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Common Black Hawk

From Opus

Photo by bobsofpaBig Bend National Park, Texas, USA, March 2004
Buteogallus anthracinus

Includes: Mangrove Black Hawk


[edit] Identification

Mangrove Black HawkPhoto by rb_stern rb_stern Playa Blanca, Panama
Mangrove Black Hawk
Photo by rb_stern rb_stern
Playa Blanca, Panama

Length 50-58cm (20-23"), wingspan 122-127cm (48-50")
As the name implies, this is a very dark hawk; dark brown to almost black, with a yellow bill tipped in black, and some white spotting on the base of the primary flight feathers, and at the tip of the tail. In its limited US range, it is most easily identified by chunky shape and broad white band crossing middle of tail. Notice the variation: width of the white tail band varies geographically.

[edit] Similar species

Further south compare the Great Black Hawk and the rare Solitary Eagle.

[edit] Distribution

Found in coastal regions of northern and north-western South America, incl. Trinidad & Tobago, north through Central America and Mexico, to southernmost USA (Arizona and Texas). Generally resident, but some local movements, and only a summer visitor to south-eastern Arizona. Also seen along border section of Rio Grande River, notably in Big Bend NP, in winter. Very rare visitor to lower Rio Grande Valley, Texas.

[edit] Conservation Status

Photo by Steve GArima Valley, Northern Trinidad, May 2006
Photo by Steve G
Arima Valley, Northern Trinidad, May 2006

Overall common and widespread. In its limited US range it is rare and local, with an estimated 250 breeding pairs remaining.

[edit] Taxonomy

Recent evidence has led the population on Cuba to be considered a separate species, the Cuban Black Hawk (Buteogallus gundlachii). However, the Mangrove Black Hawk (B. subtilis including subspecies rhizophorae and bangsi) is now included in Common Black Hawk as three subspecies.

[edit] Subspecies

JuvenilePhoto by xyz99Peninsula Osa, Costa Rica, February 2009
Photo by xyz99
Peninsula Osa, Costa Rica, February 2009

There are 5 subspecies[1]:

  • B. a. anthracinus:
  • B. a. utilensis:
  • CancĂșn, Cozumel Island and islands in Gulf of Honduras
  • B. a. rhizophorae:
  • B. a. bangsi:
  • B. a. subtilis:

[edit] Habitat

Wide range of wooded habitats, especially in coastal areas. In the northernmost parts of its range, nests most commonly in cottonwood trees in riparian areas.

[edit] Behaviour

Gentle and lethargic except while nesting, when it often drops out of the skies from great height.

[edit] Breeding

It builds a large stick nest in a tree, and usually lays one dark-blotched whitish egg. Will abandon nest if disturbed too much.

[edit] Diet

Diet includes crabs, and small vertebrates and eggs.

[edit] References

  1. Clements, JF. 2011. The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World. 6th ed., with updates to August 2011. Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0801445019. Spreadsheet available at
  2. Gill, F and D Donsker (Eds). 2010. IOC World Bird Names (version 2.7). Available at

[edit] External Links


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