What birders are not fascinated by Cuba? The palm trees, warm breezes, good food, intoxicating music, and baseball appeal to me, for sure, but there’s so much more.
There’s also the large number of birds that nest in North America and overwinter in or pass through Cuba — more than 100 of them, including a dozen or so warblers. (Contributing Editor Julie Craves described them in our December 2002 issue; you can see the list here.) And then there are the island’s 26 endemic species, special birds that can be found nowhere else on the planet. The bright green tody on our cover is one. Add to them 25 endemic subspecies, 22 species endemic to the West Indies region, and recent but unconfirmed reports of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, and you have the makings of one really interesting birding trip.
As you can read on page 16 and here on our site, Carrol L. Henderson, nongame wildlife program supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, led two successful trips to the island shortly before it was announced that relations between our country and Cuba would be normalized. His descriptions of the colorful birds he saw and the wonderful people he met will make you happy that long-shut doors are finally opening.
And I’m willing to bet that our articles by Danielle Harris and Rebecca Deatsman will make you happy, too. I write this because their subject, birding with children, is of crucial importance for the lasting conservation of birds, and because their outlook is decidedly optimistic.
Harris, an educator and writer from Oregon, goes so far as to refer to birding as a cure-all while cataloging the abundant benefits that accrue to kids who start early (page 22). Deatsman, a science writer and experienced environmental educator, provides class-trip-tested tips for sparking an interest in birds among young people. All that’s required, the writers agree, is an extra pair of binoculars and your own enthusiasm.
Chuck Hagner, editor