Wildlife & Habitat

Wildlife and Habitat

About 190 bird species, both migratory and resident, have been reported to occur on Vieques.

  • Birds

    Birds - Habitat - sm

    About 190 bird species, both migratory and resident, have been reported to occur on Vieques. Grebes, waterfowl, rails and shorebirds abound in the shallow water of the lagoons. These include species such as the pied-billed grebe, clapper rail, white-cheeked pintail, ruddy duck, blue-winged teal, common gallinule and Caribbean coot.

    Resident herons and egrets include the tri-colored heron, little blue heron, snowy egret, yellow-crowned night heron and great egret.

    Resident shorebirds include the Wilson's plover and killdeer. Migrant shorebirds known to occur include black-bellied plover, semipalmated plover, greater yellowlegs, lesser yellowlegs, spotted sandpiper, ruddy turnstone, semipalmated sandpiper and short-billed dowitcher.

    At least 14 species of marine seabirds occur as permanent or migrant residents. These species use nearshore and offshore marine habitats to feed. Species known to occur include the magnificent frigate bird, white-tailed tropicbird, red-billed tropicbird, brown pelican, brown booby, laughing gull, royal tern, least tern, sooty tern, roseate tern, sandwich tern, and bridled tern. These birds use rocky shores, cliffs, cays, sandy beaches and lagoons to nest and/or roost.

    Shorebirds found in non-vegetated habitats, e.g., mudflats, beaches, rocky shores, include the American oystercatcher and spotted sandpiper.

    Common terrestrial birds that occur in all types of upland scrub habitats include the common ground dove, Zenaida dove, Caribbean elaenia, gray kingbird, mangrove cuckoo, bananaquit, black-faced grassquit, yellow warbler, greater Antillean grackle, green-throated Carib hummingbird, northern mockingbird, pearly-eyed thrasher, Antillean crested hummingbird and smooth-billed ani.

    Puerto Rico's endemics found in Vieques are Adelaide's warbler, Puerto Rican woodpecker and Puerto Rican flycatcher. 

  • Mammals

    Mammals - Habitat - sm

    A number of marine mammals are known to occur near the shore and in the deeper offshore waters surrounding Vieques Island. These include the Antillean manatee, the blue whale, fin whale, humpback whale, sei whale, sperm whale and several dolphin species (including the occasional Orca pod). Bats are the only native terrestrial mammals in Vieques. Of the 13 species found on the big island of Puerto Rico, Vieques has 9 of these species. Some of the most common species are the fishing bat, the Jamaican fruit bat, the Brazilian free-tailed bat and the roof bat. The Red Fig-eating bat, which is listed as endangered by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico has abundant habitat and protection on the Vieques NWR. In 2008 refuge biologists discovered and added the Greater Antillean long-tongued and the brown flower bats to the Vieques record. These last two are important pollinators.

    All other mammals were introduced by man to the island and include the house mouse, black rat, small Indian mongoose and domestic animals such as cattle, horses, goats, rabbits, dogs and cats.

  • Amphibians and Reptiles

    Reptiles - Habitat - sm

    Twenty two species of amphibians and reptiles are found on the Refuge. They include four species of federally and Commonwealth listed endangered sea turtles: the leatherback, green sea turtle, hawksbill and the loggerhead (the first three species nest on Vieques, while the last forages in the area). The Vieques NWR is the main nesting area for green sea turtles across the Archipelago of Puerto Rico. The churri coqui, the Puerto Rican coqui, the whistling coqui and the white-lipped frog fill the rainy nights with their songs. The freshwater Puerto Rican slider turtle is found in lagoons, lakes and marshes. While a number of lizards, geckos, snakes and worm snakes are found in the refuge; due to the presence of the predatory mongoose, snake densities are low in Vieques.

    Non-native reptiles and amphibian's species have been introduced to the island, such as: the green iguanas, boa constrictors, ball pythons, Cuban tree frogs, sugar cane toads and a few caimans.

  • Aquatic Organisms

    Aquatic Organisms - Habitat - sm

    Due to the limited freshwater habitats on the Refuge, most aquatic organisms are either estuarine or marine species. Among the species of mollusks, known to occur in near shore marine habitats of Vieques NWR are the octopus, coquina clam, queen conch, mangrove oyster and the West Indian top shell. Various species of crustaceans are known to occur in the coastal waters and in near shore marine habitats off Vieques Island. These species include the Caribbean spiny lobster, estuarine and freshwater shrimp. There are also various species of crabs such as: the ghost crab, fiddler crab, mangrove crab, and protected land crab. Approximately 800 species of fish are known to inhabit the coastal waters around Puerto Rico and surrounding islands. Mangroves, lagoons, sea grass beds, coral reefs and open waters support different fish and invertebrate families.