Cuba Mar 28—Apr 08, 2017

Posted by David Ascanio


David Ascanio

David Ascanio, a Venezuelan birder and naturalist, has spent 30+ years guiding birding tours throughout his native country, Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama, the Amazon River, ...

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Cuba, the largest of the Antilles, welcomed us with Greater Antillean Grackles, Cuban Martin, and Cuban Cowbirds flying around the picturesque city of Camaguey. Add to the scene Cubans greeting relatives coming from abroad and old American cars running in the streets. We began to realize just how different this country is from what we had expected.  Adding to these first impressions, during the first night we experienced one of the best shows of the whole tour with a Flamenco show and participants joining the dancers after a delicious dessert. Is there a better welcome to Cuba?

Blue-headed Quail-Dove

Blue-headed Quail-Dove— Photo: David Ascanio


Our first full day in Cuba found us leaving the hotel with a packed breakfast for an hour drive to Rancho la Belén. As we enjoyed crackers with peanut butter, a Cuban Green Woodpecker landed on a bare branch next to the bus, and a Cuban Pygmy-Owl was found singing on the opposite side of the road. Later, we were delighted with Cuban Parakeets flying around and a pair of Cuban Trogons that elegantly landed on an open branch. What a way to start the day! We had only a few hours there to nail our target species, thus we carried on and walked along the road in front of the headquarters of the ranch; soon enough we found them: the Giant Kingbird, the Cuban Palm Crow, and the Plain Pigeon. After a successful morning, the day continued with a drive to Jardines del Rey archipelago. During this drive we added Laughing Gulls, herons, egrets, and the elegant American Flamingo to our day list.

In Jardines del Rey archipelago we focused our birding efforts in desert scrub, coastal wetlands, and moist forest. Two of the emblematic birds of this area were seen after a bit of an effort. The first one was the secretive Zapata Sparrow, and the second was the always-challenging Bahama Mockingbird. Other target species were the West Indian Whistling-Duck and the endangered Piping Plover, a boreal migrant whose population has declined and is currently estimated at less than 10,000 individuals.

Following the visit to Cayo Coco (and other keys) we drove south to the Ancón peninsula where various shorebirds, waterbirds (egrets and herons), White Ibis, and Roseate Spoonbill were added to our list. A visit to Trinidad complemented the day. This important town was the third one founded by the Spanish crown in Cuba (back in 1514) and played an important role in the development of the sugar industry of Cuba.

Read David’s full report in his Field List.