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A Report from

Cuba, March 15-22, 2001,

Alex Kirschel

March 15

We arrived at Havana Airport in the early afternoon, but had to endure the Spanish Inquisition before being allowed to leave the airport. No previous report has spoken about this, but the process took over two hours. Stavros was interrogated first, while I waited, and then I went in to the same room, so they could corroborate the story. They wanted to confiscate our optical gear, claiming we were spies or something, but we stood firm, and our Birds of Cuba, Birds of West Indies books and the like helped confirm our stories.  After managing to retain our optics we proceeded to look for car hire, and one agency was willing to help, giving us a 12 year old Toyota Tercel for a reasonable price.

Driving through Havana is complicated, so allow plenty of time. Spanish is extremely useful, as few people speak English. We don't speak any Spanish, but I am conversational in Italian, and that really helped. So I used these language skills to ask for directions. The Cuba Handbook and a map are quite useful for getting around, but previous trip reports were essential.

We decided to head towards Zapata for our first few days birding, and on the drive we saw common birds such as House Sparrow, Mourning Dove, Zenaida Dove, Feral Pigeon, Antillean Palm Swift, American Kestrel, Turkey Vulture and Cattle Egret. We arrived in Playa Larga after dark, after turning off the main highway at the junction for Australia. We asked around for Chino, and were lead to a Casa Particulare, which is the house owned by another Chino. His wife Estrella put us up there, for $10 each per night, and led us to "Chino por les Aves" house, where we agreed with his relatives - Chino was in the Zapata Swamp - to meet him there the following morning. Food in Cuba is dreadful, but fortunately, Estrella cooked meals of our choice for $5 each, and that included Lobster! Breakfast was included in the accommodation price, and she would make us copious amounts of freshly squeezed orange and guava juice. We found the Cubans to be extremely hospitable and generous people, and deserve any generosity that visitors give them in return.

March 16

This day would provide me with my highest ever total of lifers in one day, and Chino knows exactly where to find all the specialities. We saw four new birds in Estrella's garden before setting off: Cuban Emerald, Black-cowled Oriole, Tawny-shouldered Blackbird and Cuban Blackbird. Chino took to several paths in the Playa Larga and Playa Giron area, rather than in the Zapata Swamp itself, and before long we added Red-legged Thrush, La Sagra's Flycatcher, Yellow-headed Warbler, Cuban Vireo, Black-whiskered Vireo, Great Lizard Cuckoo, the delightful and colourful Cuban Tody with its machine gun song, Cuban Green Woodpecker, Cuban Pewee and our first ever Trogon, the Cuban Trogon, which is the national bird. There was no sign yet of any Quail Doves, although most of these paths are good for finding them. We then set off for one of the major target birds the rare and endangered Gundlach's Hawk. Chino knew where to find it. Before long we, after hearing the call, there it was, Gundlach's Hawk! Flying around, and then perched, but Chino's use of the tape is excessive, especially considering the time of year, as these birds are preparing to nest. Nearby we got our only views of the world's smallest bird, Bee Hummingbird, or zunzucino as it's known locally. We got good views of a female bird, and partly concealed views of a male. We added Cuban Bullfinch before long. And then set off for a couple of memorable birds. Chino played the tape, and soon we had the response from a Cuban Pygmy Owl, coming in to take a look. Soon after, we saw male and female Fernandina's Flickers, which are much more beautiful than in the field guides, as you see the mixture of beige and rusty colours. Here, Chino knocked on the bark of the nest tree, and the female stuck its head out of the hole! The male was nearby. Also here we saw the Cuban subspecies of Northern Flicker, and West Indian Woodpecker. In the afternoon we checked out some wetland areas, and while trying to park the car, Chino went mad as he thought there was a Zapata Rail running around. None of us got a good look before it disappeared, but Stavros thought it was a Moorhen. The wetland species here were Least Grebe, Great Cattle, and Snowy Egrets, Little Blue, Tricoloured and Green Herons, Limpkin - a first for Stavros - Glossy Ibis, Northern Jacana, Common Moorhen, Blue-winged Teal and Killdeer. We did see two new birds here though, Cuban Martin and Grey Kingbird, which Chino said he rarely saw around here.

