Starnoenas cyanocephala


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Starnoenas cyanocephala
Species Authority: (Linnaeus, 1758)
Common Name(s):
English Blue-headed Quail-dove, Blue-headed Quail-Dove

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered C2a(i) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2012-05-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Kirkconnell, A. & Mitchell, A.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Benstead, P., Isherwood, I., Mahood, S., Pilgrim, J., Sharpe, C J, Wege, D.
This species is extremely rare and has a very small population with extremely small subpopulations, and numbers are continuing to decline in response to hunting and habitat loss. For these reasons the species is classified as Endangered.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Starnoenas cyanocephala is endemic to Cuba, where it was once common and widespread from Pinar del Río across to Guantánamo. It is now rare almost everywhere, and virtually extinct on the Isla de la Juventud and Isla de Pinos (A. Kirkconnell in litt. 1999). In the late 1980s, reasonable numbers were reported only from Zapata Swamp, and a more recent study found good numbers in the lowlands around Zapata, with another smaller, but significant, population in the mountains at La Güira in Pinar del Río province and another on Guanahacabibes peninsular (Wells and Mitchell 1995). Small numbers are also known or presumed to persist in several additional areas throughout the country (A. Mitchell in litt. 1998).

Turks and Caicos Islands
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The population is estimated to number 1,000-2,499 individuals based on an assessment of known records, descriptions of abundance and range size. This is consistent with recorded population density estimates for congeners or close relatives with a similar body size, and the fact that only a proportion of the estimated Extent of Occurrence is likely to be occupied. This estimate is equivalent to 667-1,666 mature individuals, rounded here to 600-1,700 mature individuals. However, Leavelle (2008) recently estimated a much higher density than that used in these calculations, and so the population estimate may be revised upwards.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: This species occurs in the undergrowth of lowland forest including swampy areas, and occasionally in highland forest. It forages for seeds, berries and snails on the ground in dense forest and occasionally on forest tracks. It is generally found in pairs, but larger congregations have been recorded, with 18 birds at a water hole during the 1995 dry season (A. Mitchell in litt. 1998). Breeding takes place mainly between April and June, with nests placed on or close to the ground, often amongst tree roots or in stump cavities (A. Mitchell in litt. 1998), or higher up on a horizontal branch 2.5-8 m above the ground (Leavelle 2008, Kirkconnell and González 2008).

Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The combined and chronic effects of excessive hunting and habitat destruction have produced a large-scale decline. It has always been regarded as excellent eating, and is still trapped illegally using drop-traps baited with orange seeds (A. Mitchell in litt. 1998). Hurricanes may significantly affect the species by felling large areas of forest, such as happened in Zapata Swamp in 1996 (A. Mitchell in litt. 1998).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
It is protected under national law and in the Zapata Swamp, but neither is enforced and hunting continues (A. Mitchell in litt. 1998). The only known highland population is protected within La Güira National Park (A. Mitchell in litt. 1998).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey areas outside known sites, where the species may persist (A. Mitchell in litt. 1998). Immediately protect any populations discovered during these surveys. Conduct public awareness and education campaigns to highlight the plight of the species and reduce hunting pressure (A. Mitchell in litt. 1998). Enforce the protection afforded by protected areas.

Citation: BirdLife International 2012. Starnoenas cyanocephala. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. <>. Downloaded on 03 September 2015.
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