Cuba is vintage, classic and vibrant. Visiting this largest of the Caribbean islands makes you feel like you’ve been transported back in time. American cars from the 1950s parade the streets of Old Havana, with its predominant colonial architecture, and the sound of classic Salsa music can be heard around every corner. Birders from many countries have been visiting Cuba for years, but the US government has made entering this Communist country difficult for US citizens. Today, the winds of change are blowing, and travel restrictions are loosening though you still should book travel with an experienced travel agent or tour operator. Soon everyone will have a chance to enjoy the thrills of birding in this tropical paradise.
The best diversity and endemism on the island are found in the West. From the Cuban Trogon and Cuban Tody to the elegant Blue-headed Quail-Dove and the world’s smallest bird, the Bee Hummingbird, the Cuban bird list is bait on a birder’s hook. Search for the rare accipiter, Gundlach’s Hawk, and visit Zapata Swamp for the aptly named Zapata Rail, Zapata Wren, and Zapata Sparrow. Woodpecker lovers will delight in the endemic Cuban Green Woodpecker and Fernandina’s Flicker. While you are birding, watch for the fat endemic rodent, the Desmarest's Hutia, and make a special trip to seek out the very rare and ancient Cuban Solenodon. Herpetophiles should insist on a quest for the Monte Iberia Eleuth, the third smallest frog in the world. With the warm sun setting on the horizon, a cold mojito in your hand, and an impressive bird list under your belt, you will delight in the typical end of a Cuban birding day.
Contributor: Ivan Mota/Lacua Birding.
Cuban Trogon © Arturo Kirkconnell
Cuba is home to some very unique endemic mammal species, the strangest and most interesting among these is the Cuban Solenodon, Cuban Hutia, Indian Mongoose, and Butterfly Bat. Reptiles and amphibians are also represented, including the Cuban Rock Iguana, Cuban Crocodile, and one of the worlds smallest frog species, the Habana Robber Frog, eleutherodactylus limbatus.
Cuba has many museums, most featuring the country's fascinating post-Columbian history. Vintage automobiles cruising the streets make Havana and other cities living museums. There is also plenty of snorkeling and diving around the island.
According to the Cuban News Agency, ACN, "Cuba treasures 253 protected areas, 257 national monuments, 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 7 Natural Biosphere Reserves and 13 Fauna Refuges."
Connect with Cuba Field Guide author Arturo Kirkconnell for an upcoming bird tour (request for Arturo's email).
Check all Cuban endemic species off your list with Bird Watching Cuba Tours
New tours offered each week with Cuba Nature Travel
Cuban tours are also offered through many Audubon chapters and other small groups. Simply search online for "Cuba Birding Tour" and shop away.
As of this early stage in the birding wave to Cuba, we recommend that you travel with an experienced, well connected, local guide and a respected, insured, tour company. These tour leaders will take care of your accommodations.
See notes above about scheduled tours. As with most Caribbean destinations, you will probably want to travel between November and April to catch the wintering northern migrants in addition to the local endemics and other specialty birds.
See notes above regarding tour companies.