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Cuban Kite Chondrohierax wilsonii
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This species has declined rapidly and now has an extremely small population, confined to a single area. There is a continuing decline in numbers and hence it qualifies as Critically 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.

Taxonomic note
Chondrohierax uncinatus (Sibley and Monroe 1990, 1993) has been split into C. uncinatus and C. wilsonii following Stotz et al. (1996), contra AOU (1998). Although AOU (1998), along with most other authorities, treat w

38-43 cm. Stocky kite with massive yellow bill. Male dark grey above, whitish barred grey and rufous below, grey tail with three black bars and pale tip. Female brown above, coarsely barred rufous below. Immature black above, white below extending onto hindneck. In all plumages distinctive oval wing shape and barred underwings. Similar spp. Broad-winged Hawk Buteo platypterus has shorter tail and unbarred underwings. Voice Undocumented.

Distribution and population
Chondrohierax wilsonii was formerly fairly widespread on Cuba, but is now confined to a tiny area in the east of the island between Moa and Baracoa, and possibly other parts of Holguín and Guantánamo provinces (A. Mitchell in litt. 1998, Raffaele et al. 1998). It is Cuba's rarest raptor and is apparently on the verge of extinction (Gálvez-Aguilera and Berovides-Alvarez 1997, Raffaele et al. 1998). The only sightings of the past 40 years are of 1 - 3 birds seen on a handful of occasions in Holguin and Guantánamo provinces, the most recent of which were two flying birds in Humboldt National Park in May 2010 (Kirkconnell and Begue 2010).

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 50-249 mature 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 75-374 individuals in total, rounded here to 70-400 individuals.

Trend justification
The species is suspected to be declining owing to the reduction of its prey base, destruction of habitat and lack of formal protection.

It is now confined to montane gallery forest (Gálvez-Aguilera and Berovides-Alvarez 1997), where it feeds chiefly on tree snails Polymita and slugs in the understorey (Raffaele et al. 1998). Historically, it inhabited xerophytic vegetation and montane forest (Gálvez-Aguilera and Berovides-Alvarez 1997).

The decline is mainly attributed to habitat destruction and alteration caused by logging and agricultural conversion. Farmers persecute the species because they (mistakenly) believe that it preys on poultry (Gálvez-Aguilera and Berovides-Alvarez 1997, Raffaele et al. 1998). Harvesting has apparently reduced numbers of tree snails, and thereby food availability (Gálvez-Aguilera and Berovides-Alvarez 1997, Raffaele et al. 1998).

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. A project to improve land protection, determine the number of individuals in the study area and surroundings, improve ecological knowledge and increase national and local awareness commenced in 2010 (A. Kirkconnell in litt. 2012). Activities were to include surveys, increasing the limits of the national park to include kite habitat, reintroducing native snails (food source for the kite), control of local pig population and talks with the community to prevent hunting and wood cutting (BirdLife International unpublished data). Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey to assess distribution and population (A. Mitchell in litt. 1998). Effectively protect remaining habitat (Gálvez-Aguilera and Berovides-Alvarez 1997). Protect tree snails (Gálvez-Aguilera and Berovides-Alvarez 1997). Conduct public awareness and education campaigns to help prevent persecution of the species (Gálvez-Aguilera and Berovides-Alvarez 1997). Protect the species under Cuban law (A. Mitchell in litt. 1998).

Related state of the world's birds case studies

AOU. 1998. Check-list of North American birds. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.

Gálvez-Aguilera, X.; Berovides-Alvarez, V. 1997. The status of the Cuban Kite (Chondrohierax wilsonii) in eastern Cuba. Pitirre 10: 25.

Johnson, J. A., Thorstrom, R. and Mindell, D. P. 2007. Systematics and conservation of the hook billed kite including the island taxa from Cuba and Grenada. Animal Conservation 10(3): 349-359.

Kirkconnell, A. and Begue, G. 2010. Inform to Birdlife about the Cuban Kite Expedition conducted in May, 2010.

Raffaele, H.; Wiley, J.; Garrido, O.; Keith, A.; Raffaele, J. 1998. Birds of the West Indies. Christopher Helm, London.

Further web sources of information
Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) species/site profile. This species has been identified as an AZE trigger due to its IUCN Red List status and limited range.

Click here for more information about the Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE)

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

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

Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Bird, J., Butchart, S., Isherwood, I., Sharpe, C J, Symes, A., Wege, D. & Martin, R

Mitchell, A. & Kirkconnell, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Chondrohierax wilsonii. Downloaded from on 26/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 26/10/2016.

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.

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Critically Endangered
Family Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles)
Species name author (Cassin, 1847)
Population size 50-249 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 3,900 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species