Justification of Red List Category
This species is classified as Critically Endangered because it has an extremely small known population, in areas where habitat loss is continuing rapidly. In addition, it occupies a small range in which forest is severely fragmented.
Recent survey work in Alagoas and Pernambuco states recorded 21 pairs and roughly estimated a total population of c.50 pairs or 100 mature individuals (F.V. Dénes in litt. 2007). It is placed in the band 50-249 mature individuals, equating to 75-374 individuals in total, rounded here to 70-400 individuals.
The species is suspected to be declining in line with indiscriminate forest clearance within its small range.
Leptodon forbesi occurs in north-east Brazil in Pernambuco, where it is known from the type specimen taken in 1882 (Bierregaard et al. 2015) and recent records from Água Azul, Barreiros, Trapiche, and the municipalities of São José da Coroa Grande, Gravatá, Sirinhaém, Rio Formoso, Timbaúba, Paulista, Bonito, São Vicente Férrer, and in the private reserve Frei Caneca in Jaqueira municipality (E.O. Willis in litt. 1999, Pereira et al. 2006, F.V. Dénes and L.F. Silveira in litt. 2007, Dénes 2009, G. Pereira in litt. 2010, Pereira et al. 2014); and Alagoas, where it has recently been recorded from São Miguel dos Campos, São José da Laje, Serra Grande, Roteiro, Iguatebara, Murici, Maceió, Pindoba, Junqueiro and Coruripe (Teixeira et al. 1987, Dénes 2009, F. V. Dénes and L. F. Silveira in litt. 2007, Pereira et al. 2014).
A pair was recorded in the south of Sergipe in 2010, near Estância, and there are recent documented records of this species in Conde, Santa Rita and João Pessoa, Paraíba (Sonntag 2010, 2011, 2012, Pereira et al. 2014). The fact that the species was recorded in southern Sergipe, outside the traditionally recognised Pernambuco centre of endemism, suggests that it might also be present in nearby northeastern Bahia (F.V. Dénes in litt. 2012). It was recorded from 12 sites surveyed in 2007 (Dénes 2009), with a total estimate of 21 pairs logged. However, as survey effort focused on a small fraction of all forest fragments the global population can conservatively be estimated at c.50 pairs (F.V. Dénes and L.F. Silveira in litt. 2007). The extent of habitat loss indicates that there must have been significant declines in both numbers and range. Forest cover has been reduced to less than 1% of its former distribution within this species's range. The largest remaining forest fragments in Pernambuco and Alagoas are 45 km2 and 30 km2 respectively, suggesting the species is in a precarious position. Despite the threat of habitat loss, recent records (Dénes 2009) suggest that the species's range has previously been underestimated (Bierregaard et al. 2015).
It apparently inhabits humid forest at elevations up to c. 600 m, but there are no data on its feeding ecology and very little information on breeding ecology (Teixeira et al. 1987, Bierregaard 1994, Parker et al. 1996). Displays have been recorded during October-January, with a nest found in April (Bierregaard et al. 2015).
There has been massive deforestation in coastal Alagoas and Pernambuco, with most suitable habitat cleared or threatened. The two key sites in Alagoas are both under severe threat, with forest at Murici covering 70 km2 in the 1970s, but less than 30 km2 in 1999 (J. M. Goerck in litt. 1999, 2000). Indiscriminate small-scale logging was still occurring at the site in 1992, and the area is further threatened by fires spreading from adjacent sugarcane plantations. Some forest persists at São Miguel dos Campos but it is still under pressure from logging and hunting (F.V. Dénes and L.F. Silveira in litt. 2007). The current condition of forest at Água Azul is unknown.
Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. Considered Endangered at the national level in Brazil (MMA 2014). A large area in Murici, Alagoas, is currently legally protected by the Brazilian government (F.V. Dénes and L.F. Silveira in litt. 2007). The species's strongholds are often on private reserves (L.F. Silveira in litt. 2012), like Murici Ecological Reserve and Frei Caneca Nature Reserve. In Pernambuco, the site where the species was sighted in São José da Coroa Grande municipality, and the site named Água Azul are well-protected, the former being surrounded by many small and medium-sized forest fragments (G. Pereira in litt. 2010). Surveys were conducted in Alagoas and Pernambuco states in 2007 and 2008 (Dénes et al. 2011, Seipke et al. 2011, F.V. Dénes and L.F. Silveira in litt. 2007). Local NGOs such as the IPMA (Instituto para a Preservação da Mata Atlântica) are working to create reserves in many privately-owned forest fragments in Alagoas and Pernambuco (F.V. Dénes and L.F. Silveira in litt. 2007).
Conservation Actions Proposed
Urgently survey all forest patches larger than 10 ha in Pernambuco, Alagoas and neighbouring states (Seipke 2008). Designate Murici as a biological reserve and ensure its de facto protection. Protect any remaining forest at São Miguel dos Campos. Conduct field and museum studies to clarify its taxonomic status including DNA analysis. Conduct additional surveys in forest fragments in Paraíba and Sergipe states to determine the species's occurrence therein, and in north-eastern Bahia, where it may also be present (L.F. Silveira and F.V. Dénes in litt. 2012). Conduct research into the impact of land-use change on the species (Pereira et al. 2014). Develop a captive-breeding programme (Pereira et al. 2014).
50 cm. Large, mostly bicoloured kite. Overall white head (pearl grey crown and sides of head hard to notice in the field). Blackish above with white feather tips on the mantle, scapulars, secondaries, and inner primaries. White below. White underwing-coverts and white leading edge of the wings are both very noticeable in the field and diagnostic. Tail ashy-white with black subterminal band and whitish tip. Some birds present two black bands in the undertail. Similar spp. Very similar to more widely distributed Grey-headed Kite Leptodon cayanensis from which differs on white head and leading edge to wings and white underwing coverts. Light-morph, juvenile L. cayanensis is browner above and has black crown (grey in intermediate stages of first pre-basic moult), and feathers in the upperside have dark tips. In White-necked Hawk Leucopternis lacernulatus primaries reach tail tip on perched birds. They soar in a strong dihedral and show a dark band on the trailing edge to the wings. Mantled Hawk Leucopternis polionotus has shorter tail almost completely white, and broader, more pointed wings show a noticeable white trailing edge. Ubiquitous Short-tailed Hawk Buteo brachyurus has pointed wings and multi-banded tail pattern. Wings reach tail tip in perched birds, and the sides of the head are slate-coloured. Voice A series of short kua-kua-kua-kua calls (approx. 4 per sec)
Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Bird, J., Butchart, S., Calvert, R., Capper, D., Sharpe, C J, Symes, A., Taylor, J., Khwaja, N., Martin, R & Ashpole, J
Develey, P., Dénes, F., Goerck, J., Silveira, L., Whitney, B. & Willis, E.
BirdLife International (2017) Species factsheet: Leptodon forbesi. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 19/10/2017. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2017) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 19/10/2017.