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Puerto Rico Birding – Tips, Hotspots, and Guide

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flock of flamingo birds fying

Puerto Rico is one of the best places to visit if you are a serious birder. Because of its tropical environment, Puerto Rico is home to a variety of exotic species. In fact, there are 18 endemic bird species in Puerto Rico.

In this guide, learn about the top hotspots for burning in Puerto Rico, as well as tips and other information you need to know when bird watching in the area.

Top 10 Birdwatching Hotspots in Puerto Rico:

1. Cartagena Lagoon

Type of spot Birding tours
Difficulty Level Easy
Common birds seen Waterfowl, aquatic, migratory species
Fee Varies

Cartagena Lagoon provides fantastic birding tours so you can enjoy Puerto Rican wildlife without taxing yourself too much. These birding tours occur at the Laguna Cartagena National Wildlife Refuge.

Because this is a lagoon, you are most likely to see waterfowl, aquatic, and migratory species. Since the bird groups are organized, this is perfect for individuals with limited access abilities, though active bird watchers may want something more exciting.

Pros
  • Many species to enjoy
  • Perfect for individuals with limited accessibility
Cons
  • Not as exciting for individuals who want an adventure

2. Paseo Lineal Río Bayamón


Type of spot Park
Difficulty Level Easy
Common birds seen Endemic and migratory species
Fee Free
Website Paseo Lineal Río Bayamón

One of the cool things about Puerto Rico is that birds and wildlife are not too far from the cities. If you are staying in San Juan, you will want to check out the Paseo Lineal Río Bayamón.

This park includes a 5-mile paved trail that follows alongside the beach and is lined with flora and fauna. Because this trail is paved, it is relatively easy to spot birds if you have minimal accessibility, but make sure to bring sunscreen and water.

Pros
  • Free
  • Right outside of San Juan
  • Easy trail is accessible for many watchers
Cons
  • Can get loud

3. Botanical Gardens in Río Piedras

Type of spot Botanical garden
Difficulty Level Easy
Common birds seen Endemic species
Fee Reservation required
Website Botanical Gardens in Río Piedras

Another great place to check out Puerto Rican birds is at the Botanical Gardens in Río Piedras. This Botanical Garden is right around the University of Puerto Rico. Here, you will see beautiful flowers and birds that are being preserved by the community.

Because this is a popular Botanical Garden, it is easy to walk around and view birds. It is pretty accessible, too, but it isn’t necessarily right for people looking for a challenge. Note that reservations are required when visiting this garden.

Pros
  • Accessible for all watchers
  • Great way to learn about Puerto Rico’s wildlife
  • Activities included
Cons
  • Reservations required
  • Can get loud

4. Parque Urbano Julio Enrique Monagas

Type of spot National Park
Difficulty Level Easy to hard
Common birds seen Endemic and land species
Fee Free
Website Parque Urbano Julio Enrique Monagas

If you are up for a more active challenge, check out the Parque Urbano Julio Enrique Monagas. This park is unique because it has a little something for everybody, ensuring your group stays entertained.

There are easy trails for individuals who need low-paced bird watching. There is also hiking, rock climbing, and more active activities for those who want something more adventurous. Although this park can get a bit loud, it’s great for groups of birdwatchers who have different interests.

Pros
  • Customizable difficulty levels
  • Options for getting active
  • Free
Cons
  • Can get loud

5. Camuy’s Ponds

Type of spot Roadside ponds
Difficulty Level Easy to intermediate
Common birds seen Waterfowl
Fee Free

All around the area of Camuy, you will find roadside ponds. These roadside ponds are great spots for seeing waterfowl in the wild. Although these ponds aren’t the most gorgeous spots in Puerto Rico, they make for great bird watching. You can see Herons, Kingbirds, and even a Flamingo in the area.

These ponds are accessible since they are roadside, but you will have to keep an eye out. Just stop by one of the ponds whenever you pass them.

Pros
  • Great for viewing waterfowl
  • Just stop by in your free time
  • Free
Cons
  • Must keep an eye out for these ponds

6. Guánica Dry Forest

Type of spot Dry forest
Difficulty Level Beginner to hard
Common birds seen Endemic species, waterfowl, shorebirds
Fee Free
Website Guánica Dry Forest

Guánica’s Dry Forest Is a unique spot in Puerto Rico. It offers remote beaches, hiking, bike rides, and unique bird watching. Because this forest covers so many terrains, there are over 130 bird species of different varieties.

This dry forest has a little something for everybody. Some trails are easy and paved, whereas others require you to adventure. What this means is that your entire bird-watching group can find activities that match their difficulty level.

Pros
  • Wide array of bird species
  • A little something for everybody
  • Remote hikes and beaches to enjoy
Cons
  • Some trails are not accessible to everyone

7. El Yunque National Forest

Type of spot National Forest
Difficulty Level Intermediate to hard
Common birds seen Subtropical birds
Fee Reservation required
Website El Yunque National Forest

If you are more interested in seeing the exotic side of Puerto Rico, you will need to venture into natural reserves and forests. The El Yunque National Forest is a great way to see birds in a subtropical rainforest.