In the late afternoon we were to find a few more key species, but before describing that I'll list the other birds we saw on the day: Brown Pelican, Turkey Vulture,  Red-tailed Hawk, the ridgwayi subspecies of Osprey,  American Kestrel, including the redder, Cuban subspecies, White-crowned Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Zenaida Dove, Feral Pigeon, White-winged Dove, Smooth-billed Ani, Belted Kingfisher, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Loggerhead Kingbird, Cave Swallow, Grey Catbird, Northern Mockingibrd, Magnolia Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Palm Warbler, Black-throated Bluw Warbler, Northern Parula, Common Yellowthroat, Northern Waterthrush, Ovenbird, American Redstart, Yellow-faced Grassquit, Greater Antillean Grackle, and phew, House Sparrow.

Chino had been informed that a Blue-headed Quail Dove often frequented a local farm to feed among the chickens. We drove up there to have a look, and search for one or two other species there. First we heard and eventually located a flock of Cuban Parakeets. Then as we approached the farm Chino was motioning to us to get there quickly! There it was, Blue-headed Quail Dove! This is regarded as the most difficult of the Quail Doves to locate, so we were delighted. On the way back to Playa Larga, we stopped to look for Bare-legged Owl, Chino scratched the tree but no sign. We went back for dinner and returned after 9pm. This time we returned to the restaurant where it can be found, and the locals said it was there. Sure enough it was perched on a branch there, Bare-legged Owl, but it wasn't enjoying the attention it was receiving, so we left, and went to another locality, where again, another owl had been seen. We walked around a few houses and spotted it, a hooting Stygian Owl.

Back home to reflect on 26 new birds for me (more for Stavros, with Limpkin) and prepare for an early start to look for Quail Doves.

March 17

It was a terrific start to the day. Our search for Quail Doves was a great success. Chino used the tape, and we could hear responses from both Key West and Grey-headed Quail Doves. As we struggled through some dense vegetation I spotted the Grey-headed Quail Dove. After helping Stavros to finding it, Chino soon got us onto the Key West Quail Dove. We also saw Western Stripe-headed Tanager here, much smaller than it's Jamaican counterpart, from which it had been recently split, and Ruddy Quail Dove. Then we had a rather long lunch break, before setting off through Soplilar and along various paths towards the main road, hoping to find some wetland species. Many were the same as the day before, but we also saw Double-crested Cormorant, Anhinga, Magnificent Frigatebird, Great Blue Heron, Purple Gallinule, Black-necked Stilt, Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs, Least Sandpiper and Caspian Tern. Tree and Northern Rough-winged Swallows were also seen. More notable, were West Indian Whistling Duck, and at one point Stavros got so excited that he mumbled his words, screaming "Little Egret". It was, of course, his first ever Least Bittern. At a pool just off the main highway where most of the shorebirds were found, we saw two new birds. First we spotted a Solitary Sandpiper and then an excellent find, not seen on most other trip reports, a Spotted Rail. We saw many other woodland species that we had seen on the previous day, and we had plenty of time left to locate the four birds we still desired from the local area, namely Cuban Crow, Cuban Parrot, Red-shouldered Blackbird and Zapata Wren. The last of those would be looked for at dawn the following day. Dusk approached and we were returning to Playa Larga. First we found Cuban Parrots, at the same place that we found Cuban Parakeets the previous day (which were there again today). Then back around the village a Cuban Crow duly obliged.

Saturday night, and Chino took us to a local taverna to experience some Cuban nightlife (and beer). We had good fun and stayed till late, although Chino was there till the early hours and can't have got more than a couple of hours sleep before we return at 6am the following morning.

March 18

We were joined by an American couple in the Zapata Swamp. Chino played the tape and before long, a Zapata Wren came in singing its explosive song. Chino was ticked off by the American for over-use of the tape. We failed to locate Zapata Sparrow, which has become quite rare around here, and we tried to find Red-shouldered Blackbird, but no luck. At various points, some blackbirds seem to have redder rather than tawny shoulders, but it was too subjective. Chino claimed that certain birds were in fact Red-shouldered, saying that the call was different, but we weren't convinced, and felt that this was a species that he was not that familiar with. We then headed off to Soplilar, where there was another Fernandina's Flicker, and we saw our first Crested Caracara. At one point Chino shouted "Gundlach's Hawk" in an effort to tease the American. He responded with "beautiful" before I informed him it was a Broad-winged Hawk (a first for Stavros). We left at noon, paying Chino $20 each for every full day, and $10 each for today.

