Country/Territory Cuba
Area 110,000 km2
Altitude 0 - 1500m
Priority urgent
Habitat loss major
Knowledge good

General characteristics

This EBA encompasses Cuba itself (the largest island in the Caribbean) and surrounding smaller islands and cays (from where many subspecies of birds have been described: Garrido 1992), including the Isla de la Juventud (formerly Isla de Pinos) off the south-west coast.

On Cuba, four main mountain ranges dominate an otherwise lowland landscape of arid scrub, savanna, and forest, with extensive wetlands on the Zapata peninsula. Forest can be divided into several different types including lowland and montane rain forest, cloud forest, and drier seasonal (deciduous) forest, which was once very widespread in the lowlands. Coniferous forest is restricted to the eastern and western ends of the island where it is the dominant vegetation type (Harcourt and Sayer 1996).

Recent survey work has shown that, as well as being significant for restricted-range birds, Cuban forests are extremely important wintering areas for Neotropical species, equal to the richest sites that have been surveyed elsewhere in the Caribbean and Mexico (Wallace 1995; see also Wallace et al. 1996).

Restricted-range species

In total, 25 species are endemic to Cuba, but only six of these are judged to have historical ranges of less than 50,000 km2. All ten of the restricted-range species are reliant on wooded or scrubland areas, mostly in the lowlands, but their patterns of distribution vary: Teretistris fernandinae is confined to western Cuba (east to Matanzas and south-west Las Villas provinces) and Isla de la Juventud; Polioptila lembeyei is most numerous in southern Cuba (Oriente); Dendroica pityophila is confined to Pinar del Río and north-east Oriente; Corvus palmarum is very local; Mimus gundlachii and Vireo crassirostris occur on cays off northern Cuba; Teretistris fornsi occurs largely in eastern Cuba;Torreornis inexpectata is restricted to three isolated and subspecifically distinct populations in Matanzas (Zapata swamp only), Camagüey (Cayo Coco only) and Oriente; and Cyanolimnas cerverai and Ferminia cerverai are confined to the Zapata swamp. Another Near Threatened restricted-range species, Bahama Swallow Tachycineta cyaneoviridis, from the Bahama Islands (EBA 016), winters in eastern Cuba.

Species IUCN Category
Zapata Rail (Cyanolimnas cerverai) CR
Cuban Macaw (Ara tricolor) EX
Thick-billed Vireo (Vireo crassirostris) LC
(Corvus minutus) NR
(Corvus palmarum) NR
Cuban Gnatcatcher (Polioptila lembeyei) LC
Zapata Wren (Ferminia cerverai) EN
Bahama Mockingbird (Mimus gundlachii) LC
Zapata Sparrow (Torreornis inexpectata) VU
Yellow-headed Warbler (Teretistris fernandinae) LC
Oriente Warbler (Teretistris fornsi) LC
Red-shouldered Blackbird (Agelaius assimilis) LC
Olive-capped Warbler (Setophaga pityophila) LC

Important Bird Areas (IBAs)
IBA Code Site Name Country
CU001 Guanahacabibes Cuba
CU002 Mil Cumbres Cuba
CU003 Humedal Sur de Pinar del Río Cuba
CU004 Sierra del Rosario Cuba
CU005 Cienaga de Lanier y Sur de la Isla de la Juventud Cuba
CU006 Ciénaga de Zapata Cuba
CU007 Las Picuas - Del Cristo Cay Cuba
CU008 Cayería Centro - Oriental de Villa Clara Cuba
CU009 Humedal Sur de Sancti Spiritus Cuba
CU010 Topes de Collantes Cuba
CU011 Alturas de Banao Cuba
CU012 Gran Humedal del Norte de Ciego de Ávila Cuba
CU013 Cayo Sabinal, Ballenatos y Manglares de la Bahía de Nuevitas Cuba
CU014 Río Máximo Cuba
CU015 Cayos Romano - Cruz - Megano Grande Cuba
CU016 Limones - Tuabaquey Cuba
CU017 Sierra del Chorrillo Cuba
CU018 Turquino - Bayamesa Cuba
CU019 Desembarco del Granma Cuba
CU020 Delta del Cauto Cuba
CU021 Gibara Cuba
CU022 La Mensura Cuba
CU023 Delta del Mayarí Cuba
CU024 Pico Cristal Cuba
CU025 Gran Piedra - Pico Mogote Cuba
CU026 Siboney - Juticí Cuba
CU027 Alejandro de Humboldt Cuba
CU028 Hatibonico - Baitiquirí - Imías Cuba

Threat and conservation

Much of Cuba's native vegetation has been converted to cultivation and pasture for cattle, with only 15-20% of land remaining in its natural state (Perera and Rosabal 1986). Today, expansion of cacao, coffee and tobacco production are serious threats to rain forest, while logging, charcoal production and slash-and-burn agriculture destroy dry forest. In the Zapata swamp, dry-season burning, draining, agricultural expansion and introduced predators such as mongooses and rats are problems (Dinerstein et al. 1995), and the two species endemic to this region are consequently rated as Critical.

Several of the widespread Cuban endemics are also very rare today as a result of loss and disturbance of wooded habitats and, for some species, hunting: these are Gundlach's Hawk Accipiter gundlachii (Endangered), Blue-headed Quail-dove Starnoenas cyanocephala (Endangered), Cuban Parakeet Aratinga euops (Vulnerable), Bee Hummingbird Calypte helenae (Near Threatened, the world's smallest bird), Fernandina's Flicker Colaptes fernandinae (Endangered), Giant Kingbird Tyrrannus cubensis (Endangered) and Cuban Solitaire Myadestes elisabeth (Near Threatened). In addition there are a number of widespread, non-endemic rare species which also occur: West Indian Whistling-duck Dendrocygna arborea (Vulnerable), Piping Plover Charadrius melodus (Vulnerable; winter only), Plain Pigeon Columba inornata (Endangered; the highest known population, 100 pairs, is in Cuba), Grey-headed Quail-dove Geotrygon caniceps (Near Threatened), Cuban Parrot Amazona leucocephala (Near Threatened) and Bachman's Warbler Vermivora bachmani (Critical, possibly extinct; winters only in Cuba, last unconfirmed sighting anywhere being in 1988). Black-capped Petrel Pterodroma hasitata, a seabird that breeds on islands in the Caribbean including Cuba, is also threatened (Endangered).

Ivory-billed Woodpecker Campephilus principalis, once widespread in virgin forest in the USA and Cuba, appears to be extinct, having last been recorded in Cuba in 1987 or 1988, possibly 1991 (Lammertink and Estrada 1995).

Some 12% of the total land area of Cuba falls within 200 or so conservation units (including, in the Zapata swamp area, the 14.8 km2 Santo Tomás Faunal Refuge), but few of these afford strict protection (logging occurs in some: J. M. Lammertink in litt. 1993) and some reserves appear to be too small for effective preservation of the wildlife they contain (Santana 1991).

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2019) Endemic Bird Areas factsheet: Cuba. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 22/03/2019.