Socotra Buzzard Buteo socotraensis


Justification of Red List Category
This species qualifies as Vulnerable because its population is estimated to be very small. It is also suspected of undergoing a slow population decline; the falconry trade of the species is increasing, and if there is evidence that the population is undergoing significant declines as a result, it may require reassessment in the future.  

Population justification
Surveys carried out between 1999 and 2008 suggest that the population numbers fewer than 250 pairs (Porter and Suleiman 2014), thus there are probably fewer than 500 mature individuals. It is placed in the band 380-750 individuals in total, with a mature population likely numbering between 250-500.

Trend justification
The species faces a number of threats including capture for the falconry trade (Porter and Kirwan 2010), which is resurging following the limited implementation of wildlife laws due to the civil war and related conflict (A. Saeed Suleiman and K. Van Damme in litt. 2020), road construction, wood collection, overgrazing, and impacts from climate change on habitat (A. Saeed Suleiman and K. Van Damme in litt. 2016). As such, the population is suspected of declining, although the exact rate has not been determined. 

Distribution and population

This species was recently described, having been first collected in 1899, and has been assigned to species rank (Porter and Kirwan 2010). It is endemic to the island of Socotra, Yemen. Surveys carried out between 1999 and 2008 suggest that the population numbers fewer than 250 pairs, thus there are probably fewer than 500 mature individuals. There are insufficient data available to establish whether the species's status or population have changed significantly since the first ornithological visits to Socotra in the 1880s (Porter and Kirwan 2010), although a decline is suspected on account of ongoing threats.


The species is a resident of foothills and plateaus, usually where there are deep ravines, from sea-level to at least 1,370 m, but is most common at 150-800 m (Porter and Kirwan 2010). It is likely to require steep cliffs for nesting. Its diet almost certainly consists exclusively of reptiles, invertebrates and perhaps nestlings. Breeding takes place between September and May. Nests are constructed with twigs and located on a cliff-ledge or crevice, and are sometimes supported by vegetation. Recorded broods have usually numbered one to two nestlings, but one pair is recorded to have fledged three young (Porter and Kirwan 2010).


Young birds are taken from nests in the mistaken belief that they can be sold into the falconry trade whilst adults are captured and sold; however, it is not known whether this has a significant impact on the species (Porter and Kirwan 2010). The practice has however resurged in recent years (A. Saeed Suleiman and K. Van Damme in litt. 2020). The population may be limited by competition for nesting sites from other native cliff-nesting species, such as Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus, Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus and Brown-necked Raven Corvus ruficollis (Porter and Kirwan 2010). The species's habitat is threatened by road construction, removal of trees and overgrazing (A. Saeed Suleiman in litt. 2016). Pesticides and insecticides may also pose a threat by reducing prey numbers (A. Saeed Suleiman in litt. 2016, K. Van Damme in litt. 2020); the use of these chemicals are also increasing on the island (K. Van Damme in litt. 2020). Climate change and extreme weather events (such as cyclones) may also be impacting the island's vegetation negatively (K. Van Damme in litt. 2020).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
Following a Zoning Plan by the government of Yemen in 2000, c.75% of the island is protected in national parks and nature reserves (Porter and Kirwan 2010). The species's habitats are thus in theory well protected; no additional targeted actions are known. Eleven out of 21 identified IBAs on the island of Socotra hold breeding adults of this species (Porter and Suleiman 2016). The introduced House Crow Corvus splendens was successfully eradicated from Socotra in 2009 after its accidental introduction in 1994 (Suleiman and Taleb 2010). Further introductions of House Crow in 2015 were successfully eradicated (A. Saeed Suleiman in litt. 2016).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Carry out surveys to confirm the population size and review its status on the 11 IBAs that hold breeding populations (Porter and Suleiman 2016). Monitor population trends. Study the impacts of potential threats, especially the removal of young birds from nests and capturing of adults. Assess severity of climate change impacts (loss of vegetation due to cyclones) and the use of chemicals on the main habitats of the species (K. Van Damme in litt. 2020). Discourage nest-raiding for the falconry trade (Porter and Kirwan 2010) through education campaigns. Enforce laws against the removal of biological material from the island, thereby reducing nest-raiding (Porter and Kirwan 2010). Ensure adequate management of existing protected areas on Socotra (Porter and Kirwan 2010). Ensure implementation of the zoning plan and enforce controls on the introduction of non-native species (A. Saeed Suleiman in litt. 2016).


45 cm. Typical Old World Buteo species, which soars on wings raised in shallow 'V'; slightly smaller than 'Steppe' Buzzard Buteo buteo vulpinus (Porter and Aspinall 2010). Adult buffish-white below with fine brown streaking on the throat and heavier streaking on the breast, belly, flanks and thighs. Some birds have a white throat and upper breast. Underwing coverts are warm brown, streaked and chequered dark brown, most intensely on the greater coverts. It has a distinctive large brown carpal patch. Underside of tail dirty white, often with slight gingery hue. Uppertail pale greyish, narrowly barred. Outer primaries have pale bases above. Juvenile differs in having a warm buff suffusion to the breast, thighs and wing coverts, and less extensive brown streaking; also the greater coverts are coarsely streaked brown, creating a diffuse band extending to a narrow dark surround to the carpal patch. Upperwing coverts show orange-buff fringes to wing coverts; there is also an orange-buff suffusion to the cheeks, supercilium and nape. In flight, juveniles lack the pale panel at the base of the primaries. Similar spp Along with the above description, note that 'Steppe' Buzzard is very rare on Socotra (Porter and Kirwan 2010) Voice High mewing peeeoo (Porter and Aspinall 2010).


Text account compilers
Fernando, E.

Ashpole, J, Martin, R., Porter, R., Saeed Suleiman, A., Symes, A., Taylor, J. & Van Damme, K.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Buteo socotraensis. Downloaded from on 31/03/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 31/03/2023.