Below you will find 16 COMMON BIRDS that live in Puerto Rico!
Believe it or not, over 380 species have been observed here, including many birds that only visit during migration. Because of the incredible variety, it would be impossible to list EVERY single type below.
So I did my best to come up with a list of the birds that are seen the MOST. Enjoy! 🙂
16 Common Birds of Puerto Rico:
#1. Green Heron
- Butorides virescens
- Small heron with a long, dagger-like bill.
- Their back is gray-green. Head and neck are chestnut-brown, except for the green-black cap on the head.
- The neck is commonly drawn into their body.
This small heron is found in Puerto Rico in any wet habitat that includes lots of vegetation, which provides places for them to stay hidden. You will most often see them foraging at dawn or dusk, as they prefer to stay out of sight during most of the day.
Green Herons are ambush predators and mainly eat fish, waiting patiently for a small one to swim by so they can snap it up with their long bill. Interestingly, these birds actually use tools to help them hunt! They will drop insects, feathers, or other items into the water, which entice small fish to come closer to investigate.
The first time I heard the “skeow” call of an alarmed Green Heron, I had no idea what I heard because it was so unique. But luckily, these sounds are easy to learn, and now I can easily identify these herons when I’m visiting most wetlands.
#2. Great Egret
- Ardea alba
- Large, white bird with long, black legs.
- S-curved neck and a dagger-like yellow bill. Look for a greenish area between their eyes and the base of the bill.
- While they fly, their neck is tucked in, and their long legs trail behind them.
Great Egrets are one of the most stunning birds in Puerto Rico.
These herons especially put on a show during breeding season when they grow long feathery plumes called aigrettes, which are held up during courtship displays.
These aigrettes are so beautiful that Great Egrets were almost hunted to extinction in the 19th century because these feathers made such nice decorations on ladies’ hats. The National Audubon Society was formed in response to help protect these birds from being slaughtered. To this day, the Great Egret serves as the organization’s symbol.
#3. Northern Mockingbird
- Mimus polyglottos
- Medium-sized grey songbird with a LONG, slender tail.
- Distinctive white wing patches that are visible when in flight.
These birds are hard to miss in Puerto Rico!
First, Northern Mockingbirds LOVE to sing, and they almost never stop. Sometimes they will even sing through the entire night. If this happens to you, it’s advised to keep your windows closed if you want to get any sleep. 🙂
In addition, Northern Mockingbirds have bold personalities. For example, they commonly harass other birds by flying slowly around them and then approaching with their wings up, showing off their white wing patches.
#4. Brown Pelican
- Pelecanus occidentalis
- Brown skin on their giant throat patch.
- Dark gray bodies with a white neck and pale yellow head.
- Measures 3.5 – 5 feet in length (1 to 1.5 m) with a wingspan of 6.5 – 7.5 feet (2 to 2.3 m). The weight of adults can range from 4.4 to 11.0 lb (2 to 5 kg).
If you see a pelican in Puerto Rico while sitting on a beach, it is most likely a Brown Pelican. These large birds live strictly in saltwater habitats near the ocean’s coastline. Interestingly, they rarely venture into the open ocean, staying within 20 miles of the shore.
It’s a lot of fun watching Brown Pelicans hunting for fish! First, they fly high into the sky and then plunge aggressively headfirst into the water. These dives are meant to stun the surrounding fish, which then are scooped up with their enormous throat pouch and swallowed whole.
Check out the below video to learn more about their insane dives!
And lastly, they birds live a long time. The oldest Brown Pelican on record was 43 years of age!
#5. American Kestrel
- Falco sparverius
The American Kestrel is the smallest bird of prey in Puerto Rico.
But don’t let the tiny stature fool you because this raptor is an accomplished hunter. One of their favorite strategies to catch prey is to hover in the breeze from a relatively low height, looking for insects, invertebrates, small rodents, and birds.