This forest is located on the eastern side of the island. It is home to different species of birds and offers gorgeous trails. This forest is not super accessible, making it best for individuals who want to explore and really get their hands dirty while bird watching.

Pros
  • Beautiful forest to see subtropical birds
  • Secluded
  • Great hiking trails
Cons
  • Not easily accessible

8. Humacao Nature Reserve

Type of spot Nature reserve
Difficulty Level Intermediate to hard
Common birds seen Waterfowl
Fee Free
Website Humacao Nature Reserve

If you’re more interested in seeing waterfowl, you need to visit the Humacao Nature Reserve. This nature reserve is right on the waterfront, ensuring that you can see Puerto Rico’s natural waterfowl species.

You can also stay entertained with a number of water activities. You can hike, paddleboard, or kayak. In other words, this reserve will keep you entertained from the second you get there to the time you leave.

Pros
  • Great place for spotting waterfowl
  • Many water activities to enjoy
  • Free
Cons
  • Not very accessible

9. Cambalache State Forest

Type of spot State forest
Difficulty Level Intermediate to hard
Common birds seen Endemic species
Fee Free
Website Cambalache State Forest

Serious birdwatchers need to visit the Cambalache State Forest. This forest is in the central north region of the island, and it is home to the Puerto Rico Ornithological Society.

The Society is located here for many reasons. Most importantly, this area is home to many endemic species, including the Puerto Rican Woodpecker, the Puerto Rican Tody, and the Puerto Rican Bullfinch.

Pros
  • Great spot for seeing endemic species
  • Home of the country’s ornithological society
Cons
  • Not very accessible

10. Cabo Rojo Wildlife Refuge Salt Flats

Type of spot Wildlife refuge
Difficulty Level Intermediate to hard
Common birds seen Endemic species
Fee Free
Website Cabo Rojo Wildlife Refuge Salt Flats

The last spot for serious birdwatchers in Puerto Rico is the Cabo Rojo Wildlife Refuge Salt Flats. This site is actually the first spot in the Caribbean that was created by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network. This spot is maintained by BirdLife International.

You can spot many endemic shorebirds in this area. In total, there are 145 species at this refuge. Because this is a salt flat designed for preservation, accessibility is minimal in this area.

Pros
  • First Caribbean site to be designated in the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network
  • Nearly 200 bird species to see
  • Beautiful sights to see while challenging yourself physically
Cons
  • Not very accessible

Things to Remember Birding in Puerto Rico

Bird watching in Puerto Rico is much like bird watching anywhere else. Be quiet and wear colors that blend in with the surrounding. If you draw too much attention to yourself, you will likely scare away the birds.

It’s important to always be prepared. Make sure to pack a lot of water, sunscreen, and bug spray. In many of these bird-watching areas, there is limited shade. By being prepared, you are keeping yourself safe.

Additionally, be respectful of Puerto Rico’s wildlife. Always pick up after yourself, and do not pester the animals. It’s best to leave these species be and watch quietly. Remember: the goal is always to leave the area better than you found it.

bird watching

Image Credit: Rawpixel.com, Shutterstock

FAQ

What are Puerto Rico’s endemic species?

There are 18 endemic species of Puerto Rico, including:

  • Puerto Rican Nightjar (Caprimulgus noctitherus)
  • Puerto Rican Spindalis (Spindalis portoricensis)
  • Puerto Rican Parrot (Amazona vittata)
  • Puerto Rican Flycatcher (Myiarchus antillarum)
  • Yellow-shouldered Blackbird (Agelaius xanthomus)
  • Puerto Rican Bullfinch (Loxigilla portoricensis)
  • Puerto Rican Tody or San Pedrito (Todus mexicanus)
  • Green Mango (Anthracothorax viridis)
  • Puerto Rican Lizard Cuckoo (Coccyzus vieilloti)
  • Adelaide’s Warbler (Dendroica adelaidae)
  • Elfin-woods Warbler (Dendroica angelae)
  • Puerto Rican Vireo (Vireo latimeri)
  • Puerto Rican Oriole (Icterus portoricensis)
  • Puerto Rican Emerald (Chlorostilbon maugeaus)
  • Puerto Rican Tanager (Nesospingus speculiferus)
  • Puerto Rican Woodpecker (Melanerpes portoricensis)
  • Puerto Rican Screech Owl (Megascops nudipes)

What is the national bird of Puerto Rico?

The official bird of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is the Puerto Rico Spindalis, otherwise known as the Stripe-Headed Tanager. This species is endemic to Puerto Rico.

Conclusion

Now that you know some of the top spots for bird watching in Puerto Rico, it’s time to plan your trip. That being said, bird watching is great anywhere in Puerto Rico. Keep your eyes open at all times because you might see an endemic species or a bird you’ve never seen before.


Featured Image Credit; trattieritratti, Shutterstock

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.

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