I begun the long drive to Najasa, something like six hours, and arrived at dusk, after asking several people for directions to Pedro Regalado's house. On arrival, Pedro, an ornithologist who was the last person to have seen Ivory-billed Woodpecker here, was very welcoming and offered us the opportunity to stay at his house. After seeing our first Plain Pigeons outside his house, we went inside and discussed all things bird. We had a look for Greater Antillean Nightjar, and saw a bird fly over the road a couple of times in response to the tape, but couldn't locate it perched anywhere, to identify it.

Pedro was fantastic, his wife provided dinner, and we talked about all the Cuban endemics and birds from elsewhere. We eventually worked out that he had actually put us up in their bed, and he certainly didn't sleep (unless he did at the table where he was reading my Sibley bird guide). This was going beyond the call of duty, and I would suggest to any visitors to find a casa particulare instead!

March 19

We got up before dawn to have another look for the nightjar, but no luck, although I did locate a Cuban Pygmy Owl, so we then headed towards some ponds in the Najasa area. On the other side of the road Pedro heard the call of the (Cuban) Palm Crow, more Fish Crow like, than the Cuban Crow, which has a wide range of jabbering calls, much like the Jamaican Crow. We found it perched on top of a tree, had a good look at it calling, and then went off to the pools. This is one of many subspecies here that is a potential split, in this case from the (Hispaniolan) Palm Crow.

First birds seen while approaching the pools were 37 West Indian Whistling Ducks, sitting in a bare tree! The third time we saw this species on the trip, but as an endangered species in dramatic decline, others in the future may not be so lucky. It was quite a spectacle though, one of the most memorable scenes of the whole trip, and one of those moments where we cursed not having a camera with us. We soon added another new species, Neotropic Cormorant, there were several here, in a country where Double Crested Cormorant is mainly coastal. Besides, this is a good spot to get reasonable scope views of the diagnostic white "V" at the base of the chin. There were other interesting species here, including Anhinga, Crested Caracara, Northern Jacana, Plain Pigeon, Cuban Tody, Grey Kingbird, Smooth-billed Ani, West Indian Woodpecker, White-eyed Vireo, Worm-eating Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Caspian Tern, Eastern Meadowlark and the expected Herons and Egrets, including Black-crowned Night Heron. We were searching for Masked Duck, but all we could see was a handful of the similar Ruddy Duck.

As we were about to leave, Arturo Kirkonell, co-author of the Birds of Cuba book, turned up with what we understood was a group of eminent birders. Pedro was thrilled to see all these people, and we therefore joined them on another look around there. A flash of red went passed and into some bushes. Firstly, some screamed "Scarlet Tanager!" Neither of us had ever seen this species before, so we searched eagerly. Others disagreed, suggesting Summer Tanager. Again, a possible lifer for us. Stavros had got a glimpse and sided towards Summer Tanager. We searched in the bushes and found a stunning male Painted Bunting, which flew from the bush that the 'Tanager' appeared to fly into. Many of the birders there agreed that that was probably what it was, but some insisted it was a Summer Tanager, and that we located a different bird. Another two bird story!

Soon after we returned for some breakfast at Pedro's house, gave him something for his hospitality, and then prepared to go to La Belen Nature Reserve, next door. Arturo kindly signed my Birds of Cuba book. As we entered the car, a Gundlach's Hawk flew over! Pedro told us it was his 'friend,' appearing here regularly.

We were first to look for Cuban Grassquit, the target bird for the rest of the group, me and Stavros were not very happy about this, worried that we might miss the biggest target at Najasa, the Giant Kingbird. However, it would prove to be an error of judgement. We marched ahead with Arturo, discussing how to locate some of the endemics we still hoped for, and way back, Pedro located a Cuban Grassquit with one other person. We looked later but couldn't relocate it. We did see Cuban Parrot and Parakeet here, along with Cuban Pewee, La Sagra's Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Great Lizard Cuckoo, Cuban Crow and Red-legged Thrush.

