The nominate subspecies is endemic to Puerto Rico (Bond 1956). Puerto Rican Bullfinches are found throughout Puerto Rico except the extreme eastern tip of the island (Raffaele 1989), and may be less abundant on the eastern end of the island in general.
A disjunct subspecies, grandis, formerly occurred on St. Christopher, but probably is extinct. See Historical Changes.
A Puerto Rican Bullfinch reported from the Virgin Islands (St. Johns) is based on an escaped individual (American Ornithologists’ Union 1998).
Distribution outside the Americas
Records only from Puerto Rico and St. Christopher.
Widespread on Puerto Rico, although less abundant in the eastern third of the island and absent from some coastal habitats in that region. Suggested to particularly prefer dense mountain forests, but also common in dry coastal thickets and infrequently in mangroves (Raffaele et al. 1998). A mist-net study in eastern Puerto Rico found that Puerto Rican Bullfinches preferred forest gaps, but occurred throughout the forest (Wunderle et al. 1987).
Subspecies grandis, of St. Christopher, was described in 1881 on the basis of a series of nine specimens collected in 1880. In 1920 it was reported as nearly extinct on St. Christopher (Burdon 1920), and the last confirmed specimen was collected there in 1929 (Olson 1984, Steadman et al. 1997). The cause of extinction is believed to be a combination of habitat loss, habitat destruction from hurricanes, and predation by non-native mammals (Steadman et al. 1997). There is an unconfirmed sighting from the forest at Stone-fort Ghaut, St. Christopher in 1994 (Raffaele et al. 1998).
Fragments of several Puerto Rican Bullfinch skeletons, including two premaxillae and seven lower mandibles, were found in Cueva Catedral, a cave in north-central Puerto Rico (Wetmore 1922). These probably came from owl pellets or casts. The age of these bones could not be estimated, as they came from deposits determined to range in age from present time to two thousand years old. Additionally, a rostrum of the L. portoricensis grandis subspecies was discovered in a prehistoric bone deposit in Barbuda (Pregill et al. 1994).