Thanks so much for choosing Field Guides for your Puerto Rico birding adventure. It was a pleasure birding with all of you on that enchanting island.
We began our birding at dawn at Rio Abajo State Forest and not one, but two pairs of Puerto Rican Owls were duetting back and forth as we got out of the van. Listening to their cacophony was impressive enough but in short order we had a pair in the spotlight for unobstructed killer views -- an ideal way to launch our exploration. In fact, the endemic owl was voted the favorite species of the tour. After breakfast, our walk quickly produced a number of endemics like the charismatic Puerto Rican Lizard-Cuckoo and spritely Puerto Rican Tody. Our primary target announced their presence with a variety of vocalizations. Eventually, we savored beautiful scope views of the endangered Puerto Rican Parrot. Our victorious stroll back to the van added a soaring Broad-winged Hawk. In Arecibo, we found Caribbean Martins and the flashy, introduced Icterid: Venezuelan Troupial. Cambalache State Forest, our second birding site of the day, was hopping right from the parking lot. We added Loggerhead Kingbird, Puerto Rican Flycatcher, and Adelaide's Warbler immediately, but the chattering Puerto Rican Lizard-Cuckoo stole the show. A Green Mango managed to be cooperative and elusive at the same time. The afternoon drive delivered us to our home for the next three nights: La Parguera.
Our first morning in the southwest end of the island was spent up in the highlands at Maricao State Forest. Pearly-eyed Thrasher and Elfin-woods Warbler highlighted our field breakfast observations, followed by a remarkable view of a Puerto Rican Tanager that seemed stuck in a trance. A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was a surprise and the sweet-singing Puerto Rican Vireo allowed for excellent views on a bare branch in the sun. Who could forget watching the female Puerto Rican Emerald constructing her delicate, tiny nest. A quick stop down the road added Lesser Antillean Pewee for some and another helping of Black-whiskered Vireo. After a pleasant siesta, we walked the shoreline in town and added Clapper Rail, Antillean Mango and the endangered Yellow-shouldered Blackbird. Positioning ourselves at sunset at just the right spot allowed us to witness a remarkable Puerto Rican Nightjar performance and complete the sweep of all 17 endemics!
Tuesday morning began with a quick walk of town, highlighted by point blank looks at Puerto Rican Spindalis. Shorebirds and seabirds were the focus at Cabo Rojo. Elegant White-tailed Tropicbirds and Royal Terns patrolled the open sea and the mudflats hosted Willet, Whimbrel, Stilt Sandpiper and both yellowlegs. After an early dinner, we walked out the dike trail at Laguna Cartagena National Wildlife Refuge and enjoyed close-up views of West Indian Whistling-Ducks, White-cheeked Pintails, Sora and a most unexpected flyover of two Antillean Nighthawks.
Day four found us right back at Laguna Cartagena National Wildlife Refuge for a walk out to the observation tower. West Indian Whistling-Ducks were standing on the railing -- no scope necessary. Black-crowned Night-Herons, grebes and egrets were numerous. The bird of the morning had to have been that cooperative Mangrove Cuckoo in the parking area. After checking out of the hotel, we cleaned up Puerto Rican Bullfinch at the scenic overlook, then turned our attention to getting across the island. We tacked Little Blue Heron, Black-bellied Plover, and Sanderling onto the list at Punta Cucharas. Thanks to a tip from guide Tom Johnson, we enjoyed the curious Antillean Crested Hummingbird in an unlikely location. After a rather circuitous route to Carite State Forest, we dined near Caguas and finally landed at Casa Cubuy.
Our last full day of birding started in the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. Forest Service: El Yunque. Signs of the devastating Hurricane Maria in 2017 were evident but we had plenty of bird activity: a foraging Louisiana Waterthrush, Puerto Rican Bullfinches, Puerto Rican Tanagers and Puerto Rican Spindalis. After walking the beautiful grounds of the Botanical Garden in Caguas, we wound our way toward Comerio and successfully twitched the poorly named Plain Pigeon.
