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Location Cuba, Matanzas
Central coordinates 81o 21.85' West  22o 19.06' North
IBA criteria A1, A2, A3, A4i
Area 530,695 ha
Altitude 0 - 5m
Year of IBA assessment 2008

Centro Nacional de Areas Protegidas (Affiliate)



Site description Embracing the entire Zapata Peninsula in southern Matanzas province, this IBA is the largest wetland in the Caribbean. It has extensive cave lake systems with spectacular blue holes, flooded caves and important water resources. The IBA also provides critical habitat in the form of forest, flooded palm savannas, open waterand salinas, reefs and mangroves. It has unique submerged marine terraces and coral reefs, valuable archaeological and paleontological sites, and a history of traditional use of natural resources in the surrounding rural communities.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Northern Bobwhite Colinus virginianus resident  2005  unknown  A1  Near Threatened 
West Indian Whistling-duck Dendrocygna arborea resident  2007  unknown  A1, A3  Vulnerable 
American Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber resident  1996  3,000 individuals  poor  A4i  Least Concern 
Gundlach's Hawk Accipiter gundlachi resident  2003  10 individuals  poor  A1, A3  Endangered 
Zapata Rail Cyanolimnas cerverai resident  1982  unknown  A1, A2, A3  Critically Endangered 
Black Rail Laterallus jamaicensis resident  2007  unknown  A1  Near Threatened 
Sandhill Crane Grus canadensis resident  1999  120 individuals  medium  A4i  Least Concern 
White-crowned Pigeon Patagioenas leucocephala resident  2005  unknown  A1  Near Threatened 
Plain Pigeon Patagioenas inornata resident  2007  unknown  A1, A3  Near Threatened 
Grey-headed Quail-dove Geotrygon caniceps resident  2007  unknown  A1, A3  Vulnerable 
Key West Quail-dove Geotrygon chrysia resident  2007  unknown  A3  Least Concern 
Blue-headed Quail-dove Starnoenas cyanocephala resident  2007  unknown  A1, A3  Endangered 
Cuban Parakeet Aratinga euops resident  2001  8 individuals  poor  A1, A3  Vulnerable 
Cuban Amazon Amazona leucocephala resident  2003  100 individuals  poor  A1, A3  Near Threatened 
Great Lizard-cuckoo Coccyzus merlini resident  2007  unknown  A3  Least Concern 
Bare-legged Owl Gymnoglaux lawrencii unknown  2007  unknown  A3  Least Concern 
Cuban Pygmy-owl Glaucidium siju resident  2007  unknown  A3  Least Concern 
Antillean Nighthawk Chordeiles gundlachii breeding  2006  unknown  A3  Least Concern 
Cuban Nightjar Caprimulgus cubanensis resident  2007  unknown  A3  Least Concern 
Antillean Palm-swift Tachornis phoenicobia resident  2007  unknown  A3  Least Concern 
Cuban Emerald Chlorostilbon ricordii resident  2007  unknown  A3  Least Concern 
Bee Hummingbird Mellisuga helenae resident  2007  unknown  A1, A3  Near Threatened 
Cuban Trogon Priotelus temnurus resident  2007  unknown  A3  Least Concern 
Cuban Tody Todus multicolor resident  2007  unknown  A3  Least Concern 
West Indian Woodpecker Melanerpes superciliaris resident  2006  unknown  A3  Least Concern 
Cuban Green Woodpecker Xiphidiopicus percussus resident  2007  unknown  A3  Least Concern 
Fernandina's Flicker Colaptes fernandinae resident  2005  150 breeding pairs  poor  A1, A3  Vulnerable 
Greater Antillean Pewee Contopus caribaeus resident  2007  unknown  A3  Least Concern 
Loggerhead Kingbird Tyrannus caudifasciatus resident  2007  unknown  A3  Least Concern 
Giant Kingbird Tyrannus cubensis resident  2007  unknown  A1, A3  Endangered 
La Sagra's Flycatcher Myiarchus sagrae resident  2007  unknown  A3  Least Concern 
Cuban Vireo Vireo gundlachii resident  2007  unknown  A3  Least Concern 
Cuban Crow Corvus nasicus resident  2005  unknown  A3  Least Concern 
Cuban Martin Progne cryptoleuca resident  2007  unknown  A3  Least Concern 
Zapata Wren Ferminia cerverai resident  2007  unknown  A1, A2, A3  Endangered 
Yellow-headed Warbler Teretistris fernandinae resident  2005  unknown  A2, A3  Least Concern 
Icterus dominicensis resident  2007  unknown  A3  Not Recognised 
Cuban Blackbird Dives atroviolaceus resident  2007  unknown  A3  Least Concern 
Red-shouldered Blackbird Agelaius assimilis resident  2003  4 individuals  poor  A2, A3  Least Concern 
Tawny-shouldered Blackbird Agelaius humeralis resident  2007  unknown  A3  Least Concern 
Greater Antillean Grackle Quiscalus niger resident  2007  unknown  A3  Least Concern 
Cuban Sparrow Torreornis inexpectata resident  2007  unknown  A1, A2, A3  Endangered 
Cuban Bullfinch Melopyrrha nigra resident  2007  unknown  A3  Least Concern 
Cuban Grassquit Tiaris canorus resident  2007  unknown  A3  Least Concern 
Painted Bunting Passerina ciris winter  2005  unknown  A1  Near Threatened 
Western Spindalis Spindalis zena resident  2007  unknown  A3  Least Concern 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Bermeja Wildlife Refuge 865 protected area contained by site 0  
Ciénaga de Zapata National Park 420,394 is identical to site 0  
Ciénaga de Zapata Protected Area of Managed Resources 647,868 is identical to site 0  
Ciénaga de Zapata UNESCO-MAB Biosphere Reserve 625,354 is identical to site 0  
Ciénaga de Zapata Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar) 452,000 is identical to site 0  
Los Sábalos Wildlife Refuge 3,242 protected area contained by site 0  

Habitats

IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Wetlands (inland) Freshwater marshes/swamps; Intertidal mud, sand or salt flats; Salt pans/salinas  70%
Sea Sea inlets  20%
Caves and subterranean habitats (non-aquatic)   -
Artificial - terrestrial Forestry and agro-industrial plantations; Rice paddies; Urban and industrial areas  20%
Introduced vegetation   -
Forest Flooded tropical evergreen forest; Mangrove; Tropical semi-deciduous forest  50%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
fisheries/aquaculture -
forestry -
nature conservation and research -
tourism/recreation -
urban/industrial/transport -

Other biodiversity The Endangered Cuban crocodile Crocodylus rhombifer, Vulnerable American crocodile C. acutus and Critically Endangered dwarf hutia Mesocapromys nanus occur. Globally threatened sea-turtles nest on the beaches, and the IBA supports the largest population of the endemic Endangered fish Atractosteus tristoechus, considered a living fossil.

Acknowledgements Authors: HIRAM GONZÁLEZ, ALEJANDRO LLANES, ARTURO KIRKCONNELL

Further web sources of information 

Site profile from Important Bird Areas in the Caribbean: key sites for conservation (BirdLife International 2008)

Contribute  Please click here to help BirdLife conserve the world's birds - your data for this IBA and others are vital for helping protect the environment.

Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Ciénaga de Zapata. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 13/07/2014

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife