We had a wonderful week on the Isla del Encanto, lapping the island and seeing its fancy endemic birds and a whole host of regional specialties. We started in San Juan and headed counterclockwise to the island's southwest with a great visit with Puerto Rican Parrots en route. Three nights in the southwest gave us ample opportunity to sample the coastal flats, agricultural valleys/ freshwater wetlands, dry forest, and humid montane forest of this special corner of the island. We finished with two nights on the edge of El Yunque National Forest before returning to San Juan to fly home.
Bird-wise, we focused on seeing the 17 endemic species that were recognized at the time of the tour; following our tour, one more species that we saw—Puerto Rican Mango—was recognized after being split from the form on Hispaniola (these two were formerly combined as Antillean Mango). Hooray! Some of the tougher endemics that we tracked down included the aforementioned Puerto Rican Parrots, Puerto Rican Nightjar, Yellow-shouldered Blackbird, Green Mango, and Elfin-woods Warbler. Beyond those birds found nowhere but Puerto Rico, we also basked in a suite of other Caribbean specialties including West Indian Whistling-Duck, White-crowned, Scaly-naped, and Plain pigeons, Mangrove Cuckoo, Caribbean Elaenia, and Antillean Crested Hummingbird.
Our birding mission worked out smoothly and we had plenty of time to enjoy our beautiful surroundings and the delicious food and beverage that the island offers.
Thanks for joining me on this short and sweet trip to Puerto Rico, and I hope to see you out in the field again soon.
KEYS FOR THIS LIST
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
WEST INDIAN WHISTLING-DUCK (Dendrocygna arborea)
We saw 30 of these big handsome ducks at Laguna Cartagena including a very close bird on the boardwalk on our second visit.
BLUE-WINGED TEAL (Spatula discors)
A common wintering species at La Parguera and Laguna Cartagena.
NORTHERN SHOVELER (Spatula clypeata)
We saw a max of 7 at Laguna Cartagena.
AMERICAN WIGEON (Mareca americana)
Two were at Laguna Cartagena.
WHITE-CHEEKED PINTAIL (Anas bahamensis)
We saw 3 and 9 on our two visits to Laguna Cartagena.
RING-NECKED DUCK (Aythya collaris)
About 25 were at Laguna Cartagena.
LESSER SCAUP (Aythya affinis)
Two females were mixed with Ring-necked Ducks at Laguna Cartagena.
RUDDY DUCK (Oxyura jamaicensis)
Up to 6 at Laguna Cartagena.
LEAST GREBE (Tachybaptus dominicus)
We saw two birds at Laguna Cartagena.
PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps)
One was swimming in the river down valley from Casa Cubuy.
ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]
Common around towns and cities.
SCALY-NAPED PIGEON (Patagioenas squamosa)
These big pigeons were quite common in hill forest around the island.
WHITE-CROWNED PIGEON (Patagioenas leucocephala)
A few showed nicely in the southwest of the island including near our hotel in La Parguera.
PLAIN PIGEON (Patagioenas inornata wetmorei)
After a suspenseful wait, one individual flew a circuit around a steep-sided valley at Comerío. This species is quite scarce now in Puerto Rico.
AFRICAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia roseogrisea) [I]
The common introduced collared-dove across the island, though Eurasian Collared-Dove is also present and hybrids may be regular here.
COMMON GROUND DOVE (Columbina passerina portoricensis)
A common small dove of drier areas. We saw plenty in the southwest corner of the island.
WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica)
A very common dove around the island.
ZENAIDA DOVE (Zenaida aurita)
Common, especially in more humid areas on the eastern half of the island.
MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)
We saw these regularly around the southwest corner of Puerto Rico.
SMOOTH-BILLED ANI (Crotophaga ani)
Roadside sightings, including plenty at Laguna Cartagena.
MANGROVE CUCKOO (Coccyzus minor)
Our best view was of a bird right by the parking area at Laguna Cartagena. These handsome cuckoos are not restricted to mangroves here, being found in many different types of woodlands.
PUERTO RICAN LIZARD-CUCKOO (Coccyzus vieilloti) [E]
Good encounters with these impressive, long-tailed tweezer-bills at three different state forests: Rio Abajo, Cambalache, and Maricao.
PUERTO RICAN NIGHTJAR (Antrostomus noctitherus) [E]
Outings in the island's southwest helped us track down these local relatives of the whip-poor-wills. By spending dusk in dry forest habitat, we were able to find the highly vocal nightjars as they began their nighttime activities.
