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Field Guides Tour Report
Mar 17, 2019 to Mar 23, 2019
Tom Johnson

During a morning outing to the Cabo Rojo lighthouse, we enjoyed very close studies of prospecting White-tailed Tropicbirds (or "Apricot-tailed Tropicbirds" as they usually appear here!). Photo by guide Tom Johnson.

This was our first tour to Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria passed over the island in 2017, and it was wonderful to be back. While damage from the hurricane was significant, especially at the eastern end of the island, the forests still harbor the impressive diversity of endemic birds found here, and the resilient people of Puerto Rico have done a great job of rebuilding and beginning to move forward after this natural disaster. Most birding sites that we visited in the western portion of the island showed little hurricane impact, but Rio Abajo State Forest was closed during this visit, preventing us from accessing the habitat of the reintroduced population of Puerto Rican Parrots. Minus the off-limits parrots, we had great views of all of the island's endemic bird species in a relaxed and enjoyable loop through this easternmost island of the Greater Antilles.

Some of the many highlight bird sightings included courting White-tailed Tropicbirds a few yards away at Cabo Rojo, Black Swifts wheeling overhead at El Yunque, the modest but unique Puerto Rican Tanager (recently elevated to its own bird family), a spectacular Puerto Rican Screech-Owl (which is not really a screech-owl at all!), a flotilla of 11 Masked Ducks up close on a tiny pond, the loneliest American Flamingo in the Caribbean, and some last minute Green-throated Caribs on the way to the airport.

Thank you for joining me on this journey around "La Isla del Encanto" - I'll see you out in the field again sometime soon!

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)
BLUE-WINGED TEAL (Spatula discors) – Common in freshwater wetlands, including 170 in a pond near Camuy.
WHITE-CHEEKED PINTAIL (Anas bahamensis) – We found about 50 of these fine ducks spread between freshwater wetlands on the island.
MASKED DUCK (Nomonyx dominicus) – Wow - 11 of these scarce, nomadic, and secretive ducks were in a small, thickly vegetated pond in the Lajas Valley.
RUDDY DUCK (Oxyura jamaicensis) – A few dozen were seen between Camuy and Laguna Cartagena.
Phoenicopteridae (Flamingos)
AMERICAN FLAMINGO (Phoenicopterus ruber) – One bird has resided in a few ponds along the north shore of the island for quite a few years now - "Pinky" put on a good show for us, striding past large flocks of ducks with his elegant legs.
Podicipedidae (Grebes)
LEAST GREBE (Tachybaptus dominicus) – Two were on the pond with Pinky the Flamingo.
PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps) – One was swimming with a few ducks at Laguna Cartagena.
Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)
ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) – Common around towns and agricultural areas. [I]
SCALY-NAPED PIGEON (Patagioenas squamosa) – This large, dark pigeon is common in most large tracts of forest on the island.
WHITE-CROWNED PIGEON (Patagioenas leucocephala) – The one that sat up on a wire near Laguna Cartagena gave us a lovely view.

On our first morning of birding, this delightful Mangrove Cuckoo sat out in the open for us at Cambalache State Forest. Photo by group member Karen Thompson.

AFRICAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia roseogrisea) – These introduced doves were giving their growling songs in quite a few locations. Eurasian Collared-Doves were also introduced to Puerto Rico and hybridization clouds identifications here. [I]
COMMON GROUND-DOVE (Columbina passerina portoricensis) – These small, colorful doves were frequently seen while we birded along dirt roads in the southwestern part of the island.
KEY WEST QUAIL-DOVE (Geotrygon chrysia) – Jim saw one of these stocky doves in the parking lot at Cambalache State Forest.
WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica) – Common and widespread.
ZENAIDA DOVE (Zenaida aurita) – These stout doves are common here; we even found a nest on our first day of birding.
MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura) – We saw these familiar doves most frequently in open habitats in the Lajas Valley.
Cuculidae (Cuckoos)
SMOOTH-BILLED ANI (Crotophaga ani) – These black, social cuckoos were found on several occasions in open habitats in the southwest.
MANGROVE CUCKOO (Coccyzus minor) – Superb views of this masked cuckoo at Cambalache State Forest and again at Boquerón.
PUERTO RICAN LIZARD-CUCKOO (Coccyzus vieilloti) – These big, lanky cuckoos were hunting lizards at Cambalache, Maricao, and Guánica. [E]
Caprimulgidae (Nightjars and Allies)
PUERTO RICAN NIGHTJAR (Antrostomus noctitherus) – Our after-dinner outing from La Parguera took us to a nearby patch of dry forest where we heard and watched several of these rare goatsuckers. Known initially from early specimens and bones from the northern part of Puerto Rico, this species was rediscovered by voice in 1961 by G.B. Reynard. [E]
Apodidae (Swifts)
BLACK SWIFT (Cypseloides niger) – At least two of these big, scarce swifts circled overhead with Cave Swallows during our afternoon walk at El Yunque National Forest above Casa Cubuy.
Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)
ANTILLEAN MANGO (PUERTO RICAN) (Anthracothorax dominicus aurulentus) – Just a few sightings of this big hummingbird at Cabo Rojo and near the Parador Villa Parguera.
GREEN MANGO (Anthracothorax viridis) – We visited Carite State Forest and ended up seeing this endemic hummingbird on a nice, open perch above our van! [E]

