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Cienaga de Zapata - BirdForum Opus

Revision as of 15:03, 25 March 2016 by Wintibird (talk | contribs)
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Photo by Wintibird
La Turba



150 kilometres southeast of Havanna lies the famous Zapata Swamp or Ciénaga de Zapata. Zapata Rail and Zapata Wren are only found here and most other Cuban endemics can be found, too. It's also an important wintering site for many North American migrants.


Notable Species

Two species are endemic to the Zapata Swamp; Zapata Wren and Zapata Rail. You have a good chance to hear the Wren and you may even see it if you're lucky. However, Zapata Rail is very rare and hard to see and its call is still unknown.
Other endemics in the area are Gundlach's Hawk, Cuban Black Hawk, Grey-fronted Quail-Dove, Blue-headed Quail-Dove, Bare-legged Owl, Cuban Pygmy Owl, Cuban Nightjar, Cuban Emerald, Bee Hummingbird, Cuban Trogon, Cuban Tody, Cuban Green Woodpecker, Fernandina's Flicker, Cuban Parakeet, Cuban Amazon, Cuban Vireo, Yellow-headed Warbler, Cuban Oriole, Cuban Blackbird, Red-shouldered Blackbird and Zapata Sparrow.
Additionally several near-endemics and many migrants can be seen. A local speciality is Stygian Owl and some local guides know their day roosts.


Birds you can see here include:

American Wigeon, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Pied-billed Grebe,American Flamingo, Wood Stork, American White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Black-crowned Night Heron,Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Green Heron, Western Cattle Egret, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Reddish Egret, Tricolored Heron, Little Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Brown Pelican, American White Pelican, Magnificent Frigatebird, Neotropic Cormorant, Double-crested Cormorant, Anhinga Turkey Vulture, Western Osprey, Gundlach's Hawk, Northern Harrier, Cuban Black Hawk, Clapper Rail, Spotted Rail, Zapata Rail, Purple Gallinule, Common Gallinule, American Coot, Black-necked Stilt, Grey Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Northern Jacana, Wilson's Snipe, Short-billed Dowitcher, Long-billed Dowitcher, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Willet, Spotted Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Red Knot, Sanderling, Stilt Sandpiper, Black Skimmer, Laughing Gull, Caspian Tern, Royal Tern, White-crowned Pigeon, Eurasian Collared Dove, Mourning Dove, Zenaida Dove, White-winged Dove, Common Ground Dove, Grey-fronted Quail-Dove, Key West Quail-Dove, Ruddy Quail-Dove, Blue-headed Quail-Dove, Smooth-billed Ani, Great Lizard Cuckoo, Bare-legged Owl, Cuban Pygmy Owl, Stygian Owl, Cuban Nightjar, Antillean Palm Swift, Cuban Emerald, Bee Hummingbird, Cuban Trogon, Belted Kingfisher, Cuban Tody, West Indian Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Cuban Green Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Fernandina's Flicker, Northern Crested Caracara, American Kestrel, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, Cuban Parakeet, Cuban Amazon, Cuban Pewee, Loggerhead Kingbird, La Sagra's Flycatcher, Cuban Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Cuban Crow, Cedar Waxwing, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Zapata Wren, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, Grey Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, Red-legged Thrush, House Sparrow, Ovenbird, Worm-eating Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Black-and-white Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart, Cape May Warbler, Northern Parula, Magnolia Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Palm Warbler, Myrtle Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Yellow-headed Warbler, Mangrove Warbler, Cuban Oriole, Tawny-shouldered Blackbird, Red-shouldered Blackbird, Shiny Cowbird, Cuban Blackbird, Greater Antillean Grackle, Zapata Sparrow, Cuban Bullfinch, Yellow-faced Grassquit, Western Spindalis, Summer Tanager

Other Wildlife

Look out for the rare Cuban Crocodile. However, other reptile species are easier to find like Anoles.

Photo by Wintibird
Bahia de Cochinos

Site Information

History and Use

Most parts of the Zapata Swamp are protected either as a part of the National Park, a Natural Reserve or Wildlife sancutary. The overall Zapata Biosphere Reserve is with over 6,000 km² the largest protected area in the Caribbean.
Tourism plays an important role in Playa Larga and Playa Giron at the eastern end of the National Park.

Areas of Interest

La Turba

La Turba is the only place at the moment where Zapata Wren can be seen (or at least heard). The area can be reached by car and is located west of the main road to Playa Larga. The use of a local guide is highly advisable.
Zapata Wren is hard to see and seems to be rather played out.

La Salina

The former salinas are located south of Playa Larga and west of the Bay of Pigs. Mangrove forests and saltwater and freshwater ponds harbour birds like American Flamingos, Wood Storks, many waders, Pelicans, Cuban Black Hawks, Ospreys, Terns and many other birds. Three platforms give better views. A guide from the national park is compulsary.

Photo by Wintibird
La Salina
Cueva de los Peces

About 14 kilometers south of Playa Larga lies the restaurant Cueva de los Peces. Blue-headed Quail-Doves are fed with rice here and can be seen at close distance.


A roost of Cuban Parakeets is located in the middle of the village of Bermejas. South of the village is a well-known stake out for Bee Hummingbird.
A local guide is guarding and feeding doves in the forest nearby and he can show you Blue-headed Quail-Dove, Key West Quail-Dove and other species.


This area of open woodland close to Playa Larga holds many interesting species like Fernandina's Flicker, Doves and Owls.

Access and Facilities

Playa Larga and Playa Giron can be reached from Havana by car. Take the Autopista Nacional eastwards and leave it at Australia Township. From there the road goes south to Playa Larga, at the northern tip of Bahina de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs). Hotels can be found in Playa Larga and Playa Giron, there are also some private rooms for rent in both towns.
Some places can only be visited with local guides and they also know the free accessible spots very well. In hiring a local guide you support their work and the local economy. Ask in your hotel or at the national park office to arrange a guide.

External Links