Endemic Birds of Puerto Rico
With its variety of habitats and abundance of protected reserves, Puerto Rico has a rich and diverse range of bird species. Of the total of 349 recorded species of birds, 42 have been introduced to the archipelago, 16 are endemic, and 166 are considered to be vagrants, also referred to as “accidental”, meaning that they have left their original habitats, found their way to Puerto Rico, and made it their home. While many of the bird species found in Puerto Rico are permanent residents, the majority are migratory, spending winter in the islands before returning to their natural habitat. But no matter what time of the year birding enthusiasts choose to visit Puerto Rico, there is always plenty to see.
Among the birds endemic to the island is the Puerto Rican Spindalis (Spindalis portoricensis), considered to be the national bird of Puerto Rico. More commonly known as Reina Mora this tanager is essential to the ecosystem of the island as it disperses seed and facilitates plant reproduction. Found all over the island, the Puerto Rican Spindalis is most at home in plantations and are often found in areas where fruits are grown. Generally found in pairs, but also traveling in flocks, these lively birds are known to engage in mobbing, where they very effectively gang up against a predator in order to protect their young and their territory.
Considered to one of the ten most endangered birds in the world, the Puerto Rican Amazon may be difficult to spot as its green and blue plumage allows it to blend in the verdant foliage of their most preferred habitats. As the only remaining endemic parrot in Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rican Parrot is listed as critically endangered by International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), and is also listed as endangered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The primary reason for the decline in numbers of this beautiful bird is the decimation of its natural habitat. Since 1968 there have been efforts to save it from extinction and numbers have been very slowly increasing as birds bred in captivity are released into the wild.
Other birds endemic to Puerto Rico include the Puerto Rican Tody, referred to locally as San Pedrito; the Elfin-woods Warbler and the Yellow-shouldered Blackbird. If you are visiting Puerto Rico, you may want to join a specialized birding tour to fully enjoy the birds of this charming archipelago in the Caribbean Sea.