Below you will find 13 COMMON BIRDS that live in Cuba!
Believe it or not, over 370 species have been observed here, including many birds that only visit during migration. Because of the incredible variety, it would be impossible to list EVERY single type below.
So I did my best to come up with a list of the birds that are seen the MOST. Enjoy! 🙂
13 Common Birds of Cuba:
#1. Laughing Gull
- Leucophaeus atricilla
- Adults range from 39-46 cm (15.3-18.1 in) in length and have a 92-120 cm (36.2-47.2 in) wingspan.
- Adults are medium gray above and white below with reddish-black legs.
- Summer adults have a crisp black hood, white arcs around the eyes, and reddish bills, and in winter, the hood becomes a blurry gray mask on a white head.
Laughing Gulls are typically spotted in Cuba in coastal areas like beaches, salt marshes, and mangroves.
- RELATED: 4 BEST Birding Tours in Cuba!
Like many other gulls, Laughing Gulls are adept at foraging while walking, wading, swimming, or flying. Their food sources include crustaceans, insects, squid, human refuse, berries, fish, earthworms, snails, and the eggs of horseshoe crabs.
These gulls steal food from Brown Pelicans by landing on their heads and taking fish from their bill pouch. I’m sure the Brown Pelicans aren’t laughing when that happens!
#2. Northern Mockingbird
- Mimus polyglottos
- Medium-sized grey songbird with a LONG, slender tail.
- Distinctive white wing patches that are visible when in flight.
These birds are hard to miss in Cuba!
First, Northern Mockingbirds LOVE to sing, and they almost never stop. Sometimes they will even sing through the entire night. If this happens to you, it’s advised to keep your windows closed if you want to get any sleep. 🙂
In addition, Northern Mockingbirds have bold personalities. For example, they commonly harass other birds by flying slowly around them and then approaching with their wings up, showing off their white wing patches.
#3. Brown Pelican
- Pelecanus occidentalis
- Brown skin on their giant throat patch.
- Dark gray bodies with a white neck and pale yellow head.
- Measures 3.5 – 5 feet in length (1 to 1.5 m) with a wingspan of 6.5 – 7.5 feet (2 to 2.3 m). The weight of adults can range from 4.4 to 11.0 lb (2 to 5 kg).
If you see a pelican in Cuba while sitting on a beach, it is most likely a Brown Pelican. These large birds live strictly in saltwater habitats near the ocean’s coastline. Interestingly, they rarely venture into the open ocean, staying within 20 miles of the shore.
It’s a lot of fun watching Brown Pelicans hunting for fish! First, they fly high into the sky and then plunge aggressively headfirst into the water. These dives are meant to stun the surrounding fish, which then are scooped up with their enormous throat pouch and swallowed whole.
Check out the below video to learn more about their insane dives!
And lastly, they birds live a long time. The oldest Brown Pelican on record was 43 years of age!
#4. American Kestrel
- Falco sparverius
The American Kestrel is the smallest bird of prey in Cuba.
But don’t let the tiny stature fool you because this raptor is an accomplished hunter. One of their favorite strategies to catch prey is to hover in the breeze from a relatively low height, looking for insects, invertebrates, small rodents, and birds.
Their diverse diet is one reason they can occupy ecological niches from central Alaska down to the southernmost tip of South America. But life can be tough when you’re the smallest falcon since they are sometimes eaten as prey by larger raptors and big snakes!
#5. Royal Tern
- Thalasseus maximus
- Adults range from 45-50 cm (17.7-19.7 in) in length and have a 100-110 cm (39.4-43.3 in) wingspan.
- Breeding adults are gray below and white above.
- They have a black crest and a bright orange bill.
Royal Terns spend their lives in warm coastal waters. They’re frequently spotted in sheltered areas with shallow water, such as estuaries, bays, lagoons, and sandy beaches. They occasionally travel out to sea or inland, especially when feeding young, but stay within 80 km (50 mi) of the coast.
Breeding pairs of Royal Terns choose a site and build their nests together. The nests are simple scrapes in the earth. But, they have an unusual way of strengthening their nests. They defecate around the rim of the nest, and as it hardens, it reinforces the nest rim and helps keep it from flooding.
#6. Greater Antillean Grackle
- Quiscalus niger
- Males are glossy black with a tail that resembles a rudder.
- Females are black as well but less glossy. Smaller tails than males.
- Yellow eyes.
Greater Antillean Grackles are often found near people in Cuba, hanging around hoping to receive leftover food! These bold birds can become surprisingly tame, even going into restaurants.
Just like other grackles, this species is highly gregarious. You will most likely never see a Greater Antillean Grackle alone.
#7. Turkey Vulture
- Cathartes aura
The Turkey Vulture is common in Cuba. Also called Turkey Buzzards, they are relatively easy to identify, as they are all black, with a bald red head and a pinkish bill. The name derives from their loose resemblance to a Wild Turkey.
Once you know what to look for, it’s easy to spot these vultures while they are flying. Look for a large raptor soaring in the sky making wobbly circles, whose wings are raised high enough to look like the letter “V.” It’s thought that this flying style helps them glide at low altitudes, which keeps them close to the ground to smell for food.
Look for these birds in Cuba wherever you can find dead animals.
