BROAD-WINGED HAWK


Broad-winged Hawk - Field Marks

One of the best spots to watch Broad-winged Hawk migration is from Hazel Bazemore County Park near Corpus Christi, Texas. Between September 20th and 22nd it may be possible to see 100,000 Broad-winged Hawks a day at this site.

Broad-winged Hawk
Buteo platypterus

A small hawk, common in eastern woodlands in summer. Staying around the edges of forest, Broad-wings are often not very noticeable during the breeding season, but they form spectacular concentrations when they migrate. Almost all individuals leave North America in fall, in a mass exodus to Central and South America, and sometimes thousands can be seen along ridges, coastlines, or lake shores when the wind conditions are right.

Field Marks
A small, chunky buteo, the size of a crow. Note tail banding of adult — white bands about as wide as the black ones. Wing linings white. The rare dark morph, which breeds in Alberta, has dark wing linings, but shows the usual Broad-wing tail pattern.

Immature: Tail bands more numerous, restricting the white. Often migrates in soaring flocks.

Size
14-19" (35-48 cm)

Similar Species
Young Red-shouldered Hawk is similar to immature Broad-wing, but the latter is chunkier, with a stubbier tail and shorter wings; the underwing is usually whiter.

Voice
A shrill, high-pitched pweeeeeee (diminuendo).

Range
Southern Canada, eastern United States. Winters mainly in Central and South America.

Migration
A long-distance migrant, most going to South America for the winter. Migrates in flocks. Birds from throughout the East travel southwest or south to go around, not across, the Gulf of Mexico.

Habitat
Woods, groves. Typically breeds in deciduous forest or mixed coniferous-deciduous forest, often near water and near clearings or edges. Migrants may be seen over any kind of open country, but tend to stop for the night in forest or extensive groves of trees.

Feeding
Diet: Includes small mammals, amphibians, reptiles, birds. Varied diet includes mice, voles, squirrels, other small mammals; toads, frogs, snakes, lizards, young turtles; various small birds; large insects. Sometimes eats crayfish, fish, centipedes, earthworms.

Behavior: Hunts by watching for prey from a perch, usually located along edge of woods or near water. When prey is spotted, the hawk swoops down rapidly to capture the creature in its talons. Occasionally hunts by flying through the woods or along watercourses, actively searching for prey.

Nesting
Early in breeding season, pairs circle high in the air, calling. In display, one bird may fly high, then dive steeply.

Nest: Site is usually in lower part of large tree, 25-40' above ground. Nest (built by both sexes) a rather small platform of sticks, lined with bark, moss, leaves. Leafy green twigs added during nesting cycle. Often uses preexisting nest of hawk, crow, or squirrel, adding material to it.

Eggs: Usually 2-3, sometimes 1-4. Whitish, usually spotted with brown. Incubation almost entirely by female, 28-31 days. Male brings food to female during incubation, then may sit on eggs while she eats.

Young: Female remains with young almost constantly for first 1-2 weeks; male brings food, female feeds it to nestlings. Young may climb out of nest onto nearby branches at about 4-5 weeks; can fly at about 5-6 weeks and soon start learning to hunt.

Conservation
Early in the 20th century, large numbers were sometimes shot during migration, but with legal protection their numbers now seem healthy.

Back to Top