Laguna Cartagena National Wildlife Refuge

The Laguna Cartagena National Wildlife Refuge is a federal refuge that offers unique scenery that mixes wetland with dry forest and one of the oldest geological formations in the Caribbean. The bird diversity here is sure to entertain even the non-birders in the bunch.

Once you enter the dirt road that signals the way to the refuge you enter a mosaic of habitats, where you get a feeling of going to someplace special. First some hay and cattle farms, were you can find a myriad of open land bird species like doves, swallows, grassquits and some established exotic finches. In the background you will see Sierra Bermeja, where some of the oldest geology has been found and is home to the endangered Puerto Rican Nightjar and a very unique flora with high endemism. The contrast of open land and suddenly a forested area, and then a big expanse of water. The first thing you will hear is the squeaks, grunts and all sorts of sounds waterbirds make.

There is a dike were you can walk and have a good view of the surrounding wetland. All you need is a good pair of binoculars since waterbirds are all around you. There is a small blind, that will afford you close views of several birds if you have the patience to wait inside it.

At the fourth metal gate there is a dirt road that goes by a successional dry forest where you can find land birds and then you will find an observation tower that overlooks the whole lagoon.

The Birds
Breeding  birds include White-cheeked Pintail, West Indian Whistling Duck, Ruddy Duck, Masked Duck, Common Gallinule, Purple Gallinule, Caribbean Coot, Black-necked Stilt. Endemic species that can be found here include Puerto Rican Woodpecker, Puerto Rican Tody, Puerto Rican Vireo, Adelaide’s Warbler. Migrants that utilize the site include Blue-winged Teal, Lesser Scaup, American Widgeon, Lesser Yellowlegs, Stilt Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Prairie Warbler, and Northern Parula.

Getting There
From the town road PR-2 get the exit to road PR-100 all the way to the town of Boqueron at Cabo Rojo, then get to road PR-101 (to the east). Continue until you see a wooden sign that says Cartagena Lagoon National Wildlife Refuge to your right and continue on dirt road.

Guides
Alcides Morales-Perez, alcidesl.morales@yahoo.com, +1-787-404-7703.


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Catch up on past issues of Caribbean Birdwatch, a feature in Liat's Zing magazine that highlights the region's birding hotspots.

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