Cuba: Toucan Birding tours April 2005 Led by Colin Bushell (

Published by Colin Bushell (birding AT

Participants: Alex Parker, Nigel Driver, Bill Porteous, Gary Howard, Rob Payne, Janet & Bob Jones, Duncan Ritchie, Barry Walker, Don Sykes and Rob Thatcher.



2 April -Group members arrive in La Habana via Panama, Paris or Madrid. Once all the group is assembled we set off to San Diego de los Banos for the night.
3 April - La Giura NP.
4 April -La Guira NP in the morning and departure after lunch for Soroa. Afternoon birding the forested hills near Soroa.
5 April - Soroa with a late afternoon departure for a night in La Habana.
6 April - Travel day from La Habana to Cayo Coco. Birding on the causeway prior to arrival at our hotel.
7 April - Morning birding Cayo Guillermo and Cayo Coco. Afternoon at Las Cuevas de Jabali.
8 April - Morning visit to Cayo Paredon Grande. Afternoon at Cayo Coco.
9 April - Left Cayo Coco early and arrived at Najasa mid afternoon for some birding near La Belen NP.
10 April - All day birding La Belen NP and its environs.
11 April - Travel day from Camaguey to Playa Larga on the Zapata Peninsula stopping en route at La Boca.
12 April - Zapata Peninsula: Palmite and Las Salinas.
13 April - Zapata Peninsula: Bermeja and La Turba.
14 April - Zapata Peninsula: Rio Hatiguanico and late afternoon visit to Bermeja.
15 April - Bermeja early and then return to Playa Larga to prepare for departure. Bill, Duncan and Barry dropped a the international airport in time for the COPA flight to Panama with onward connection to Lima, Peru. Arrival in La Habana for lunch. Brief city tour before transfer to airport for international flights for the rest of the group with Air France and Iberia.
16 April - Arrive home.


Generally hot and sunny throughout the tour. A few scattered showers at La Belen NP and Bermeja.


Thanks to the whole group, our local guides (Estere, Hector, Pedro and Santos), our driver Zamora and Barry Walker for his help in the field during the tour. Barry also kindly reviewed the first draft of this report.

Neotropical Birding Tours

Species Lists

PIED-BILLED GREBE Podilymbus podiceps Several seen on a large reservoir between Soroa and La Habana on 5th.

BROWN PELICAN Pelecanus occidentalis Regularly seen around the coast (La Habana, Salinas, Cayo Coco, etc).

DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT Phalacrocorax auritus Numerous at Salinas, Cayo Coco, Cayo Guillermo.

NEOTROPIC CORMORANT Phalacrocorax olivaceus Mostly seen at the Zapata Peninsula sites.

ANHINGA Anhinga anhinga One seen between La Habana and Cayo Coco and another, the following day at Cayo Guillermo.

MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRD Fregata magnificens Coastal sites: La Habana, Cayos, etc.

GREAT BLUE HERON Ardea herodias Common at Salinas and Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo. White phase birds seen at the later site.

GREAT EGRET Casmerodius albus Recorded on eight dates with many seen during our travel days. Mainly observations from Salinas, Cayo Paredon Grande and Cayo Guillermo.

SNOWY EGRET Egretta thula Regularly seen at all wetland sites.

LITTLE BLUE HERON Egretta caerulea Common Salinas and Cayo Guillermo and Cayo Paredon Grande. Also observed in swampland habitat in the Zapata Peninsula.

TRICOLORED HERON Egretta tricolor Common Salinas and Cayos Guillermo and Paredon Grande.

REDDISH EGRET Egretta rufescens Most numerous at Cayo Guillermo and Salinas.

CATTLE EGRET Bubulcus ibis Common; mostly seen on journeys.

GREEN-BACKED HERON Butorides striatus Common in all wetland areas.

WHITE IBIS Eudocimus albus Common at Salinas and Cayos Guillermo and Paredon Grande.

