Southeastern Cuba: a unique bird habitat

Arturo Kirkconnell

The main goals of the southeastern Cuba Project are to rediscover the Cuban kite (Chondrohierax wilsonii) and the Cuban parauque (Siphonorhis daiquiri); to estimate the population size and distribution of the Cuban sparrow (Torreonis inexpectata), Gundlach's hawk (Accipiter gundlachi), the bee hummingbird (Calypte helenae), and the Cuban gnatcather (Polioptila lembeyei) in southeastern Cuba; and to improve the protected areas network. The main problems in this area are insufficient resources and conservation funding, a lack of well-trained field conservation personnel, limited knowledge of species distributions, and few priority sites for species in need of conservation. The team will survey in the southeastern region, the only previously known habitat for the rarest birds, by establishing several transects two-kilometres long where the topography permits. Mist-nets will be set up to take information about plumage pattern, molt, and weight. The expected outcomes are an increased knowledge of the natural history of birds; estimates of population sizes; clarified status and distribution information; resources/infrastructure established to enable Important Bird Area programs to develop throughout Cuba and the Caribbean; increased funding for bird conservation; and a secured long-term benefit to ornithology and conservation. Priority sites for species of conservation concern in the southeastern Guantánamo region will be identified for protection.