Cuban Black Hawk Buteogallus gundlachii


Justification of Red List Category
This species has been classified as Near Threatened. Although it can be locally common, the population is thought to be small. Due to its specialised habitat requirements, the species suspected to be suffering from the destruction and degradation of wetlands within its range.

Population justification
The population of Cuban Black Hawk is estimated at less than 2,500 mature individuals and declining (González Alonso et al. 2012); hence it is here placed in the band 1,000-2,499 mature individuals.

Trend justification
There are no quantitative data on population trends, but a slow to moderate and ongoing decline is suspected based on the intensity of drainage and wetland reclamation. Tracewski et al. (2016) measured the forest loss within the species’s range between 2000 and 2012 as c. 47 km2. This roughly equates to a rate of forest loss of 2.2% over three generation (22.8 years) for the species. Given that Cuban Black Hawk occupies both mangrove forest and open savannah (del Hoyo et al. 2019), forest loss may not drive a significant population decline.

Distribution and population

Cuban Black Hawk is endemic to Cuba and several offshore islets and cays. In general, the species is uncommon and localised, but can be quite common in areas of optimal habitat, such as in the northern cays (Romano, Paredon Grande, Coco) and in the Zapata Swamp (Wiley and Garrido 2005, A. Mitchell in litt. 2007).


Cuban Black Hawk has specialized habitat requirements. It occurs near the coast, where it inhabits mangrove forests, swamps and palm savannah. Occasionally, the species is found on sandy or rocky beaches (González Alonso et al. 2012, del Hoyo et al. 2019). It feeds predominantly on crabs, reptiles, and small birds and mammals (González Alonso et al. 2012). The reproductive period lasts from January to July (González Alonso et al. 2012).


The species is threatened by draining and degradation of wetlands (Wiley and Garrido 2005). Further threats include deforestation, urbanization, infrastructural developments for tourism and water pollution (González Alonso et al. 2012).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
More than 70% of the species's known distribution is covered by protected areas, though these differ in the level of protection.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey to assess population size. Identify breeding sites. Regularly monitor at certain sites throughout its range to determine population trends. Monitor trends in destruction of suitable habitat. Assess the impact of infrastructural developments on the population density and reproductive success. Protect significant areas of suitable habitat, particularly in its strongholds and nesting sites. Establish environmental education programmes to raise awareness for the species.


Identification. Brown-black; yellow-orange cere and legs; short tail with broad white band in middle and narrow white tip; white patch at the base of primaries. Similar species. B. anthracinus which differs in size, plumage colouration and voice.


Text account compilers
Sharpe, C.J., Hermes, C., Mahood, S.

Mitchell, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Buteogallus gundlachii. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 27/06/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 27/06/2022.