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WINGS Birding Tours – Itinerary


Saturday 23 March to Monday 1 April 2024
with Jon Dunn as leader
March 2025
with Jon Dunn as leader

Price: $6,350* (03/2024)

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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 many decades.  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. 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, always an elusive species in Cuba along with many other species, including Smooth-billed Ani and perhaps Purple Gallinule. Tawny-shouldered and Cuban blackbirds snd 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. 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, Water, 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 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. 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 (actually the better part of a century). Later we’ll visit Salinas de Bides, noted for its many American Flamingoes along with numerous other waterbirds, 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 ridgwai 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, we’ll make another attempt for it first thing in the morning, but today will be mostly devoted to our long drive to Morón. We’ll stop for lunch at Rio Azul where a few wintering North American warblers may be present along with the striking Band-headed Anole. Night in Morón.

Day 7: We’ll cross the long bridge early in the morning where we’ll visit the southeastern part of Cayo Coco. Here we’ll look for two endemics: Cuban Gnatcatcher with its distinctive black auricular outline and Oriente Warbler. Cuban Bullfinch, Western Spindalis and a grayer (from inexpectata) subspecies of Zapata Sparrow, varoni, should also be present along with a variety of wintering North American warblers. Gundlach’s Hawk, the close relative of the Cooper’s Hawk, is possible. Later we’ll continue on 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 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 and in 2023 Bahama Pintails were seen on Cayo Coco. Night in Morón.

Day 8: This morning we’ll cross the bridge and likely bird La Cueva del Jabalí, an excellent place for a wide variety of species. It is a night spot for tourists, but the staff also sets up feeders and water traps. Of particular interest for us are the Key West Quail-Doves which are often seen. Recently, Ruddy Quail-Dove has been seen too. The varoni subspecies of Zapata Sparrow occurs here and Cuban Gnatcatcher is sometimes  nearby. If any Thick-billed Vireos (endemic subspecies cubensis) are present at Cayo Parad?n Grande we may choose to search for them, but between habitat destruction for hotel resorts and Hurricane Irma, this subspecies is nearly extinct. After lunch we’ll drive to Camagüey, possibly stopping along the way to search for Mangrove Cuckoo if they are known to be present. We’ll arrive late in the day at our destination, a lovely old colonial city with beautiful architecture. The endemic breeding Cuban Martin should be nesting and roosting adjacent to our hotel at an old Catholic cathedral  along with numerous Cave Swallows. Night in Camagüey.

Day 9: 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 along with many Cuban Crows, and 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 species 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. Night in Camagüey.

Day 10: 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.


Updated: 07 February 2024


  • 2024 Tour Price : $6,350
  • Single Occupancy Supplement : $560


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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 Miami–Havana, and Camagüey-Miami 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 Miami airport, 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 Miami 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 Miami 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 2023). 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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