Rufous Crab-hawk Buteogallus aequinoctialis


Justification of Red List Category
This species has been uplisted to Near Threatened as it is suspected to be undergoing moderately rapid declines owing to conversion and degradation of its coastal mangrove habitat. However, its population and trend remains poorly known, and better information may lead to further reclassification in future.

Population justification
The population has not been quantified but was estimated to be in the thousands assuming an average of 1 pair/km along a mostly linear distribution of c.6,000 km (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001).

Trend justification

This species is precautionarily suspected to be undergoing moderately rapid ongoing declines owing to loss of its mangrove habitat.

Distribution and population

Buteogallus aequinoctialis occurs from the Orinoco Delta, east Venezuela, along the north-east South American coast through Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana to Paraná, south Brazil (del Hoyo et al. 1994). It is apparently frequent to common throughout its range, except for in Trinidad, Trinidad and Tobago, where it is uncommon and local (Restall et al. 2006). In Brazil, the core distribution occurs from Maranhão (or perhaps Piauí) to Amapá, and it is apparently rare from Ceará to Paraná (A. de Luca in litt. 2013).


This species occurs in mangroves and other swampy areas, feeding on crabs (del Hoyo et al. 1994).


The primary threat to this species is accelerating deforestation in the Amazon Basin, and it is projected to lose well over 50% of its known habitat (Soares-Filho et al. 2006, Bird et al. 2011). The area of mangrove habitat in range states along the north-east coast of South America was estimated to have declined by over half during 1980-2000 (Wilkie and Fortuna 2003). However, it is quite tolerant of habitat degradation and occurs in suburban mangrove swamps in Pará, Brazil (A. C. Lees in litt. 2011). Threats to mangroves include development for housing, conversion to shrimp farms and cutting for timber (A de Luca in litt. 2013). In French Guiana there has been little pressure on mangroves owing to their inaccessibility (N. de Pracontal in litt. 2010), while in Brazil loss of mangroves along the coasts of Para and Maranhao has not been extensive (net loss during of 19 km2, or 3.2%, in 1972-1997, Menezes et al. 2008 per A. C. Lees in litt. 2011). In Rio Grande do Norte however, there has been extensive conversion of mangroves to shrimp farming, and only one pair has been noted recently (Grupo Ornitológico Potiguar in litt. 2010).

Conservation actions

Conservation actions and research underway
No specific action is known. Mangroves are under considered as APPs (Permanent Protected Areas) under the new Brazilian Forest Code, however there are loopholes that potentially allow their exploitation (P. Develey in litt. 2013).

Conservation actions and research proposed
Conduct repeat surveys across its range to clarify population size and magnitude of declines. Campaign for the protection of remaining tracts of coastal mangrove throughout its range.


Sooty black with fuscous wings and rufous underparts; yellow-orange legs; short black tail with narrow white band in middle and narrow white tip; rufous edging to wings and back. Similar spp. B. meridionalis, which differs in size, head and throat plumage, and range extent.


Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Harding, M., Khwaja, N. & Symes, A.

Lees, A., Pracontal, N., Develey, P. & De Luca, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Buteogallus aequinoctialis. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 28/03/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 28/03/2023.