We then said our goodbyes to Arturo and his group, getting some directions from Arturo, to look for Cuban Grassquit, Red-shouldered Blackbird and Zapata Sparrow. We hiked on with Pedro to look for Giant Kingbird. Pedro played the tape, several times, with no sign. Then suddenly, one appeared in a large tree, stunning. Giant Kingbird, and some Loggerhead Kingbirds nearby. This one was the female, soon the male appeared and sung in response to the tape. This bird was a major highlight of the trip. The field guides fail to represent this extraordinary bird properly. It has a huge bill, absolutely massive. Disproportionately large, and we had the opportunity to compare it side by side with the Loggerhead Kingbird, which had a large bill compared to Kingbirds back in the US.

We thanked Pedro again, paid the entrance fee of $10 each, and headed off toward Cayo Coco. In the town of Moron, before the causeway to the islands, we stopped to find Casa Particulares to stay, and it then started to rain heavily. In the late afternoon we tentatively drove to the causeway, paid the small fee, and drove halfway, before realising it was getting dark, and we didn't want to drive back at night. We saw Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorants, Osprey, Laughing Gull and Royal Tern till then.

March 20

We headed off before dawn, starting the drive on the causeway at first light. Our few hours on Cayo Coco would provide many more highlights, and our most successful birding, without a guide.

We first drove to the lighthouse on Cayo Paredon Grande. En route, starting from the causeway itself, we got crippling views of the very pink Greater Flamingos that occur here. We saw both red and white phases of Reddish Egret, Red-breasted Merganser, Crested Caracara, White Ibis, Killdeer, Black-necked Stilt, Grey Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Least Sandpiper and Royal and Caspian Terns side by side. On Paredon Grande itself, as we drove along tracks which we prayed would lead us to the lighthouse (and eventually did), we got our first new species for the day, Common Black Hawk, also known as Crab Hawk, and another potential split here. We parked at the lighthouse, opened the door and were attacked by a swarm of mosquitoes! We applied all our repellents, and headed off. It was mosquito hell, but we had to endure it to succeed. I could here the call of vireos, but at first all I could see was Cuban Vireo. Then a different call, I bushwhacked my way to it, and Stavros gingerly followed, worried about snakes and mozzies. There it was, Thick-billed Vireo! It came right next to me in response to my pishing. Then, seconds later, a bird that responds as well as any to pishing, being so similar to Yellow-headed Warbler, the Oriente Warbler. This proved to be quite common here. We trundled on, in search of the other target here, and eventually I heard the call, and indeed there it was, the Cuban Gnatcatcher. It has a pronounced ear marking, to help distinguish it from Blue-grey Gnatcatcher which can occur here, but we didn't see any, although I thought I heard, and then saw one fly into the sun at Zapata, as we looked for the Wren.

It was barely 9am, and we had already found three of the target species on the islands, we only needed one more, but a crucial endemic. We drove back towards Cayo Coco, seeing a Lesser Black-backed Gull (first record for Cuba, although seen a couple of days earlier by Arturo's group). We weren't sure about Arturo's directions for the sparrow, and the first place we stopped drew a blank, although we did see Greater Yellowlegs, another Cuban Gnatcatcher, Cuban Emerald and Tody, Great Lizard Cuckoo, Cape May Warbler (a first for Stavros), and various other common species. We decide to drive on, hoping that Arturo's directions meant we were suppose to take a turning further down. We ended up down a track, where we parked near some, er, rubbish. We walked along the mangroves and saw good numbers of Western Stripe-headed Tanager and Cuban Bullfinch, when I suddenly spotted it, a few feet away, and a metre of the ground. "Zapata Sparrow," I cried, Stavros couldn't see it. I said it's really close, and directed him to it. It soon flew, and we followed it for a few seconds before losing it in amongst the Tanagers.

