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WINGS Birding Tours – Itinerary


Sunday 23 March to Wednesday 2 April 2025
with Jon Dunn as leader
March - April 2026
with Jon Dunn as leader

Price: $6,700* (03/2025)

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Bare-legged Owl, a Cuban endemic in its own genus, <em>Margarobyas</em>Bare-legged Owl, a Cuban endemic in its own genus, Margarobyas
  • Bare-legged Owl, a Cuban endemic in its own genus, <em>Margarobyas</em>

    Bare-legged Owl, a Cuban endemic in its own genus, Margarobyas

  • Cuba's national bird, the Cuban Trogon.

    Cuba's national bird, the Cuban Trogon.

  • The stunning Blue-headed Quail-Dove, one of four quail-doves in Cuba

    The stunning Blue-headed Quail-Dove, one of four quail-doves in Cuba

  • Cuban Parakeet, a Cuban endemic sadly declining due to habitat loss.

    Cuban Parakeet, a Cuban endemic sadly declining due to habitat loss.

  • Cuban Tody, an endemic and one of only five todies worldwide.

    Cuban Tody, an endemic and one of only five todies worldwide.

Cuba, the largest of the Greater Antilles with over 42,000 square miles, lies as close as only 93 miles south of Florida. It’s been largely inaccessible to Americans since the Batista government fell at the end of 1958 and Fidel Castro assumed control, but over time, and especially over the last decade, the rules have relaxed from both the Cuban and U.S. governments, and Americans can once again visit, albeit with some restrictions. The recent restrictions that were reinstituted do not have much effect on our tour program. As in so many other parts of the world, the habitats of Cuba were severely affected by logging and other activities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; in Cuba’s case, trees were felled to expand the sugarcane industry. As with most areas, the environmental damage was worst in the lowlands.  Despite this, Cuba has an impressive series of national parks and preserves and the government takes conservation issues quite seriously.

Cuba has 30 endemic birds, only one of which is definitely extinct, the Cuban Macaw (since 1864), and the Zapata Rail and the Cuban Kite haven’t been definitively documented for nearly or century, or longer.  The Cuban Nightjar (Antrostomus cubanensis) was recently split from the Hispaniolan Nightjar (A. ekmani) and the Cuban Bullfinch (Tiaris nigra) is now considered monotypic after the Grand Cayman Bullfinch (T. taylori) was split as its own species. And in 2023, the Cuban Palm-Crow (Corvus minutus) was split from the Hispaniolan Palm-Crow (Corvus palmarum). We should see over 20 and possibly as many as 27. Also the endemic subspecies of Eastern Meadowlark (hippocrepis) with its very distinctive song likely merits full species status. Over 20 other species are endemic to the Caribbean region, mostly from the Greater Antilles or from the Bahamas, and we will likely see nearly all of them. Many of them represent endemic Cuban subspecies. and the four resident American Kestrels  in the West Indies (subspecies sparverioides in Cuba) likely represent a different species from mainland birds. The summer breeders, including the endemic breeding Cuban Martin, will have arrived by late March and many North American birds, notably warblers, will still be here on their winter grounds.

Cuba has long been catering to European and Canadian tourists and has a good infrastructure of roads and hotels. Historic Camagüey, restored to the Spanish colonial period, is worth seeing by itself, and we’ll spend part of the final afternoon touring the city by bicycle taxi. Finally, Cuba has long cherished its distinctive and fine musical heritage. We will be serenaded at meals by some of the best musicians in the country.

Day 1: Our tour will start in the morning at the Miami airport, followed by an early afternoon flight to Havana.** After clearing immigration and customs, we’ll be met by our Cuban naturalist & guide and ground staff, and will then head west to Soroa, just over an hour away.

We will head first to near the botanical gardens where we might  see a number of endemic or near-endemic species including Cuban Pygmy-Owl, Cuban Trogon (Cuba’s national bird), West Indian and Cuban Green Woodpeckers, Cuban Tody, Loggerhead Kingbird, Cuban Pewee, Cuban Bullfinch and Cuban and Tawny-shouldered Blackbirds, along with a variety of West Indian species, such as Western Spindalis (endemic green backed subspecies, pretrei) and wintering North American warblers including possibly Louisiana Waterthrush. We’ll scrutinize the White-crowned Pigeons with special care, looking for the beautiful  Scaly-naped Pigeon, a West Indian endemic. Gray Kingbirds and Black-whiskered Vireos, both summer breeders, will have arrived. After dinner we’ll offer evening birding, searching in particular for the endemic Bare-legged Owl. In 2023 Luis found a roosting Wood Thrush, a rarity in Cuba. Night in Soroa.

