[Tweeters] Cuba bird trip report (long)

jbroadus at seanet.com jbroadus at seanet.com
Sun Feb 8 18:51:25 PST 2015

Clarice and I just returned from a superb birding trip to western Cuba. Our US leader was Alvaro Jaramillo,
a super bird spotter and fun companion. We began planning before the recently announced relaxation of
requirements for US citizens to travel there, so we had to fill out all the old licensing forms and affidavits,
using a license from Caribbean Conservation Trust, which gets my full recommendation. We also had to
use an approved Travel Service Provider, Marazul, for a charter flight from Miami. The rules softened right
before we left, so we got a taste of the newer rules--which use the same restrictions on types of travel but
go lighter on the documentation. Our license was to do a Conservation (Humanitarian) bird survey--so we
had permission to travel to birding spots well away from the cities, and correspondingly close to Canadian
and Spanish financed beach resorts. Yes, our trip included the obligatory revolution museums, but they are
well done, and the birding was world class.

We had one Cuban Govt. facilitator and guide, a fun 27 year professional and good dancer (and good
birder) and one biologist for the entire trip (who had the last accepted sighting of the Ivory Billed
Woodpecker in 1987, and was very helpful in explaining the controversies and taxonomic questions
concerning that bird in Cuba). We also had four local guides--all for 14 clients. An exceptional ratio for an
international trip.

We managed to spot all the Cuban endemics except for Cuban Kite and Zapata Rail. In the bird list that
follows I emphasize them, and note that there are others proposed for endemic species status which are
still under review. We also made the usual and very enjoyable stop with Orlando Garrido and his collection
of specimens, a book signing (Birds of Cuba) and his advice.

I know that birders are interested in heading there, just as we were, so I am ending this with a typical boring
bird list. Skip it if you aren't interested. Its there for the listers who plan for new birds--Clarice and I got 45
life bird sightings-- and most of them were multiple, very good, looks both at the birds and at behavior. We
would never have spotted the Bee Hummingbird without the local guide and his checking one flowering
bush alongside a dusty road. And the Cuban Tody is as cute as its pictures, and very widespread and pretty

One logistics note--In my opinion the country is not yet ready for a flood of independent US travelers looking
for adventure, or birds, or whatever. It is a poor area, and needs the employment of multiple local guides--
who are dedicated and true experts--in order to make it all work. Plan your trip--it is a bucket list sort of spot.
And, on our return, US customs only wanted to know what we were doing during our trip (surveying birds,
which we shared with Cuban scientists, is approved, touristing is not). They didn't care about our rum,
cigars, or Cuban stamps in our passports.

Obligatory list:

Cuba bird list Jan/Feb 2015

Presently recognized as endemic = *

West Indian Whistling-Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Ring-necked Duck
Lesser Scaup
Red-breasted Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Helmeted Guineafowl
Pied-billed Grebe
Wood Stork
Magnificent Frigatebird
Neotropic Cormorant
Double-crested Cormorant
American White Pelican
Brown Pelican
Great Blue Heron (Including White form)
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Tricolored Heron
Reddish Egret
Cattle Egret
Black-crowned Night Heron
Yellow-crowned Night Heron
White Ibis
Glossy Ibis
Roseate Spoonbill
Greater Flamingo
Turkey Vulture
* Gundlach's Hawk
* Cuban Black Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Northern Harrier
Clapper Rail
Purple Gallinule
Common Gallinule
American Coot
Black-bellied Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Piping Plover
Black-necked Stilt
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Solitary Sandpiper
Spotted Sandpiper
Ruddy Turnstone
Least Sandpiper
Stilt Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Gull-billed Tern
Caspian Tern
Royal Tern
Black Skimmer
Rock Pigeon
Scaly-naped Pigeon
White Crowned Pigeon
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Zenaida Dove
Mourning Dove
Common Ground-dove
Key West Quail-Dove
* Gray-fronted Quail-Dove
Ruddy Quail Dove
Blue-headed Quail-Dove
White-winged Dove
Mangrove Cuckoo
Great Lizard-Cuckoo
Smooth-billed Ani
Barn Owl
* Bare-legged owl
* Cuban Pygmy-Owl
Stygian Owl
* Greater Antillean Nightjar
Antillean Palm-Swift
* Bee Hummingbird
Cuban Emerald
* Cuban Trogon
* Cuban Tody
Belted Kingfisher
West Indian Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
* Cuban Green Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
* Fernandina's Flicker
Crested Caracara
American Kestrel (Light and Dark morphs)
Peregrine Falcon
* Cuban Parakeet
Cuban Parrot
Cuban Pewee
La Sagra's Flycatcher
Loggerhead Kingbird
* Giant Kingbird
White-eyed Vireo
Thick-billed Vireo
* Cuban Vireo
Yellow-throated Vireo
Cuban Crow
Cuban Martin
Tree Swallow
Cave Swallow
* Zapata Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
* Cuban Gnatcatcher
* Cuban Solitaire
Red-legged Thrush
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Bahama Mockingbird
Worm-eating Warbler
Louisiana Waterthrush
Northern Waterthrush
Blue-winged Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Cape May Warbler
Northern Parula
Magnolia Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Palm Warbler
Olive-capped Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
* Yellow Headed Warbler
* Oriente Warbler
Summer Tanager
Western Spindalis
Red-legged Honeycreeper
* Cuban Grassquit
Yellow-faced Grassquit
Cuban Bullfinch
* Zapata Sparrow
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
* Red-shouldered Blackbird
Tawney-shouldered Blackbird
* Cuban Blackbird
Greater Antillean Grackle
* Cuban Oriole
House Sparrow

Jerry Broadus

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