It was now around 10am, and we could now envisage going back to Zapata to search for the Red-shouldered Blackbird. Stavros went to sleep as I drove along the causeway, instructing me to wake him up only if I saw a Snail Kite. As we approached Moron, I saw one, woke him up, gave him another lifer, and then drove on! It was a long drive, but we wasted a further hour trying to make sense of Arturo's directions. We tried a few places, which were completely birdless, and then drove into the Zapata swamp. We couldn't find any, there were Cuban Blackbirds and Greater Antillean Grackles, but no Red-shouldered. We did get crippling views of a Least Bittern, and also saw Purple Gallinule, Belted Kingfisher, West Indian Woodpecker, American Coot and Green Heron, before we went along another path towards an area where Chino had claimed he often saw Masked Duck. As luck would have it, Stavros was at the spot looking while I was about 20 yards away, moving in. I coughed (having had a cough for the entire trip), and a Masked Duck got flushed and flew by him. I quickly moved in, but it was out of view. I searched frantically for half an hour or so, falling in some vegetation, and getting a thorn prick in my finger (which is still stuck in there!)  Beyond that we did see a Cuban Pygmy Owl, and then started driving back along the track, at dusk.

Something flew across the car. "It's a nightjar" I said. We got out, it flew by once more and then disappeared. We couldn't identify it. We drove on, something red shone in the headlights: Nightjar's eyes. We drove closer; it took off. We drove on, turned round and started back. The nightjar was in the road again. We stopped and looked at it for half a minute. I was happy that it's dark plumage, size and shape were that of the Greater Antillean Nightjar. Stavros was not so sure. He couldn't rule out a migrant Chuck-will's-widow. I had seen that before and found it to be quite different, much lighter and redder in colour, and larger, and somewhat differently shaped. Stavros had no experience of that species. We still argue this one to this day, despite seeing lots of Chuck-will's-widows together in Florida, which to me, were very different. We doubled back several times, getting more glimpses of one or two nightjars, before heading back to Estrella's to spend the night.

March 21

Up before dawn to look for Nightjars again. One or two glimpses but nothing like the views yesterday. We drove on to look for the Blackbirds in the Zapata swamp. We saw Cuban and Tawny-shouldered Blackbirds, Greater Antillean Grackle, Shiny Cowbird and Black-cowled Oriole, but no sign of Red-shouldered. However, two female Masked Ducks were in view, so a relief for me. Also there were a male Least Bittern, Neotropic Cormorant, Osprey, Limpkin, Cuban Trogon, Cuban Green Woodpecker and I got a brief look at a Zapata Wren.

We soon gave up, it was the first target endemic that we were not to see, and put a perspective on the trip. We would have to return one day! Perhaps we could look for the really rare Zapata Rail, and the perhaps extinct Cuban Kite and Ivory-billed Woodpecker on such a trip.

So then, on towards Soroa for the last part of the journey. Getting through Havana was as difficult as ever, but we arrived in Soroa at around 2pm. We were hoping to stay at the Les Horizontes Hotel there, but it was fully booked, so we stayed at a Casa Particulare up the road. We then drove off towards La Guira National Park to search for some more target species. The road in the park was as bad as we experienced on the trip, Jamaica included; but we went on patiently, through crater-sized pot-holes, in the ancient Toyota. We were barely out of the car when we saw the first target bird: Olive-capped Warbler. There were a few Trogons about, and we also saw White-winged Dove, American Kestrel, Cuban Green and West Indian Woodpeckers, Cuban Martin and Black-throated Blue and Black-throated Green Warblers. Western Stripe-headed Tanager and Cuban Bullfinch were common here. Cuban Solitaire was heard but we were in two minds about whether to search harder there, or look for Cuban Grassquit, and leave the Solitaire for tomorrow in Soroa, where it's supposed to be easier to find. We again failed to find the place that Pedro and Arturo suggested for the Grassquit. A little look around revealed a Grey Kingbird, but no Grassquit. We would look again in Soroa.

Back in Soroa, and we tried a path opposite the Les Horizontes Hotel. We soon located some firsts for us in Cuba. Firstly, we identified a Chestnut-sided Warbler (another lifer for Stavros), and then male and female Red-legged Honeycreepers. We would return in the morning to look for a few more targets.

March 22

Our last day in Cuba, and our last chance for two of the endemics, Cuban Grassquit and Cuban Solitaire. We would ultimately fail on both, not a sign, not a sound. We started before dawn, up one of the paths opposite the hotel, hoping to find a nightjar. Instead we saw a Barn Owl, and heard several Bare-legged Owls. The path up was quite a slog, rough terrain, steep at first, and we discovered that it was deliberately blocked at various points with cut trees and vegetation. Someone clearly didn't want people going all the way up, but we kept going, until it was apparent we couldn't go any higher. In a previous trip report it talks about Solitaires right at the top of the knoll, we couldn't find the knoll, let alone the Solitaires. Directions here, proved our undoing, as they had elsewhere.

