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Home > Interests & Activities > Nature > Bird Watching
Puerto Rico might be the smallest of the Greater Antilles, but it’s a big hit with birders.
That’s because we are home to over 300 species of birds, 17 of which are recognized as endemic. Puerto Rico avifauna includes the Puerto Rican Lizard-Cuckoo, Tody, Oriole, Spindalis, Woodpecker, Emerald Hummingbird, and Parrot.
Among our part-time residents are Killdeers, Black-Necked Stilts, Wilson's Plover and Snowy Plover, to name just a few.
But bird watching in Puerto Rico isn’t just about what you can find; half the fun is where you’ll go to find it. Our subtropical rainforest, protected biosphere, salt flats, and secluded islets make the destination often as rewarding as the scenery.
El Yunque, the only subtropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest Service is a prime destination for bird watching. Take an early morning hike along a secluded nature trail and listen to sound of birdsong mingling with the melody of the coquí tree frog. Among the many bird species you can find here are the Red-Tailed Hawk, Puerto Rican Lizard-Cuckoo, Gray Kingbird, Pearly-Eyed Thrasher, Shiny Cobwird, and that rarest of jewels, the Puerto Rican Parrot.
DIY or Guided Tour?
You can easily strike out on your own in our gentle forest, but if you want a guided bird watching tour, Birding Puerto Rico by AdvenTours has several bird watching excursions to the rainforest.
El Yunque has campgrounds and several small inns – and many innkeepers will tell you that you can enjoy bird watching without leaving your porch.
The Puerto Rican Parrot
El Yunque has been the birthplace of an incredible effort to save one of the most endangered birds in the world: the Puerto Rican Parrot. See if you are lucky enough to spot one during your next visit!
The salt flats of Cabo Rojo are a U.S. National Wildlife Refuge and an absolute paradise for bird watching enthusiasts. This arid landscape, almost an alien world amid Puerto Rico’s lush vegetation and azure beaches, is home to 25 species of migrating shorebirds. In fact, this is the most important point of convergence for migrating shorebirds in the eastern Caribbean. The salt flats are also frequented by over 90 resident and migratory birds, and are part of the designated critical habitat of the Yellow-shouldered blackbird, an endangered species.
Among the migrating shorebirds birds you’ll find nesting here are Killdeers, Black-necked Stilts, Wilson's Plover and Snowy Plovers, which are not found anywhere else in Puerto Rico.
While much of Cabo Rojo looks like baked earth, a low line of shrub separates the salt flats from a long, thin stretch of usually isolated beachfront. Cross this threshold and enjoy a dip in the Caribbean Sea.
In addition to your binoculars and bathing suit, bring plenty of water. This is an arid, dry environment with no facilities beyond the visitor center.
Guánica Dry Forest
A unique and remarkably well-preserved natural treasure, the Guánica Dry Forest is nothing like El Yunque or most parts of the island. It’s also a must-visit destination for bird watchers. The forest is home to the largest number of bird species in Puerto Rico. A dry forest doesn’t mean an absence of greenery. In fact, the forest is a place of incredible beauty and diversity, home to hundreds of plant species as well as more than 150 bird species. It also makes for a fascinating place to hike, with over 30 miles of trails to keep you exploring all day.
DIY or Guided Tours
A Rare Find
If you’re very lucky, you might spot a Puerto Rican Nightjar at Guánica. This rare endemic bird is currently listed as endangered, and the forest is its protected home.
Guánica’s abundance of flora and fauna is due in part to its biodiversity. No less than three different ecosystems can be found here: deciduous, semi-evergreen and scrub forests.
The Punta Santiago Nature Reserve in Humacao is among the less-visited sanctuaries of Puerto Rico, but it’s a wonderful place to spot birds and other wildlife. Pure Adventure runs a kayaking and bird watching tour through the canals and lagoons of this tropical wetland ecosystem. You’ll even get a “bird identifier” card to help you spot and identify the local fauna.
From birds to monkeys
Humacao is truly a paradise for wildlife enthusiasts. In addition to the nature reserve, this municipality boasts a small island with a population of Rhesus monkeys.
Palmas del Mar
Humacao boasts an elite resort in Palmas del Mar, which offers sailing, water sports, tennis, golf, horseback riding and tennis, making it one of the more complete properties on the island.
Lagoon and Biobay
For a special treat, combine the day-tour to the Nature Reserve with Pure Adventure’s nighttime tour of the nearby Fajardo Biobay.
A bird watching experience that will truly take you back to the land, Mona Island will reward the most adventurous birders. To get here, charter a boat from the west-coast cities of Mayagüez or Cabo Rojo. The six-hour trip is not for the casual visitor, but those who make the effort will be rewarded with an island with such abundant and exotic wildlife that it’s been called the “Galapagos of the Caribbean.” This includes numerous species of migratory birds, most common of which is the red-footed booby.
Worth the Trek
Mona Island is one of Puerto Rico’s most spectacular natural jewels, but it’s also a remote destination. Lying 42 miles off the western coast, it’s a six-hour journey by boat. Fortunately, you can camp here at designated beaches.
Explore the Waters
A visit to Mona Island would not be complete without exploring the fantastic marine life that thrives in its waters. This is one of Puerto Rico’s best dive destinations.
Preservation and Conservation
The environment at Mona Island is strictly maintained by the Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources, and no more than 100 people are allowed on the island at any given time. Make sure to abide by their rules when you visit.
Las Cabezas de San Juan
La Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve, perched on the northeastern bluff of the island, is managed by the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico. The trust offers a “Birding with a Purpose” tour here in which visitors learn to identify birds by their song. It’s a chance to enjoy bird watching in various ecosystems ranging from swampy mangrove forests to rocky beaches.
The tour stops at a working lighthouse, giving you the chance to climb its narrowing steps for panoramic views of the eastern coast and, in the distance, the island of St. Thomas.
To attend these tours, you must contact the Conservation Trust ahead of time. Reservations are required for all tours.
Birding with a Purpose Tours
The Trust also offers “Birding with a Purpose” tours at Hacienda Esperanza in Manatí, Hacienda Buena Vista in Ponce, and even birding tours of Old San Juan.