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Blue-headed Quail-dove Starnoenas cyanocephala
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This species is extremely rare and has a very small population with extremely small subpopulations, and numbers are continuing to decline in response to hunting and habitat loss. For these reasons the species is classified as Endangered.

Taxonomic source(s)
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

30-33 cm. Stunningly marked, large quail-dove. Cinnamon-brown with spectacular head and throat marking. Blue crown, black eye-stripe and white facial stripe, black gorget bordered narrowly white below and bluish mottling on sides of throat. Voice Distinctive, two phrase call uuu-up, uuu-up, last note of each rising and ending abruptly. Hints Shy, but often in areas with ample leaf-litter.

Distribution and population
Starnoenas cyanocephala is endemic to Cuba, where it was once common and widespread from Pinar del Río across to Guantánamo. It is now rare almost everywhere, and virtually extinct on the Isla de la Juventud and Isla de Pinos (A. Kirkconnell in litt. 1999). In the late 1980s, reasonable numbers were reported only from Zapata Swamp, and a more recent study found good numbers in the lowlands around Zapata, with another smaller, but significant, population in the mountains at La Güira in Pinar del Río province and another on Guanahacabibes peninsular (Wells and Mitchell 1995). Small numbers are also known or presumed to persist in several additional areas throughout the country (A. Mitchell in litt. 1998).

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 1,000-2,499 individuals based on an assessment of known records, descriptions of abundance and range size. This is consistent with recorded population density estimates for congeners or close relatives with a similar body size, and the fact that only a proportion of the estimated Extent of Occurrence is likely to be occupied. This estimate is equivalent to 667-1,666 mature individuals, rounded here to 600-1,700 mature individuals. However, Leavelle (2008) recently estimated a much higher density than that used in these calculations, and so the population estimate may be revised upwards.

Trend justification
There are no new data on trends, but the species is suspected to be declining at a slow or moderate rate, owing to excessive hunting, and habitat loss and degradation.

This species occurs in the undergrowth of lowland forest including swampy areas, and occasionally in highland forest. It forages for seeds, berries and snails on the ground in dense forest and occasionally on forest tracks. It is generally found in pairs, but larger congregations have been recorded, with 18 birds at a water hole during the 1995 dry season (A. Mitchell in litt. 1998). Breeding takes place mainly between April and June, with nests placed on or close to the ground, often amongst tree roots or in stump cavities (A. Mitchell in litt. 1998), or higher up on a horizontal branch 2.5-8 m above the ground (Leavelle 2008, Kirkconnell and González 2008).

The combined and chronic effects of excessive hunting and habitat destruction have produced a large-scale decline. It has always been regarded as excellent eating, and is still trapped illegally using drop-traps baited with orange seeds (A. Mitchell in litt. 1998). Hurricanes may significantly affect the species by felling large areas of forest, such as happened in Zapata Swamp in 1996 (A. Mitchell in litt. 1998).

Conservation Actions Underway
It is protected under national law and in the Zapata Swamp, but neither is enforced and hunting continues (A. Mitchell in litt. 1998). The only known highland population is protected within La Güira National Park (A. Mitchell in litt. 1998). Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey areas outside known sites, where the species may persist (A. Mitchell in litt. 1998). Immediately protect any populations discovered during these surveys. Conduct public awareness and education campaigns to highlight the plight of the species and reduce hunting pressure (A. Mitchell in litt. 1998). Enforce the protection afforded by protected areas.

BirdLife International. 2000. Threatened birds of the world. Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, Barcelona and Cambridge.

Collar, N. J.; Gonzaga, L. P.; Krabbe, N.; Madroño Nieto, A.; Naranjo, L. G.; Parker, T. A.; Wege, D. C. 1992. Threatened birds of the Americas: the ICBP/IUCN Red Data Book. International Council for Bird Preservation, Cambridge, U.K.

Garrido, O. H.; Kirkconnell, A. 2000. Field guide to the birds of Cuba. Comstock / Cornell University Press, Ithaca.

Kirkconnell, A.; González, O. 2008. The nest of a rare Cuban endemic, Blue-headed Quail-dove Starnoenas cyanocephala. Cotinga: 79-80.

Leavelle, K. M. 2008. Occupancy and associated habitat characteristics, fruit preferences, and nesting behaviors of the Blue-headed Quail-dove (Starnoenas cyanocephala) of cuba. The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska, University of Nebraska.

Wells, L.; Mitchell, A. 1995. The threatened birds of Cuba project.

Further web sources of information
Detailed species account from the Threatened birds of the Americas: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 1992). Please note taxonomic treatment and IUCN Red List category may have changed since publication.

Detailed species account from the Threatened birds of the Americas: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 1992). Please note, taxonomic treatment and IUCN Red List category may have changed since publication.

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Recuento detallado de la especie tomado del libro Aves Amenazadas de las Americas, Libro Rojo de BirdLife International (BirdLife International 1992). Nota: la taxonomoía y la categoría de la Lista Roja de la UICN pudo haber cambiado desde esta publicación.

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Isherwood, I., Mahood, S., Pilgrim, J., Sharpe, C J, Wege, D.

Kirkconnell, A., Mitchell, A.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Starnoenas cyanocephala. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

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

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Blue-headed quail-dove (Starnoenas cyanocephala) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Endangered
Family Columbidae (Pigeons, Doves)
Species name author (Linnaeus, 1758)
Population size 600-1700 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 28,500 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species