Turkey Vultures use their highly developed sense of smell to locate carrion. Their sense of smell is so sensitive that they can detect dead meat from 8 miles (13 km) away. These birds actually prefer to eat fresh food, and they try to get to animals as quickly as possible after their death.
These birds are dark, and they absorb heat easily. To cool themselves off, they defecate on their legs to cool the blood and help them moderate their body temperature. Let’s just collectively say “Ewww!” and move on!
When these raptors are frightened, they can be so full of meat that they cannot rapidly fly away. In this case, you may see them projectile vomit what they’ve eaten to lose weight and escape. If they target the predator’s face, the material can be blinding. Bear in mind that even if they miss, they are vultures that are eating rotting meat, so just try to imagine the odor.
#8. Palm Warbler
- Setophaga palmarum
- Adults are 4.7 to 5.5 inches long and weigh 12 to 15 grams.
- The coloring is generally a mix of olive, yellow, and white but is varied between the eastern and western subspecies.
Look for Palm Warblers in Cuba in open, weedy fields with scattered trees and bushes.
Despite their varied appearance, Palm Warblers’ songs are similar across the continent: a loud, buzzy trilling noise.
#9. Cape May Warbler
- Setophaga tigrina
- Adults are 4.7 to 5.9 inches long and weigh 9 to 17 grams.
- Yellow, olive green, and brown with a red eye patch.
Look for these beautiful birds in Cuba during the winter months.
The reddish patch near the eye on males of the species is a sure sign you’ve seen a Cape May Warbler. On both male and female birds, look for a tiger-striped yellow belly and white bars on the black and yellow wings.
Their clear, high song sounds like “tsee-tsee-TSEE-TSEE,” starting soft and getting louder at the end.
#10. American Redstart
- Setophaga ruticilla
- Adults are 4.3 to 5.5 inches long and weigh an average of 8.6 grams.
- Males are black with bright red-orange patches on the tail, wings, and sides. The belly is white.
- Females are charcoal gray with a white belly and light yellow patches instead of red-orange.
The American Redstarts’ abundance and bright coloring make them one of the more easily spotted birds in Cuba!
This beautiful species is high-energy and constantly moving. American Redstarts use their bright coloring to hunt insects, flashing their tail feathers to startle them into flight. Once the insect takes off, the bird snatches it right out of the air! That’s one stylish way to “catch” a meal! 🙂
The American Redstart song is often compared to a sneeze, with a few short notes at the beginning and an abrupt, loud end: “ah-ah-ah-CHEW!”
#11. Green Heron
- Small heron with a long, dagger-like bill.
- Their back is gray-green. Head and neck are chestnut-brown, except for the green-black cap on the head.
- The neck is commonly drawn into their body.
This small wading bird is found in Cuba in any wet habitat that includes lots of vegetation, which provides places for them to stay hidden. You will most often see them foraging at dawn or dusk, as they prefer to stay out of sight during most of the day.
Green Herons are ambush predators and mainly eat fish, waiting patiently for a small one to swim by so they can snap it up with their long bill. Interestingly, these birds actually use tools to help them hunt! They will drop insects, feathers, or other items into the water, which entice small fish to come closer to investigate.
The first time I heard the “skeow” call of an alarmed Green Heron in the marsh behind my house, I had no idea what I heard because it was so unique. But luckily, these sounds are easy to learn, and now I can easily identify these herons when I’m visiting most wetlands.
#12. Cattle Egret
- Smaller heron with a yellow bill that often perches with its neck drawn in.
- Nonbreeding adults are entirely white with black legs.
- Breeding adults are white but have yellow legs and golden feathers on their head, back, and breast.
Cattle Egret Range Map
Cattle Egrets are a bit unique when compared to other wading birds in Cuba. Instead of spending their time near water, these birds typically live in fields, where they forage for invertebrates that have been kicked up at the feet of grazing livestock. It’s also common to see them looking for ticks on the backs of cattle!
Interestingly, Cattle Egrets are not native to North America. These herons are originally from Africa but found their way here in the 1950s and have since spread across the country. Their range keeps slowly expanding as people convert land for farming and livestock.
At any time of the year, listen for repeated, raspy “rick-rack” calls.
#13. Little Blue Heron
- Adults: Have a slate-gray body and a purple-maroon head and neck.
- Juveniles: During their first year, these herons are completely white!
- Look for a two-toned bill, regardless of the bird’s age, which is gray with a black tip.
Little Blue Herons are found in shallow wetlands in Cuba. They are patient hunters and will stay motionless for long periods of time, waiting for prey to pass by them. While waiting, they keep their daggerlike bill pointed downwards to be prepared for the moment a fish, amphibian, insect, or crustacean appears.
Little Blue Heron Range Map
As you can see above, juvenile Little Blue Herons look completely different than adults! It’s thought that these birds adapted this white plumage so they can be tolerated by Snowy Egrets, who catch more fish. Hanging out with large flocks of white herons also probably helps with avoiding predators. 🙂
Little Blue Herons are mostly silent, but it is possible to hear them squeaking when alarmed. They also emit various screams and croaks while nesting at a colony.
Which of these birds have you seen before in Cuba?
Leave a COMMENT below! 🙂