Their diverse diet is one reason they can occupy ecological niches from central Alaska down to the southernmost tip of South America. But life can be tough when you’re the smallest falcon since they are sometimes eaten as prey by larger raptors and big snakes!
- Coereba flaveola
- Adults range from 10-13 cm (4-5 in) long.
- Most adults have dark gray upperparts, a black crown, and a yellow chest, belly, and rump.
Bananaquits have something in common with many humans I know – a sweet tooth! Also known as “sugar birds” in Puerto Rico, this species is attracted to nectar feeders and bowls of sugar. They even enter homes looking for sweet treats.
Bananaquits are small, colorful, and known for adapting easily to human habitats. They like fruit and nectar, so they spend a lot of time near humans near flower gardens or fruit trees.
This species’ reliance on humans doesn’t stop with their diet. They often build their nests on human-made objects, including lampposts and garden trellises. Look for a globe-shaped tangle of sticks and leaves between 5 and 30 feet (1.5 to 9 m) off the ground.
#7. Magnificent Frigatebird
- Fregata magnificens
- Long, narrow wings with a deeply forked tail.
- Males have a red throat patch, which is easily seen during the breeding season.
- Females have a white breast patch.
As the name implies, seeing these seabirds soaring effortlessly in the sky is quite “magnificent.” Using their forked tails to steer, they barely have to flap to stay afloat in the sky.
Due to the fact that their feathers are not waterproof like other seabirds, Magnificent Frigatebirds rarely land in the water and spend almost their entire lives flying. For food, they commonly steal fish from other birds or harass them until they regurgitate their meal, which they grab in midair! Their pirating ways have earned frigatebirds the nickname the “man-o-war bird.”
With Magnificent Frigatebirds, the “early bird” does not get the worm! Most individuals don’t take flight until later in the afternoon when thermals and winds are at their greatest. 🙂
#8. Zenaida Dove
- Zenaida aurita
- Approximately 28–30 cm (11–12 in) in length.
- While flying, look for white plumage on the inner part of the wing.
Zenaida Doves look VERY similar to Mourning Doves and inhabit the same ecological niches. The main difference is that Zenaida Doves are smaller overall, slightly darker in color, and have a shorter, more rounded tail. Look for these birds in Puerto Rico in open, coastal habitats on the ground, feeding on seeds and grains.
A Zenaida Doves mournful song also sounds similar to a Mourning Dove but is faster in pace. You can listen below!
#9. Gray Kingbird
- Tyrannus dominicensis
- Grayish bird with a whitish belly.
- Dark mask on the face that goes through the eye and cheek.
- Tail typically appears notched.
These birds are a lot of fun to watch in Puerto Rico!
Gray Kingbirds are bold and expert hunters. They are known to chase dragonflies and other insects for over a hundred yards in spectacular fashion, reminiscent of a fighter pilot!
Gray Kingbirds are fairly easy to find due to their raucous and memorable voice. Listen for a rolling pitirre call anytime throughout the year.
#10. Greater Antillean Grackle
- Quiscalus niger
- Males are glossy black with a tail that resembles a rudder.
- Females are black as well but less glossy. Smaller tails than males.
- Yellow eyes.
Greater Antillean Grackles are often found near people in Puerto Rico, hanging around hoping to receive leftover food! These bold birds can become surprisingly tame, even going into restaurants.
Just like other grackles, this species is highly gregarious. You will most likely never see a Greater Antillean Grackle alone.
#11. Pearly-eyed Thrasher
- Margarops fuscatus
- Mostly brown bird with brownish-white underparts.
- A bright, white eye.
Pearly-eyed Thrashers can be found in Puerto Rico in a variety of habitats, including wet and dry forests, open woodlands, scrub, gardens, and urban areas. As far as behavior, they act more like jays than thrashers, often bursting onto the scene noisily in groups, hoping to quickly take any available food.
Their calls and sounds vary from high-pitched whistles to brief chirps to harsh scolding.
#12. Rock Pigeon
- A plump bird with a small head, short legs, and a thin bill.
