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Length: 34-44 cm (13.5-17.5 in); wingspan: 81-100 cm (31.75-39.25 in); weight: 275-560 g.
There is a rare dark phase morph.
Migrates in large groups called "kettles" from Northern South America to the Eastern United States. Is often observed in large numbers during migration at "hawk watches" throughout the Eastern U.S and Canada.
Five other non-migratory subspecies occur in the Caribbean: cubanensis, brunnescens, insulicola, rivierei, and antillarum, with populations on Cuba, Puerto Rico, and most islands in the Lesser Antilles reaching south to Grenada. It is increasingly a visitor to Hispaniola.
Whilst preferring deciduous forests, is also found in rainforests and second growth, river valleys and coastal sage scrub.
Most often hunts from perches taking various types of prey.
Their diet includes snakes and crocodile eggs.
The voice is a characteristic whistle.
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