Day 2: This morning we’ll depart west to Pinar del Rio province for Cueva de las Portales in the Sierra de los Organos of La Guira National Park, known as Che Guevara’s hideout during the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Here in the trees among the limestone karst formations we’ll be looking particularly for the endemic Cuban Solitaire, whose somber appearance is more than made up for by its remarkable jangling song. We should see both White-winged and Zenaida Doves and will look again for Scaly-naped Pigeon. Amongst the Cave Swallows we’ll look for our first Cuban Martins. The birding and scenery here is excellent and we have a good chance for Cuban Bullfinch and a decent chance for Gundlach’s Hawk, which seems to be always an elusive Cuban endemic to find. Others we might see include Smooth-billed Ani and perhaps Purple Gallinule. Tawny-shouldered and Cuban blackbirds and Red-legged Honeycreepers should be numerous and we’ll search carefully for Olive-capped Warbler, a local species in Cuba and otherwise known only from the  northern Bahamas (Abaco and Grand Bahama). The distinctive polymorphic “Cuban Kestrel” (currently treated as a subspecies of American Kestrel) is found in this area. It acts more like a Merlin and doesn’t bob its tail as mainland birds do. Cuba has almost as many endemic Anolis lizards as it does birds. Some of them are large and colorful, and here we might see Western Giant, Stream, and Cliff Anoles. Night in Soroa.

Day 3: This morning we’ll bird near Soroa looking for another distinctive Cuban endemic, Fernandina’s Flicker and then continue on to Las Terrezas, a community established by the French fleeing Haiti in the late 18th century. We’ll be looking for anything we may have missed yesterday, notably Scaly-naped Pigeon. A nearby pig farm attracts many grassquits, mostly Yellow-faced but also a number of the attractive and endemic Cuban Grassquits. Recently, a pair of Stygian Owls (endemic siguapa subspecies) have been present in a pine plantation in town. After lunch at a hilltop restaurant in the old coffee plantation, we’ll retrace our steps past Havana and then turn south to the Zapata Peninsula, home to the largest wetland in the Caribbean. We’ll make a few stops at two inland reservoirs where we should see some lingering wintering ducks and perhaps a Snail Kite. Late in the afternoon we’ll arrive at Playa Larga near the Zapata Swamp and the site of the infamous April 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion. On our guesthouse grounds before sunset we might see Cuban Parrot or a Cuban Crow, the latter possessed of a remarkable, almost comical vocabulary. Night at Playa Larga.

Days 4–5: We’ll bird the vast Zapata Swamp for two days. On one morning we’ll visit Bermejas, where with excellent luck we could see all four species of Cuban quail-dove, including two handsome endemics, Gray-fronted and Blue-headed. Key West Quail-Dove is sometimes present, and there is at least a chance of seeing Ruddy Quail-Dove, although most encounters involve only brief flight views. Other endemic species here include Cuban Parakeet, Cuban Pygmy and Bare-legged Owls, Cuban Vireo, Yellow-headed Warbler, Cuban Oriole, and the diminutive Bee Hummingbird, the smallest bird in the world. We often find Great Lizard Cuckoo, Western Spindalis, and Shiny Cowbird along with a fine variety of North American wintering wood warblers. On some occasions a roosting Stygian Owl can be located, and elsewhere in the area we should find Limpkin and perhaps the endemic chrysocaulosus subspecies of Northern Flicker, which lacks a white rump. The endemic Red-shouldered Blackbird is also possible.

We’ll arise before dawn one morning (and/or at dusk) to see if we can locate the Cuban Nightjar near Playa Larga at Sopillar. Once it gets light, we’ll try to find what will probably be one of our most difficult Cuban endemics, the distinctive (especially on vocalizations) Zapata Wren. We have a good chance of seeing the endemic Zapata Sparrow (inexpectata, the most colorful of three subspecies), and with great good fortune might see a Spotted Rail. The endemic Zapata Rail is or was found here too, but it has reached near mythical status with essentially no confirmed records for many decades (the last specimen was in May of 1934 and it has never been photographed in life). Later we’ll visit Salinas de Bides, noted for its many American Flamingoes along with numerous other waterbirds, sometimes including a few Wood Storks. North American wintering or migrant Ospreys will be present along with the stocker and much paler headed (and paler underwings) resident Caribbean ridgwayi subspecies, which is resident. Here “Golden” Yellow Warblers (subspecies gundlachi) are resident, and we should also see Clapper Rail and the endemic and distinctive-sounding (“bau-tis-ta”) Cuban Black Hawk If we missed Cuban Nightjar at dawn, we’ll try for it again at dusk. Nights in Playa Larga.

Day 6: If we haven’t yet seen Zapata Wren, or any other key species, we’ll make another attempt for it  in the morning. Our destination today is the old colonial city of Trinidad in Sancti Spiritus province in central Cuba, about 200 kilometers from Playa Larga. Before reaching Trinidad we’ll stop and look for Cuban Gnatcatcher with its distinctive black auricular outline. It is a local endemic Cuban species. Trinidad has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1988 due to its historical importance as a center of the sugar trade in the 18th and 19th centuries. It is considered one of the most beautiful colonial cities in Cuba. In the afternoon we will take a short walk to Plaza Mayor, the main square in Trinidad. Here we might see Cuban Martin, and in 2023 two White-collared Swifts (West Indian subspecies palldifrons)flew over along with a Gundlach’s Hawk. After dinner, we may well visit El Cubano Parque National along the Guaurabo River, a short distance from Trinidad. This is perhaps our best chance for Cuban Nightjar and is a backup for us in case we miss it at Sopillar near Playa Larga. In 2023 we saw or heard four birds. Night in Trinidad.

