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The Ivory Bill·Birds·Hawks & Owls

Broad-winged Hawk, Buteo platypterus

Broad-winged hawk with a caterpillar prey
Broad-winged Hawks breed in eastern North America, from southern Canada to the Gulf Coast of the United States. They also have a smaller population in western North America. During the non-breeding season, they migrate to Central and South America, ranging from southern Mexico to Brazil. They prefer forested habitats, including deciduous and mixed forests. They can also be found in woodland edges, riparian areas (near water), and occasionally open fields.

They have a compact and stocky build with broad wings and a relatively short tail. Their plumage varies, but generally, they have dark brown upperparts and pale underparts with fine streaking. Adults have a reddish-brown barred tail, while juveniles have a brown tail with dark bands. They are known for their distinctive, high-pitched whistle that is commonly described as “kee-eee” or “whee-ee.” This vocalization is often repeated several times in quick succession, creating a rising and falling sound. The call is usually clear and carries well, allowing it to be heard from a considerable distance.

Broad-winged Hawks primarily feed on small mammals, such as mice, voles, squirrels, and chipmunks. They may also prey on birds, reptiles, amphibians, and large insects. They employ a sit-and-wait hunting tactics, perching in trees or other elevated locations, and scanning the area for prey. When a suitable target is spotted, they dive down to capture it with their talons.

Broad-winged Hawks build nests in the upper branches of trees. They typically choose deciduous trees like oaks, maples, or pines. The nests are constructed using sticks and twigs, lined with softer materials such as leaves, moss, and bark strips. The female is primarily responsible for nest construction, while the male provides materials. They may reuse nests from previous years.

Females lay 2 to 4 eggs, each at intervals of about 2 to 3 days. Incubation lasts around 28 to 32 days and is primarily performed by the female. The male assists in hunting and provides food during this period. After hatching, both parents participate in raising and feeding the young. The chicks are fed a diet of small mammals and other prey items brought by their parents. The parents tear the food into small pieces to feed their young until they are able to consume larger prey.

The fledging period for Broad-winged Hawks occurs approximately 5 to 6 weeks after hatching. The young hawks leave the nest and move to nearby branches, where they practice their flight and hunting skills. The parents continue to provide food and guidance during this period.

Broad-winged Hawks are known for their remarkable long-distance migration. They undertake a spectacular southward migration in large flocks, known as “kettles,” where thousands of birds soar together during their journey to Central and South America.