By Joe Sebastiani, Seasonal Program Team Leader
Bird photography by Hank Davis, DNS Board Member
The last birds on the list were special highlights of the DNS trip to Cuba in February. They were at the top of our list to see, and everyone was really excited to get great looks at these birds. Let’s see the final birds…
#2 – Parrots and Parakeets
In the small village of Bermejas works a birding guide named Orlando. He guides people to show them many species of birds in the forest and town where he lives. He makes his living from this, and I am sure the other villagers in Bermejas know this. Perhaps people support him by leaving wild birds alone. This might explain why there are still Parakeets around Bermejas. In this village, Orlando found a flock of about 30 Cuban Parakeets, and Hank Davis was once again quick with the camera, capturing part of the flock in flight with this beautiful image. This species has disappeared from most of Cuba because of habitat loss and being trapped as a caged bird.
The Cuban Parrot shares the #2 spot with the Parakeet. Cuban Parrots actually live in Cuba, Cayman Islands, and the Bahamas and is considered “near threatened” with about 10,000 individuals in Cuba. They used to live throughout the island, but habitat destruction and capture for the pet trade have seriously reduced their numbers. Sound familiar? We saw them in Guanahacabibes and Zapata National Parks.
#1 – Bee Hummingbird
I asked everyone on the trip what bird they most wanted to see. Just about everyone listed the Bee Hummingbird as their top choice. After all, it is the world’s smallest bird measuring just 2.5″ long. For comparison, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird that visits your backyard in summer is 3.75″ long. The Bee Hummingbird really seems more like an insect than a bird as it zooms around feeding on small flowers. We were able to see several males in Guanahacabibes National Park, however, this is the only place we saw them during the two weeks we were there, conducting bird surveys over half the island. The Bee Hummingbird used to be common, but due to habitat destruction, now has a very spotty distribution and is considered “near threatened”.
During our two-week trip to Cuba, the Delaware Nature Society team of “skilled avian field workers” found more than 160 species of birds. We collected data on bird species found and numbers of individuals we came across. Our data was shared with the Caribbean Conservation Trust and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Our findings will be used by the scientific community on the status of resident and migratory species on the island.