ROSEATE SPOONBILL Ajaia ajaja Seen at Cayo Coco, Cayo Guillermo and Salinas.

WOOD STORK Mycteria americana Single seen at Salinas.

GREATER FLAMINGO Phoenicopterus ruber Large numbers (usually at distance) seen in the Cayo Coco area over a four day period.

WEST INDIAN WHISTLING-DUCK Dendrocygna arborea Up to eighteen at Cayo Coco on three dates.

BLUE-WINGED TEAL Anas discors Several birds seen between Cayo Guillermo and Cayo Coco and a single female in the hotel grounds mangroves at Cayo Coco.

RED-BREASTED MERGANSER Mergus serrator At least 25 birds seen from the causeway as we travelled from the “mainland” to Cayo Coco.

RUDDY DUCK Oxyura jamaicencis 40+ on the large reservoir as we neared La Habana from Soroa.

TURKEY VULTURE Cathartes aura Common and seen every day.

OSPREY Pandion haliaetus Regularly seen in all wetland areas in small numbers. Recorded on six dates.

SNAIL KITE Rostrhamus sociabilis Single in La Belen NP.

SHARP-SHINNED HAWK Accipiter striatus A single observation of this rare bird on Cuba from Soroa.

GUNDLACH’S HAWK Accipiter gundlachi One heard in La Guira NP. Two observers saw an Accipiter briefly just after these vocalisations were heard and was almost certainly this species. One bird seen well for a short time at the Rio Hatiguanico in the Zapata Swamp. Unfortunately the group was spread over a long stretch of trail and many missed this rare bird.

COMMON BLACK-HAWK Buteogallus anthracinus A few seen at Salinas and very common in the Cayo Coco/Guillermo/Paredon Grande area. Distinctive brown plumage to this Cuban race.

BROAD-WINGED HAWK Buteo platypterus Soaring birds seen on five dates.

RED-TAILED HAWK Buteo jamaicensis Seen on four dates, often from the bus between birding sites.

CRESTED CARACARA Polyborus plancus Seen in small numbers on six dates from Cayo Coco through to Camaguey.

AMERICAN KESTREL Falco sparverius Widespread and examples of both the pale and attractive rufous forms studied.

MERLIN Falco columbarius A pair at Cayo Paredon Grande and singles at Cayo Coco. Also seen on the Zapata Peninsula.

PEREGRINE FALCON Falco peregrinus Recorded on three dates.

NORTHERN BOBWHITE Colinus virginianus A large group of 15 or so birds disturbed while we were searching for Cuban Grassquits near La Belen NP.

HELMETED GUINEA-FOWL Numida meleagris Large groups in La Belen NP and between Camaguey and Santa Clara.

CLAPPER RAIL Rallus longirostris At least two birds showed well in response to playback at Cayo Coco.

PURPLE GALLINULE Porphyrula martinica Common in the Zapata Swamp and at La Guira NP.

COMMON MOORHEN Gallinula chloropus Common in all wetlands.

AMERICAN COOT Fulica americana Several on a reservoir as we approached La Habana from the La Guira direction.

LIMPKIN Aramus guaruana Seen at all wetland sites and La Belen National Park.

NORTHERN JACANA Jacana spinosa Small numbers in La Belen NP and at La Boca on the Zapata Peninsula.

BLACK-BELLIED (GREY) PLOVER Pluvalis squatarola Cayo Guillermo and Cayo Coco.

SEMI-PALMATED PLOVER Charadrius semipalmatus Good numbers at Cayo Coco.

PIPING PLOVER Charadrius melodus At least four birds seen at Cayo Coco.

KILLDEER Charadrius vociferus Frequently encountered.

BLACK-NECKED STILT Himantopus mexicanus Seen during travel days on roadside pools, Las Salinas and Cayo Coco area.

GREATER YELLOWLEGS Tringa melanoleuca Cayo Coco area and Las Salinas.

LESSER YELLOWLEGS Tringa flavipes Small numbers at Cayo Coco and Las Salinas.

