Birding sites Cuba

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On Cuba, four main mountain ranges dominate an otherwise lowland landscape of arid scrub, savanna, and forest, with extensive wetlands on the Zapata peninsula. Forest can be divided into several different types including lowland and montane rain forest, cloud forest, and drier seasonal (deciduous) forest, which was once very widespread in the lowlands. Coniferous forest is restricted to the eastern and western ends of the island where it is the dominant vegetation type (Harcourt and Sayer 1996).
Recent survey work has shown that, as well as being significant for restricted-range birds, Cuban forests are extremely important wintering areas for Neotropical species, equal to the richest sites that have been surveyed elsewhere in the Caribbean and Mexico (Wallace 1995; see also Wallace et al. 1996).
In total, 25 species are endemic to Cuba, but only six of these are judged to have historical ranges of less than 50,000 km2. All ten of the restricted-range species are reliant on wooded or scrubland areas, mostly in the lowlands, but their patterns of distribution vary: Teretistris fernandinae is confined to western Cuba (east to Matanzas and south-west Las Villas provinces) and Isla de la Juventud; Polioptila lembeyei is most numerous in southern Cuba (Oriente); Dendroica pityophila is confined to Pinar del Río and north-east Oriente; Corvus palmarum is very local; Mimus gundlachii and Vireo crassirostris occur on cays off northern Cuba; Teretistris fornsi occurs largely in eastern Cuba;Torreornis inexpectata is restricted to three isolated and subspecifically distinct populations in Matanzas (Zapata swamp only), Camagüey (Cayo Coco only) and Oriente; and Cyanolimnas cerverai and Ferminia cerverai are confined to the Zapata swamp. Another Near Threatened restricted-range species, Bahama Swallow Tachycineta cyaneoviridis, from the Bahama Islands (EBA 016), winters in eastern Cuba.
Much of Cuba's native vegetation has been converted to cultivation and pasture for cattle, with only 15-20% of land remaining in its natural state (Perera and Rosabal 1986). Today, expansion of cacao, coffee and tobacco production are serious threats to rain forest, while logging, charcoal production and slash-and-burn agriculture destroy dry forest. In the Zapata swamp, dry-season burning, draining, agricultural expansion and introduced predators such as mongooses and rats are problems (Dinerstein et al. 1995), and the two species endemic to this region are consequently rated as Critical.
Several of the widespread Cuban endemics are also very rare today as a result of loss and disturbance of wooded habitats and, for some species, hunting: these are Gundlach's Hawk Accipiter gundlachii (Endangered), Blue-headed Quail-dove Starnoenas cyanocephala (Endangered), Cuban Parakeet Aratinga euops (Vulnerable), Bee Hummingbird Calypte helenae (Near Threatened, the world's smallest bird), Fernandina's Flicker Colaptes fernandinae (Endangered), Giant Kingbird Tyrrannus cubensis (Endangered) and Cuban Solitaire Myadestes elisabeth (Near Threatened). In addition there are a number of widespread, non-endemic rare species which also occur: West Indian Whistling-duck Dendrocygna arborea (Vulnerable), Piping Plover Charadrius melodus (Vulnerable; winter only), Plain Pigeon Columba inornata (Endangered; the highest known population, 100 pairs, is in Cuba), Grey-headed Quail-dove Geotrygon caniceps (Near Threatened), Cuban Parrot Amazona leucocephala (Near Threatened) and Bachman's Warbler Vermivora bachmani (Critical, possibly extinct; winters only in Cuba, last unconfirmed sighting anywhere being in 1988). Black-capped Petrel Pterodroma hasitata, a seabird that breeds on islands in the Caribbean including Cuba, is also threatened (Endangered).
Ivory-billed Woodpecker Campephilus principalis, once widespread in virgin forest in the USA and Cuba, appears to be extinct, having last been recorded in Cuba in 1987 or 1988, possibly 1991 (Lammertink and Estrada 1995).
Some 12% of the total land area of Cuba falls within 200 or so conservation units (including, in the Zapata swamp area, the 14.8 km2 Santo Tomás Faunal Refuge), but few of these afford strict protection (logging occurs in some: J. M. Lammertink in litt. 1993) and some reserves appear to be too small for effective preservation of the wildlife they contain (Santana 1991).
Citation BirdLife International 2003 BirdLife's online World Bird Database:

Field Guide to the Birds of Cuba

Field Guide to the Birds of Cuba

Orlando H.Garrido and Arturo Kirkconnell. Over 354 species are described including 21 endemics, whilst 51 colour plates give details of male, female and juvenile plumages.
234 x 156mm.Paperback.272pp.51 colour plates.145 maps
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Parque National de Ciénaga de Zapata

One of the most extensive reserves in the Caribbean. Species include Cuban Green Parrot, Cuban Parakeet, Cuban Pygmy Owl, Zapata Crake, Bee Hummingbird, Spotted Rail, Yellow-breasted crake, Stygian Owl, Blue-headed Quail Dove, Key West Quail Dove, Grey-headed Quail Dove, Greater Antillean Nightjar, Red Shouldered Blackbird, Fernandina’s Flicker, Gundlach’s Hawk, Cuban Crow, Masked Duck and Snail Kite.

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