Gundlach’s Hawk
Accipiter gundlachi

Accipitriformes Order – Accipitridae Family

The Gundlach’s Hawk is endemic to Cuba where it is very rare. It frequents a variety of wooded habitats up to 800 metres of elevation. Like most Cuban endemic bird species, it is threatened by habitat loss and human persecution.
The Cooper’s Hawk and the Gundlach’s Hawk belong to the same superspecies, with probably the Bicolored Hawk of C and S America. Reynold and al. (1987) concluded that the Gundlach’s Hawk is a valid species that belongs to the “cooperii” and “bicolor” assemblage, and that this raptor has been present in Cuba for a very long period. The three forms have probably evolved from several tropical American hawks of genus Accipiter.   

Length: 40-46 cm
Wingspan: 74-84 cm
Weight of the female: 675 g. She is 7/11% larger than male.

The Gundlach’s Hawk has fairly short, rounded wings and long, narrow tail rounded at tip.
The adult has dark grey upperparts with darker, blackish cap. The long tail shows conspicuous pale and dark grey barring.
On the underparts, breast and cheeks are grey. Flanks and undertail-coverts are greyish-white, contrasting with the rufous-brown belly and thighs that show fine, dark grey barring.
The bill is grey with paler cere. The eyes are deep orange-red. Legs and feet are yellow.

The female has similar plumage, but she is slightly larger than male, with longer tail.
The immature has brown upperparts, whereas the underparts are heavily streaked with dark brown, and the underwing is spotted. The eyes are greenish-yellow. Legs and feet are paler than in adults.  

The Gundlach’s Hawk has two subspecies.
A.g. gundlachi is found in W and C Cuba.
A.g. wileyi occurs in E Cuba. This race resembles nominate but the adults are paler above, with greyer cheeks and breast. The juvenile shows longer and darker streaks on the underparts, and heavier markings on thighs.

The Gundlach’s Hawk of nominate race breeds in low evergreen forests below 800 metres, in semi-deciduous marshy woodlands, at forest borders and in wooded coastal areas.  
The race “wileyi” nests mostly in more developed forests and pine forests, cloud forests, dry evergreen forests or tropical rainforest, sometimes in mangroves.
The Gundlach’s Hawk can be seen from sea-level up to 800 metres of elevation.

The Gundlach’s Hawk utters loud, harsh, cackling “kek-kek-kek-kek-kek-kek”. We can also hear a wailing squeal.

The Gundlach’s Hawk feeds primarily on birds such as doves and pigeons. It also catches parrots, crows, nighthawks, Northern Bobwhite and Red-legged Thrush.
It is known as a significant predator of poultry, involving heavy persecution from humans.
The female takes larger prey and hunts in more open areas, whereas the smaller male hunts mainly among undergrowth in forest.

The breeding behaviour is poorly known, but as a sedentary species, the Gundlach’s Hawk probably maintains its territory all year round. The nest-site is strongly defended with threat displays involving raising the head feathers, stretching the head forwards or upwards while opening the wings, accompanied by calls. They are probably monogamous.

The Gundlach’s Hawk is sedentary in Cuba. The flight is fast with rapid wingbeats interspersed with short glides.  

The breeding season usually occurs from March to June, sometimes sooner, as soon as January.
The Gundlach’s Hawk nests in trees, with nest-building between January and April. The nest is made with branches and twigs, and lined with bark. It is often placed close to the trunk in a fork, between 7 and 20 metres above the ground, beneath the canopy. It is often reused for 2-3 years or more.

The female lays 2-4 greyish-white eggs. The length of the incubation and nesting period is unknown.
The female usually incubates alone and she may be fed by the male, or the male incubates for short periods while she leaves the nest for feeding herself. Fledglings are reported by June.

The Gundlach’s Hawk is often persecuted by humans because it catches poultry. It is threatened by habitat loss through logging for agriculture expansion.
The population is estimated to number about 400 individuals, equating to 270 mature individuals. This small population is slowly declining.
The Gundlach’s Hawk is currently considered Endangered.  

Fr: Epervier de Cuba
Ang: Gundlach’s Hawk
All: Gundlachsperber
Esp: Gavilán Cubano
Ita: Sparviere di Gundlach
Nd: Cubaanse Sperwer
Sd: kubahök

Text by Nicole Bouglouan


HANDBOOK OF THE BIRDS OF THE WORLD Vol 2 by Josep del Hoyo-Andrew Elliot-Jordi Sargatal - Lynx Edicions - ISBN: 8487334156

BIRDS OF THE WEST INDIES – by Herbert Raffaele, Kristin Williams et Tracy Pedersen – Helm – ISBN: 9780713649055

HAWKS, EAGLES AND FALCONS OF NORTH AMERICA by Paul A. Johnsgard - Smithsonian Institution Press - ISBN: 1560989467

Avibase (Denis Lepage)

BirdLife International

HBW Alive

Global Raptor Information Network - Working to Conserve Birds of Prey in nature

Neotropical Birds – Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia


Nesting, Voice, Status, and Relationships of the Endemic Cuban Gundlach's Hawk (Accipiter gundlachi)


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