SOLITARY SANDPIPER Tringa solitaria Recorded on six dates.

WILLET Catoptrophorus semipalmatus Singles at Las Salinas, Cayo Guillermo and
Cayo Paredon Grande.

SPOTTED SANDPIPER Actitis macularia Four dates.

RUDDY TURNSTONE Arenaria fedoa Small numbers in the Cayo Coco area and at Las Salinas.

RED KNOT Calidris canutus A party of 9 birds at Cayo Coco.

SANDERLING Calidris alba Cayo Coco only.

LEAST SANDPIPER Calidris minutilla Cayo Coco and Las Salinas only.

SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER Limnodromus griseus A party of about 40 at Cayo Coco.

LAUGHING GULL Larus atricilla Common around the coast.

RING-BILLED GULL Larus delawarensis Two first-summer birds seen between Cayo Guillermo and Cayo Coco.

CASPIAN TERN Sterna caspia Three birds on the large reservoir as we approached La Habana from Soroa. A few at Cayo Coco and common at Salinas.

ROYAL TERN Sterna maxima Common on the coast.

ROCK DOVE Columba livia Feral Pigeon reluctantly recorded!

WHITE-CROWNED PIGEON Columba leucocephala Seen frequently (mostly later in the day) at La Guira NP, Zapata Peninsula and Bermeja. Recorded on eight dates.

SCALY-NAPED PIGEON Columba squamosa Several birds seen over a two day period in the La Guira NP and Soroa areas.

PLAIN PIGEON Columba inornata Recorded on two dates in La Belen NP.

COLLARED DOVE Streptopelia decaocto Three birds seen at Cayo Coco and some in La Belen NP.

WHITE-WINGED DOVE Zenaida asiatica Frequently seen and recorded nearly every day.

MOURNING DOVE Zenaida macroura The most common dove on the tour.

COMMON GROUND-DOVE Columbina passerina Common.

KEY-WEST QUAIL-DOVE Geotrygon chrysia Seen on two days at Bermeja with up to three seen. Great views near one of the drinking pools there.

GREY-HEADED QUAIL-DOVE Geotrygon caniceps Heard frequently at Bermeja and three found at a drinking pool there. Up to five birds seen over a two-day period.

RUDDY QUAIL-DOVE Geotrygon montana Seen on five dates at La Guira, Soroa and Bermeja. Up to four birds in a day.

BLUE-HEADED QUAIL-DOVE Starnoenas cyanocephala A bird calling in the mid afternoon at Soroa was “tracked” and seen briefly (but well) on the ground but by the leader only. Subsequent searching resulted in the bird(s) being flushed and only seen in flight. Not detected again, despite much searching that same afternoon and the following day. Very disappointing. It is worrying that there were no birds detected at Bermeja, even by voice.

CUBAN PARAKEET Aratinga euops A small group seen near La Boca in the Zapata Peninsula and common in La Belen NP.

CUBAN PARROT Amazona leucocephala Small parties seen in the Zapata peninsula and La Belen NP.

GREAT LIZARD CUCKOO Saurothera merlini La Guira NP, Zapata peninsula, La Belen and Cayo Coco area.

SMOOTH-BILLED ANI Crotophaga ani Common in many open areas.

BARN OWL Tyto alba One seen en route to San Diego de los Banos.

BARE-LEGGED OWL Gymnoglaux lawrencii Two seen at Bermeja in palm-stump roost holes.

CUBAN PYGMY-OWL Glaucidium siju Heard regularly at Bermeja and seen well near La Belen NP.

STYGIAN OWL Asio stygius Cuba just has to be the best place to see this enigmatic species. One seen well at its daytime roost in La Guira NP.

CHUCK-WILLS’ WIDOW Caprimulgus carolinensis One seen near La Belen NP.

GREATER ANTILLEAN (CUBAN) NIGHTJAR Caprimulgus cubanensis One seen (came into tape) at La Turba on the Zapata peninsula.

