Puerto Rico Spindalis: Official Bird of Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico Spindalis
© Julio Salgado/Shutterstock.com

Written by Cindy Rasmussen

Published: January 13, 2023

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Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States that is located southeast of Florida. The Dominican Republic and Haiti are just to the west and the British Virgin Islands and U.S. Virgin Islands are to the east. The island is a beautiful mix of rainforests and coastal ecosystems, but the struggle with independence and dealing with natural disasters like hurricanes has taken its toll on the territory. The people of Puerto Rico are strong and have many inspiring national symbols. When it comes to the official bird of Puerto Rico there are more than 200 unique bird species in the territory to choose from. So how does a nation agree on their official bird? Read on to find out all about the official bird of Puerto Rico!

What is the Official Bird of Puerto Rico?

The official bird of Puerto Rico is the Puerto Rico Spindalis. This common songbird is native to Puerto Rico and can be seen throughout the island. It is easily recognized by the black and white stripes on its head and its bright yellow-orange chest.  Another name for the Puerto Rico Spindalis is the stripe-headed tanager. Spindalis are a bit smaller than the American robin with an average length of 6.4 inches. Females do not have the bright yellow-orange chest and blend in with their surroundings. There is some debate whether the Spindalis is the “official” bird or “national” bird but either way the small songbird is a worthy representative of the Puerto Rican people.

The official bird of Puerto Rico is the Puerto Rico Spindalis

The official bird of Puerto Rico is the Puerto Rico Spindalis (

Spindalis portoricensis

).

©iStock.com/WMarissen

Where Do Puerto Rico Spindalis Live?

Puerto Rico Spindalis live all over the island of Puerto Rico. They can be found in the El Yunque National Forest and the Maricao State Forest. Their habitat also includes plantations and backyard gardens. Frequently you will find them in pairs and they occasionally congregate in flocks.

Puerto Rico Spindalis

Puerto Rico Spindalis live all over the island of Puerto Rico.

©Julio Salgado/Shutterstock.com

What Do Spindalis do to Defend their Nests or Babies?

A group of Spindalis may “mob” a predator by swooping down in a group and attacking it. If a sneaky boa constrictor for example, like the Puerto Rican boa, tries to snatch eggs from their nest they are not afraid to noisily attack.

Are Spindalis Featured on the Puerto Rican Flag?

No. The Puerto Rican flag has five horizontal striped of red and white. On the hoist side of the flag is a blue triangle pointing right with a large white star in the center. The flag was made official by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in 1985.

Are Spindalis Featured on the Puerto Rican Money?

The official money of Puerto Rico is the U.S. dollar. The Puerto Rico Spindalis is not featured on any of the dollars or coins however there were two commemorative quarters that represented Puerto Rico.

  1. District of Columbia and U.S. Territories Quarters Program: In 2009 Puerto Rico was the second territory featured in the series. The front of the quarter looks the same with the head of George Washington, but the back has an image of a sentry box and the walls of San Juan that were built by the Spaniards as look-out towers. Next to the sentry box is an image of a hibiscus flower.
  2. America the Beautiful Quarters Program: In 2012, the 11th quarter in the America the Beautiful program features El Yunque National Forest. The back of the quarter does have two animals on it, including a bird, but it is not the Spindalis. A Puerto Rican parrot and coqui frog are featured on the quarter with an epiphyte plant. The Puerto Rican parrot (Amazona vittata) is a critically endangered animal last evaluated by the IUCN in August of 2020. It is believed to only be living in the El Yunque National Forest and Río Abajo State Forest. There are around 400 individuals being protected in captivity as well. These large beautiful birds are bright green with brilliant blue feathers along their wings.

Is the Coqui Frog the National Animal of Puerto Rico?

There is no official national animal of Puerto Rico but you will commonly see the coqui frog featured in the travel industry representing the territory. The coqui frog is one to two inches long with big black eyes and known for its “Ko-kee” song that it sings. While both males and females can “sing” the males are louder and more frequently heard. Groups of male coqui’s can be heard serenading the Puerto Rican people, especially at night. The scientific name for the coqui is Eleutherodactylus which means “free toes”. A quick look at their feet and you will see they do not have webbed feet like many frogs, but three separate toes with pads on the ends that they can use like suction cups for climbing.

Coqui frogs are common in Puerto Rico

Groups of male coqui frogs, common in Puerto Rico, can be heard serenading the Puerto Rican people, especially at night.

©Jeremy A. Casado/Shutterstock.com

What Other Animals Live in Puerto Rico?

Other animals in Puerto Rico include the diverse wildlife that live in the El Yunque National Forest like big brown bats, mongoose, common dwarf geckos, Puerto Rican boa, sharp-mouthed-lizards and giant toads. In the Mameyes River you will find American eel, freshwater crabs, Yellow River goby, big-mouth sleeper and fathead minnows.

As an island in the Caribbean you can imagine there are hundreds of species of animals that live just off the coast. There are coral reefs teeming with colorful tropical fish like parrotfish, angelfish and blue tang. Sea turtles live off the coast and nest along the beaches. There are also manta rays, manatee, dolphins and yes, there are sharks off the coast of Puerto Rico.

What Other Birds Live in Puerto Rico?

Other birds that live in Puerto Rico include the bright green orange-fronted parakeet, Puerto Rican woodpecker and the Puerto Rican emerald (a tiny shiny green hummingbird). Small screech owls that are 9-10 inches tall can be heard at night. Large raptors like red-tailed hawk can be found patrolling the forests and along the coastline you will find the yellow-crowned night heron and the spotted sandpiper. A variety of warblers, pigeons and doves are common birds found throughout the territory as well.

With a wide variety of birds to choose from the brave Spindalis is a fine choice to represent the people of Puerto Rico.

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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share the planet with. I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with a degree in Elementary Education and I am a former teacher. When I am not writing I love going to my kids' soccer games, watching movies, taking on DIY projects and running with our giant Labradoodle "Tango".

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