus maximus) – In flight at Humacao and Fajardo
Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)
ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) – Common [I]
SCALY-NAPED PIGEON (Patagioenas squamosa) – An everyday bird

Black-necked Stilts were abundant at Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge. (Photo by guide Eric Hynes)

PLAIN PIGEON (Patagioenas inornata wetmorei) – A Greater Antilles specialty and well worth the side trip; what a terrible name for such a subtly beautiful bird
AFRICAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia roseogrisea) – Paler and smaller than the Eurasian Collared-Dove; these guys were thick in Parguera [I]
WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica) – Abundant
ZENAIDA DOVE (Zenaida aurita) – An everyday bird
MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura) – Only in the southwest
COMMON GROUND-DOVE (Columbina passerina portoricensis) – The dove that was zapped by a shrink ray
KEY WEST QUAIL-DOVE (Geotrygon chrysia) – Heard well at Susua but could not be teased into the open
RUDDY QUAIL-DOVE (Geotrygon montana) – Great looks at Susua
Cuculidae (Cuckoos)
MANGROVE CUCKOO (Coccyzus minor) – A gorgeous bird seen most days
PUERTO RICAN LIZARD-CUCKOO (Coccyzus vieilloti) – A very charismatic and active bird seen well right from the start at Cambalache [E]
SMOOTH-BILLED ANI (Crotophaga ani) – Never numerous but an everyday bird
Strigidae (Owls)
PUERTO RICAN SCREECH-OWL (Megascops nudipes) – The reaction of the local girls we shared the scope with was almost more fun than seeing the bird ourselves. [E]
Caprimulgidae (Nightjars and Allies)
PUERTO RICAN NIGHTJAR (Antrostomus noctitherus) – We heard at least ten and got fleeting glimpses of an individual several times [E]
Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)

Mangrove Cuckoos were particularly cooperative at Laguna Cartagena National Wildlife Refuge. (Photo by guide Eric Hynes)

ANTILLEAN MANGO (Anthracothorax dominicus aurulentus) – Common in the coastal lowlands
GREEN MANGO (Anthracothorax viridis) – We found a nest up at Maricao! [E]
GREEN-THROATED CARIB (Eulampis holosericeus) – The fastest hummingbird in the world or so it seemed; with patience we all got a good look at Humacao
PUERTO RICAN EMERALD (Chlorostilbon maugaeus) – Our best looks were at the flowering tree in Parguera but we had it at Rio Abajo and up at Maricao as well [E]
ANTILLEAN CRESTED HUMMINGBIRD (LESSER ANTILLES) (Orthorhyncus cristatus exilis) – Our first was just after stepping out of the vans at Humacao but the bird in the gardens at the Fajardo Inn stuck around for longer looks
Todidae (Todies)
PUERTO RICAN TODY (Todus mexicanus) – Aren't those little guys just the best?! [E]
Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)
BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon) – A few people picked one out along the river below Casa Cubuy
Picidae (Woodpeckers)
PUERTO RICAN WOODPECKER (Melanerpes portoricensis) – A gorgeous woodpecker reminiscent of its cousin - Lewis's Woodpecker [E]
Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)
AMERICAN KESTREL (EASTERN CARIBBEAN) (Falco sparverius caribaearum) – Seen most frequently in the southwest
MERLIN (Falco columbarius) – Always in a hurry
PEREGRINE FALCON (Falco peregrinus) – An adult buzzed the picnic area at Guajataca and another was in flight south of Mayaguez
Psittacidae (Parrots)
MONK PARAKEET (Myiopsitta monachus) – Seven were in the parking lot at Cambalache the first morning. [I]
Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)
CARIBBEAN ELAENIA (Elaenia martinica) – We enjoyed some good looks along the south side of Guanica
LESSER ANTILLEAN PEWEE (PUERTO RICO) (Contopus latirostris blancoi) – Hearing that lovely trill up at Maricao was a thrill.

The Gray Kingbird, or "Pitirre" as it is known in Puerto Rico, is the national bird. (Photo by guide Eric Hynes)

