Short-tailed Hawk

Buteo brachyurus
Prepared by: 
Ann Walton
  • Length: 15-17 inches
  • Wingspan: 32-41 inches
  • Weight: 350-560 grams

Pale and dark morphs; male and female similar in coloration.  In both plumages, adults have a whitish tail with dark terminal band and several other narrow, often incomplete dark bands.  The more common pale morph adult has upper parts and sides of head slate black to deep fuscous brown, and unmarked white under parts.  Below, the wings are white, with large gray border ending with a dark terminal band.  The pale juvenile is similar to adult, except for some underbody streaking.  The rarer dark morph adult is uniform black all over, except for the gray underwing flight feathers.  The juvenile dark morph is similar to adult, except for whitish spotting on belly and underwing coverts.  

 

Subspecies: 
2 Recognized; fuliginosus is U.S. subspecies
Distribution: 
South Florida through Central America to northern Argentina, excluding western Peru and Chile.
Habitat: 
; lowlands through foothills, open terrain, marshes, and forests.
Feeding: 
Aerial feeder, seldom perching. Soars 100-200 meters in altitude on flat wings, with curled tips, seldom flapping; never hovers. Stoops suddenly and steeply for prey, snatching birds (96% of food prey) from the canopy and air. Also will eat insects, lizards, and rodents.
Breeding: 
March – May in U.S. Large stick nest, lined with fine sticks and leaves, built high in trees. Clutch size is 2 eggs.
Movements: 
Florida population shifts to southern part of state in winter. Migration reported in populations from Mexico to Costa Rica, while those in the more southern range are sedentary.
Status: 
Not globally threatened, although uncommon to rare in Florida. Occurs over very large range, and is tolerant of disturbed habitat.