A Field Guides Birding Tours Report

Puerto Rico II 2021

December 4-10, 2021 with Tom Johnson guiding

Field Guides Birding Tours
Our lodging at the edge of El Yunque National Forest looks out across a beautiful valley punctuated by waterfalls—it's a great place to wake up, eat a buffet breakfast, and start the birding day. Photo by guide Tom Johnson.

On this short and sweet island tour, we made a thorough birding loop of Puerto Rico in pursuit of as many of the island's habitats and birds as possible. Starting in San Juan in the island's northeast, we headed west to Rio Abajo and then southwest to La Parguera. We stayed in La Parguera for three nights and used it as our base of exploration of Cabo Rojo, Laguna Cartagena, the Maricao Highlands, and more. From here we carried on east along the southern coast of the island en route to our lodging on the south side of El Yunque National Forest. We looked for a few hummingbirds and other birds before returning to San Juan for our flights home.

On the journey, we found all 17 island endemic bird species and many regional specialties as well, all while based out of comfortable lodges and eating tasty Puerto Rican food.

Particularly noteworthy highlights from this tour included Puerto Rican Parrots, Puerto Rican Nightjar, Puerto Rican Owl, Elfin-woods Warbler, Puerto Rican Tanager, and Antillean Crested Hummingbird. We also found a few rarities for the island in the form of a Franklin's Gull and a Wilson's Phalarope at Cabo Rojo.

Check out the highlights video below for a few memorable moments from the week.

Thanks and good birding!


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)

Excellent views of these rare regional specialties. On one visit to Laguna Cartagena, we tallied a high count of 50 individuals.

BLUE-WINGED TEAL (Spatula discors)

A common wintering duck - seen at La Parguera and Laguna Cartagena.

NORTHERN SHOVELER (Spatula clypeata)

A male and a female were with other waterfowl at Laguna Cartagena.

AMERICAN WIGEON (Mareca americana)

Two males and a female were seen at Laguna Cartagena with other ducks.

This video captures a few of the highlights of our week of birding in Puerto Rico. Video by guide Tom Johnson.


These attractive dabblers were in residence at Laguna Cartagena—we tallied a max of 10 on one visit.

RING-NECKED DUCK (Aythya collaris)

At least two females were mixed in with Ruddy Ducks and other waterfowl at Laguna Cartagena.

RUDDY DUCK (Oxyura jamaicensis)

Common at Laguna Cartagena.

Podicipedidae (Grebes)

LEAST GREBE (Tachybaptus dominicus)

Two were sneaking around and diving in the marsh at Laguna Cartagena on one visit.

PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps)

Three at Laguna Cartagena.

Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)

ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]

Common in towns and cities.

SCALY-NAPED PIGEON (Patagioenas squamosa)

Common in wooded parts of the island, especially at higher elevations (including at our lodge near El Yunque).

WHITE-CROWNED PIGEON (Patagioenas leucocephala)

Good views of just a couple individuals during a walk through La Parguera.

PLAIN PIGEON (Patagioenas inornata wetmorei)

Super views of five of these pigeons at eye level at Comerío. This species is quite restricted in Puerto Rico with just a small population persisting in the central hills of the island.

AFRICAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia roseogrisea) [I]

Most of the collared-doves we scrutinized or heard appeared to be either this species or hybrids with Eurasian Collared-Dove. We didn't note any pure-looking or pure-sounding Eurasians on this tour, perhaps because we were busy enjoying the native avifauna! [Lots went down on our lists as African/ Eurasian.]

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Elfin-woods Warblers are almost always in constant motion, so it was particularly nice to have this confiding individual make some eye contact with us in the Maricao Highlands. Photo by group member Kathy Brown.

COMMON GROUND DOVE (Columbina passerina portoricensis)

These small doves were seen frequently in the southwestern part of the island.

RUDDY QUAIL-DOVE (Geotrygon montana) [*]

Heard at Rio Abajo.

KEY WEST QUAIL-DOVE (Geotrygon chrysia) [*]

Two were heard along the southwestern coast near La Parguera.

WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica)

Common and widespread.

ZENAIDA DOVE (Zenaida aurita)

Great views on several occasions, especially around San Juan and El Yunque (less common in the southwest).

MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)

These familiar doves were common in the open country of the southwest.

Cuculidae (Cuckoos)

SMOOTH-BILLED ANI (Crotophaga ani)

These odd-looking cuckoos were a frequent sight in open country. Especially good views at Laguna Cartagena.

MANGROVE CUCKOO (Coccyzus minor)

We heard these cuckoos calling on a few occasions.

PUERTO RICAN LIZARD-CUCKOO (Coccyzus vieilloti) [E]

These impressive, tweezer-billed cuckoos were seen at Rio Abajo and Maricao.

