Puerto Rican Tanager (Nesospingus speculiferus)

Puerto Rican Tanager


The Puerto Rican tanager (Nesospingus speculiferus) is a small passerine bird endemic to the archipelago of Puerto Rico. It is the only member of the genus Nesospingus and has historically been placed in the tanager family, but recent studies indicate it as either belonging in its own family Nesospingidae or as being a member of Phaenicophilidae. Its closest relatives are likely the spindalises (family Spindalidae, sometimes also considered a member of the Phaenicophilidae). The Puerto Rican tanager is known to locals as llorosa, which means 'cryer'.

Distribution And Habitat

The Puerto Rican Tanager is endemic to Puerto Rico and is placed in its own family (Nesospingidae), representing the only endemic family known from Puerto Rico. It is commonly found in humid montane forests in the Sierra de Luquillo, Toro Negro State Forest, and the western mountain region surrounding Maricao and Los Tres Picachos State Forest (Miranda-Castro and others 2000). In addition, it has also been documented in the Carite Forest (Raffaele 1989a), other higher montane forests, and a second-growth forest near Cidra (Raffaele 1989a). In the early 1900s, it was restricted to montane regions at a limited number of locations such as Maricao, Toro Negro and Carite State Forests, El Yunque National Forest, and near Cidra. Nevertheless, this species has recently expanded its distribution range to other suitable habitats in municipalities such as Comerío, Aibonito, Baranquitas, Adjuntas, and the haystack hills of Ciales (Oberle 2018). The species occurs primarily in undisturbed mountain forests but can also be seen in disturbed second-growth forests (Raffaele and others 1998) and is restricted mainly to the subtropical moist, wet, and montane forest life zones (Biaggi 1997, Raffaele 1989a). The atlas fieldwork yielded a total of 82 records within 41 hexagons or 8.5 percent of the 479 total hexagons (see map). Of the 41 hexagons where this species was found, breeding met the atlas definition of confirmed in 15 percent (6) of the hexagons, probable in 37 percent (15), and possible in 49 percent (20) (see map). Puerto Rican Tanager distribution. The map shows the highest breeding code by hexagon and overlaying the ecological life zones in Puerto Rico. Note: percentages may not total 100 due to rounding.

Puerto Rican Tanager Distribution

Breeding Habits

Previously published reports indicate that the Puerto Rican Tanager breeding extends from January through August (Raffaele 1998), but active nests have also been seen in September (Pérez- 259Puerto Rican Tanager/LlorosaRivera 1993). The nests are cup-shaped, built from 2 to 10 m above the ground (Raffaele 1998), and are usually made of vines, roots of epiphytes, and fibers of sierra palm leaves (Pérez-Rivera 1993). Formation of pairs starts in May, and nesting is usually completed by August (Recher and Recher 1966). The nesting territories are usually defended from late December to the end of July (Pérez-Rivera 1993). Atlas results indicate that the breeding season extends from November through July (see chart). The breeding pattern peaks during May at the onset of the rainy season, and the breeding activity mostly takes place in humid montane areas within the subtropical wet forest life zone. However, an unusual observation at the eastern coast of the island suggests that this species also breeds in the subtropical dry forest life zone during December. Results show that this species breeds mostly at high elevations in the subtropical wet and lower montane wet forest life zones (71 percent of the hexagons), as well as other mountain regions within the subtropical moist forest life zone (24 percent of the hexagons) (see table and map). It also breeds in the subtropical rain and lower montane rain forest life zones located in the Sierra de Luquillo (2 percent of the hexagons), and in a coastal locality at the eastern region within the subtropical dry forest life zone (2 percent of the hexagons) (see table and map).


The population size for the Puerto Rican Tanager has not been quantified or assessed, but it is described as fairly common (Stotz and others 1996). This species is currently listed as a species of least concern by the IUCN (BirdLife International 2016). Locally, this species is not listed in any of the threatened categories of PRDNER and USFWS. In Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rican Tanager has a protected habitat in land of about 21 percent (205 km2) of the total area covered by the hexagons where evidence of breeding was found for this species (980 km2).