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WINGS Birding Tours – Itinerary

Puerto Rico

Friday 16 February to Thursday 22 February 2024
with Raymond VanBuskirk as leader
February 2025

Price: $3,190* (02/2024)

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Puerto Rican Tody is a charming endemic. Photo: Gavin Bieber

Puerto Rico, once a Spanish colony and now a U.S. territory and popular holiday destination provides a perfect and easy week-long getaway for the visiting birder. With an excellent road system providing convenient access to its many forest reserves, Puerto Rico offers some of the easiest and most enjoyable birdwatching in the Caribbean. On our tour we’ll seek out all of the island endemics and more than two-dozen Caribbean specialties, visiting every habitat from the windswept elfin-woods of Maricao to the bird-rich thorn scrub of the Guanica Dry Forest region.

For those interested in a longer Carribbean adventure, this tour can be combined with the Dominican Republic.

Day 1: The tour begins at 6 p.m. this evening in the lobby of our  San Juan hotel. Night in San Juan.

Day 2:  We’ll rise for an early breakfast at the hotel and head for Cambalache State Forest, which offers one of the largest lowland tracts of forest on the northern shore of the island. The dawn chorus here is usually good in February, and just past the parking lot we should hear a host of endemic birds greeting the morning.  Along the trails we’ll look for the beautiful Puerto Rican Bullfinch, whose calls sound very similar to a Northern Cardinal.  Here too will be the exquisite Puerto Rican Tody and the entertaining Puerto Rican Lizard-Cuckoo.  Further up the trail we’ll look for Puerto Rican Spindalis, sprightly Adelaide’s Warblers and Puerto Rican Vireo.  It’s also worth checking the trail edges, as Key West Quail-Doves sometimes forage along the cleared path early in the morning. At a nearby grassy savannah we often encounter flocks of waxbills or hunting swallows and raptors.  After a beachside lunch we’ll start heading west, stopping at a few wetlands that typically hold a nice assortment of waders and waterfowl (and often a surprise or two).  Then we’ll pause at a cliffside overlook where White-tailed Tropicbirds should be conducting courtship flights in the bay below. This is also one of the best areas on the island to see the endangered Puerto Rican Harlequin Butterfly, an endemic species of checkerspot.  In the late afternoon we’ll make our way to our comfortable lodgings at a historic hotel in the highlands near Maricao.  Night in Maricao.

Day 3: We’ll have an early morning today, making our way to the Rio Abajo State Forest for a field breakfast. The mature forest in this preserve offers some of the best birding the island has to offer, with opportunities for many of the island’s endemics and our best chance at the endangered Puerto Rican Parrot. The parking area is often bustling with birds, including the Puerto Rican Oriole, Puerto Rican Antillean Euphonia, and many others. Along the trail into the park we stand a good chance at seeing the endemic subspecies of Broad-winged Hawk on late morning thermals. After a solid morning here we’ll head for lunch and then an afternoon return trip to the highlands. In the afternoon we’ll do a bit of exploring in the montane forest with our first opportunities at such birds at the Puerto Rican Tanager, and Elfin Woods Warbler. Night in Maricao.

Day 4: After an early breakfast we’ll spend most of today in the lush montane forest of Maricao State Forest and other protected areas along the mountainous central road. Two endemic hummingbirds occur here; the Puerto Rican Emerald and impressive Green Mango.  In addition, Puerto Rican Spindalis, Puerto Rican Tanager, Loggerhead Kingbird (endemic and distinctive subspecies), Puerto Rican Oriole, and Antillean Euphonia are all likely. The star attraction in the mountain region, however, is Elfin Woods Warbler, which was only discovered in 1971.  This species can be hard to see well as it is very active and tends to remain partially hidden by the dense vegetation, but with some perseverance it generally reveals its secrets.  In the afternoon we’ll descend to the lowlands to look for waterbirds and our first shot at the endangered Yellow-shouldered Blackbird before reaching our wonderful seaside hotel. Night near La Parguera.

Day 5-6: We’ll spend day 5 birding in the lowlands, and will have time to revisit some sites on the morning of day 6 depending upon what species we may still be looking for. The southwestern sector of Puerto Rico offers a diversity of coastal, forest, and wetland habitats, each with its own distinctive birdlife.  While birding coastal areas around Cabo Rojo, we’ll seek the endemic and scarce Yellow-shouldered Blackbird as well as migrant shorebirds. Many of Puerto Rico’s endemics are to be found in the Guanica Dry Forest, and we hope to find the attractive Adelaide’s Warbler here as well as the non-endemic Caribbean Elaenia.  In the evening we’ll make a nighttime excursion to search for the local Puerto Rican Nightjar and Puerto Rican Screech-Owl.  We’ll also investigate several wetland areas around the Southwest corner looking for rare species such as West Indian Whistling-Duck and Masked Duck, and will have an opportunity to seek out some of the established exotics such as Venezuelan Troupial and Orange Bishops.  On the afternoon of day 6 we’ll head back to San Juan, stopping along the way at an out of the way spot that harbors the globally scarce Plain Pigeon and Antillean Crested Hummingbird. As a final stop in San Juan we’ll search a local community garden and plant nursery for Green-throated Carib. Night near La Parguera on day 5 and San Juan on day 6.

Day 7: The tour concludes this morning in San Juan.

Updated: 14 September 2023


  • 2024 Tour Price : $3,190
  • Single Occupancy Supplement : $490


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Questions? Tour Manager: Stephanie Schaefer. Call 1-866-547-9868 (US or Canada) or (01) 520-320-9868 or click here to email.

* Tour invoices paid by check carry a 4% discount. Details here.

Maximum group size seven with one leader.

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