Caprimulgidae (Nightjars and Allies)

PUERTO RICAN NIGHTJAR (Antrostomus noctitherus) [E]

Super sightings of male and female birds amidst a noisy dusk chorus in the southwest.

Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)

ANTILLEAN MANGO (PUERTO RICAN) (Anthracothorax dominicus aurulentus)

Seen a few times around the town of La Parguera (including that male that sat up near our breakfast spot). As of August 2022, this species is now split as Puerto Rican Mango by the AOS checklist.

GREEN MANGO (Anthracothorax viridis) [E]

We were pleased to see this large endemic hummingbird right off the bat during our walk at Rio Abajo.

GREEN-THROATED CARIB (Eulampis holosericeus)

Our final hummingbird of the trip. This one was feeding at a flowering tree in the suburbs of San Juan on our last day together.

PUERTO RICAN EMERALD (Riccordia maugaeus) [E]

Plenty of sightings of this small hummingbird this time around, especially in forested locations like Maricao and Rio Abajo.

Field Guides Birding Tours
We kicked off our first full day with a pair of rare Puerto Rican Parrots perched up and calling in morning sunlight. Photo by guide Tom Johnson.


We made a special effort to locate this small but mighty hummingbird along the southern coast of the island. They've become harder to find following the destruction from Hurricane Maria, but we had a nice sighting along the margin of Jobos Bay.

Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)

CLAPPER RAIL (CARIBBEAN) (Rallus crepitans caribaeus)

Close views in the mangroves of La Parguera and Cabo Rojo.

SORA (Porzana carolina)

Abundant at Laguna Cartagena, where we saw and heard up to 20 on one visit.

COMMON GALLINULE (Gallinula galeata)

Common at Laguna Cartagena.

AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana)

Mostly "white-shielded" birds at Laguna Cartagena. These were formerly split as "Caribbean Coot."

Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)

BLACK-NECKED STILT (Himantopus mexicanus)

These noisy, elegant shorebirds were along tidal areas in the southwest.

Haematopodidae (Oystercatchers)

AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER (Haematopus palliatus)

Three were at the seaside at Piñones on our final day.

Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)

BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (Pluvialis squatarola)

Seen several times at coastal areas.

SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (Charadrius semipalmatus)

One on the flats at Cabo Rojo.

KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)

A few were heard and seen around Cabo Rojo.

Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)

WHIMBREL (Numenius phaeopus)

We scoped two birds at the mangrove flats near La Parguera.

RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres)

Flocks were at Cabo Rojo and Piñones.

RED KNOT (Calidris canutus)

One was with Black-bellied Plovers at Piñones.

STILT SANDPIPER (Calidris himantopus)

Common at Cabo Rojo, where we found flocks of dozens mixed with yellowlegs.

SANDERLING (Calidris alba)

All of ours were with the mixed shorebirds at Piñones.

LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla)

Very common on this visit at Cabo Rojo.

WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER (Calidris fuscicollis)

Close views of a first winter bird in the mixed peep flock at Cabo Rojo. The large size and long wingtips gave this one away.

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This male Puerto Rican Nightjar showed off his large white tail spots in the dry forest of the southwestern corner of the island. This is very similar in size and shape to the Whip-poor-wills of the mainland, though the voice is quite different! Photo by group member Kathy Brown.


The most common wintering peep at Cabo Rojo, where they dramatically outnumbered Western Sandpipers.

WESTERN SANDPIPER (Calidris mauri)

We picked out a few from the legions of more common Semipalmated Sandpipers.

WILSON'S PHALAROPE (Phalaropus tricolor)

One was a nice surprise mixed with yellowlegs and Stilt Sandpipers at Cabo Rojo.

SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius)

A few sightings along the southwestern coast.

SOLITARY SANDPIPER (Tringa solitaria)

One teetered and gave its distinctive "pseet-pseet!" calls at Laguna Cartagena.

GREATER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa melanoleuca)

Common on flats along the southwestern coast.

WILLET (Tringa semipalmata)

Two were on the mangrove flats near La Parguera.

LESSER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa flavipes)

Very common on the coastal flats we visited, especially at Laguna Cartagena.

Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)

FRANKLIN'S GULL (Leucophaeus pipixcan)

A first winter bird was on the flats at Cabo Rojo. This species is a rare vagrant to the West Indies - most winter on the Pacific Coast of South America.

ROYAL TERN (Thalasseus maximus)

Lots of these orange-billed terns were around Cabo Rojo.

Phaethontidae (Tropicbirds)


Three seen at great distance with scopes over the ocean off the lighthouse at Cabo Rojo.

