Zapata wren -- 扎巴鹪鹩 (Ferminia cerverai)

Zapata wren, side view
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Zapata wren fact file

Zapata wren description

GenusFerminia (1)

The Zapata wren is a small, energetic bird found only in a small region of swamps in western Cuba. The short wings make it a poor flier; instead the Zapata wren skulks about on long legs and is thus often hard to observe. The plumage is rather drab; brown and finely barred with black above and brownish-white below (2). The bill and tail are both fairly long, and when perched the tail usually points down, a position the male often takes up when singing his pleasant, loud, canary-like song. This begins with one to three sweet whistled introductory notes followed by a complex series of grating rattles and buzzes (3).

Length: 15.5 – 16 cm (2)

Zapata wren biology

With only five nests of the Zapata wren ever described, the breeding biology of this bird is poorly known. The nest is a ball of saw-grass leaves, about 14 centimetres across, with a side entrance and lined with feathers. It is situated a little way off the ground amongst saw-grass. The breeding season is thought to either be very long, or there may be two broods each year. Both sexes build the nest, whilst the female alone incubates at least two eggs (2). This energetic wren searches for food amongst low vegetation, or on the ground, where it scratches the terrain in search of prey (2). The Zapata wren has an extremely varied diet consisting of insects, spiders, lichen, seeds, slugs, snails, snail eggs, lizards and frogs (2) (3).


Zapata wren range

The Zapata wren is restricted to the Zapata Swamp, in west Cuba (2).


Zapata wren habitat

Occurs in swamps and marshes with extensive fields of saw-grass and scattered shrubs and bushes. The swamps have a variable water level and become flooded to a depth of 0.5 meters during the rainy season (2) (3).


Zapata wren status

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List 2006 (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered


Zapata wren threats

The Zapata wren has always been confined to a tiny area, which makes it particularly vulnerable to potential threats. At one point it was thought that the wren may be extinct, as searches in the area it was first discovered were unsuccessful at finding any individuals. This was probably because the area had suffered extensive burning, but fortunately, further expeditions which searched areas further afield were then successful in rediscovering the Zapata wren (2). The burning of grass continues to pose a threat to the Zapata wren, along with the drainage of wetlands in the region and the expansion of agriculture, which destroys suitable habitat. The Zapata wren may also suffer from predation by introduced mongooses and rats (2) (4).


Zapata wren conservation

There are a number of protected areas within the Zapata swamp, the main being Ciénaga de Zapata National Park, and the whole swamp has been declared an UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. However regulations in these areas are not always enforced (4). It has been proposed that surveys to determine the population size and range of the Zapata wren should be undertaken (4), and enforced protection of its habitat is likely to be greatly beneficial.

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

For further information on this species see:



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A tall sedge, (a grass-like plant), with spiny, serrated leaf blades. Found in coastal and marshy habitats in North America, Mexico and West Indies.


  1. IUCN Red List (January, 2007)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (2005) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 10: Cuckoo-Shrikes to Thrushes. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. Garrido, O.H. and Kirkconnell, A. (2000) Birds of Cuba. Christopher Helm Ltd, London.
  4. BirdLife International (June, 2007)

Image credit

Zapata wren, side view  
Zapata wren, side view

© Jon Hornbuckle

Jon Hornbuckle


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