Black Solitary Eagle Buteogallus solitarius


Justification of Red List Category
This species has a moderately small population size which is likely to be declining owing to habitat loss and poaching. It is consequently classified as Near Threatened, but may be uplisted to Vulnerable based on further evidence of its population size and trends.

Population justification
There are no population density figures and rigorous national or global population estimates are lacking. Consequently, the global population has not been determined with precision. Ferguson-Lees and Christie (2001) stated that the population was most unlikely to exceed three figures, however even though the species occurs at low densities it has an extremely large range and this estimate seems implausibly low. The population is therefore preliminarily estimated to lie in the range 1,000-2,499 mature individuals. This equates to 1,500-3,749 individuals in total, rounded here to 1,500-4,000 individuals. The population in Colombia is estimated to number c.50 mature individuals (Renjifo et al. 2014) whilst the population in Venezuela was estimated to be 300-500 mature individuals and declining in 2015 (Sharpe and Lentino 2015).

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be in decline throughout its range (C. J. Sharpe in litt. 2016) owing to ongoing habitat destruction and unsustainable hunting.

Distribution and population

This species has a wide latitudinal distribution, from western Mexico to extreme north-west Argentina (with confirmed records in Nicaragua, Belize, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa RicaPanama, VenezuelaColombia, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia). There are no recent confirmed records from El Salvador, Guyana or Honduras (R. Phillips in litt. 2016). Despite its extensive distribution, it is generally rare and local (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001) and the population may not exceed 1,000 individuals (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001) although this estimate is probably too low due to the species's exceptionally low densities (R. Phillips in litt. 2020).


It is a primary forest obligate (C. J. Sharpe in litt. 2016) found in humid, densely wooded foothills and other tropical and subtropical premontane and humid montane forest in steep and hilly woodland, mostly between 600 and 2,200 m. It mainly feeds on reptiles, primarily snakes (Seminario et al. 2011, Phillips and Martinez 2012). Individuals have large home-ranges and require large tracts of habitat; observations in Belize suggest that home-ranges could exceed 100 km2 for foraging (R. Phillips in litt. 2020).


Serious threats include deforestation, disturbance and shooting. Forest within the range has been lost at a rate of 5% over three generations (26 years; Tracewski et al. 2016). Climate change impacts and related upslope range shifts are a threat to the species due to its high-elevation habitats (R. Phillips in litt. 2020).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
The Belize Raptor Research Institute (now the Belize Bird Conservancy) has been studying the species since 2008, investigating its ecology, breeding biology and habitat requirements in Belize and status across its distribution (Phillips et al. 2014, R. Phillips in litt. 2016, 2020). The species is considered nationally endangered in Mexico, as Critically Endangered in Belize and Colombia (Meerman 2005, Renjifo et al. 2014) and as Vulnerable in Venezuela (Sharpe and Lentino 2015). The species is included on the 'Watch List' of the State of North America's Birds as a species of high conservation concern (NABCI 2016).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Study its ability to persist in degraded and fragmented habitats. Survey and attempt to estimate global population and population trend. Assess potential impacts of climate change on the distribution range (R. Phillips in litt. 2020). Protect habitat with known occurrence, particularly nesting areas (R. Phillips in litt. 2020). Extend the protected areas network to include further core areas of remaining habitat.


Text account compilers
Hermes, C.

Ashpole, J, Benstead, P., Bird, J., Capper, D., Phillips, R., Sharpe, C.J., Sharpe, C J & Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Buteogallus solitarius. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 29/11/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 29/11/2021.