Fregatidae (Frigatebirds)


These massive seabirds were seen regularly in small numbers along the coast of the island.

Sulidae (Boobies and Gannets)

BROWN BOOBY (Sula leucogaster)

The best views were of the birds perched and flying around below the lighthouse at Cabo Rojo.

Pelecanidae (Pelicans)

BROWN PELICAN (Pelecanus occidentalis)

Small numbers were seen in coastal areas.

Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)

GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)

Just a few sightings on this trip.

GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)

Quite common; about 3x as many as Snowy.

SNOWY EGRET (Egretta thula)

Common, especially on the mangrove flats near La Parguera.

LITTLE BLUE HERON (Egretta caerulea)

A few sightings around La Parguera.

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A Spotted Eagle Ray "flew" past us while we seawatched from the lighthouse at Cabo Rojo. Photo by guide Tom Johnson.

CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis)

Primarily in pasturelands on the western third of the island.

GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens)

Most of ours were seen around Laguna Cartagena.

BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax)

One was at Laguna Cartagena.

YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nyctanassa violacea)

Just a couple - around La Parguera and Laguna Cartagena.

Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)

GLOSSY IBIS (Plegadis falcinellus)

A flock of 59 being hunted by a Peregrine Falcon at Charca Yeguada west of Camuy was a special sighting.

Cathartidae (New World Vultures)

TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)


Pandionidae (Osprey)

OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus)

Just a few sightings over coastal sites.

Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)

RED-TAILED HAWK (JAMAICENSIS) (Buteo jamaicensis jamaicensis)

A common soaring raptor of open lands and forests on the island.

Strigidae (Owls)

PUERTO RICAN OWL (Gymnasio nudipes) [E]

We saw one and heard at least two others at Rio Abajo on our first morning. Formerly called "Puerto Rican Screech-Owl."

Todidae (Todies)

PUERTO RICAN TODY (Todus mexicanus) [E]

These little green-backed sprites were common in forest and edge habitat around the island - a real highlight for most folks on the tour.

Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)

BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon)

Just a few sightings of a wintering bird near our hotel at La Parguera.

Picidae (Woodpeckers)

PUERTO RICAN WOODPECKER (Melanerpes portoricensis) [E]

These gorgeous woodpeckers are fairly common in woodland and savannah habitats across the island.

Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)

AMERICAN KESTREL (EASTERN CARIBBEAN) (Falco sparverius caribaearum)

We saw these small falcons regularly in open areas of the island (especially in the southwest).

MERLIN (Falco columbarius)

A few sightings between La Parguera and Laguna Cartagena, including one hunting bats at dusk while we searched for nightjars.

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Adelaide's Warbler showed off for us in most forest and edge habitats that we visited. Sometimes, island endemic songbirds can be quite plentiful. In our case, Adelaide's was the most common warbler seen on the tour. Photo by group member Kathy Brown.

PEREGRINE FALCON (Falco peregrinus)

Repeated sightings along coastal areas, including outside our hotel in urban San Juan.

Psittacidae (New World and African Parrots)

MONK PARAKEET (Myiopsitta monachus) [I]

These exotic parrots were in a few areas where they have established large colonies.

PUERTO RICAN PARROT (Amazona vittata) [E]

Fantastic! A pair of these endangered parrots put on a real show for us in the treetops at Rio Abajo - an exciting way to kick off the tour on our first morning together.

Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)

CARIBBEAN ELAENIA (Elaenia martinica)

Particularly nice views of this unassuming but vocal flycatcher in the scrubby habitat of Cabo Rojo.

LESSER ANTILLEAN PEWEE (PUERTO RICO) (Contopus latirostris blancoi)

We saw one of these small flycatchers (sometimes split as Puerto Rican Pewee) during our walk at Rio Abajo.

PUERTO RICAN FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus antillarum) [E]

Our best views were of the bird that perched up in the bare treetops at Rio Abajo. This drab Myiarchus is fairly conspicuous by voice around the island.

GRAY KINGBIRD (Tyrannus dominicensis)

Just about everywhere in open country on the island.

LOGGERHEAD KINGBIRD (PUERTO RICAN) (Tyrannus caudifasciatus taylori)

Several views of this odd kingbird, including a persistently singing bird after dark while we were looking for nightjars near La Parguera.

Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)

PUERTO RICAN VIREO (Vireo latimeri) [E]

The slim vireo with the sweet song. Plenty on our first day at Rio Abajo, and just a few more in forest habitats after that.

BLACK-WHISKERED VIREO (Vireo altiloquus)

Four were singing and calling at Rio Abajo - we had some views that allowed us to see the distinctive whiskers.

Hirundinidae (Swallows)

BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica)

One was with Cave Swallows at Laguna Cartagena.

