Birding Cuba, or Observación de aves en Cuba

(Donna; 4 April 2017)

I just returned from a glorious birding trip all over Cuba, so I am just going to ignore the pile of spring bird books on my dining room table (most of which arrived while I was gone), and write a bit about my favorite Cuban birds.

Of course, it’s the colorful and tiny birds that get the most attention when one thinks of Cuba. There’s the Cuban Trogon, majestic (the national bird of Cuba), brilliantly colored, and surprisingly common. Wherever we went, it seemed, especially in shady areas full of trees, we would hear the low, guttural to-roro to-roro toc-toc.* Despairing of finding a trogon that wasn’t in shadow or blocked by numerous branches, I was deliriously happy when the above bird, seen in La Belén Reserve, decided to fly up into the sun for a few minutes.

And then there’s the Cuban Tody, gaudy in lime green, white, and red, with touches of pink and yellow and blue, tiny enough to be mistaken for a stuffed toy except for its propensity to fly up as soon as I press the focus button. Like flycatchers, the bird continuously forages for insects. And, like the Cuban Trogon, it can be found throughout the island, especially if you are adept at detecting green and white birds amidst green-leaved trees shot through with sunlight.

Most of my non-birding friends–well, the birding ones too–are asking me if I saw the Bee Hummingbird, the smallest bird in the world at less than 2.5-inches in length and less than an ounce in mass.  Rarer than Cuba’s other hummingbird, the Cuban Emerald, the Bee Hummingbird is found in fragmented areas on the island.

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