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Gray Hawk

From Opus

Revision as of 16:31, 19 February 2012 by Njlarsen (Talk | contribs)

Alternative name: Gray-lined Hawk

Buteo nitidus
Photo by Glen TepkeLocality: Old Gamboa Road, Panama (race costaricensis).
Photo by Glen Tepke
Locality: Old Gamboa Road, Panama (race costaricensis).



Adults are generally easily recognized by the gray-and-white barred underparts and broadly white-banded black tail.


Found in the lowlands of the SE U.S. to N. Argentina and Brazil. Northern range occupied by plagiatus: SE U.S. through Mexico and N. Central America, south to NW Costa Rica. Other races found from SW Costa Rica, through Panama and most of lowland N. and C. South America, as far south as SW Ecuador on the Pacific coast and N. Argentina east of the Andes.


Photo by gatafrancescaLocality: Huatulco, Oaxaca, Mexico (race plagiatus).
Photo by gatafrancesca
Locality: Huatulco, Oaxaca, Mexico (race plagiatus).


  • B. n. plagiatus - Larger, darker and with more uniform upperparts than the following.
  • B. n. costaricensis
  • B. n. nitidus - Nominate race.
  • B. n. pallidus

Asturina vs. Buteo

Formerly placed in the monotypic genus Asturina. Riesing et al. (2003) presented genetic data indicating that Asturina is nested within Buteo. This reclassification is supported by virtually all authorities since then: Banks et al. (2006), AOU (2006 supplement), Clements (2007), SACC (2006). The Opus follows in this consensus.

One or two species?

The taxon plagiatus was originally considered (and described as) a species, but some later authorities preferred to considered it a subspecies, often without published rationale, notably Peters (1931), which to various extent formed a basis for most later check lists. Sibley & Monroe (1990) returned to the original status in listing plagiatus as a species, but - just as earlier authorities generally provided little or no published evidence for changing plagiatus to subspecies status - Sibley & Monroe did not publish their rationale for considering it a species. Riesing et al. (2003), Howard & Moore (2003), and Clements (2007) do not recognize plagiatus as a full species, and the Opus follows in this consensus. If split, the following names and subspecies are assigned to the two:

  • Gray Hawk (Buteo plagiatus). Monotypic.
  • Gray-lined Hawk (Buteo nitidus). In addition to the nominate race, it includes races costaricensis and pallida.


Woodland and forest, but sometimes in more open habitats with scattered trees. Mainly in lowlands, but locally up to 1800 m (5900 ft). Generally fairly common, but rarer in its limited US range.


Feeds on a wide range of small animals, mostly reptiles, but also birds, rodents and insects.


  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. Birdforum thread discussing the taxonomy of Gray Hawk
  3. Birdforum thread discussing AOU proposals including one to split Gray Hawk in two parts

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