Puerto Rico’s varied ecosystems make the island a birder’s paradise.
From waterfowl and parrots to cuckoo birds and warblers to a flamingo (yes, just the one), a birding expedition in Puerto Rico with a local guide can yield more than 60 different sightings in a single day. If birdwatching is your passion, you won’t want to miss exploring the island’s 300+ bird species, which includes 17 endemic bird species and about 120 bird species that regularly nest on the island.
If you're staying in the metro area, Old San Juan's abundance of trees and proximity to the ocean create the perfect conditions for birdwatching. You may be able to spot Green Emeralds, Bananaquits, Antillian Mangos, Canary-Winged Parakeets, migratory warblers, and many more.
Just outside San Juan is the Paseo Lineal Río Bayamón, a park with a paved 5-mile trail that follows the Bayamón River to Levittown beach and is lined with local flora. Enjoy spotting some gorgeous birds while exercising! Just be sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen since parts of the path are exposed.
The Botanical Garden in Río Piedras, near the University of Puerto Rico’s Río Piedras campus, is another great spot for some casual birdwatching. For a more active experience, try hiking through the Parque Urbano Julio Enrique Monagas in Bayamón, where mountain biking and rock climbing are also popular pastimes.
Nature Reserves, State Forests, and Wildlife Refuges
Venturing beyond San Juan, your options for birdwatching expand substantially. On the east side of the island is El Yunque National Forest, a subtropical rain forest with dozens of different species of birds and gorgeous trails to explore. Further south is the Humacao Nature Reserve, home to several different types of waterfowl.
In the central north region is Cambalache State Forest in Arecibo, where the Puerto Rico Ornithological Society (SOPI, in Spanish) has their Cambalache Forest Ornithological Center. Here you'll find the Puerto Rican Woodpecker, Puerto Rican Bullfinch, Puerto Rican Tody, and Puerto Rican Cuckoo, among others.
Camuy’s abundance of roadside ponds means a chance to spot kingbirds, ibis, heron, and gulls, but don’t forget to visit the town’s most famous avian resident, the solitary flamingo near Peñón Amador Beach.
The south of the island is a completely different world since it’s primarily a dry forest. The Cabo Rojo Wildlife Refuge Salt Flats is a must visit for serious birders. It’s the first site in the Caribbean designated by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network, and is also deemed an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International.
The Guánica Dry Forest is another popular birdwatching spot, and many birding tours also visit nearby Cartagena Lagoon in Lajas.
All these destinations require appropriate hot weather clothing, hiking shoes, sunscreen, and water and snacks.
There are several birding tour companies whose local guides know where to find some of the more rare and interesting bird species. Most offer half- or full-day private tours for individuals or small groups, as well as pre-organized outings, while others offer full vacation packages. Birding and Nature Tours with Gabriel Lugo, Adventours, Wildside Nature Tours, Birding Puerto Rico, and Puerto Rico Birding Trips are some of the companies that offer birdwatching experiences.
Organizations like SOPI and Para La Naturaleza (a conservation nonprofit that manages numerous protected areas), also sometimes offer guided tours, workshops on the birds of Puerto Rico, or bird counts around the island.
There are 18 endemic bird species of Puerto Rico:
Puerto Rican Parrot (Amazona vittata)
Green Mango (Anthracothorax viridis)
Adelaide’s Warbler (Dendroica adelaidae)
Elfin-woods Warbler (Dendroica angelae)
Yellow-shouldered Blackbird (Agelaius xanthomus)
Puerto Rican Nightjar (Caprimulgus noctitherus)
Puerto Rican Emerald (Chlorostilbon maugeaus)
Puerto Rican Lizard Cuckoo (Coccyzus vieilloti)
Puerto Rican Oriole (Icterus portoricensis)
Puerto Rican Bullfinch (Loxigilla portoricensis)
Puerto Rican Screech Owl (Megascops nudipes)
Puerto Rican Woodpecker (Melanerpes portoricensis)
Puerto Rican Flycatcher (Myiarchus antillarum)
Puerto Rican Tanager (Nesospingus speculiferus)
Puerto Rican Spindalis (Spindalis portoricensis)
Puerto Rican Tody or San Pedrito (Todus mexicanus)
Puerto Rican Vireo (Vireo latimeri)