ANTILLEAN MANGO (PUERTO RICAN) (Anthracothorax dominicus aurulentus)
Hip hip hooray! Since our tour, this species was split, and the new eBird/ Clements name for the bird is "Puerto Rican Mango." We found this medium-large hummingbird at La Parguera, Borinquen, and at Piñones state forest.
GREEN MANGO (Anthracothorax viridis) [E]
A few on our first morning at Maricao, and one more at Carite state forest that posed for scope views as it preened extensively.
GREEN-THROATED CARIB (Eulampis holosericeus)
Our final new addition to the week's bird list - two birds fed in orange trumpet-like flowers in suburban San Juan.
PUERTO RICAN EMERALD (Riccordia maugaeus) [E]
Good looks on several occasions at this small, endemic hummingbird. The males with their long, forked tails were particularly impressive.
ANTILLEAN CRESTED HUMMINGBIRD (LESSER ANTILLES) (Orthorhyncus cristatus exilis)
Two birds foraged in pink-flowering Tabebuia trees near Aguirre, including a fine male.
CLAPPER RAIL (CARIBBEAN) (Rallus crepitans caribaeus)
Good views in La Parguera, both in the mangroves near our hotel and at the Reserva Natural La Parguera east of town. At the latter spot, a rippling doppler blast of calling rails probably included about 15 birds!
SORA (Porzana carolina)
At least ten birds called from the marsh at Laguna Cartagena; we glimpsed a couple of them.
COMMON GALLINULE (Gallinula galeata)
Common and easily seen at Laguna Cartagena.
AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana)
Common at Laguna Cartagena; mostly white-shielded (formerly "Caribbean Coot") birds.
PURPLE GALLINULE (Porphyrio martinica)
A few called and climbed around in the edge of the marsh at Laguna Cartagena.
BLACK-NECKED STILT (Himantopus mexicanus)
About 30 were on the flats at Reserva Natural La Parguera.
BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (Pluvialis squatarola)
A few sightings of wintering birds at coastal locations.
WHIMBREL (Numenius phaeopus)
One was on the flats at Reserva Natural La Parguera.
RED KNOT (Calidris canutus)
Two were associating with Short-billed Dowitchers on the flats at La Parguera.
STILT SANDPIPER (Calidris himantopus)
About 70 were on the flats at Cabo Rojo.
LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla)
60 were at Cabo Rojo with other shorebirds.
SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER (Calidris pusilla)
About 130 were at Cabo Rojo.
SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER (Limnodromus griseus)
30 were at Reserva Natural La Parguera.
WILSON'S PHALAROPE (Phalaropus tricolor)
Two were rare for the island; mixed in with Stilt Sandpipers and yellowlegs at Cabo Rojo.
GREATER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa melanoleuca)
Just a few between La Parguera and Cabo Rojo.
WILLET (Tringa semipalmata)
Six "Western" Willets were on the flats at Reserva Natural La Parguera.
LESSER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa flavipes)
We saw just over a dozen between La Parguera and Cabo Rojo.
ROYAL TERN (Thalasseus maximus)
Our peak count was of 35 birds over the salt flats at Cabo Rojo.
SANDWICH TERN (CABOT'S) (Thalasseus sandvicensis acuflavidus)
Four were mixed with Royal Terns at Cabo Rojo.
WHITE-TAILED TROPICBIRD (Phaethon lepturus)
Though we had our first views at Guajataca, the 8 or so that courted in front of us at Cabo Rojo really stole the show. Spectacular views of these longtails!
MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRD (Fregata magnificens)
We saw just a few individuals along the coastline during our travels.
BROWN BOOBY (Sula leucogaster)
Five were perched on the rocks and flying around below us at Cabo Rojo; another was far offshore near Humacao.
BROWN PELICAN (Pelecanus occidentalis)
Fairly common along the coastline, albeit in small numbers.
GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)
One was at Laguna Cartagena.
GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)
Very common; dozens seen along the coast, at freshwater wetlands, and in farm fields.
SNOWY EGRET (Egretta thula)
We saw these slim egrets at a few spots in the southwest of the island.
LITTLE BLUE HERON (Egretta caerulea)
One was at La Parguera.
CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis)
Fairly common in roadside pastures with livestock during our drives, particularly in the southwest.
GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens)
Several at Laguna Cartagena.
BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax)
One was in the marsh at Laguna Cartagena.
YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nyctanassa violacea)
Seen near our hotel at La Parguera and also roosting along a river at Naguabo.
GLOSSY IBIS (Plegadis falcinellus)
We saw about ten in the wetland at Laguna Cartagena.
TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)
Particularly common at the island's west end.
OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus)
One was hunting at Laguna Cartagena.
BROAD-WINGED HAWK (CARIBBEAN) (Buteo platypterus brunnescens)
We enjoyed great views of two adult birds at Rio Abajo. These resident birds on Puerto Rico appear to have shorter, blunter wings than the long distance migrant birds that breed on the North American mainland—perhaps a response to a resident lifestyle.
RED-TAILED HAWK (JAMAICENSIS) (Buteo jamaicensis jamaicensis)
The common and widespread Buteo on the island.
PUERTO RICAN OWL (Gymnasio nudipes) [E]
We saw one early on our first morning at Rio Abajo, and then heard a few more before we encountered a fabulous perched individual at night during our stay at Casa Cubuy.
PUERTO RICAN TODY (Todus mexicanus) [E]
These beautiful sprites are very common in woodland across the island.
BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon)
One was at Laguna Cartagena.
PUERTO RICAN WOODPECKER (Melanerpes portoricensis) [E]
These loud woodpeckers were common across the island, especially in woodland edge and dry forest.
AMERICAN KESTREL (EASTERN CARIBBEAN) (Falco sparverius caribaearum)
Seen regularly in the southwest, including a mating pair at Laguna Cartagena.
MERLIN (Falco columbarius)
One hunted bats at dusk in the hills near La Parguera.
MONK PARAKEET (Myiopsitta monachus) [I]
A few of these introduced parakeets made themselves known with loud screeches at various spots on the island.
WHITE-WINGED PARAKEET (Brotogeris versicolurus) [I]
We saw two on our final morning of birding at Piñones state forest.
PUERTO RICAN PARROT (Amazona vittata) [E]
Yowza! We were fortunate to encounter four pairs of these endangered parrots near their reintroduction site at Rio Abajo. Fingers crossed that the population continues to do well under managed circumstances and that these handsome birds will eventually spread out and reclaim historical ground across the island's forests.
CARIBBEAN ELAENIA (Elaenia martinica)
Super views of these talkative flycatchers at Cabo Rojo.
LESSER ANTILLEAN PEWEE (PUERTO RICO) (Contopus latirostris blancoi)
One was tail-quivering along a trail at Maricao, but it didn't stick around very long for us.
PUERTO RICAN FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus antillarum) [E]
This is the common, resident Myiarchus flycatcher of the island, and we saw plenty! Particularly nice views of a pair investigation tree cavities at Laguna Cartagena.
GRAY KINGBIRD (Tyrannus dominicensis)
Very common and conspicuous in open habitats on the island.
LOGGERHEAD KINGBIRD (PUERTO RICAN) (Tyrannus caudifasciatus taylori)
Good views of these unusual kingbirds, and we heard their plaintive chatters often at dusk and dawn during our travels. At our final lodge, Casa Cubuy, a pair was busy building a nest in a palm tree just below the veranda.
PUERTO RICAN VIREO (Vireo latimeri) [E]
Heard well at a few locations in the west; we spent a bit of time on our final morning tracking a singing bird for some top notch views.
BLACK-WHISKERED VIREO (Vireo altiloquus)
Very common and vocal during this trip, particularly at Rio Abajo and El Yunque. Though some overwinter on the island, the numbers on this trip were much higher than when we visited a few months earlier in December.
CARIBBEAN MARTIN (Progne dominicensis)
One cruised overhead quickly near Aguirre; later, we caught up to two more over the beach between Humacao and Naguabo as we waited for our dinner at sunset.
BANK SWALLOW (Riparia riparia)
At least two were with the Cave Swallow flocks at Cabo Rojo.
BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica)
Seen on our first day while driving through agricultural areas in the southwest.
CAVE SWALLOW (CARIBBEAN) (Petrochelidon fulva puertoricensis)
Common near agricultural areas, wetlands, and nesting culverts on the island. We came across a large swirling flock overhead at Cabo Rojo.
PEARLY-EYED THRASHER (Margarops fuscatus)
Widespread and very vocal at this season; superb, prolonged scope views of a singing bird at Maricao.
NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus polyglottos)
Common and widespread.
RED-LEGGED THRUSH (ARDOSIACEUS/ALBIVENTRIS) (Turdus plumbeus ardosiaceus)
These striking thrushes were seen most frequently early in the morning before they disappeared like phantoms into the forest.