An early start in the highlands of Maricao led us to this handsome and strange Puerto Rican Screech-Owl. Photo by guide Tom Johnson.

GREEN-THROATED CARIB (Eulampis holosericeus) – This was our final new bird of the trip - we saw a few of these flat-headed hummingbirds feeding on flowering trees in a neighborhood in San Juan.
PUERTO RICAN EMERALD (Chlorostilbon maugaeus) – These small, endemic hummingbirds put in appearances for us at Laguna Cartagena, Maricao, and El Yunque. [E]
Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)
CLAPPER RAIL (CARIBBEAN) (Rallus crepitans caribaeus) – We heard these big rails clapping from the mangroves in the southwestern part of the island on a few occasions; we were fortunate to see a few in the open along the edge of flats at Reserva Natural La Parguera.
SORA (Porzana carolina) – We heard at least 5 from the marsh at Laguna Cartagena NWR.
COMMON GALLINULE (Gallinula galeata) – Common in freshwater wetlands around the island.
AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana) – We saw both red-shielded birds and white-shielded (formerly known as Caribbean Coot) birds at Laguna Cartagena NWR and Humacao.
PURPLE GALLINULE (Porphyrio martinica) – Two showed briefly along the edge of the marsh at Laguna Cartagena.
Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)
BLACK-NECKED STILT (Himantopus mexicanus) – Widely distributed in wetlands on the island.
Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)
BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (Pluvialis squatarola) – These stocky plovers appeared a few times at coastal sites.
WILSON'S PLOVER (Charadrius wilsonia) – Four of these stout-billed plovers were on the salt flats at Cabo Rojo NWR.

Behold Nesospingus, the Puerto Rican Tanager! This bird is now placed in a monotypic family (Puerto Rico's only endemic bird family) and is thus a major draw for world birders interested in sampling family-level diversity. Photo by guide Tom Johnson.

SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (Charadrius semipalmatus) – Five were with other shorebirds at Cabo Rojo.
KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus) – Scattered sightings in the Lajas Valley and also at the Fajardo Inn.
Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)
WHIMBREL (HUDSONIAN) (Numenius phaeopus hudsonicus) – One strode around on the mudflats at the Reserva Natural La Parguera.
RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres) – These widespread, calico-marked shorebirds were on the docks at Parador Villa Parguera.
STILT SANDPIPER (Calidris himantopus) – The flocks at Cabo Rojo were incredible - we saw ~280 there with yellowlegs and other shorebirds.
LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla) – Quite common on the flats at Cabo Rojo NWR.
SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER (Calidris pusilla) – About 200 were with other peeps on the flats at Cabo Rojo.
WESTERN SANDPIPER (Calidris mauri) – We picked out one long-billed individual (perhaps a female!) from the Semipalmated Sandpiper flocks at Cabo Rojo.
SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER (Limnodromus griseus) – Five were feeding with other shorebirds in the mangrove-studded flats east of La Parguera.
WILSON'S SNIPE (Gallinago delicata) – We scoped one of these cryptic shorebirds during our walk on the dike into the wetlands at Laguna Cartagena.
SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius) – These wintering birds were along mangrove-lined creeks at Boqueron and Humacao.

