Embracing the entire Zapata Peninsula in southern Matanzas province, this IBA is the largest wetland in the Caribbean. It has extensive cave lake systems with spectacular blue holes, flooded caves and important water resources. The IBA also provides critical habitat in the form of forest, flooded palm savannas, open waterand salinas, reefs and mangroves. It has unique submerged marine terraces and coral reefs, valuable archaeological and paleontological sites, and a history of traditional use of natural resources in the surrounding rural communities.
This IBA is home to 40 biome-restricted birds, including 21 Cuba endemics and 17 globally threatened species. The Endangered Zapata Wren Ferminia cerverai and Zapata Rail Cyanolimnas cerverai are endemic to the IBA. The Endangered Cuban Sparrow Torreornis inexpectata inexpectata, Gundlach’s Hawk Accipiter gundlachi, Blue-headed Quail-dove Starnoenas cyanocephala and Giant Kingbird Tyrannus cubensis also occur. The area supports large concentrations of waterbirds, including breeding populations of Sandhill Crane Grus canadensis nesiotes and Wood Stork Mycteria americana. This is the last site in Cuba where the Critically Endangered Bachman’s Warbler Vermivora bachmanii was observed, in 1964.
Non-bird biodiversity: The Endangered Cuban crocodile Crocodylus rhombifer, Vulnerable American crocodile C. acutus and Critically Endangered dwarf hutia Mesocapromys nanus occur. Globally threatened sea-turtles nest on the beaches, and the IBA supports the largest population of the endemic Endangered fish Atractosteus tristoechus, considered a living fossil.
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Ciénaga de Zapata. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 26/11/2020.