On Friday we said goodbye to Casa Cubuy and made our way to the north coast. Better looks at Cave Swallow and Puerto Rican Woodpecker were welcomed. Lots of Black-bellied Plovers and a few Red Knots were roosting on the rocks. The final species of the tour was another hummingbird stakeout thanks to Tom Johnson. We watched a couple of Green-throated Caribs at a flowering tree in an urban neighborhood before saying our goodbyes at the airport.
Thanks again, stay safe and good birding.
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 enjoyed outstanding views of this regional specialty during both of our visits to Laguna Cartagena National Wildlife Refuge
BLUE-WINGED TEAL (Spatula discors)
The handsome drakes were in breeding plumage
NORTHERN SHOVELER (Spatula clypeata)
Found only at Laguna Cartagena
AMERICAN WIGEON (Mareca americana)
We had scope views from the tower
WHITE-CHEEKED PINTAIL (Anas bahamensis)
A very appropriately named duck -- those immaculate white "cheeks" are very eye-catching
RING-NECKED DUCK (Aythya collaris)
We scoped at least eight individuals at Laguna Cartagena; an uncommon wintering species in Puerto Rico
RUDDY DUCK (Oxyura jamaicensis)
Another Laguna Cartagena N.W.R. only species
LEAST GREBE (Tachybaptus dominicus)
Good looks the second trip to Laguna Cartagena
PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps)
Just a few
ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]
SCALY-NAPED PIGEON (Patagioenas squamosa)
Super-cooperative singing birds at Maricao
WHITE-CROWNED PIGEON (Patagioenas leucocephala)
Heard more than seen
PLAIN PIGEON (Patagioenas inornata wetmorei)
Truly a beautiful bird; an unfortunate name
EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto) [I]
AFRICAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia roseogrisea) [I]
Seemingly less common on the island but this complex is probably pretty murky waters with lots of hybrids
COMMON GROUND DOVE (Columbina passerina portoricensis)
WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica)
ZENAIDA DOVE (Zenaida aurita)
Fairly common throughout
MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)
Mostly in the dry SW
SMOOTH-BILLED ANI (Crotophaga ani)
MANGROVE CUCKOO (Coccyzus minor)
Wow - what an amazing observation just before leaving Laguna Cartagena
PUERTO RICAN LIZARD-CUCKOO (Coccyzus vieilloti) [E]
The individual in the parking lot at Cambalache State Forest was a real show-off.
ANTILLEAN NIGHTHAWK (Chordeiles gundlachii)
This was a pleasant surprise! The species is fairly easy to encounter when the breeding population returns but it is truly rare to catch up to overwintering birds. We were fortunate enough to spot two individuals overhead ten minutes after sunset.
PUERTO RICAN NIGHTJAR (Antrostomus noctitherus) [E]
We could hear more than a dozen birds but the looks in flight and perched were outstanding.
ANTILLEAN MANGO (PUERTO RICAN) (Anthracothorax dominicus aurulentus)
The most widespread hummingbird on the island.
GREEN MANGO (Anthracothorax viridis) [E]
Finding the angle to see this endemic at Cambalache proved tricky but it was a great look once you found the window through the vegetation.
GREEN-THROATED CARIB (Eulampis holosericeus)
Last new species just before we headed to the airport
PUERTO RICAN EMERALD (Riccordia maugaeus) [E]
Even among hummingbirds, this species is conspicuously tubular.
ANTILLEAN CRESTED HUMMINGBIRD (LESSER ANTILLES) (Orthorhyncus cristatus exilis)
That little patch of Tabebuia trees hosted the only individual(s) of the tour.
CLAPPER RAIL (CARIBBEAN) (Rallus crepitans caribaeus)
Wow - what a hyper-responsive pair!