NORTHERN RED BISHOP (Euplectes franciscanus) [I]
Two were at Laguna Cartagena.
BRONZE MANNIKIN (Spermestes cucullata) [I]
A few fed on grass seeds across from our hotel at La Parguera.
ORANGE-CHEEKED WAXBILL (Estrilda melpoda) [I]
Common in bouncy flocks at Laguna Cartagena.
HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]
Common around our hotel at La Parguera.
ANTILLEAN EUPHONIA (PUERTO RICAN) (Chlorophonia musica sclateri)
We heard one at Maricao and then tracked down a pair overhead in the subcanopy at Carite state forest.
PUERTO RICAN TANAGER (Nesospingus speculiferus) [E]
Recently elevated to monotypic family status, this chatty, social songbird showed off very nicely for us at Maricao and El Yunque.
PUERTO RICAN SPINDALIS (Spindalis portoricensis) [E]
Seen frequently in pairs and small flocks at upland forest sites and in gardens near the coast.
PUERTO RICAN ORIOLE (Icterus portoricensis) [E]
The pair building a nest at Monte del Estado was particularly captivating. That hammock nest built under a broad palm frond made for a cozy home, well-protected from the island's frequent deluges.
VENEZUELAN TROUPIAL (Icterus icterus) [I]
Increasingly common in the island's southwest. Large, beautiful, and loud!
YELLOW-SHOULDERED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius xanthomus) [E]
We saw about ten of these endangered blackbirds coming in for food and water in La Parguera.
SHINY COWBIRD (Molothrus bonariensis)
A few scattered sightings of this immigrant from South America, including 1 or 2 mixed in with the Yellow-shouldered Blackbirds at La Parguera.
GREATER ANTILLEAN GRACKLE (Quiscalus niger brachypterus)
A common and widespread songbird on the island. Conspicuous!
LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia motacilla)
One was a returning individual that we've seen in prior seasons at El Yunque. This one uses a wide, mossy road as its "stream," hunting insects in the rocky gutter.
NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia noveboracensis)
Two were in mangroves at La Parguera.
BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER (Mniotilta varia)
One was in a mixed flock at Rio Abajo.
COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas)
One was at Laguna Cartagena.
ELFIN-WOODS WARBLER (Setophaga angelae) [E]
We found at least three pairs offering wonderful views at Maricao state forest. This stripey endemic songbird was discovered in 1968 and described to science in 1972.
AMERICAN REDSTART (Setophaga ruticilla)
One was wing-flashing at Monte del Estado.
NORTHERN PARULA (Setophaga americana)
Several individuals popped up in mixed songbird flocks around the island.
YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia)
Seen and heard regularly in mangroves in the island's southwest.
BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER (Setophaga caerulescens)
Singles were seen on their wintering territories at Rio Abajo and Maricao.
PRAIRIE WARBLER (Setophaga discolor)
A few were seen in mixed flocks at La Parguera and Laguna Cartagena.
ADELAIDE'S WARBLER (Setophaga adelaidae) [E]
This beautiful gray-and-yellow warbler is vocally conspicuous around the island; we heard and saw many in the southwest. Previously endemic to Puerto Rico, this bird has recently spread to the Virgin Islands.
INDIGO BUNTING (Passerina cyanea)
A male and female were together near the picnic shelter at Cambalache state forest.
BANANAQUIT (PUERTO RICO) (Coereba flaveola portoricensis)
Extremely common and vocally conspicuous on the island.
YELLOW-FACED GRASSQUIT (Tiaris olivaceus bryanti)
We heard a few at Laguna Cartagena and saw two battling males while waiting for Antillean Crested Hummingbird to show near Aguirre.
PUERTO RICAN BULLFINCH (Melopyrrha portoricensis) [E]
A common voice from the forests across the island; we found them at Rio Abajo, Cambalache, Maricao, El Yunque, and other spots, too.
BLACK-FACED GRASSQUIT (Melanospiza bicolor omissa)
Very common along grassy edges to woodland and agricultural areas.
RHESUS MACAQUE (Macaca mulatta) [I]
We scoped the introduced population on Cayo Santiago while standing on the mainland part of the island.
SMALL INDIAN MONGOOSE (Herpestes auropunctatus) [I]
This introduced mammal zipped across a track near Laguna Cartagena.
Totals for the tour: 115 bird taxa and 2 mammal taxa