Puerto Rican Lizard-Cuckoo (Coccyzus vieilloti)

Puerto Rican Lizard-Cuckoo


The Puerto Rican lizard cuckoo (Coccyzus vieilloti) is a cuckoo endemic to the island of Puerto Rico, and is one of 4 species of lizard-cuckoos which occur only on Caribbean islands. These were formerly placed in the genus Saurothera (Greek for "lizard-eater") of the family Cuculidae, but are now lumped with Coccyzus (AOU 2006). The Puerto Rican lizard cuckoo has a gray breast and chin, a tan lower body and brown upper body. It can be identified by its gray chin and breast and reddish-tan underbelly. The main identifying characteristic for this species is its long dark tail with two white spots on its outer tail feathers. It measures from 40 to 48 centimeters (16 to 19 inches) and weighs, on average, 80 grams (2.7 ounces).

Distribution And Habitat

The Puerto Rican Lizard-Cuckoo is endemic to Puerto Rico, where it is fairly common at all elevations (Raffaele and others 1998). It is considered a rare visitor on Vieques (Gemmill 2015). This is a common species in the haystack hills or mogotes of the north coast, shade coffee plantations, suburban neighborhoods with dense vegetation, and all mountainous areas with thick forests, and occurs in xeric forests in the vicinity of Guánica (Oberle 2018, Raffaele 1989a). Typical locations to find this species are at the Granados Trail in Guánica State Forest, on the trails at Guajataca and Vega State Forests, or around the parking lot and entrance road to El Portal visitor center in El Yunque National Forest (Oberle 2018). It is also common below 900 m in Los Tres Picachos State Forest (Miranda- Castro and others 2000). The atlas fieldwork yielded a total of 269 records within 161 hexagons or 34 percent of the 479 total hexagons (see map). Of the 161 hexagons where this species was found, breeding met the atlas definition of confirmed in 6 percent (10) of the hexagons, probable in 16 percent (25), and possible in 78 percent (125), while the species was observed in 1 percent (1) of the hexagons but without evidence of breeding (see map). Puerto Rican Lizard-Cuckoo 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. 73Puerto Rican Lizard-Cuckoo/Pájaro Bobo Mayor

Puerto Rican Lizard-Cuckoo Distribution

Breeding Habits

Based on the limited data available, the Puerto Rican Lizard-Cuckoo appears to breed throughout the year (Raffaele and others 1998). Pairs start courtship early in the year when males bring nesting materials to the females (J.A. Salguero-Faría, personal observation 2009). The nest is a loose structure made of leaves and sticks (Raffaele and others 1998). Atlas results show that this species breeds throughout the year with the most breeding activity from March to June (see chart). Breeding activity peaks during April, and it mostly takes place within the subtropical moist forest life zone (58 percent of the hexagons) (see table). It also breeds within the subtropical wet and subtropical rain forest life zones (32 and 1 percent of the hexagons, respectively), as well as in the southern coastal plain within the subtropical dry forest life zone (9 percent of the hexagons) (see table and map).


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 Lizard-Cuckoo has a protected habitat in land of 17 percent or 651 km2 of the total area covered by the hexagons where evidence of breeding was found for this species (3828 km2).