Beak of the Week – Broad-winged Hawk

Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus)

Family: Accipitridae

The Broad-winged Hawk is a small sized raptor with a brown upper body, reddish head, barred undersides, and a black and white banded tail. Broad-winged Hawks are what birders like to call “Buteos” which refers to their genus. Buteos are typically distinguished from the other major genus of hawk Accipiter (which includes Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks) by broad wings, and a fan-shape tail.

Broad-winged Hawks are well known for their dramatic fall migration south to South America. Flocks of thousands of birds or “kettles” will form inside large invisible vertical wind currents known as thermals. Broad-wings will swirl upwards in these thermals for thousands of feet, and use this vertical advantage to ease soaring for long distances on their migration.

Broad-winged Hawks prefer dense forest habitat, and typically hunt from perches underneath the forest canopy. They will eat any small animal they can catch, which mostly includes small rodents, amphibians, and insects. They typically nest in trees in the forest, and build their nests out of dead twigs, lichen, and moss.

Come to our sanctuaries and see these birds in action! Fall is the best time to see Broad-winged Hawks around our sanctuaries; they are very often seen in and around our woods on their way south. If you would like to witness their amazing fall migration, our friends over at Smith Point Hawk Watch have an observation tower where you are welcome to view these spectacular kettles for yourself!

Greg Lavaty
Greg Lavaty
 Visit our Bird Gallery to read about other Texas birds! 

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