The brilliant Cuban Tody by Dave Irving.
There are a lot of rather spectacular endemic birds on the island of Cuba, not least the Blue-headed Quail Dove. This fine image was captured at Bermejas near Zapata by Dubi Shapiro.
The species lists below are for the northern winter.
Gundlach’s Hawk, Blue-headed Quail-Dove, Cuban Parakeet, Bare-legged Owl, Cuban Pygmy Owl, Cuban (Greater Antillean) Nightjar, Bee Hummingbird, Cuban Trogon, Cuban Tody, Cuban Woodpecker, Fernandina’s Flicker, Giant Kingbird, Cuban Vireo, Cuban Palm Crow, Zapata Wren, Cuban Gnatcatcher, Cuban Solitaire, Oriente and Yellow-headed Warblers, Cuban Grassquit, Zapata Sparrow, and Cuban and Red-shouldered Blackbirds. The remaining endemic is the very rare and even more elusive Zapata Rail. Potential endemics likely to be seen are the island races of Common Black Hawk (gundlachii), Grey-headed Quail Dove (caniceps), Northern Flicker (chrysocaulosus), Black-cowled Oriole (melanopsis) and Eastern Meadowlark (hippocrepis). Cuban Martin is an endemic breeding species (Feb-Aug) which probably winters in South America.
West Indian Whistling Duck, Grey-headed and Key West Quail Doves, Plain Pigeon, Cuban Parrot, Great Lizard Cuckoo, Antillean Palm Swift, Cuban Emerald, West Indian Woodpecker, La Sagra’s Flycatcher, Cuban (Greater Antillean) Pewee, Loggerhead Kingbird, Cuban Crow, Red-legged Thrush, Bahama Mockingbird, Olive-capped Warbler, Western Spindalis, Cuban Bullfinch, Greater Antillean Grackle and Tawny-shouldered Blackbird.
American Flamingo and Magnificent Frigatebird, as well as Brown Booby, Brown Pelican, Anhinga, Reddish Egret, Glossy and White Ibises, Roseate Spoonbill, Wood Stork, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Crested Caracara, American Kestrel, Purple Gallinule, Limpkin, Black-necked Stilt, Northern Jacana and other shorebirds, Caspian and Royal Terns, White-crowned Pigeon, Zenaida Dove, Ruddy Quail Dove, Smooth-billed Ani, Belted Kingfisher, Northern Flicker, Grey Kingbird, White-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireos, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, Grey Catbird, Black-and-white, Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green, Cape May, Hooded, Magnolia, Palm, Prairie, Yellow and Yellow-throated Warblers, American Redstart, Northern Parula, Common Yellowthroat, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Yellow-faced Grassquit, Black-cowled Oriole and Eastern Meadowlark. Also a chance of Masked Duck, Least Bittern, Snail Kite, Clapper, King and Spotted Rails, Yellow-breasted Crake, Sora, Black Skimmer and Stygian Owl.
Reptiles, Amphibians and Fish
Great Hammerhead, Lemon and Silky Sharks can be seen on scuba-dives in Jardines de la Reina marine reserve off the south coast. American Saltwater Crocodile also occurs here.
Fernandina's Flicker and Cuban Trogon by Dubi Shapiro.
The peak time to visit Cuba for birds is March when the resident species are at their most active and attractive because it is the beginning of the breeding season. Most winter visitors from North America are also still present at this time and they are joined by birds of passage moving through Cuba on their way north. Male Bee Hummingbirds are usually in their dazzling breeding plumage at this time and sing from the tops of the tallest trees in their territories.
Helm Field Guide: Birds of Cuba by O H Garrido, A Kirkconnell and R Company. Helm, 2000.
Collins Field Guide: Birds of the West Indies by N Arlott. Harper Collins, 2010.
Birds of the West Indies by H Raffaele et al. Helm, 1998.
A Field Guide to the Birds of the West Indies by James Bond. Originally published in 1936 by the Academy of Natural Sciences and reprinted many times since by several publishers including Collins and Houghton Mifflin.
A Birdwatchers’ Guide to Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico and The Caymans by G Kirwan and A Kirkconnell. Prion, 2010.
National Audubon Society Field Guide to Tropical Marine Fishes by C L Smith. Alfred A Knopf, 1997.
Butterflies of the Caribbean and Florida by P Stiling. Macmillan Caribbean, 1999.
Where to watch birds in Central America & the Caribbean by N Wheatley and D Brewer. Helm, 2001.
Don’t know which country/countries/regions to visit in the Caribbean? Then it may be worth considering taking a look at this book, written by this website’s author and David Brewer. It is many years old of course but it still provides a starting point, an overview and a guiding light to the best birds and the best places to look for them in the region, and could save hours of searching for similar information on the internet. However, it is important to check more up-to-date sources for sites which have been opened up, sites and species which have been discovered, lodges that have been built etc. since the book was published.
Many trip reports, some for Cuba, are posted on the websites listed here. On some of these websites some reports are independent and some are posted by tour companies who organize tours to Cuba. These tour companies and others also post their own reports on their websites, which are listed under 'Some Organized Tours to Cuba' below.
The costs of organized tours partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ. If you are travelling independently, employing such local guides will greatly increase your chances of seeing the wildlife you wish to see.
There are many tour companies who organize tours to see mammals, birds, other wildlife and other natural wonders. The cost of these tours vary considerably according to such variables as the airlines used, the number of days the tours last, the number of sites visited, the number of people in the group (an important consideration if you wish to see such wildlife as rainforest mammals and birds), the number of tour leaders, the standard of accommodation and transport, and the percentage profit the company hopes to make. Generally, where the number of days tours last and the number of sites visited are similar, the cheapest tours are those that use the cheapest airlines, accommodation and local transport, that have the largest groups with the least number of leaders, and that make the least amount of profit. The most expensive tours tend to be those which are exceptionally long, use the most expensive accommodation (ridiculously lavish in some cases, even for single nights) and which make the most profit. Some tour costs partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ.
While tour companies organize tours with set itineraries many also organize custom tours for individuals and private groups who instead of taking a tour with a set itinerary want to follow their own itinerary to suit their own personal tastes, whether it be mammals, birds, other wildlife, other natural wonders or even man-made attractions, or a mixture of them all. Many organized tours with set itineraries are also fast-paced and target as many species as possible, whether they are mammals, birds or other wildlife or everything, which usually leaves little time to enjoy the best sites and individual species, but on a custom tour those taking part can specify the pace and the sites and species they wish to concentrate on. Custom tours also suit people who like to travel with people they already know, rather than with a group of strangers, and people with partners with different interests. Individuals and small groups will almost certainly have to pay more than the price of an organized tour with a set itinerary but a large group of friends may be able to travel for less than the price quoted for a set tour.
Tour companies who are running organized tours to Cuba in the next couple of years include the following. Many of these also offer custom tours.