Some birds, like this American Kestrel, were in full-blown nesting mode during our visit. Lizards help fuel the breeding season for kestrels. Photo by guide Tom Johnson.

GREATER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa melanoleuca) – Small numbers; outnumbered by Lesser Yellowlegs.
WILLET (Tringa semipalmata) – A small flock was on the flats east of La Parguera.
LESSER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa flavipes) – This was the common yellowlegs that we found at wetlands sites on the island.
Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)
ROYAL TERN (Thalasseus maximus) – We found small numbers at scattered coastal sites.
SANDWICH TERN (CABOT'S) (Thalasseus sandvicensis acuflavidus) – 15 of these slender, crested terns were roosting on the flats at Cabo Rojo.
Phaethontidae (Tropicbirds)
WHITE-TAILED TROPICBIRD (Phaethon lepturus) – The views of a dozen birds courting, fighting, and prospecting for nesting sites at Cabo Rojo were simply fantastic. We could see every feather, and even noted the apricot wash on the tails of these fine seabirds.
Fregatidae (Frigatebirds)
MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRD (Fregata magnificens) – These huge (but lightweight) seabirds were seen on each day of the tour in coastal areas, soaring overhead.
Sulidae (Boobies and Gannets)
BROWN BOOBY (Sula leucogaster) – One flew past the cliffs at Cabo Rojo while we were enjoying the tropicbird show there.
Pelecanidae (Pelicans)
BROWN PELICAN (Pelecanus occidentalis) – Small numbers at widespread coastal sites.
Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)
LEAST BITTERN (Ixobrychus exilis) – One of these small buffy herons flew across the small Masked Duck pond in the Lajas Valley.
GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias) – Two were at Laguna Cartagena NWR.
GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba) – Common and widespread.
SNOWY EGRET (Egretta thula) – Seen several times at wetland sites, especially in the southwest.
LITTLE BLUE HERON (Egretta caerulea) – One was at Parador Villa Parguera.

Puerto Rican Tody was a group favorite (especially for Karen, for whom it was the final species of tody!) - we had great luck bumping into them in many of the forested reserves that we visited on the island. Photo by guide Tom Johnson.

TRICOLORED HERON (Egretta tricolor) – Three were in the impoundments at Humacao.
CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis) – Common and widespread.
GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens) – These small herons were at many wetland sites.
BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax) – Small numbers at wetlands in the Lajas Valley.
YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nyctanassa violacea) – We saw at least 22 of these lanky herons flying inland to feed while we searched for Puerto Rican Nightjars. The night-herons roost in coastal mangroves and fly to rice fields in the Lajas Valley at night to forage.
Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)
GLOSSY IBIS (Plegadis falcinellus) – Dozens were at wetland sites at the western end of the island.
Cathartidae (New World Vultures)
TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura) – Just about everywhere!
Pandionidae (Osprey)
OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus) – Small numbers at Laguna Cartagena and Humacao.
Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)
RED-TAILED HAWK (JAMAICENSIS) (Buteo jamaicensis jamaicensis) – This is the widespread hawk on the island; commonly seen during our drives, and some great views at Laguna Cartagena.
Strigidae (Owls)
PUERTO RICAN SCREECH-OWL (Megascops nudipes) – The pair at Maricao gave us splendid views early one morning before breakfast! This odd bird is thought to be most closely related to Flammulated Owl, so it isn't really a screech-owl at all! [E]
Todidae (Todies)
PUERTO RICAN TODY (Todus mexicanus) – This small forest bird was very popular indeed, and we saw them and heard their buzzing calls repeatedly. [E]
Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)
BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon) – A few sightings at our hotel at La Parguera.
Picidae (Woodpeckers)
PUERTO RICAN WOODPECKER (Melanerpes portoricensis) – This beautiful, endemic woodpecker is very common in woodlands and edges across the island. [E]
Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)
AMERICAN KESTREL (EASTERN CARIBBEAN) (Falco sparverius caribaearum) – These small falcons were nesting in a building next door to our hotel at La Parguera. We saw the male bring several lizards to the female.
MERLIN (Falco columbarius) – This dark, migrant falcon was seen at Cambalache and again at La Parguera.
Psittacidae (New World and African Parrots)
WHITE-WINGED PARAKEET (Brotogeris versicolurus) – These introduced parakeets showed nicely above us at the Cambalache parking lot. [I]
Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)
CARIBBEAN ELAENIA (Elaenia martinica) – Our best view of this whistling flycatcher came one afternoon in the dry forest of Guanica.
LESSER ANTILLEAN PEWEE (PUERTO RICO) (Contopus latirostris blancoi) – A pair was hawking insects rather cooperatively near the parking area at Boqueron on our return visit there. Oddly, this species occurs in montane forest as well as in mangroves in Puerto Rico.
PUERTO RICAN FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus antillarum) – This drab Myiarchus flycatcher is endemic to the island, and we found it regularly in woodland and edge habitats. We even found a nest cavity during our walk at Laguna Cartagena. [E]