The path was birdy, though, and we soon added a lifer: Scaly-naped Pigeon. Further up there was a large tree, which was buzzing with all sorts of migrants. Lots of Tennessee Warblers and Indigo Buntings, and I pointed out a Western Kingbird to Stavros (all these were lifers for him). There turned out to be only one previous record of Western Kingbird, so we notified Arturo, but don't know if our find has been officially accepted, as we didn't look for the white outer tail feathers, which are diagnostic. I have experience of both Western and Tropical Kingbird (the only other similar species to have occurred in Cuba), in California and Florida, and didn't think twice when I saw the bird. Stavros who was more concerned with a lifer, was also convinced that it was a Western. Other common birds were here, some Yellow-faced Grasssquits got us going for a minute, as did Common Yellowthroat, but no Cuban Grassquits. Nearer the top, after watching a Black-throated Green Warbler, our last lifer of the trip appeared: Yellow-throated Vireo. I was delighted with this, as it was another species I doubted I would see in Florida, for the few days I'd be there after this trip.

We drove off, and into the La Terrazas National Park nearby, hoping to find Chino's friend Fidel, who we were told knew where to find Solitaires and Grassquits. Fidel, alas, was on his day off. We stopped at a number of places in the park, and saw some interesting birds, including Ruddy Quail Dove, Cuban Martin, Ring-necked Duck and Northern Flicker. Black-whiskered Vireo was abundant, and there were lots of common warblers, such as Northern Parula, Yellow-headed, Palm, and Ovenbird. We gave up, and headed for the airport. En route there were things like Barn Swallow, American Kestrel; and House Sparrow, at the airport.

We left, a little disappointed at missing out on three endemics that we should have seen, but having thoroughly enjoyed our time here. There was now a good excuse to return in the future. Cuba is a lovely place to go birding, a lot of the birds are rare, and the people are fantastic

Systematic List (Sibley & Monroe format)