SORA (Porzana carolina)
Good looks in the evening at Laguna Cartagena
COMMON GALLINULE (Gallinula galeata)
Common at Laguna Cartagena
AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana)
less numerous than the previous species at Laguna Cartagena
PURPLE GALLINULE (Porphyrio martinica)
Only a couple of these colorful birds
BLACK-NECKED STILT (Himantopus mexicanus)
The concentration at Combate Beach was impressive
BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (Pluvialis squatarola)
Dozens dozing on the rocks near San Juan
KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)
A few here and there
WHIMBREL (Numenius phaeopus)
Bob was the first to draw our attention to this massive shorebird at Cabo Rojo
RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres)
Still in non-breeding plumage
RED KNOT (Calidris canutus)
We caught up to at least five individuals the last morning in very worn non-breeding plumage.
STILT SANDPIPER (Calidris himantopus)
Puerto Rico is a reliable location to see this species wintering in numbers.
SANDERLING (Calidris alba)
The individual with apparently only one leg seemed to be getting on just fine
LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla)
Not many around this winter at their usual haunts.
SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER (Calidris pusilla)
It was amusing to watch that one individual remain loyal to that one stretch at the parking spot on the way out from Cabo Rojo.
SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius)
A few here and there
GREATER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa melanoleuca)
Everything about a Greater is greater (compared to a Lesser).
WILLET (Tringa semipalmata)
Good looks along the exit road at Cabo Rojo
LESSER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa flavipes)
That one individual at Cabo Rojo seemed tame, approaching us too close for some camera lenses to focus.
ROYAL TERN (Thalasseus maximus)
SANDWICH TERN (CABOT'S) (Thalasseus sandvicensis acuflavidus)
Just a couple at Combate Beach
WHITE-TAILED TROPICBIRD (Phaethon lepturus)
Three or four pairs were wheeling off the cliffs at the lighthouse.
MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRD (Fregata magnificens)
A classic kleptoparasite -- one chased that a White-tailed Tropicbird for a long stretch.
BROWN PELICAN (Pelecanus occidentalis)
Mostly seen in flight
GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)
Just one individual (at Laguna Cartagena N.W.R.)
GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)
Common across the island; not just in wetlands
SNOWY EGRET (Egretta thula)
Best looks at Cabo Rojo
LITTLE BLUE HERON (Egretta caerulea)
Our first was a beautiful adult on our transfer day back to the east
TRICOLORED HERON (Egretta tricolor)
Good looks at Cabo Rojo
CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis)
An every day bird; numerous
GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens)
BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax)
Great scope views from the tower
YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nyctanassa violacea)
It was really fun to see all those birds flying through that canyon at dusk, commuting from their mangrove roosts to foraging sites.
GLOSSY IBIS (Plegadis falcinellus)
TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)
Mostly in the SW
OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus)
A few individuals
BROAD-WINGED HAWK (CARIBBEAN) (Buteo platypterus brunnescens)
We don't routinely catch up to this species in Puerto Rico but we enjoyed good looks at an adult soaring over the canopy at Rio Abajo State Forest.
RED-TAILED HAWK (JAMAICENSIS) (Buteo jamaicensis jamaicensis)
Fairly common resident
PUERTO RICAN OWL (Gymnasio nudipes) [E]
The bird of the tour; what an incredible experience that first morning!
PUERTO RICAN TODY (Todus mexicanus) [E]
You gotta love Todies!
BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon)
Best looks at Cabo Rojo
YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER (Sphyrapicus varius)
We caught up to an individual at Maricao. This species is an uncommon winter visitor.
PUERTO RICAN WOODPECKER (Melanerpes portoricensis) [E]
This striking endemic looks quite a bit different than most Melanerpes woodpeckers.
AMERICAN KESTREL (EASTERN CARIBBEAN) (Falco sparverius caribaearum)
Here and there along the way; a copulating pair behind us at the tower at Laguna Cartagena.
MERLIN (Falco columbarius)
What a fabulous scope view of a perched bird at Laguna Cartagena.
MONK PARAKEET (Myiopsitta monachus) [I]
Small flocks on several occasions
PUERTO RICAN PARROT (Amazona vittata) [E]
A truly endangered endemic; what a treat to see it so well.
CARIBBEAN ELAENIA (Elaenia martinica)
That pair really seemed to stick together.