CHIMNEY SWIFT Chaetura pelagica One seen at Rio Hatiguanico.

ANTILLEAN PALM-SWIFT Tachornis phoenicobia Widespread with records from nine dates: La Guira NP, Camaguey area and Zapata peninsula.

CUBAN EMERALD Chlorostilbon ricordii Frequently encountered in small numbers throughout the trip.

BEE HUMMINGBIRD Mellisuga helenae The smallest bird in the world was seen in the Zapata peninsula at Palmite.

RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD Archilochus colubris Single seen on two dates in Cayo Coco.

CUBAN TROGON Priotelus temnurus Cuba’s national bird and surprisingly common in mixed and pine forests. Recorded on eight dates.

CUBAN TODY Todus multicolor This delightful bird was common and widespread and seen at most sites.

BELTED KINGFISHER Ceryle alcyon Salinas and Cayo Guillermo.

WEST INDIAN WOODPECKER Melanerpes superciliaris Common by voice and numerous sightings throughout the tour.

YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER Sphyrapicus varius Zapata peninsula was the best site for this.

CUBAN GREEN WOODPECKER Xiphidiopicus percussus Common and ubiquitous.

NORTHERN FLICKER Colaptes auratus Five dates.

FERNANDINA’S FLICKER Colaptes fernandinae Regularly seen in the Zapata peninsula, particularly at Bermeja. Single pair at a nest near La Belen NP.

CUBAN PEWEE Contopus caribaeus Common at many sites such as La Guira, Salinas, Cayo Coco. Frequently heard.

LA SAGRA’S FLYCATCHER Myiarchus sagrae Recorded at La Guira NP, Zapata peninsula and Cayo Coco.

GREY KINGBIRD Tyrannus dominicensis Seen most dates but very common near La Belen NP.

LOGGERHEAD KINGBIRD Tyrannus caudifasciatus Common and widespread.

GIANT KINGBIRD Tyrannus cubensis Up to three pairs on territory near La Belen
NP. Formally occurred on other islands and suffering from deforestation.

CUBAN MARTIN Progne cryptoleuca La Guira NP and La Belen, but best views of perched birds at La Boca on the Zapata Peninsula.

NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW Stelgidopteryx serripennis Recorded mainly on travel days over open water.

BARN SWALLOW Hirundo rustica As above species.

CAVE SWALLOW Hirundo fulva La Guira NP.

CUBAN CROW Corvus nasicus Very common near Camaguey and La Belen where its garrulous parrot-like call could be heard frequently.

CUBAN PALM CROW Corvus minutus Seen near Camaguey and La Belen NP. The call is more ‘corvid-like’ than the above species.

ZAPATA WREN Ferminia cerverai Zapata Swamp: very responsive to tape at La Turba but difficult to see. A bird finally “surrendered” at Rio Hatiguanico the following day.

CUBAN GNATCATCHER Polioptila lembeyei Located at Cayo Guillermo.

CUBAN SOLITAIRE Myadestes elisabeth Only seen at La Guira NP, specifically Cuevas de los Portales. Incredible song!

RED-LEGGED THRUSH Turdus plumbeus Common and widespread.

GREY CATBIRD Dumetella carolinensis Seen on several occasions.

NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD Mimus polyglottos Common.

BAHAMA MOCKINGBIRD Mimus gundlachii Cayo Guillermo only in the arid scrub. Not difficult in calm conditions.

THICK-BILLED VIREO Vireo crassirostris A speciality of the mangrove scrub at Cayo Paredon Grande.

CUBAN VIREO Vireo gundlachii Regularly seen in the semi-deciduous forests throughout the trip. Not difficult.

BLACK-WHISKERED VIREO Vireo altiloquus Common.

YELLOW-THROATED VIREO Vireo flavifrons Singe in La Guira NP was the only record.

RED-EYED VIREO Vireo olivaceus Seen on four dates.

TENNESSEE WARBLER Vermivora peregrina Two in La Guira NP were the only ones seen.