Dendrocygna arborea

West Indian Whistling-Duck

2 seen in the Zapata area and 37 on a bare tree at ponds in Najasa

Oxyura dominica

Masked Duck

2 in the Zapata Swamp

Oxyura jamaicensis

Ruddy Duck

Several at Najasa ponds

Anas discors

Blue-winged Teal

Several in Zapata area

Aythya collaris

Ring-necked Duck

In pond at La Terrazas National Park, in the Soroa area

Mergus serrator

Red-breasted Merganser

1 at Cayo Coco

Melanerpes superciliaris

West Indian Woodpecker

Fairly common and widespread

Sphyrapicus varius

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

1 at Rumbos in Zapata, 1 Soroa, 1 La Belen NP

Xiphidiopicus percussus

Cuban Green Woodpecker

Fairly common and widespread

Colaptes auratus

Northern Flicker

1 in Zapata, 1 La Terrazas

Colaptes fernandinae

Fernandina's Flicker

a few seen in the Zapata area

Priotelus temnurus

Cuban Trogon

Quite common Zapata and Soroa / La Guira NP

Todus multicolor

Cuban Tody

Fairly common and widespread

Megaceryle alcyon

Belted Kingfisher

Several in Zapata area

Saurothera merlini

Great Lizard-Cuckoo

Fairly common and widespread

Crotophaga ani

Smooth-billed Ani

Common and widespread

Aratinga euops

Cuban Parakeet

Common Zapata and La Belen NP

Amazona leucocephala

Cuban Parrot

Quite common Zapata and La Belen NP

Streptoprocne zonaris

White-collared Swift

Seen en route to Najasa

Tachornis phoenicobia

Antillean Palm-Swift

Fairly common and widespread

Chlorostilbon ricordii

Cuban Emerald

Quite common Zapata, also seen Soroa and Cayo Coco

Mellisuga helenae

Bee Hummingbird

2 in Zapata

Tyto alba

Barn Owl

1 in Soroa

Otus lawrencii

Bare-legged Owl

1 seen Zapata, several heard Soroa

Glaucidium siju

Cuban Pygmy-Owl

Fairly common and widespread

Asio stygius

Stygian Owl

1 seen Zapata

Caprimulgus cubanensis

Greater Antillean Nightjar

several nightjars seen Zapata Swamp

Columba livia

Rock Pigeon

Common and widespread

Columba leucocephala

White-crowned Pigeon

Fairly common and widespread

Columba squamosa

Scaly-naped Pigeon

1 in Soroa

Columba inornata

Plain Pigeon

A few at Najasa

Zenaida macroura

Mourning Dove


Zenaida aurita

Zenaida Dove


Zenaida asiatica

White-winged Dove


Columbina passerina

Common Ground-Dove

Fairly common and widespread

Geotrygon caniceps

Grey-headed Quail-Dove

1 seen well in Zapata area

Geotrygon chrysia

Key West Quail-Dove

1 seen well in Zapata area

Geotrygon montana

Ruddy Quail-Dove

Fairly common and widespread

Starnoenas cyanocephala

Blue-headed Quail-Dove

1 seen well in Zapata area

Aramus guarauna


a few in Zapata area and swamp

Pardirallus maculatus

Spotted Rail

1 in Zapata area (Soplillar)

Porphyrio martinicus

Purple Gallinule

Quite common in Zapata

Gallinula chloropus

Common Moorhen

Common Zapata

Fulica americana

American Coot

Common Zapata and Najasa Ponds

Tringa melanoleuca

Greater Yellowlegs

A few in Zapata (Soplillar area)

Tringa flavipes

Lesser Yellowlegs

Seen Zapata and Cayo Coco

Tringa solitaria

Solitary Sandpiper

1 seen Zapata (Soplillar)

Arenaria interpres

Ruddy Turnstone

Common Cayo Coco

Calidris minutilla

Least Sandpiper

Fairly common and widespread

Jacana spinosa

Northern Jacana

Quite common Zapata and Najasa Ponds

Himantopus mexicanus

Black-necked Stilt

Seen Zapata and Cayo Coco

Pluvialis squatarola

Grey Plover

Seen on Cayo Coco

Charadrius vociferus


Fairly common and widespread

Larus fuscus

Lesser Black-backed Gull

1 seen Cayo Coco (Vagrant)

Larus atricilla

Laughing Gull

Only on Cayo Coco

Sterna caspia

Caspian Tern

Seen Zapata and Cayo Coco

Sterna maxima

Royal Tern

Only on Cayo Coco

Pandion haliaetus


widespread (including ridgwayi)

Rostrhamus sociabilis

Snail Kite

1 near causeway to Cayo Coco

Accipiter gundlachi

Gundlach's Hawk

1 in Zapata, 1 in Najasa

Buteogallus anthracinus

Common Black-Hawk

a few on Cayo Coco

Buteo platypterus

Broad-winged Hawk

one in Zapata

Buteo jamaicensis

Red-tailed Hawk

seen in Zapata and from roads

Polyborus plancus

Crested Caracara

1 in Zapata, 1 on Cayo Coco, 1 in Najasa

Falco sparverius

American Kestrel

Fairly common and widespread

Tachybaptus dominicus

Least Grebe

1 in Zapata

Podilymbus podiceps

Pied-billed Grebe

Seen in Zapata and Najasa

Anhinga anhinga


Seen in Zapata (Soplillar) and Najasa

Phalacrocorax brasilianus

Neotropic Cormorant

5 in Najasa Ponds

Phalacrocorax auritus

Double-crested Cormorant

Common in coastal areas

Egretta rufescens

Reddish Egret

Both morphs seen Cayo Coco

Egretta tricolor

Tricolored Heron

Fairly common and widespread

Egretta caerulea

Little Blue Heron

Fairly common and widespread

Egretta thula

Snowy Egret

Fairly common and widespread

Ardea herodias

Great Blue Heron

Fairly common and widespread

Casmerodius albus

Great Egret

Fairly common and widespread

Bubulcus ibis

Cattle Egret

Very common and widespread

Butorides virescens

Green Heron

Quite common in Zapata

Ixobrychus exilis

Least Bittern

2 seen in Zapata (at Soplillar and Zapata Swamp)

