I just returned from a fantastic two week trip to Cuba with the New Mexico Ornithological Association and the Caribbean Conservation Trust to survey / photograph the avian fauna of Cuba. It will take some time to edit the images from the trip, but overall, the trip was a smashing success, as shown by this image of an endemic Bee Hummingbird, the smallest bird in the world!


Bee Hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae), perched. Cuba

Bee Hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae), perched. Cuba


Travel by U.S. citizens to Cuba is currently difficult, and it was certainly a privilege for me to join the NMOS and the CCT on this trip to Cuba. The U.S. Department of Treasury has provided a license for conducting bird conservation work in Cuba to the 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 primary objective of the CCT is to enhance the ability of North American and Caribbean ornithologists, naturalists, resource managers, conservation organizations, institutions, and local citizens to conduct research and initiate programs to help conserve the birds of the Caribbean and their habitats. The CCT is dedicated to bird and habitat conservation through education and relationship building and, as a result of its work and research findings, is in compliance with a U.S. Treasury licensure for travel to Cuba. Gary Markowski runs the CCT, and his 16 years of experience in organizing trips to Cuba resulted in a flawless trip and a remarkable experience for all participants.

Our trip was limited only by the 14 day travel limit imposed by the license issued by the Treasury Department, and the time constraints of travel within Cuba. Regardless, thanks to the impeccable planning by NMOS President and trip leader Dave Krueper, we surveyed a significant range of habitats within Cuba, as shown on the map below:

Primary areas of bird surveys are shown in red. (Click to enlarge.)


The group recorded over 150 species of birds – specific counts will be forthcoming. Photographic highlights of Cuban birds included the Bee Hummingbird, Zapata Sparrow, Cuban Crow, Cuban Trogan, and Cuban Green Woodpecker, among others. Our group cultural experience in Cuba was fantastic, due in large part to our guide, Raydalie Pérez O’Farrill. Ray (pronounced as in “rye bread”) is a jewel of Cuba, and is knowledgeable about the history, politics and culture of Cuba, as well as natural history and birding. Thus, not only did we find over 150 species of birds, we also toured a local Guava processing plant, where men labor over fiery caldrons of Guayaba – processing raw guava fruits into delicious bars of guava preserves. The guava was sampled along with local fresh cheese – a true delicacy! Behind-the-scenes support was handled by Osmery Arzuaga and her fine staff at Havanatur.

Raydali Pérez O'Farrill

Raydali Pérez O’Farrill enjoying a cup of Cuban coffee during a travel break.


Check back during early December, when I expect to have a significant number of images from the trip edited, key-worded, and uploaded to our website.


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2 Comments on Cuba – November 2012 Bird Survey

  1. What an amazing opportunity! Looking forward to seeing you photos!

  2. Mark Segal says:

    Great photos Rich, and sounds like you had a rare and wonderful opportunity. Looking forward to seeing more of the bird images and any other photos you may have taken illustrating what Cuba is about as you saw it.