PUERTO RICAN FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus antillarum) – An everyday bird [E]
GRAY KINGBIRD (Tyrannus dominicensis) – "Pitirre" Puerto Rico's national bird
LOGGERHEAD KINGBIRD (PUERTO RICAN) (Tyrannus caudifasciatus taylori) – This one is a likely split candidate
Vireonidae (Vireos)
PUERTO RICAN VIREO (Vireo latimeri) – We had several responsive birds at multiple sites but that killer look was elusive. [E]
BLACK-WHISKERED VIREO (Vireo altiloquus) – "Poor-John-Hewitt" was heard throughout the trip
Hirundinidae (Swallows)
CARIBBEAN MARTIN (Progne dominicensis) – Overhead at Parguera
BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica) – A quick flyby at Cabo Rojo
CAVE SWALLOW (CARIBBEAN) (Petrochelidon fulva puertoricensis) – Substantial colonies under many of the overpasses
Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)
RED-LEGGED THRUSH (EASTERN) (Turdus plumbeus ardosiaceus) – An everyday bird and one of the more striking thrushes around
Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)
NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus polyglottos) – An everyday bird
PEARLY-EYED THRASHER (Margarops fuscatus) – Found in a wide variety of habitats and locations
Parulidae (New World Warblers)
NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia noveboracensis) – Eventually that chipping bird came out at the bridge at Humacao
BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER (Mniotilta varia) – Mary spotted one for us in the canopy at Cambalache

There was an audible sigh of relief from the guides when we saw this Puerto Rican Screech-Owl roosting in bamboo. (Photo by guide Eric Hynes)

COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas) – Seen at the tower at Laguna Cartagena NWR
ELFIN-WOODS WARBLER (Setophaga angelae) – The Maricao Highlands remains the stronghold for this elusive bird that wasn't described to science until 1972. [E]
AMERICAN REDSTART (Setophaga ruticilla) – A female came in at the bridge at Humacao
CAPE MAY WARBLER (Setophaga tigrina) – A female was a pleasant surprise; also seen from the bridge at Humacao
NORTHERN PARULA (Setophaga americana) – More heard than seen
YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia) – Around Parguera
PALM WARBLER (Setophaga palmarum) – A "western" at Laguna Cartagena NWR
PRAIRIE WARBLER (Setophaga discolor) – At Laguna Cartagena NWR and Humacao
ADELAIDE'S WARBLER (Setophaga adelaidae) – We couldn't have asked for a better look at Laguna Cartagena NWR [E]
Thraupidae (Tanagers and Allies)
BANANAQUIT (CARIBBEAN) (Coereba flaveola portoricensis) – Everywhere!
YELLOW-FACED GRASSQUIT (Tiaris olivaceus bryanti) – Great looks as we exited Laguna Cartagena NWR
BLACK-FACED GRASSQUIT (Tiaris bicolor omissus) – An everyday bird
PUERTO RICAN BULLFINCH (Loxigilla portoricensis) – A wonderful song; seen well at Cambalache carrying nesting material [E]
PUERTO RICAN TANAGER (Nesospingus speculiferus) – Maricao and El Yunque; the only member of its genus [E]
PUERTO RICAN SPINDALIS (Spindalis portoricensis) – A beautiful bird seen most days [E]
Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)
INDIGO BUNTING (Passerina cyanea) – Two females at Laguna Cartagena was a pleasant surprise
Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)
YELLOW-SHOULDERED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius xanthomus) – The feeding station at the general store in Parguera provided close views [E]

The feisty little Antillean Crested Hummingbird was a close second for the favorite bird of the tour. (Photo by guide Eric Hynes)

GREATER ANTILLEAN GRACKLE (Quiscalus niger brachypterus) – Ubiquitous
SHINY COWBIRD (Molothrus bonariensis) – An everyday bird but never in large numbers
PUERTO RICAN ORIOLE (Icterus portoricensis) – The two males perched together up at Maricao are probably the most memorable [E]
VENEZUELAN TROUPIAL (Icterus icterus) – A gorgeous oriole, even if it is introduced [I]
Fringillidae (Siskins, Crossbills, and Allies)
ANTILLEAN EUPHONIA (Euphonia musica sclateri) – Wow, that pair from atop the tower up at Maricao was spectacular!
Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)
HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) – An everyday bird [I]
Estrildidae (Waxbills and Allies)
ORANGE-CHEEKED WAXBILL (Estrilda melpoda) – A good-sized flock along the entrance to Laguna Cartagena NWR [I]

RHESUS MONKEY (Macaca mulatta) – Upon review, the monkey Ildiko spotted in the tree at Laguna Cartagena National Wildlife Refuge was not a Patas. Rhesus is the proper ID based on the facial structure, pelage, and tail length. Rhesus were also introduced to Puerto Rico and have been the focus of much research.
SMALL INDIAN MONGOOSE (Herpestes auropunctatus) – Humacao - digging up the iguana eggs [I]


The Green Iguanas (Iguana iguana) we saw all over the island are introduced and they now number in the millions. The Puerto Rican government considers them a pest and a threat to agriculture. Puerto Ricans do not have a taste for this reptile but the government is promoting them as an export to Central America where they are considered a delicacy by many people.

Totals for the tour: 117 bird taxa and 2 mammal taxa