Day 7: This morning we’ll drive to Cayo Coco, arriving at our hotel by lunch. We’ll cross the long bridge before reaching Cayo Coco, where we should see a variety of water birds, sometimes in considerable numbers. After lunch we’ll check a nearby beach for Piping Plover and other shorebirds. Later in the afternoon we’ll visit La Cueva del Jabalí. It is a night spot for tourists, but the staff also sets up feeders and water traps. Here we should see a variety of wintering Wood Warblers, sometimes including Worm-eating and Ovenbird. Oriente Warbler, Cuban Gnatcatcher, Cuban Bullfinch, Western Spindalis, and a grayer (from inexpectata) subspecies of Zapata Sparrow, varoni, might also be present along with a variety of wintering North American warblers. Zenaida Doves should be present, and we’ll hope to see Key West Quail-Dove as well. Once in a while a Ruddy Quail-Dove appears too. Night on Cayo Coco.

Day 8: This morning we may return to La Cueva del Jabalí before breakfast. After breakfast we’ll drive to to Cayo Guillermo, where we’ll search for the scarce and localized Bahama Mockingbird. Shorebirds are numerous here and we might see “Great White Heron,” a white subspecies (or morph?) of Great Blue Heron. Rare wintering Bahama Swallows are sometimes present. Back on Cayo Coco we’ll look for the scarce West Indian Whistling-Duck, if any are present. In 2023 and 2024 White-cheeked (Bahama) Pintails were seen here too. Mangrove Cuckoo is possible here or on Cayo Coco. We’ll return for lunch at our hotel and will bird the eastern portions of Cayo Coco in the afternoon. After dinner we may look for the endemic nominate subspecies (furcata) of the now split (from Old World taxa) American Barn Owl, with its distinctive whitish wings. Night on Cayo Coco.

Day 9: This morning is flexible depending on which species we may not have seen previously. After lunch we’ll drive to Camagüey, possibly stopping along the way to search for Mangrove Cuckoo if they are known to be present, or perhaps we’ll check for water birds along the causeway. We’ll arrive late in the day at our destination, a lovely old colonial city with beautiful architecture. Night in Camagüey.

Day 10: This morning after breakfast we’ll venture east to La Belén, stopping in agricultural country to listen to the endemic hippocrepis Eastern Meadowlarks. Their song and even their appearance are more suggestive of Western Meadowlark, and they should probably be considered their own species. In the open country we might also see Crested Caracara and our only Cuban Palm-Crows (now an endemic species with the split of the Hispaniolan Palm-Crow). Often together with many Cuban Crows, we’ll pay careful attention to their distinctly different calls and their differences in the facial feathering around the bill. Around the ponds we might find Northern Jacana and Purple Gallinule. We also have a good chance here or nearby of seeing Plain Pigeon, a scarce West Indian endemic. At La Belén we’ll walk the trails in the preserve. The threatened Giant Kingbird is found regularly here, and we should get good comparisons with the more numerous Loggerhead Kingbird. Both crow species are numerous and Plain Pigeons are found here too. We’ll return in the late afternoon with time to take a bicycle trip (not self-driven!) along the streets of the old colonial city, concluding at our favorite restaurant for a final group dinner. Night in Camagüey.

Day 11: After a leisurely breakfast and some further study of Cuban Martins and Cave Swallows we’ll head to the Camagüey airport for an early afternoon flight back to Miami, where the tour concludes.

Created: 13 May 2024


  • 2025 Tour Price : $6,700
  • Single Occupancy Supplement : $550


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Questions? Tour Manager: Stephanie Schaefer. Call 1-866-547-9868 (US or Canada) or (01) 520-320-9868 or click here to email.

* Tour invoices paid by check carry a 4% discount. Details here.

** NOTE: It’s now possible to purchase your own flights directly from the USA to Cuba. As such, we aren’t including the price of the flights from Florida–Havana, and Camagüey-Florida in the tour price since it’s possible to include it in your ticket purchase from your home airport. To ease complications upon arrival in Havana we are starting our tour in the airport in Florida, where we’ll proceed as a group through the process of getting visas and through immigration and customs after arrival in Havana. It may be necessary to overnight in Florida prior to the tour if the timing of your flights won’t allow you to arrive in time for the flight to Havana in the early afternoon (you’ll need to check-in for the flight three hours prior, thus by mid-morning). Note that an additional $25 for Cuba’s departure tax will be applied to the flight purchase, as well as medical insurance as required by the Cuban gov’t. At the airport you will also have to pay a $85 visa fee (in 2024). See your airline’s policies for details.

*** This tour is organized by our partner, Caribbean Conservation Trust, Inc. (CCT), a U.S. based organization committed to the conservation of endemic and migratory birds and their habitats in the greater Caribbean region. The U.S. Department of Treasury has provided a license for conducting bird conservation work in Cuba to CCT and it is through this program our tour will be permitted. Your participation in this program will involve a bird and habitat survey each day. Data is compiled by the group and submitted by the trip leader to CCT staff.

Maximum group size 12 with one WINGS and multiple local leaders.

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