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Beautiful Birds of Cuba

In Havana I joined a group of carpenters, plumbers and electricians for a game of dominoes. Actually, I just watched. There was no way I could compete with these guys. We shared around a bottle of rum. The men were off the clock, the work day over and they’d set a table in the street. A friend pulled up, opened the trunk of his car and let lose with some rhumba. After awhile I left them and followed a vegetable cart down an alleyway. A man called out from a dark, narrow shop and waved me over. Inside I heard the song of an indigo bunting.

“Do you want to buy a bird?” he asked me.

I followed him into the dark and through a hallways onto a well-lit patio. Dozens of cages hung from wires suspended over the patio. The cages were packed with buntings, mocking birds,  bullfinches and parrots. And even a little hummingbird. Some of the birds were calm. Most of them flitted about, stressed, depressed, panicked. The man extended his hand out towards the birds and asked again if I would like to buy one.

“Birds shouldn’t be in cages,” I told him.

“I’m protecting them,” he me. “And anyway, it is part of our culture.”

“It is also illegal,” I told him. He shrugged.

The Spanish brought the idea of keeping birds in cages to the Caribbean. But as to if it is “part of the culture” well, that is bull says a Cuban friend. Not only is the bird market illegal, she says, but a number of Cuban organizations and the government are working to end the practice. In other words, letting birds be free is also part of the Cuban culture. In fact, caging birds doesn’t really have anything to do with culture. It has to do with money.

Cuba is home to nearly 390 bird species and 284 species of migratory birds that breed on the North American continent. Twenty-eight of those are endemic birds of Cuba, meaning they are found no where else in the world. There are 11 other species considered “near endemic” meaning that they reside only in Cuba and a few nearby islands. Cuba is one of the main stop overs for birds migrating back and forth from North to South America. The island it rich in bird species and a large amount of habitat is protected within national parks.

While illegal bird cage-ing is sadly quite common the culture of bird-watching is also quite common and growing in popularity. And birders prefer their birds wild and free. That’s the good news. The Havana Imagined Street Photography Workshop I run each year for Espiritu Travel isn’t a wildlife-focused workshop but because I’m somewhat bird-obsessed, over the past four years I’ve made my way out of the city and around the island hiking and hunting birds with my camera. While on the prowl for my fine-feathered friends I use the Field Guide to Birds of Cuba.

Below are seventeen of my best captures of birds of Cuba. I think I have most of the identification correct but if not, please leave me a comment at the bottom…I know you will…..

birds of cuba
Green Heron. Butorides virescens. Las Terrazas. Cuba

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birds of cuba
American Flamingo. Phoenicopterus ruber. Las Terrazas. Cuba.

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birds of cuba
Cuban Emerald. Chlorostilbon ricordii. Las Terrazas. Cuba.

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Indigo Bunting. Passerina cyanea. Illegal bird market. Havana. Cuba.

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Cuban Bullfinch. Melopyrrha nigra. Las Terrazas. Cuba.

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Cuban Pewee. Contopus caribaeus. Topes de Collante. Cuba.

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Turkey Vulture. Cathartes aura. Topes de Collantes. Cuba.

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need help with ID on this one! Please leave a comment at the bottom.

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Brown Pelican. Pelecanus occidentalis. Havana. Cuba.

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birds of Cuba
Snowy Egret. Rio Almendares. Havana. Cuba.

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birds of cuba
Cuban Trogon. Priotelus temnurus. Topes de Collantes. Cuba.

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birds of cuba
Yellow-faced Grassquit. Tiaris olivaceus. Las Terrazas. Cuba.

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Cuban Parrot or Cuban Amazon. Amazona leucocephala. Busted stealing fruits. El Manantial. Topes de Collantes. Cuba.

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birds of cuba
Smooth-billed Ani. Crotophaga ani. Viñales. Cuba.

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birds of cuba
Great Egret. Aredea Alba. Viñales. Cuba.

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birds of cuba
Little Blue Heron. Egretta caerulea. Viñales. Cuba.

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birds of cuba
Cuban Tody. Todus multicolor. Topes de Collantes. Cuba.

 

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See also:

21 Beautiful Birds of Costa Rica

21 Beautiful Birds of Panama

21 Beautiful Birds of New Mexico

 

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