Birding in Cuba: A Once-in-a-Lifetime Experience

by: Bernie Solymár

My first trip to Cuba was in 2004, as part of a group of
Canadian agronomists studying sustainable
agriculture methods in Cuba. I was so enthralled
with the wonderful habitats and biodiversity of the
island that I contacted Luis and Yane, the
company’s Cuban directors (now living in Toronto)
to see about organizing nature-based tours. Eight
years later, and several more visits as a tour
leader, and I have thoroughly fallen for this tropical
jewel that has been largely stalled in time for the
past 50 years.

Away from the white sand beaches and opulent
resorts, there are numerous natural parks and
nature reserves, as well as other natural areas that
lend themselves to once-in-a-lifetime birding and
other nature-related activities. Canadians Graham
Gibson and Margaret Atwood discovered several
decades ago that birding in this largest tropical
island in the Caribbean is an experience unlike any
other, offering the chance to see 21 endemic
species, 19 near-endemics (found only in Cuba and
a small number of nearby Caribbean islands), and
other tropical species in an area of the world that
very few Canadians have ever seen in person.
On unique and personalized tours, highly trained
and passionate Cuban guides will take you off the
beaten path to see “life list” species like the
threatened Bee Hummingbird and the vulnerable
Fernandina’s Flicker, and listen for the endangered
Cuban Solitaire.

You’ll have an opportunity to see Cuban Parrots,
Great Lizard Cuckoos, Cuban Pygmy Owls, and the
country’s national bird, the patriotically coloured
Cuban Trogon, along with over 200 other species –
including many familiar “Canadian” species that are
spending their winter in the forests, thickets,
savannas and swamps of this diverse island.

Of course, when you go birding in Cuba, where you
go can be as exciting as what you see while you
are there. Comprehensive tours include exploring
Havana, Cuba’s capital, and visits to several
UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, including Sierra del
Rosario and its fascinating Las Terrazas eco-
community, and the magnificent Zapata Swamp
with its flamingos, spoonbills, pelicans and vast
flocks of waterfowl. You’ll also visit memorable sites
like Soroa’s Orchid Garden, La Guira National Park,
and board Russian army jeeps to travel into the Las
Escambray Mountains near Trinidad.

To learn more about discovering Cuba’s nature and
for unique birding opportunities visit