White-collared Kite
(Leptodon forbesi)
Endemic to Brazil this beautiful, large kite is one of the world’s most endangered raptors. It was first described from a single specimen obtained in 1880 in Pernambuco State, in the north-east of the country. For over half a century it was considered a variant of its close relative the Grey-headed Kite, Leptodon cayanensis. However, recent studies have confirmed its taxonomic status as a distinct species. The current population is assumed to be tiny, based on the limited area of remaining suitable habitat. Deforestation is without doubt the primary cause in the decline of this species. Today, only one per cent of the original forest within the species range remains and this is severely fragmented.
Urgent Conservation Actions
Protection of remaining forest fragments in Alagoas and Pernambuco. Surveys to locate nesting sites and other forested areas where the species might exist. Monitoring in the known occurrence areas to assess population trends. Depending on the current population trend, captive breeding and habitat restoration programs may also be required for the long-term survival of the species.
Endemic to Brazil, occurring in the states of Paraíba, Pernambuco, Alagoas, and Sergipe.
Only one per cent of this species’ original forest habitat remains today.
Media from ARKive
Arkive image - White-collared kite
Arkive image - White-collared kite in flight
Evolutionary Distinctiveness
Order: Falconiformes (or Accipitriformes)
Family: Accipitridae
Weight: 550–580g
There is a large amount of plumage variation within this species and this makes it difficult to have a definitive description. Leptodon forbesi is large for a kite. The small round head can be all-white or a pale ashy grey in colour, with a white collar. The bill is black. The eye-rings are grey and the eyes are dark. The back is covered in dark grey plumage with primary and secondary feathers tipped white, although this is sometimes very hard to notice in the field. The throat, chest and belly are plain white. The barring on the uppertail is variable with some individuals possessing one visible broad pale band (a narrower white band is usually hidden under the tail-coverts), whilst others having two (three including the hidden one). The undertail also varies in the number and width of dark bands. In flight, when viewed from below, the underwings also show variability in the dark and pale barring pattern. Juveniles tend to have brown sides to the head and neck, and flight feathers. Seipke et al (2011) described them as usually quiet with an infrequent eeeaw or a cow-cow…cow.
There is no information available regarding the feeding or breeding habits of the White-collared Kite. It is presumed to be a non-migratory bird, residing in Brazil throughout the year. Observations of a small number of individuals suggest they spend most of their time alone or in a pair. They typically soar not more than 100m above the forest and engage in territorial displays in the morning.
The White-collared Kite inhabits humid, tropical lowland evergreen forest at a maximum elevation of 600m above sea level. It is also found in coastal mangroves adjacent to forests.
Endemic to Brazil, recorded in the Paraíba, Pernambuco, Alagoas and Sergipe states in the north-east of the country.
Population Estimate

50-249 adults

Population Trend


Critically Endangered
This species is severely threatened by massive habitat loss. Huge swathes of the Atlantic forest in Brazil have been logged for timber and cleared for cultivation. Sugar-cane plantations have replaced virtually all the lower-altitude forest in Alagoas and Pernambuco states. The remaining forest in higher parts, although not under threat from such industrial activities, is affected by other pressures such as selective logging, firewood removal, small-scale cultivation (e.g. of bananas) and hunting. These activities are steadily destroying the remaining forest on the steep mountain slopes. Today, only one per cent of the original habitat within the species’ range remains. The largest forest fragment in Pernambuco is only 45km2, whilst that in Alagoas is just 30km2.
Conservation Underway

This species is protected under CITES Appendix II. The Brazilian government has designated a large area of forest in Murici as a protected area. Some regions of White-collared Kite habitat are on private reserves and surrounded by small and moderately-sized patches of forest which act as a buffer zone. The Instituto para a Preservação da Mata Atlântica is a Brazilian non-governmental organisation (NGO) that is helping to extend the network of protected forest fragments on privately-owned land. Other local NGOs in Alagoas and Pernambuco are working to protect the forest.

Conservation Proposed

Surveys are needed in the remaining Atlantic forest fragments throughout the states of Paraíba, Pernambuco, Alagoas and Seripe. Determining the location of core populations and nesting sites is essential, as well as understanding more about the ecology of the species, especially the specific habitat requirements, movement and dispersal, breeding biology and population trends.

BirdLife International (2013) Species factsheet: Leptodon forbesi. Downloaded from www.birdlife.org on 08/04/2013

del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., and Sargatal, J. (1994). Hand Book of Birds of the World. Volume 2: New World Vultures to Guineafowl. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions.

Dénes, F. V., Silveira, L. F., Seipke, S., Thorstrom, R., Clark, W. S., and Thiollay, J. M. (2011). The White-collared Kite (Leptodon forbesi Swann, 1922) and a Review of the Taxonomy of the Grey-headed Kite (Leptodon cayanensis Latham, 1790). The Wilson Journal of Ornithology, 123(2), 323-331.

Teixeira, D. M., Nacinovic, J. B. and  Pontual, F. B. (1987) Notes on some birds of northeastern Brazil (2). Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club 107:151-157.

Seipke, S. H. (2008). Searching for the elusive White-collared Kite (Leptodon forbesi) in northeastern Brazil. Neotropical Raptor Network Newsletter:13.

Seipke, S. H., Dénes, F. V., Pallinger, F., Thorstrom, R., Thiollay, J., Silveira, L. F. and Clark, W. S. (2011) Field identification of White-collared Kite Leptodon forbesi and similar- looking species in north-east Brazil. Neotropical Birding 8:29-39.

Silveira, L. F., Olmos, F. and Long, A. J. (2003) Birds in Atlantic Forest fragments in north-east Brazil. Cotinga 20:32–46

Swann, H. K. (1922). A synopsis of the Accipitres. London: Wheldon and Wesley.
Text compiled by Michelle Harrison. Factchecked by Francisco Denes.

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