Gundlach's Hawk Accipiter gundlachi


Justification of Red List Category
This species is considered Endangered owing to its very small and severely fragmented population, which has continued to decline until very recently. Trends appear to have stabilised or even reversed over the last five years, and if this is confirmed the species may warrant downlisting to Vulnerable in the future.

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 350-450 pairs, based on surveys (A. Kirkconnell in litt. 2016), equivalent to 1,050-1,350 individuals (rounded here to 1,100-1,400 individuals) and 700-900 mature individuals.

Trend justification
The species is suspected to still be slowly declining, owing mainly to habitat loss and persecution. However, recently trends appear to have stabilised or even reversed, with more frequent sightings over a five-year period (A. Kirkconnell in litt. 2012).  Further work is needed to confirm these trends.

Distribution and population

The species has never been common, but formerly occurred throughout Cuba. It is now very rare and local, with five main population centres known to remain. Most populations of Gundlach's Hawk are located in eastern Cuba with about 44% of suitable habitat for the species, followed by the central region with 32% and Western with 24% (Rodriguez Santana 2008). There are three centres for the nominate race in west and central Cuba, but two of these held only three and 20 pairs respectively in 1994. There are two further areas important for the race wileyi in the east of the island, where the bulk of the population resides. Sightings around Pico Turquino are scarce, but a bird was seen on the north slopes of the Sierra Maestra in early 1999 (Rompré et al. 2000). The current potential distribution of the Gundlach's Hawk covers c. 22,620 km2, which represents 22% of its original distribution (Rodriguez Santana & Viña Davila 2012).


It is found up to 800 m in a variety of wooded habitats including humid, dry and pine forests (Bierregaard 1994a). It preys mostly on birds, including poultry. The breeding season is December-May (Ferrer-Sánchez & Rodríguez-Estrella 2014), with up to four young fledging by June (Bierregaard 1994a, A. Kirkconnell in litt. 1999, Rodriguez Santana & Viña Davila, 2012). The nest is generally placed close to the trunk of a high tree, but below the canopy.


Agriculture, hunting, habitat fragmentation, habitat loss, deforestation, mining and fire are threats to this species (A. Kirkconnell in litt. 2016). There are records of young being taken from the wild for trade (Bierregaard et al. 2014). The size of remaining forest patches in most territories does not seem to be sufficient to ensure the presence of isolated populations (Rodríguez-Santana, 2008).

Conservation actions

Conservation and Research Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. Populations occur within 22 Protected Areas (A. Kirkconnell in litt. 2016), including the Sierra Maestra and Sierra del Cristal National Parks. Environmental education has grown in Cuba in recent years (A. Kirkconnell in litt. 2012).

Conservation and Research Actions Proposed Survey Pinar del Río province and the Zapata swamp, and re-survey areas in eastern Cuba to determine current populations and assess trends. Conduct censuses of the species during the breeding season to determine the breeding range of the species and to identify sites to protect. Protect nesting sites and areas of suitable habitat where the species has historically nested. Further define the species's ecological requirements. Conduct education and public awareness campaigns to highlight the plight of the bird and discourage human persecution (A. Mitchell in litt. 1998).  Provide compensation to farmers who lose poultry to Gundlach's Hawks. It is urgent to establish a conservation program particularly focused on this species (Ferrer-Sánchez & Rodríguez-Estrella, 2016).

The Gundlach’s Hawk has lost 80% of its suitable habitat in the entire island and the size of the remaining forest patches in most territories does not seem to be sufficient to ensure the presence of isolated populations (Rodríguez-Santana, 2008). Thus, if endemic species are to be preserved, conservation strategies should be directed towards maintaining natural areas as their populations’ recovery depends on the existence of natural areas with little disturbance. Therefore, it is urgent to establish a conservation program particularly focused on this species (Ferrer-Sánchez & Rodríguez-Estrella, 2016).


43-51 cm. Medium-sized, stocky forest raptor. Adult, dark blue-grey upperparts with blackish cap, and barred rufous underparts. Immature, brown above, paler below, but with dark streaking. Rounded tail in flight. Similar spp. Sharp-shinned Hawk A. striatus is smaller and has squared tail in flight. Broad-winged Hawk Buteo platypterus is broader-winged and -tailed, and chunkier. Voice Loud kek-kek-kek ....


Text account compilers
Mahood, S., Sharpe, C J, Wege, D., Khwaja, N., Isherwood, I., Ashpole, J, Wheatley, H., Benstead, P.

Mitchell, A., Rodríguez-Estrella, R., Kirkconnell, A., Ferrer-Sanchez, Y.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Accipiter gundlachi. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 13/08/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 13/08/2022.