Cuban Kite: The Ultimate Guide

Have you ever sat in a group of friends and wanted to have that little bit of trivia that will really impress them? Then why not dazzle them at the next social function or family gathering by whipping out some fun facts about the Cuban native bird: the Cuban kite?

This creature is unique to Cuba and you might find yourself wanting to go to the country itself to spot this incredible creature.

It looks like a cross between a parrot and an eagle, with amazing colored plumage and a hooked beak that is very deadly to the small snails and slugs that it likes to eat.

This bird also has many other names, including the hook-billed kite and the black falcon. The males and females have very different types of plumage, along with razor-sharp talons and beaks that will quickly help you to eviscerate your prey.

But where can you find the Cuban kite? Are they hostile to humans? How often do they breed and how do they build a nest? What sound do they make in the wild? Do these animals only prey on insects or do they brave it and try to eat mammals? How long do they live for? What predators do they have?

Well, if you want to become an avian expert on this rare bird, then we would suggest that you read on.

We have everything that you’ll need to give you a complete profile of this bird, along with some fun facts at the end that you can bring out at your next dinner party or social event.


This animal has a very distinctive look, having a hooked beak and the small statue of a parrot. It has a grey upper body with a copper-colored back.

The feathers are very small and close to the body and have a very pronounced hooked beak that is very useful to it when it is hunting.

They have white bars on the underside of their belly, which helps them to blend in with the sky when they are hunting. The brown also helps them to blend in with the forest in which they live.

They have green-colored eyes that help them to identify prey through the dense foliage.

Male Vs Female

The male of this species has grey upperparts, with black barring on the tail, which helps with both stability and displaying during the breeding season. The underparts of the male bird are evenly distributed as black and white.

The female is slightly larger than the male, with lighter brown underparts which are slightly less red in color. Their bill is far more hooked and has a deeper yellow color, which helps them to be identified by bird experts.

Are They Aggressive?

These birds tend not to be that aggressive and will always choose to fly away from humans that might be approaching them. The only time these birds might get hostile is with other birds that are approaching their nest.

What Adaptations Do They Have?

This bird has adapted a deeply hooked bill in order to excavate tree snails from their shells. It uses the sharpness of the beak to peel the snail away from its housing cleanly and quickly.

It will also use this beak to preen its feathers, removing them from tics and other potentially harmful parasites.

This kite also has very sharp claws with which it can tear through wood and other foliage to get to its prey. This animal is probably one of the most efficient animals for foraging and tearing through the undergrowth.

Breeding/reproduction Behaviour

Like a lot of birds of prey, this animal will usually start the breeding season during the summer months, starting at around June and concluding in around September or mid-October.

This bird will only lay a small clutch of around 2 – 6 eggs, although some of the infants will not make it through to adulthood.

The male will often help the female to rear the chicks, helping to build the nest as well as hunting for food. The males of the species often practice polygamy, which means that they often father many children by many females.

The eggs will often hatch after around 30 days and the chicks will be ready to leave the nest after a month of being born. Once the babies are born this bird will traditionally migrate south for the winter.

Their Calls/Sounds

This bird lets out a very shrill and high-pitched call which will usually be a sign that they are in distress or that they are ready for the mating season. The female will often let out a cry when it is looking for a male.

The juveniles will also start crying when they want to be fed by their parents.

What Do They Eat? (Diet)

The Cuban kite will often be found feeding on tree snails and slugs, which is why they have those long hooked beaks. This they will use to remove the snails from their shells.

The reduction in snail numbers due to deforestation is one reason that this kite has declined rapidly in recent years.

Where Do They Live? (Habitat)

Cuban Kite

This animal is native only to Cuba, and can often be found gracing the forests and stream banks that span the country. This species is very rare and has only been observed a handful of times.

There have been a few sightings in the Alejandro De Humboldt National Park of Cuba.

What Are Their Nesting Habits?

These birds like to nest in tall trees, often constructing them out of twigs and lining them with grass so that it is packed tight and the chicks don’t run and risk falling through the cracks. This bird will usually start building the nest around summertime, around June or July.

The male and the female will always pitch in to build the nest. They like to nest in high trees, as this will give them a better vantage point over prey. It will also keep their chicks away from predators, which is very important for ensuring their survival.

How long Do They Live? (Lifespan)

The average lifespan of this small bird is around 7 years, although there have been cases of some of these birds living a lot longer in captivity. One factor that is reducing their lifespan is human deforestation.

What Predators Do They Have?

This animal does not have many predators, although it will sometimes be the target of larger birds of prey that are hungry during the winter months. This bird will often avoid predators by camouflaging in the trees or occasionally going to the ground.

What Are Their Feathers Like?

This bird has beautifully colored plumage, with grey and copper colored feathers. The feathers on the wingtips are very thin, which actually helps to aid flight and makes them very aerodynamic.

On the head, this bird is slate grey, which helps their beaks to stand out and makes them highly identifiable in the wild.

What Does Their Poop Look Like?

This bird has round, pellet-like stools, which you’ll often be able to see littering the floor of their nest.

This bird has a fast digestive system, so they need to make sure that they are eating regularly in order to ensure that they have plenty of energy to keep hunting, building nests and gathering food for their chicks.

One great method of tracking this bird is through its droppings, although make sure that you look up when you find some, as the bird might be flying right over your head!

Do They Migrate?

This bird will migrate south during the winter, often arriving at the Cuban breeding grounds during the summer seasons. They tend not to hibernate like a lot of animals, although they do go into a state of suspended activity, mainly because of the scarcity of food in the area.

Conservation Status

This animal is considered to be very endangered, mainly because of the wholesale destruction of the rainforest area in Cuba where it can be found. This creature is very hard to observe in the wild owing to the scarcity of its numbers.

Another reason for the drop in numbers is that its food sources are dwindling. This is also due to deforestation. This Cuban Kite is currently listed as ‘critically endangered’ by the conservation authorities.

Fun Facts

This is considered a subspecies of the Hook-billed kite. DNA tests suggest that it diverged from the mainland species anywhere between 400,000 and 1.5 million years ago.

These birds have a wingspan of around 43 – 36 inches, with a body that is around the size of 14 – 16 inches long. This is considered a medium-sized kite.