Phoenicopterus ruber

Greater Flamingo

Quite common Cayo Coco

Eudocimus albus

White Ibis

Only on Cayo Coco

Pelecanus occidentalis

Brown Pelican

Common in coastal areas

Cathartes aura

Turkey Vulture

Common and widespread

Fregata magnificens

Magnificent Frigatebird

Several in coastal areas

Contopus caribaeus

Greater Antillean Pewee

Crescent-eyed (or Cuban) Pewee fairly common in Zapata and Soroa

Myiarchus sagrae

La Sagra's Flycatcher

Fairly common and widespread

Tyrannus verticalis

Western Kingbird

1 seen Soroa (vagrant)

Tyrannus dominicensis

Grey Kingbird


Tyrannus caudifasciatus

Loggerhead Kingbird

Fairly common and widespread

Tyrannus cubensis

Giant Kingbird

2 seen La Belen NP

Vireo griseus

White-eyed Vireo

1 in Najasa

Vireo gundlachii

Cuban Vireo

Fairly common and widespread

Vireo crassirostris

Thick-billed Vireo

A few seen on Cayo Coco

Vireo flavifrons

Yellow-throated Vireo

1 seen Soroa

Vireo altiloquus

Black-whiskered Vireo

Quite common Zapata, abundant Soroa and La Terrazas NP

Corvus palmarum

Palm Crow

1 identified in Najasa

Corvus nasicus

Cuban Crow

1 seen in Zapata, common in Najasa

Turdus plumbeus

Red-legged Thrush

Fairly common and widespread

Dumetella carolinensis

Grey Catbird


Mimus polyglottos

Northern Mockingbird


Ferminia cerverai

Zapata Wren

2 seen in Zapata Swamp

Polioptila lembeyei

Cuban Gnatcatcher

2 seen on Cayo Coco

Tachycineta bicolor

Tree Swallow

A few seen Zapata

Progne cryptoleuca

Cuban Martin


Stelgidopteryx serripennis

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

quite common

Hirundo rustica

Barn Swallow

1 seen on route to Havana from Soroa

Hirundo fulva

Cave Swallow

seen in Zapata and Cayo Coco

Passer domesticus

House Sparrow

Fairly common and widespread

Torreornis inexpectata

Zapata Sparrow

1 seen Cayo Coco

Vermivora peregrina

Tennessee Warbler

Several in Soroa

Parula americana

Northern Parula

Fairly common and widespread

Dendroica pensylvanica

Chestnut-sided Warbler

1 seen Soroa

Dendroica magnolia

Magnolia Warbler

1 seen Zapata

Dendroica tigrina

Cape May Warbler

1 seen Cayo Coco

Dendroica caerulescens

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Fairly common and widespread

Dendroica virens

Black-throated Green Warbler

1 seen La Guira NP, 1 seen Soroa

Dendroica pityophila

Olive-capped Warbler

Several in La Guira NP, 1 in La Terrazas NP

Dendroica discolor

Prairie Warbler

Fairly common and widespread

Dendroica palmarum

Palm Warbler

Fairly common and widespread

Setophaga ruticilla

American Redstart

Fairly common and widespread

Helmitheros vermivorus

Worm-eating Warbler

1 in Najasa

Seiurus aurocapillus



Geothlypis trichas

Common Yellowthroat

Common and widespread

Teretistris fernandinae

Yellow-headed Warbler

Very common Zapata and Soroa areas

Teretistris fornsi

Oriente Warbler

Common Cayo Coco

Spindalis zena

Stripe-headed Tanager

Fairly common and widespread

Cyanerpes cyaneus

Red-legged Honeycreeper

a few seen Soroa

Melopyrrha nigra

Cuban Bullfinch


Tiaris olivacea

Yellow-faced Grassquit

Fairly common and widespread

Passerina cyanea

Indigo Bunting

Several seen in Soroa

Passerina ciris

Painted Bunting

1 in Najasa

Icterus dominicensis

Black-cowled Oriole

Quite common in Zapata and Soroa

Agelaius humeralis

Tawny-shouldered Blackbird


Dives atroviolacea

Cuban Blackbird


Quiscalus niger

Greater Antillean Grackle


Molothrus bonariensis

Shiny Cowbird

Quite common in Zapata


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