LESSER ANTILLEAN PEWEE (PUERTO RICO) (Contopus latirostris blancoi)
It would have been nice if that bird at the pull-off up in the Maricao highlands was a little more cooperative.
PUERTO RICAN FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus antillarum) [E]
A widespread endemic; that teed up individual at Cabo Rojo was probably our best look.
GRAY KINGBIRD (Tyrannus dominicensis)
Conspicuous on Puerto Rico
LOGGERHEAD KINGBIRD (PUERTO RICAN) (Tyrannus caudifasciatus taylori)
This subspecies is a candidate for a split
PUERTO RICAN VIREO (Vireo latimeri) [E]
Our best look was up at Maricao
BLACK-WHISKERED VIREO (Vireo altiloquus)
They were singing up a storm at Rio Abajo
CARIBBEAN MARTIN (Progne dominicensis)
These birds were just returning to Puerto Rico
CAVE SWALLOW (CARIBBEAN) (Petrochelidon fulva puertoricensis)
Our best look was the last morning with birds on the wires.
PEARLY-EYED THRASHER (Margarops fuscatus)
The birds up at Maricao were most cooperative
NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus polyglottos)
Mostly seen while driving
RED-LEGGED THRUSH (ARDOSIACEUS/ALBIVENTRIS) (Turdus plumbeus ardosiaceus)
Common but heard more than seen
NORTHERN RED BISHOP (Euplectes franciscanus) [I]
At Laguna Cartagena
ORANGE-CHEEKED WAXBILL (Estrilda melpoda) [I]
At Laguna Cartagena
HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]
Around towns and cities; just like on the mainland
PUERTO RICAN TANAGER (Nesospingus speculiferus) [E]
This species was recently assigned its own monotypic family.
PUERTO RICAN SPINDALIS (Spindalis portoricensis) [E]
PUERTO RICAN ORIOLE (Icterus portoricensis) [E]
The pair at the nest in the highlands were very obliging.
VENEZUELAN TROUPIAL (Icterus icterus) [I]
This stunning non-native seems to be thriving in Puerto Rico these days.
YELLOW-SHOULDERED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius xanthomus) [E]
Only in the southwest corner of the island
SHINY COWBIRD (Molothrus bonariensis)
Thought to be one of the reasons the previous species is endangered
GREATER ANTILLEAN GRACKLE (Quiscalus niger brachypterus)
LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia motacilla)
Just that one individual foraging along the drainage ditch at El Yunque
NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia noveboracensis)
Wintering in numbers in the mangroves
BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER (Mniotilta varia)
A fairly common wintering species
ELFIN-WOODS WARBLER (Setophaga angelae) [E]
Only in the Maricao Highlands; many of you had your first look before I could even get breakfast put out.
AMERICAN REDSTART (Setophaga ruticilla)
Most sightings were of adult males
NORTHERN PARULA (Setophaga americana)
A few good looks
YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia)
Who could forget that territorial bird pecking at its own reflection in the van mirror!
BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER (Setophaga caerulescens)
A few here and there
PRAIRIE WARBLER (Setophaga discolor)
Good looks at Cambalache
ADELAIDE'S WARBLER (Setophaga adelaidae) [E]
We had point blank looks at Cambalache our first morning in the field but common in the dry forest and edges of the southwest as well
BANANAQUIT (PUERTO RICO) (Coereba flaveola portoricensis)
YELLOW-FACED GRASSQUIT (Tiaris olivaceus bryanti)
Best look was the nest-building pair as we were leaving the tower at Laguna Cartagena.
PUERTO RICAN BULLFINCH (Melopyrrha portoricensis) [E]
The cardinal-sounding endemic that was easier to hear than see; eventually all had good looks.
BLACK-FACED GRASSQUIT (Melanospiza bicolor omissa)
SMALL INDIAN MONGOOSE (Herpestes auropunctatus) [I]
Plenty of roadkill and one live animal at El Yunque
Totals for the tour: 112 bird taxa and 1 mammal taxa