Cuban Kite Chondrohierax wilsonii


Justification of Red List Category
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.

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.

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, Garrido and Kirkconnell 2000). 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).


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

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 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).


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.


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

Mitchell, A. & Kirkconnell, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2017) Species factsheet: Chondrohierax wilsonii. Downloaded from on 25/11/2017. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2017) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 25/11/2017.