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Cuban Kite
Chondrohierax wilsonii

Status: Critically endangered

Population Trend: Declining.

Other Names: Cuban Hook-billed Kite, Wilson's Kite.

Chondrohierax wilsonii
click to enlarge
Distribution: Neotropical. Endemic to eastern CUBA (Santiago de Cuba, Guantánamo). more....

Subspecies: Monotypic.

Taxonomy: Regarded as a distinct species until Amadon (1960) argued that this population should be treated as a race of C. uncinatus, and various authorities (Amadon and Bull 1988, Bierregaard 1994, AOU 1998, Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2000) subsequently afforded it only subspecies status. Others, including Raffaele et al. (1998), continued to treat it as a full species. A mitachondrial DNA study by Johnson et al. (2007) showed a large amount of divergence between this taxon and the mainland Hook-billed Kite and supports species status for the Cuban population. Based on their estimates, the Cuban Kite population has been separated from the mainland populations since the Mid-Pleistocene (400,000-1,25 million years). Probably reflecting founder effects and the small effective population size, the Cuban population shows little of the extreme variability in bill size and plumage coloration that characterizes mainland Hook-billed Kites.

Movements: Non-migratory (Bildstein 2006).

Habitat and Habits: Occurs in tall trees of forests bordering rivers below 500 m (Garrido and Garcia Montaña 1975). Formerly occurred in more xeric habitats in other parts of Cuba, including the Zapata Peninsula.

Food and Feeding Behavior: Feeds on colorful tree snails (Polymita picta and possibly Ligus spp.) and slugs in the forest understory (Bond 1936, Stresemann 1940, Garrido 1985, Wotzkow 1985). Regalado (1980) also stated that it feeds on snails of the genera Caracolus and Polydonte in areas where Polymita is absent. It extracts the snails by piercing the shell with its bill and removing the animal through the hole (Raffaele et al. 1998).

Breeding: The nesting habits are undescribed.

Conservation: Until recently, it was suspected that this species might be extinct, as Garrido and Kirkconnell (2000), knew of only three reliable sightings in the last 30 years, the last being in 1992. However, news was just released of a kite photographed by Ernesto Reyes in 2004 in Humboldt Park in Guantanamo Province in eastern Cuba. Several subsequent surveys by Reyes, Nils Navarro, and Gerardo Bague verified the presence of at least two birds (Petersen 2010). More photographs were obtained and detailed notes were made on vocalizations and food items (three species of snails) consumed by the birds. There are plans to conduct further surveys in the area to determine the size and status of the Cuban Kite population. more....

Population Estimates: The size of the extant population is unknown, as only two individuals have been confirmed since 2004 (Petersen 2010).

Important References: 
Amadon, D. 1960. Notes on the genus Chondrohierax. Novedades Columbianas
Bierregaard, R.O. 1994. Hook-billed Kite. P. 109 in del Hoyo, J., A.
  Elliott, and J. Sargatal (eds). Handbook of birds of the world. Vol. 2. New
  World vultures to guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Bond, J. 1936. Birds of the West Indies. The Academy of Natural Sciences
  of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA.
Bond, J. 1956. Check-list of birds of the West Indies. The Academy of
  Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA.
Friedmann, H. 1934. The hawks of the genus Chondrohierax. Journal of the
  Washington Academy of Sciences 24:310-318.
Friedmann, H. 1950. The birds of North and Middle America. Part XI. U.S.
  National Museum Bulletin 50.
Garrido, O.H. 1976. [Notes about food habits of the Cuban Kite (Aves:
  Accipitridae).] Miscelanea Zoológica, ACC 3:1.
Garrido, O.H. 1985. Cuban endangered birds. Pp. 992-999 in P.A. Buckley,
  M.S. Foster, E.S. Morton, R.S. Ridgely, and F.G. Buckley (eds.), Neotropical
  ornithology. Ornithological Monographs no. 36. American Ornithologists'
  Union, Washington, D.C.
Garrido, O., and A. Kirkconnell. 2000. A field guide to the birds of Cuba.
  Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY.
Johnson, J.A., R. Thorstrom, and D.P. Mindell. 2007. Systematics and
  conservation of the Hook-billed Kite including the island taxa from Cuba and
  Grenada. Animal Conservation 10:349-359.
Petersen, B. 2010. Cuban Kite discovery. Birding 42:23.
Raffaele, H.,
  J. Wiley, O. Garrido, A. Keith, and J. Raffaele. 1998. A guide to the birds
  of the West Indies. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.
Rodríguez Santana, F. 2004. The order Falconiformes in Cuba: status,
  distribution, migration and conservation. Pp. 835-844 in R.D. Chancellor and
  B.-U. Meyburg (eds.), Raptors worldwide. World Working Group on
  Birds of Prey/MME BirdLife Hungary, Berlin and Budapest.
Wotzkow, C. 1994. Status, distribution, current research and conservation
  of forest birds of prey in Cuba. Pp. 291-299 in B.-U. Meyburg and R.D.
  Chancellor (eds.), Raptor conservation today. World Working Group on Birds
  of Prey, Berlin, and Pica Press, London.

Johnson, Jeff A.
Rodríguez Santana, Freddy

Last modified: 9/30/2010

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2020. Species account: Cuban Kite Chondrohierax wilsonii. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 31 May. 2020

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