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The Wildlife In Cuba: Birdwatching And The Island's Indigenous Land Mammals

Mar 27, 2008
The Caribbean is known for its wildlife, and naturally Cuba is no exception. However, if you don't know what you're looking for, you can miss an awful lot - especially with the world's smallest humming bird, and a frog smaller than a penny are endemic to the island! Here's a guide to the animals of Cuba that you should look out for on your visit to the island.

Firstly, birdwatching in Cuba is reason to visit in itself, and the Caribbean's avian life is both graceful and colourful. Here are some of the more memorable birds you might see amidst Cuba's wildlife:

The Cuban Trogan

Known as Cuba's national bird, because it shares the same colours as the Cuban flag - blue, red and white. Found in forests near streams, it is notable for its dark green head and wings, bright red belly and white chest. They feed on insects, fruits and by hovering on flowers.

Bee Hummingbird

The world's smallest bird is endemic to the island, and a highlight of Cuba's birdwatching scene. Growing to a maximum length of 2.25 inches, it's typically found in valleys, gardens and forests but has been labelled as 'threatened' since 2000 due to a loss of its natural habitats.

Cuban Finch

Another small species, the Cuban Finch is 3 and a half inches of impressive energy! Nesting in shrubs, it is best known for its beautiful yellow head, which males can fluff up to attract mates!

Cuban Parakeet

The Cuban Parakeet, once a common sight for those birdwatching in Cuba has now become something of a rarity thanks to destruction of habitat and trapping, as it was regarded as a crop pest.

Those birdwatching in Cuba will likely find it in grasslands with palms, woodland edges and in undisturbed forests. You should be able to spot it easily enough - it is bright green with red spots on the head, neck and breast with red on the bend of the wing, and a white band of flesh around the eyes.

Cuban Kite

In a distressingly familiar theme, the beautiful Cuba Kite is classified as 'critically endangered' due to habitat loss. In fact, it was thought extinct until 3 Cuban Kites were found on the east of the island.

The bird of prey lives in heavily forested land, and is thought to feed mainly on snails.

Moving away from the opportunities for birdwatching that Cuba offers, the wildlife of the island is equally impressive, though sadly in many cases the animals of Cuba are equally endangered.

Cuban Hutia

The Cuban Hutia is the largest endemic land animal that Cuba has to offer, growing on average to be around 60 centimetres in length. If you're looking to catch a sight of one of these during your Cuban travel, you're best off looking around the forests and rocky areas of the island, where you may spy the animal going about its daily business. It's an omnivore and eats a combination of fruits, small reptiles, small mammals and leaves.

Cuban Solenodon

This insectivore was, like the Cuban Kite, once thought to be extinct, but has now been 'upgraded' to endangered status. You are unlikely to spy this sample of Cuba's wildlife by chance, as it is largely nocturnal, and spends its days hiding in trees and under rocks, mainly in forests and thick shrub habitats.

Cuban Boa

Listed as near threatened, those with a fear of snakes shouldn't worry about running into one of these by chance! Also known as the Cuban Tree boa, thanks to the amount of time it spends up in trees, those looking to see one in the wildlife of Cuba are best of searching in woodland and rocky habitats.

Cuban Treefrog

Also up in the trees (unsurprisingly) is the Cuban Treefrog. If you're hoping to catch sight of one amongst the Cuban wildlife, you will need to be around at night, when it is active. It's carnivorous, and will eat pretty much anything it can catch, but even though it's the largest species of treefrog in North America, that doesn't extend to humans!

Monte Iberia Dwarf Eleuth

The text for its name in this article actually takes up more space than the frog itself! Growing to just 0.8mm long, you could fit 2-3 of these endangered frogs on a single penny piece. It's small size and endangered status isn't the only reason you're unlikely to spy one on holiday - they're also nocturnal, finding cover in the daytime.

The animals of Cuba are simply breathtaking, and the endangered nature of many of the creatures means that seeing some of the species is likely a once in a lifetime experience. Whether you're in Cuba for birdwatching, or simply taking in the history, an exploration of the wildlife is a fascinating way to spend a few days.
About the Author
Emma Lelliott is the general manager of Captivating Cuba, an independent Cuba holiday specialist. With offices in Havana and the UK, Captivating Cuba can design tailor made Cuba bird watching holidays to ensure you see the fascinating avian life in their amazing natural habitat.
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