- The typical pigeon has a gray back, a blue-grey head, and two black wing bars. But their plumage is highly variable, and it’s common to see varieties ranging from all-white to rusty-brown.
Rock Pigeons are extremely common birds in Puerto Rico, but they are almost exclusively found in urban areas. These birds are what everyone refers to as a “pigeon.” You have probably seen them gathering in huge flocks in city parks, hoping to get tossed some birdseed or leftover food.
Rock Pigeon Range Map
Love them or hate them, Rock Pigeons have been associated with humans for a long time! Some Egyptian hieroglyphics suggest that people started domesticating them over 5,000 years ago. And because of these facts, scientists aren’t even sure where their original range was.
These birds are easy to identify by sound. My guess is that you will already recognize their soft, throaty coos. (Press PLAY below)
#13. White-winged Dove
- A pale grayish-brown dove with a white stripe on the edge of the wing.
- Short, square-tipped tail.
- Distinctive black mark on their cheek.
White-winged Dove Range Map
White-winged Doves have adapted well to the presence of humans, and these birds are commonly found in cities and backyards in Puerto Rico. They readily visit bird feeding stations that offer sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, milo, and cracked corn.
Like other dove species, White-winged Doves have a few interesting abilities:
- When nestlings are born, the parents feed them something known as “crop milk.” This secretion is regurgitated from the lining of the esophagus.
- Pigeons and doves can drink water while their head is down. They don’t need to look skyward to swallow, which is rare among birds.
Males sing to attract females and make a series of hooting coos, which sounds like they are saying, “who cooks for you.” Many times, the final coo is longer than the rest.
#14. Cattle Egret
- Smaller heron with a yellow bill that often perches with its neck drawn in.
- Nonbreeding adults are entirely white with black legs.
- Breeding adults are white but have yellow legs and golden feathers on their head, back, and breast.
Cattle Egrets are a bit unique when compared to other wading birds in Puerto Rico. Instead of spending their time near water, these birds typically live in fields, where they forage for invertebrates that have been kicked up at the feet of grazing livestock. It’s also common to see them looking for ticks on the backs of cattle!
Interestingly, Cattle Egrets are not native to North America. These herons are originally from Africa but found their way here in the 1950s and have since spread across the country. Their range keeps slowly expanding as people convert land for farming and livestock.
At any time of the year, listen for repeated, raspy “rick-rack” calls.
#15. Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
- Gray body and yellow legs. Large red eyes.
- Black face with white cheeks and a thick black bill.
- As the name suggests, a yellowish-white crown with long white plumes.
This heron species looks for areas with shallow water to live in, such as wooded swamps, marshes, mangroves, and other coastal areas. Yellow-crowned Night-Herons can be found near both fresh and saltwater, and crustaceans (crabs and crayfish) make up most of their diet.
Upon being disturbed, you will hear a harsh “quawk,” which will probably be repeated a few times.
#16. Little Blue Heron
- Adults: Have a slate-gray body and a purple-maroon head and neck.
- Juveniles: During their first year, these herons are completely white!
- Look for a two-toned bill, regardless of the bird’s age, which is gray with a black tip.
Little Blue Herons are found in shallow wetlands in Puerto Rico. They are patient hunters and will stay motionless for long periods of time, waiting for prey to pass by them. While waiting, they keep their daggerlike bill pointed downwards to be prepared for the moment a fish, amphibian, insect, or crustacean appears.
As you can see above, juvenile Little Blue Herons look completely different than adults! It’s thought that these birds adapted this white plumage so they can be tolerated by Snowy Egrets, who catch more fish. Hanging out with large flocks of white herons also probably helps with avoiding predators. 🙂
Little Blue Herons are mostly silent, but it is possible to hear them squeaking when alarmed. They also emit various screams and croaks while nesting at a colony.
Which of these birds have you seen before in Puerto Rico?
Leave a COMMENT below! 🙂