A small pond in the southwestern corner of the island hosted an awesome colony of Masked Ducks - this female stared warily at us from just a few yards away. Photo by guide Tom Johnson.

GRAY KINGBIRD (Tyrannus dominicensis) – Just about everywhere we went! This kingbird is very common in Puerto Rico.
LOGGERHEAD KINGBIRD (PUERTO RICAN) (Tyrannus caudifasciatus taylori) – This is the less common, forest kingbird of Puerto Rico. Their staccato, ringing calls helped us find them at Cambalache and Maricao.
Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)
PUERTO RICAN VIREO (Vireo latimeri) – This vireo with the sweet voice serenaded us at Cambalache and Maricao. With a bit of persistence, we had nice looks - it's a bit of a Bell's Vireo look-alike. [E]
BLACK-WHISKERED VIREO (Vireo altiloquus) – This vociferous bird is found just about anywhere with trees on the island - we saw them on several occasions (and heard them everywhere else.
Hirundinidae (Swallows)
CARIBBEAN MARTIN (Progne dominicensis) – These lovely swallows circled overhead a few times during our journey. Most interesting was a nest hole dispute near Sabana Grande between a few Caribbean Martins and a pair of Puerto Rican Woodpeckers. The woodpeckers were clearly nesting in a hole in a roadside utility pole, but recently arrived martins were combative and also very interested in that same hole!
BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica) – A flock of about 45 birds swirled around the ponds near Camuy.
CAVE SWALLOW (CARIBBEAN) (Petrochelidon fulva puertoricensis) – These peach-faced, pumpkin-rumped swallows were nesting under many bridges that we passed over, and we also had some great scope looks as they sat on utility wires.
Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)
RED-LEGGED THRUSH (ARDOSIACEUS/ALBIVENTRIS) (Turdus plumbeus ardosiaceus) – This flashy thrush is a fairly common forest bird in Puerto Rico. Early in the morning, they hop around on the roads and are quite easy to see, but they seem to mostly vanish after about 9 AM!
Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)
PEARLY-EYED THRASHER (Margarops fuscatus) – This big, stocky songster put on a nice show for us at Monte del Estado near Maricao.
NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus polyglottos) – Fairly common and widespread on the island.
Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)
ANTILLEAN EUPHONIA (PUERTO RICAN) (Euphonia musica sclateri) – Numbers of this small frugivore are down since Hurricane Maria, so I was pleased when we saw a male chowing down on mistletoe fruits in the canopy at Carite State Forest. The blue cap and orange underparts form a striking color pattern on this one!
Nesospingidae (Puerto Rican Tanager)
PUERTO RICAN TANAGER (Nesospingus speculiferus) – This odd, white-throated tanager with the white wing handkerchief recently found itself elevated to the status of a monotypic family, Nesospingidae! This is Puerto Rico's only endemic bird family, and so it was of course a big highlight when we had great views at Maricao and again over in El Yunque. It was particularly great for Bill, who is closing in on his final remaining bird families OF THE WORLD. [E]
Spindalidae (Spindalises)
PUERTO RICAN SPINDALIS (Spindalis portoricensis) – This flashy songbird with the black and white head stripes was a persistent songster at Cambalache, La Parguera, and other sites with big fruiting trees along our route. [E]
Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)
PUERTO RICAN ORIOLE (Icterus portoricensis) – These slim, mostly black orioles gave us great scope views at Cambalache State Forest, and then we saw them a few more times in the Maricao area. [E]
VENEZUELAN TROUPIAL (Icterus icterus) – Quite common in the southwest of the island; these gorgeous introduced birds seem to be doing particularly well. [I]

A Pearly-eyed Thrasher gave us a close study of its pearly eyes and its loud song near the stone tower at Maricao. Photo by group member Karen Thompson.