CAVE SWALLOW (CARIBBEAN) (Petrochelidon fulva puertoricensis)

This was the most common swallow we saw around the island. Good views in flocks over La Parguera and Laguna Cartagena.

Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)

PEARLY-EYED THRASHER (Margarops fuscatus)

These stout mimids can be either shy and retiring, or bold and confiding - after some persistence, we saw them in both modes.

NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus polyglottos)

Common in open habitats.

Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)


These flashy thrushes are most easily seen in the early mornings (like the ones we saw at Rio Abajo) - after that, they often seem to melt away into the forest until late evening.

Estrildidae (Waxbills and Allies)

ORANGE-CHEEKED WAXBILL (Estrilda melpoda) [I]

A flock of about 30 buzzed along the entrance road to Laguna Cartagena.

Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)

HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]

Common in towns.

Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)

ANTILLEAN EUPHONIA (PUERTO RICAN) (Chlorophonia musica sclateri) [*]

We heard this one calling at Rio Abajo, but it proved challenging to track down.

Nesospingidae (Puerto Rican Tanager)

PUERTO RICAN TANAGER (Nesospingus speculiferus) [E]

Good views of this fancy monotypic family at Maricao and El Yunque.

Spindalidae (Spindalises)

PUERTO RICAN SPINDALIS (Spindalis portoricensis) [E]

Several sightings of this former tanager (the spindalises are now recognized in their own family) at forest sites including Rio Abajo, Maricao, and El Yunque.

Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)

PUERTO RICAN ORIOLE (Icterus portoricensis) [E]

It was interesting to see one adult catch a small arboreal frog at Rio Abajo. Later we saw more at Maricao and El Yunque, including a patchy yellow-orange immature.

VENEZUELAN TROUPIAL (Icterus icterus) [I]

Increasingly common in the southwest of the island.


On this trip, seen only around La Parguera, where they are fed. We saw up to 24 birds at a time. An endangered species that suffered with the arrival of Shiny Cowbirds to the island.

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The Plain Pigeon is anything but plain, and it's quite rare in Puerto Rico. We made a special trip through the central hills looking for these large, colorful pigeons, and were rewarded with nice views. Photo by group member Kathy Brown.

SHINY COWBIRD (Molothrus bonariensis)

Just a few - with the Yellow-shouldered Blackbirds at La Parguera, and also near Comerío.

GREATER ANTILLEAN GRACKLE (Quiscalus niger brachypterus)

Widespread and common on the island.

Parulidae (New World Warblers)

OVENBIRD (Seiurus aurocapilla)

One in a flock at Rio Abajo.

LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia motacilla)

One of these active tail-bobbers patrolled the national forest road at a familiar spot at El Yunque.

NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia noveboracensis)

A common wintering species near water, especially in the mangrove edges near La Parguera.


One at Rio Abajo.

COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas)

Two heard and seen skulking in the grasses at Laguna Cartagena.

ELFIN-WOODS WARBLER (Setophaga angelae) [E]

A major highlight of our visit to Maricao! Two birds called as they fed, with one pausing occasionally to belt out its strange buzzing song.

AMERICAN REDSTART (Setophaga ruticilla)

Wintering birds at Maricao and Rio Abajo.

NORTHERN PARULA (Setophaga americana)

A few of these wintering warblers were scattered around in foraging flocks.

YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia)

A resident "Golden" male was seen and heard singing from mangroves at La Parguera.

BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER (Setophaga caerulescens)

First seen at Rio Abajo, with more later at El Yunque.

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Caribbean Elaenia is one of the many regional specialties that we seek on this tour (in addition to the island endemic species). This one showed off nicely at Cabo Rojo. Photo by guide Tom Johnson.

PRAIRIE WARBLER (Setophaga discolor)

A few were seen, particularly in mangroves and coastal scrub.

ADELAIDE'S WARBLER (Setophaga adelaidae) [E]

This most common warbler that we encountered is also usually considered a Puerto Rican endemic (despite its recent colonization of the Virgin Islands).

Thraupidae (Tanagers and Allies)

BANANAQUIT (PUERTO RICO) (Coereba flaveola portoricensis)

Omnipresent on the island.

PUERTO RICAN BULLFINCH (Melopyrrha portoricensis) [E]

Usually detected by the loud cymbal crash song, we managed some good looks in forest at Rio Abajo and El Yunque.

BLACK-FACED GRASSQUIT (Melanospiza bicolor omissa)

Common in grassy and edge habitats.


SMALL INDIAN MONGOOSE (Herpestes auropunctatus) [I]

Fleeting glimpses across roads.

Totals for the tour: 117 bird taxa and 1 mammal taxa