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What Is Puerto Rico’s State Bird? How Was It Decided?

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Puerto Rican Spindalis

Puerto Rico is a beautiful island in the Caribbean. It is filled with breathtaking landscapes, waterfalls, mountains, and different species of birds. Unfortunately, Puerto Rico doesn’t have any official national bird. The Puerto Rican Spindalis1, however, is considered an unofficial national bird of Puerto Rico.

The selection of state birds in the US started in 1927. It was when the legislatures of different states, including Texas, Oregon, Alabama, Florida, Missouri, Maine, and Wyoming, chose their state birds after the General Federation of Women’s Clubs began to decide official state birds in the 1920s.

In fact, all five inhabited territories of the United States2 currently have official territorial birds, except for American Samoa and Puerto Rico.

Despite that, people consider Reina Mora the national bird of the territory. If you go to Puerto Rico, you may notice a small bird with two white stripes running across its face. These birds also sing really well, so you’re in for a treat.

Let’s explore Puerto Rican Spindalis’ diet, habitat, behavior, and more in this guide.

General Description of Puerto Rican Spindalis

The Puerto Rican Spindalis is included in the tanager bird species and is endemic to the territory. These birds are widely spread throughout Puerto Rico, but you may also find several other species on the island.

This bird species plays an essential part in maintaining the ecosystem of Puerto Rico as it helps in seed dispersal and plant reproduction. Due to their striking green color and friendly nature, these birds are loved by all types of nature lovers from around the world.

The natives cherish Puerto Rican Spindalis so much that they consider it their national bird. However, it hasn’t become official by the government yet.

How to Identify Puerto Rican Spindalis?

The male and female Puerto Rican Spindalis differ significantly in their appearance. While males have a vibrant, bright green color, females are dully colored. You can identify a male Spindalis with its orange neck and chest and green upper body.

The male Spindalis also has a black head with two white stripes going across the head. One stripe is above the eyes, while the other is below them. Its wings and tails are black or gray with tiny white stripes present on the tips. On the other hand, females are a dull olive-green color with a hint of white stripes.

Other main differences between male and female Puerto Rican Spindalis are their weight and size. Females are smaller in length than males but weigh slightly more than them. The males weigh around 22.5–37.0 grams, while the females’ weight ranges from 28.0–41.1 grams.

The male’s wings measure around 82–88.5 millimeters, and the female’s wing length ranges from 80–85.5 millimeters. In addition, the male’s tail is about 59–68 millimeters in length, while the female’s tail is from 5665.5 millimeters long.

Since these birds are pretty small, don’t forget to bring quality binoculars to the territory if you’re interested in birdwatching.

What Does the Puerto Rican Spindalis Sound Like?

Puerto Rican Spindalis birds make squeaky sounds when flying over their most-liked perch or simply sitting in the forest. They sing in a series of notes from high above the forest trees, which sound something like “tweet” or a short “chi chi chi.”

Their vocalization is relatively simpler than the other Spindalis species. The males make high-pitched sounds, reaching roughly 8 kilohertz. Typically, males sing from the trees high above the ground, and females sing in whispers while staying on the ground.

Sometimes, these birds sing so high that people can’t even hear them properly. However, the common vocalization can be defined as a “series of high-pitched, sibilant, and thin notes made rhythmically.”

If your hearing skills aren’t that good, the chances are that you might miss the melodious singing of these birds.

Where Does the Puerto Rican Spindalis Live?

The Puerto Rico Spindalis is more commonly found in the El Yunque National Forest and the forests of Maricao. However, these birds prefer to live in any type of plantation, such as gardens or farms where fruits are present. They love flower nectar, too.

The Puerto Rican Spindalis also likes sweets. Thus, if you want to lure these birds into your garden or backyard, you can put sugar solution in an appropriate feeder.

The birds are distributed everywhere on the entire Puerto Rican Island and are usually flying above 1,000 meters of elevation.

The General Behavior of Puerto Rican Spindalis

The Puerto Rican Spindalis prefer living in pairs but may also be seen traveling in small flocks of similar species. These birds can be migratory or non-migratory. You might find these birds circling alone while searching for food or a mating partner.

Like other bird species, Puerto Rican Spindalis are also quite protective of their families. They engage in the practice of “mobbing” to protect their eggs or younger ones from predators or any other danger. Since these birds usually nest next to each other, they gather in a flock to attack any predator invading their territory.

They especially show this behavior against the Puerto Rican Boa, which is a snake species. The success of their mobbing behavior usually depends on the size and power of their predators.

What Do Puerto Rican Spindalis Like to Eat?

Like other bird species, the Puerto Rican Spindalis is carnivorous, frugivorous, and herbivorous. These birds like to eat fruits and leaves from different plants and trees. They also consume insects and lizards when digesting fruits and leaves becomes hard for them.

So, if you want to attract these birds to your backyard or garden, use a quality bird feeder and fill it with delicious meals and foods that they like. Also, make sure to place the feeder in the right place so that other predators like cats and squirrels won’t reach them before other birds.

How Does the Puerto Rican Spindalis Reproduce?

These birds build cup-like nests from different plant matter. Typically, they lay two to four eggs at a time, which are light blue, having brown patches near the larger end. The eggs measure approximately 24 millimeters long and 17 millimeters wide, on average.

Keep in mind that the color and size of Puerto Rican Spindalis may vary according to the regions they live in.

What Is the Conservation Status of the Puerto Rican Spindalis?

These birds are among the most commonly occurring species in Puerto Rico and different parts of the US. They are found in abundance in humid forests but may be rare to spot when they’re foraging high on the treetops.

Their population is stable, so the species doesn’t qualify as “vulnerable” under the population trend criteria. According to these criteria, they have less than a 30% chance of decline over a decade or three generations.

Conclusion

Puerto Rico is a gorgeous island with beautiful landscapes and mesmerizing beaches. It is a favorite spot for nature lovers and tourists worldwide. While people cherish the tasty foods and lush-green forests, they also love to see and hear the unofficial bird of the territory, Puerto Rican Spindalis.

The birds are olive-green colored with white streaks on different body parts. They like to eat fruits, leaves, and insects. Males sing from the treetops, while females whisper from the ground.

Fortunately, Puerto Rican Spindalis is the least concerned about conservation, so you’re sure to see these green birds on your next trip to Puerto Rico.


Featured Image Credit: Julio Salgado, 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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