NORTHERN PARULA Parula americana Singles on two dates.

YELLOW WARBLER Dendroica petechia Two pairs at Las Salinas.

MAGNOLIA WARBLER Dendroica magnolia Seen on three dates.

CAPE MAY WARBLER Dendroica tigrina Seen on four dates. Quite common around Cayo Coco.

BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER Dendroica caerulescens One of the most frequently seen migrants. Ten dates.

BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER Dendroica virens Common in La Guira NP.

Yellow-throated Warbler Dendroica dominica This superb bird was seen on three dates. Always foraging on palm-fronds.

OLIVE-CAPPED WARBLER Dendroica pityophila La Guira NP, not difficult and common by voice.

PRAIRIE WARBLER Dendroica discolor Common in the Cayo Coco area.

PALM WARBLER Dendroica palmarum Very common indeed.

HOODED WARBLER Wilsonia citrina Two seen at Soroa.

BLACK & WHITE WARBLER Mniotilta varia Seen on three dates.

AMERICAN REDSTART Setophaga ruticilla Common and widespread.

OVENBIRD Seiurus aurocapillus Seen on six dates.

LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH Seiurus motacilla Two dates.

NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH Seiurus noveboracencis Seen on five dates.

COMMON YELLOWTHROAT Geothlypis trichas Common in low scrub anywhere.

YELLOW-HEADED WARBLER Teretristris fernandinae Common in the Zapata Peninsula. Smaller numbers in the hill-forests west of La Habana.

ORIENTE WARBLER Terestris fornsi Easily seen in the semi-deciduous woods near Cuevas de Jabali, Cayo Coco and Paredon Grande.

RED-LEGGED HONEYCREEPER Cyanerpes cyaneus Easy to see in La Guira NP.

WESTERN STRIPE-HEADED TANAGER Spindalis zena Widespread throughout in pine and semi-deciduous forest, arid scrub and mangrove scrub as well.

SUMMER TANAGER Piranga ruber Female seen in La Guira NP.

ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK Pheucticus ludovicianus Female at La Turba in the Zapata Peninsula was the only record.

INDIGO BUNTING Passerina cyanea Seen on five dates and particularly common near Moron.

PAINTED BUNTING Passerina ciris Seen at Cayo Coco.

CUBAN BULLFINCH Melopyrrha nigra Seen at just about all sites. A very adaptable species obviously. Almost a Cuban endemic, occurring on Gran Cayman.

CUBAN GRASSQUIT Tiaris canora This endemic was only seen near La Belen NP. It is worryingly a very popular cage bird in Cuba.

YELLOW-FACED GRASSQUIT Tiaris olivacea Widespread and numerous in suitable habitat.

ZAPATA SPARROW Torreornis inexpecta Seen well on the Zapata Swamp (nominate race) and in the dry forests at Cuevas de Jabali near Cayo Coco (varonai).

CUBAN RED-SHOULDERED BLACKBIRD Agelaius assimilis Regularly encountered in the Zapata Peninsula, especially at La Boca and at La Turba.

TAWNY-SHOULDERED BLACKBIRD Agelaius humeralis Common in the Zapata peninsula and around Camaguey. Three birds seen in La Guira NP. A near-endemic as this species is only found on Cuba and in Haiti.

EASTERN MEADOWLARK Sturnella magna Near La Guira NP. on two dates. Cuba hosts the endemic subspecies hippocrepis.

CUBAN BLACKBIRD Dives atroviolaceus Common.

GREATER ANTILLEAN GRACKLE Quiscalus niger Widespread.

SHINY COWBIRD Molothrus bonariensis Zapata Swamp.

BLACK-COWLED ORIOLE Icterus dominicensis Many seen at many localities.

ORCHARD ORIOLE Icterus spurius One at Paredon Grande was the only record.

HOUSE SPARROW Passer domesticus Seen throughout the trip in suitable habitat.

Neotropical Birding Tours