YELLOW-SHOULDERED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius xanthomus) – A mob of these endangered blackbirds fed near the mangrove edge in town at La Parguera, and we saw more drinking water in another yard a few miles east of town. This range-restricted songbird, known here as the "Mariquita" (or "ladybird"), suffered population losses when Shiny Cowbirds arrived in Puerto Rico around 1955. [E]
SHINY COWBIRD (Molothrus bonariensis) – Most of ours were in close proximity to endangered Yellow-shouldered Blackbirds in La Parguera, an unfortunate sight!
GREATER ANTILLEAN GRACKLE (Quiscalus niger brachypterus) – Abundant and widespread in open habitats.
Parulidae (New World Warblers)
LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia motacilla) – One was chipping on a slope at Maricao, and we found another in the stream at Carite State Forest. This waterthrush is uncommon as a wintering bird on the island.
NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia noveboracensis) – Common by voice in mangroves along the coast, though we only glimpsed 1 or 2 this time.
PROTHONOTARY WARBLER (Protonotaria citrea) – The bird that we saw in montane forest at El Yunque was a surprise! I've seen the species on previous trips in low, coastal forests (including mangroves), but never before so high in the mountains.
ELFIN-WOODS WARBLER (Setophaga angelae) – This lovely black, white, and gray warbler with the static-y voice was a great highlight of our visit to the Maricao highlands. Though the forests here suffered during Hurricane Maria, the warbler persisted and seems to be around in good numbers. This species was discovered in 1969 (and described to science in 1972) - one of the most recent major bird discoveries in the Caribbean. [E]
AMERICAN REDSTART (Setophaga ruticilla) – Two were in the forest at Maricao.
NORTHERN PARULA (Setophaga americana) – This was one of the more common wintering warblers that we encountered in mixed flocks.
YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia) – Ours were in mangroves at La Parguera and also at Cabo Rojo.
CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER (Setophaga pensylvanica) – The one we saw at Carite State Forest was a new Puerto Rico bird for me - it's a scarce to rare wintering species on the island.

The form of Lesser Antillean Pewee found on the island is sometimes recognized at the species level as "Puerto Rican Pewee." Either way, we were happy to see a pair of them feeding in the lowland forest of Boqueron. Photo by guide Tom Johnson.

BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER (Setophaga caerulescens) – This Caribbean wintering songbird made only a brief appearance for us in the forest at Maricao.
PRAIRIE WARBLER (Setophaga discolor) – We saw these tail-bobbers several times in mangrove edges around La Parguera.
ADELAIDE'S WARBLER (Setophaga adelaidae) – This endemic species looks quite a bit like Grace's Warbler from the mainland - it was downright common in forests in the western part of the island, and we had particularly good views at Cambalache SF. [E]
Thraupidae (Tanagers and Allies)
BANANAQUIT (PUERTO RICO) (Coereba flaveola portoricensis) – Everywhere!
YELLOW-FACED GRASSQUIT (Tiaris olivaceus bryanti) – A few of these tiny songsters were in weedy edges at La Parguera and also at Laguna Cartagena.
BLACK-FACED GRASSQUIT (Tiaris bicolor omissus) – Fairly common around the island in open and weedy edge habitats.
PUERTO RICAN BULLFINCH (Melopyrrha portoricensis) – This is the endemic songbird attached to the voice that sounded like a Northern Cardinal with the cymbal crash at the end. We found them regularly in most forests that we visited on the island. [E]
Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)
HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) – Common. [I]
Ploceidae (Weavers and Allies)
NORTHERN RED BISHOP (Euplectes franciscanus) – A few were at Laguna Cartagena. [I]
Estrildidae (Waxbills and Allies)
ORANGE-CHEEKED WAXBILL (Estrilda melpoda) – We saw a flock of about 40 along the entrance road to Laguna Cartagena. [I]
SCALY-BREASTED MUNIA (Lonchura punctulata) – These were seen near the coast in Naguabo while we waited for the Humacao refuge to open its gates. [I]

SMALL INDIAN MONGOOSE (Herpestes auropunctatus) – Only a few this time. These introduced mammals are a scourge to ground-nesting birds. [I]


Totals for the tour: 114 bird taxa and 1 mammal taxa